“A hand that held and loved someone (Personal Choice #3)” (2020) video installation by CHLOË BASS

 

THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY for Self Defense marked its 50th anniversary in 2016 and the occasion was commemorated with books, exhibitions, and nationwide programs. In 2020, Artspace New Haven is recognizing the 50th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the history of the party’s New Haven, Conn., chapter. “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50” revisits a notorious Black Panther murder trial.

Nine Party members faced charges related to the torture and killing of fellow Black Panther Alex Rackley, who was suspected of being an informant. Among them, national chairman Bobby Seale and local Black Panther leader Ericka Huggins stood trial in 1970 for murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. The jury deadlocked and charges against Seale and Huggins were dropped. The trial gripped the city and garnered nationwide attention.

Curated by La Tanya S. Autry and Sarah Fritchey, the exhibition “Revolution on Trial” features artists Kwadwo Adae, Chloë Bass, Alex Callender, Melanie Crean, Ice the Beef, Paul Bryant Hudson, and Miguel Luciano.

Spanning painting, photography, sculpture installation, video, and archival materials, their work examines the trial; the May Day 1970 protests organized by the Black Panthers in collaboration with Black student leaders at Yale University and local activists that were designed to bolster support for Seale and Huggins and highlight efforts by the federal government to dismantle the Black Panthers by targeting their leaders; and broader issues of structural racism, criminal injustice, Black Power politics, and revolutionary action. Works on view in the group show include:

  • Alex Callender | Collage-based wallpaper highlights patterns of systemic racism within New Haven’s early property laws and urban design
  • Ice the Beef | Theatrical readings of Ericka Huggins’s poems, penned as she awaited trial in Niantic Prison, highlight the activist as an artist in her own right, as well as the names of other Black, Brown and Indigenous women whose lives are frequently left out of the archives
  • Miguel Luciano | Bold graphic metal shields, fashioned from slices of the side of a decommissioned school bus, can be mounted on a wall or pedestal and were made for use by civilians protesting the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico
  • Kwadwo Adae | Paintings of local activists and community organizers commemorate living Panthers and individuals leading today’s Black liberation struggles, making space for self-determined alternatives to photographic depictions produced by the news media

More than an exhibition, “Revolution on Trial” is a documentary project. Community-centered planning meetings with activists, artists, teachers, historians, librarians, and curators, shaped the exhibition. The artists and curators drew on city archives, oral histories, and research resources at Yale.

In addition, The Narrative Project and Artspace New Haven co-produced an eight-episode podcast featuring first-hand accounts from Huggins; former Black Panther and former Mayor of Baltimore Kurt Schmoke; attorney David Rosen who defended Seale and Huggins; Paul Bass, editor of the New Haven Independent newspaper; children of Black Panthers and a new generation of local activists. The podcast explores the history of the New Haven Black Panthers, their legacy in the city, and the experiences of women in the movement.

At the conclusion of her essay, published in the exhibition brochure, Autry wrote: “Revolution on Trial honors and reissues the Panthers’ revolutionary demand for self-determination. Ideally this call will spark more freedom actions by and for all Black and oppressed communities everywhere.” CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, CHLOË BASS, “A hand that held and loved someone (Personal Choice #3),” 2020 (video, running time: 4 minutes, 17 seconds). | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 

“Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50” at Artspace in New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct 17, 2020

 


LISTEN to trailer for Revolution on Trial podcast

 

FIND MORE about Ericka Huggins on her website

FIND MORE Ericka Huggins revisits May Day 1970 with Connecticut public radio

 

READ MORE New Haven Independent revisits Black Panther murder

READ MORE Trial transcripts from State v. Ericka Huggins and State v. Bobby Seale

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Have

 


ALEX CALLENDER, “A Schematic for History from Outside of Where History Gets Produced,” 2019 (mixed media on paper, 42 x 36 inches). | © Alex Callender, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, MELANIE CREAN, Installation view of “untitled portraits, nine women, work in progress,” 2019-ongoing (nine 10 x 8 inch pieces of paper, various configurations, ink on paper). | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, MELANIE CREAN, Detail of “untitled portraits, nine women, work in progress,” 2019-ongoing (nine 10 x 8 inch pieces of paper, various configurations, ink on paper). | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Arstpace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, MIGUEL LUCIANO, “Shields / Escudos,” 2020 (10 protest shields made from decommissioned school buses in Puerto Rico). | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, ALEX CALLENDER, “A Schematic for History from Outside of Where History Gets Produced,” 2019. | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, Detail of ALEX CALLENDER, “A Schematic for History from Outside of Where History Gets Produced,” 2019. | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, Six paintings by Kwadwo Adae, “Kerry,” “Norm,” “Venesa,” “Addys,” “Sarah,” “Ericka” (all 2020, oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches). | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. Shown, Video installation by Ice the Beef. | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 


Installation view of “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50,” Artspace, New Haven, Conn., Jul 24-Oct. 17, 2020. | Photo by Jessica Smolinski, Courtesy Artspace New Haven

 

BOOKSHELF
An exhibition brochure was published to accompany “Revolution on Trial: May Day and The People’s Art, New Haven’s Black Panthers at 50” at Artspace New Haven. Both “May Day at Yale, 1970: Recollections: The Trial of Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers” and “Agony in New Haven: The Trial of Bobby Seale, Ericka Huggins, & the Black Panther Party” documents the trial and protests. Featuring photographs by Stephen Shames, the publication of “Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers” coincided with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers in Oakland in 1966. Also consider, “Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas,” “Insights and Poems” by Huey P. Newton and Ericka Huggins, and “Shots: Photographs From the Underground Press.”

 

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