cover image Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers

Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers

Stephen Shames and Bobby Seale. Abrams, $40 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2240-0

Poignant and vivid, this visual and verbal portrait of the Black Panther Party (BPP), carefully crafted by photographer Shames and activist Seale, feels like a Ken Burns documentary film. Shames contributes evocative images taken during seven years shadowing BPP members. They are juxtaposed with unvarnished and expressive stories told by BPP cofounder Seale and other Panthers. The combination emphasizes the Panthers' humanity, strength, and vulnerability. An image shows two Panthers, Anthony "Kimu" White and Jamal Joseph, young and serious-eyed in Harlem. Beside it, text by Joseph describes their expressions as conveying "exhaustion, but at the same time exhilaration." He explains that six months after the photo was taken, White was dead, killed in a shoot-out with police, and Joseph was in prison. Going beyond the leather-clad, gun-toting Panther persona, the book locates the BPP's heart in community "survival" programs that provided free breakfast, groceries, and medical care. Fifty years after the BPP's founding, Shames and Seale's work is both richly nostalgic and brimming with present-day relevance during the reemergence of organized African-American activism. Mindful of the political moment, Seale speaks directly to present-day activists, imparting the nitty-gritty details of creating a local organization and transforming it into a national force and cultural phenomenon. (Oct.)