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Oakland: Rooted In Power

As the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, history has shown — we do things differently in Oakland. From our art and music to our values and politics, the Town has been at the forefront of activism, social justice, and community empowerment for decades.

At OMCA, we strive to document and preserve Oakland’s revolutionary history so that future generations can continue being inspired to work towards creating a more vibrant and just future. Our mission is manifested through our partnerships with local Oakland neighbors, as well as our programs, events, gatherings and exhibitions that focus on telling these undertold and untold stories.

Our recent partnership with our local purpose-driven soccer club, the Oakland Roots, to host their end of season celebration and unveil their new jerseys is just one example of how we’re connecting Oakland’s Panther past with the present.

We’re honored to be just one of many keepers of the history of the Black Panthers. Here are some of the ways in which OMCA has helped share their untold stories. To visit OMCA’s galleries, check out what’s on view now.

All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 (2016)

On the 50th anniversary of its founding in 2016, OMCA debuted All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 to provide a contemporary view of the Party, its often misunderstood history, and its aims to serve oppressed people and fight injustice. 

Under their Ten-Point Plan and Program, the Black Panther Party stood up against unjust power, organized the community, and created programs to benefit the people, such as their Free Breakfast for School Children Program. Rare historical artifacts, never-before-seen photographs, first-person accounts from former Panthers, scholars, and community members, and contemporary art were featured in the exhibition, showing how the Party continues to influence culture and activism locally and globally. 

This exhibition is not currently on view at OMCA.

Black Power (2019)

After the major success of All Power to the People, it became clear that a limited-run exhibition on the Black Panthers was not enough. Between calls from the community, project contributors, and voices from within the Museum itself, we realized that a permanent installation honoring the Bay Area’s Black Power movements and activists in the Museum was urgent and necessary. Located in the Gallery of California History, the highly-anticipated Black Power exhibit opened in 2019 to much enthusiasm.

This installation illustrates the creative ways Black anti-racist activists in California supported their communities and challenged the U.S. government. Black Power brings to light the tensions between a culturally and socially progressive California and examples of economic racism and oppression in the state. The exhibit features historic photographs, provocative objects, iconic posters, paintings and interactive prompts that encourage visitors to take action in the world today.  Get tickets to see Black Power at OMCA.

Angela Davis – Seize the Time (Now On View)

Our latest exhibition, Angela Davis – Seize the Time builds upon the work of All Power to the People and Black Power. In fact, Lisbet Tellefsen, leading 20th century Black American cultural archivist and curator of the Angela Davis collection featured in Seize the Time, stated that the inspiration for this exhibition was born out of All Power to the People; many of her posters and ephemera from her collections were featured in the 2016 show.

Seize the Time features both Tellefsen’s archives as well as contemporary artworks, and offers a deeper look into the life of Angela Davis through the lens of race, gender, economics, and policy. The exhibition highlights Davis’s legacy as well as her ongoing role as an important contemporary figure for artists and activists. Visitors are encouraged to get engaged and take action. In Seize the Time, takeaway cards with information about community organizations with which you can get involved are available. Get special exhibition tickets to see Angela Davis–Seize The Time now on view in OMCA’s Great Hall.

This rich history does not quietly sit on a shelf or hang on the Museum walls. It lives on today through the work of activists and organizations in the Bay Area and beyond, such as the newly launched Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation. Oakland’s Black Power roots run deep.

Share on social media how you carry on this legacy, or visit Black Power and Seize the Time at OMCA to get inspired.