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“Culture is a weapon.”- Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas is an artist, illustrator and the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. He’s a published author, as copies of his book “Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas“ can still be found online. 

His art is evocative. I dare you to look at his images and not feel them.   

Whether the people like it or not, you’ve got to bring it to their attention,” Emory Douglas told a room full of students and faculty during a presentation at Merritt College’s Student Lounge on February 18th, 2014.

His art is social commentary.  

I wonder if Nixon is bothering us now,” Douglas said as he showed an image of the former President in a menacing manner. He clicked to the next slide and said, “I wonder if Obama is spying on us now”. As the image of Obama replaced the image of Nixon, someone in the crowd let out an “Ohhhh!”

"We’re talking about the real deal!” exclaimed Douglas.

His point: the same thing he saw back then, he sees going on today. And it’s his job to show that connection to the world.

His presentation was full of words like: Freedom, Slave ships, Obama, Nixon, Panthers, Sickle-cell, Oakland, Atlanta, Vietnam, Terrorism, Media, Government, Police, Pigs, Politics and Power. 

He talked a lot about politics. And power. 

When the question/ answer portion of his presentation came about, I asked Mr. Douglas: if he had the chance to give the youth a piece of advice, based on his experience, what words of wisdom would he give them?

OG Told Me: 

“Stay inspired. Stay focused. Have fun, at the same time, be focused on what you need to do. Study, learn your craft or whatever you do,” Emory Douglas told me (and a room of people).

He concluded with saying,”be able to work with a group of people.”

….

After answering my question, he recited a poem.

(The following is the final segment of his poem.)

“…It is our duty as the makers of the art of resistance to always recognize the oppression of others. The goal should be, to make the message clear— so that even a child can understand it. Don’t be fooled by deception. Know the rules before you break them. Don’t lose sight of what the goal is. All power to the people.” 

5

Walter Turner is one half of the R&B duo Robert Winters and Fall.

The group had a big hit int he early 80’s, by the name of “Magic Man” … He has those words tattooed on the side of his neck. 

Now, Turner works as a record industry consultant and a Juvenile Justice Commissioner at the Juvenile Hall in San Francisco. 

I met Mr. Turner while he was working a third gig: the chauffeur for Mr. and Mrs. Tanner’s late December wedding in West Oakland. 

Turner showed up in a Rolls-Royce: his hat and suit were as sharp as the spikes on his shoes.

After attending the wedding, Mr. Turner drove the bride and groom from the church to their photo shoot; and then Mr. Tuner and I had a chance to talk. We discussed the record industry, juvenile justice and the power of hope.

“Before Robert passed,” Mr. Turner said in reference to his former co-singer. “We wanted to make sure that artists and other kids coming up got a fair break. Record companies don’t pay artists, they pay managers. We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to these kids.”

He says he uses his position at the Juvenile Justice Center to reach young people who aspire to be artists. He doesn’t do the work alone, “I always see that their parents stay involved. Let their parents be a co-manager,” said Mr. Turner. “It’s not just about the kid it’s about the business." 

When asked what he would tell young people to help them on their path, OG Told Me:  "What they need to do is: stick to it. Follow what you believe in.” By then, the camera was rolling– and so was he.

He told the story of an incarcerated individual, who rose to the level of a ranked police officer. He told the story of his friend who makes cool sweatshirts, and how he wants one. He then closed his two minute monologue by saying, “I’m a hope dealer.”

“… After you get a certain age, you know what it’s called? it’s called WISDOM!”- Cody Red

Outside of the sports bar in downtown Oakland, Cody Red’s voice dominated the airwaves as I held an impromptu interview; he was so animated– I had to ask him.

“It’s called what?”

OG Told me: IT’S CALLED WISDOM!

He was referring to the lesson he’d pass on to the younger generation if given the chance. He touched on topics of walking away during conflict, observing your surroundings, and trusting in God.

But, the first words he said when I asked what he would tell young people if given the opportunity…

OG Told Me: "To lean the right way.“