Bay Area Walls commission
Through October 30, 2022
As Minister of Culture and Revolutionary Artist of the Black Panther Party (BPP) from 1967 to the early 1980s, Emory Douglas shaped the visual language of protest in the United States. Douglas designed the party’s newspaper, the Black Panther, which at its peak published more than 100,000 copies weekly and had a readership of 400,000. Deploying a unique combination of graphic design, illustration, photo collage, cartoon, and text, he embraced the power of revolutionary imagery to inspire political consciousness in everyday people. As Douglas has noted of his works from that time: “The people saw themselves in the artwork. They became the heroes. They could see their uncles in it. They could see their fathers or their brothers and sisters in the art.” After the BPP dissolved in the early 1980s, Douglas stayed committed to the liberation struggle, remaining a key figure for new generations of artists and activists around the world.
Like his early political work, REPARATIONS (2007/2021) is a condemnation of the violent exploitation of people of African descent forced to sacrifice their labor and lives to the chattel slavery system upon which this country was built. While the work underscores grotesque inequities that continue today, it is also a hopeful proposal for justice and solidarity that invites viewers to imagine a brighter future. The mural champions the international movement to secure reparations for descendants of Africans enslaved in the U.S., exemplified by the 21st Century Reparations Manifesto of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), the Ten Point Reparations Plan of the National African American Reparations Commission, and the Caribbean Community of States (CARICOM) Reparations Committee. Once widely perceived as a radical dream, the call for reparations has been reignited by a new generation of activists, leading to the recent judiciary approval of H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. First introduced by the late Congressman John Conyers in 1989, the bill is now awaiting a vote by the House of Representatives.
REPARATIONS was conceived by Emory Douglas and adapted by the artist as part of Bay Area Walls, a series of commissions initiated in 2020. The mural was executed on site by Elaine Chu, Marina Perez-Wong, Priya Handa, De’Ana Brownfield, and Lauryn Marshall.
Major support for Bay Area Walls is provided by the Roberta and Steve Denning Commissioning Endowed Fund.
Generous support is provided by the Mary Jane Elmore West Coast Exhibition Fund, Randi and Bob Fisher, the Patricia W. Fitzpatrick Commissioning Endowed Fund, Katie Hall and Tom Knutsen, the Elaine McKeon Endowed Exhibition Fund, the Diana Nelson and John Atwater Commissioning Fund, and the Denise Littlefield Sobel Commissioning Endowed Fund.
Additional support is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, Oya and Bulent Eczacibasi, and Linda and Jon Gruber in memory of Gretchen Berggruen.