Babylon Falling Field Trip to the It's About Time Archives
Below is a photo narrative of our trip up to Sacramento to check in with Billy X Jennings of It's About Time. We went up to his place to look through his collection of original copies of radical underground newspapers from the sixties and seventies in the U.S. in order to hand select copies for our upcoming exhibition of, you guessed it, radical underground newspapers from the sixties and seventies in the U.S.
I first met Billy in January of 2008 when sourcing originals of the Black Panther Party Newspaper to display as context for our exhibit with Emory Douglas that February. Over this past year we've kept in touch and I consider myself blessed to not only have access to his insane archive but to be able to curate and host exhibits like this one.
Billy was kind enough to not only allow us access to his archive but to give us a tour through his home which, as you'll see below, is evidence of a life spent dedicated to the struggle of the oppressed as well as that of a natural collector.
Don't forget to come out to the opening reception which takes place on Thursday, February 19th from 6pm-9pm right here at the store. Billy X will be leading a short discussion on the history of the underground press in the U.S. and former Black Panther Party Minister of Culture Emory Douglas will also give a short talk on the role that art played in these papers.
Anyway enough long talking, here are the photos...
All photos below are © 2009 Shaun Roberts. To see more of Shaun's photography be sure to check out his photo blog at flickr.com/photos/shaunroberts
First thing we saw as we walked in. Actually I was checking Billy's bookcase on the left when Shaun snapped this.
Mr. T lounging.
East Village Other. May 26, 1970. We will also have seven (!) different issues with Vaughn Bode covers on display.
I'm not sure but I believe this was the paper that the Young Patriots put out. The founder of the Young Patriots was originally from the Appalachian region in North Carolina but had moved to Chicago by this time. These cats actually wore confederate flags on their clothing while organizing to fight racism. Bugged. The Young Patriots were part of the (original) Rainbow Coalition that Chicago Panther Fred Hampton put together which also included The Young Lords and of course the Black Panther Party.
History from the source.
Check the Angola 3/Robert Hillary King poster done by Rigo23 in the back.
Billy talking about all the flim and T.V. projects he's worked on as a consultant and sometimes as an extra. One of the greatest things about the fact that this archive is private is that money is never the primary factor in deciding who he shares his archival material with. No elitist institutions to contend with. The reason why Babylon Falling, for example, is able to put on this exhibit.
Lil' Bobby Hutton. The first member of the Black Panther Party and also the first Party member murdered by the police.
On the right is original artwork by Mumia Abu Jamal. On the left is a piece done by Pete Bicasso in memoriam of Sam Napier. In 1971 Samuel Napier, the circulation manager of 'The Black Panther', was bound, had his eyes and mouth taped, made to lie down and was then shot in the back of his head. By this time the Party was effectively split between two factions, those supporting Eldridge Cleaver who was exiled in Algeria, and those supporting Huey P. Newton who was in jail. Although there did exist actual tactical and theoretical differences between the two camps, the split was essentially a result of the FBI's COINTELPRO operations against the Party. From what I've read and heard it appears as though the murder of Sam Napier, who was a Huey Newton supporter, was retaliation for the murder of Robert Weaver, a Cleaver supporter. Weaver and Napier were two of a long line of victims that represent the logical and intended result of a concerted effort by the government of the United States to neutralize the Black Panther Party who J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the FBI, considered "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country". For more on COINTELPRO see "The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States" by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander. Of course we sell it here in the store.
*Billy X speaking about Sam Napier:
"He was the heart and soul of the Black Panther Party newspaper. He nurtured it from a small local paper to an international distribution of almost 400,000 weekly. Sam was always positive and dedicated to getting the paper out to as many people as possible. Sam was known by everyone and deeply loved and respected. He was a problem solver and always willing to help. His untimely death was a great tragedy and was a result of Cointelpro instigated suspicions and divisions."
More work by Pete Bicasso.
Portrait of Malcolm X by Charles "Boko" Freeman
Young Lust #5, "Red Guard Romance" (Last Gasp, 1977). Started in 1971 by Bill Griffith and Jay Kinney, Young Lust considered themselves "The Underground Romance Comic" and was a satire of romance comics.
On the left is a photo of
Kool Moe Dee Billy.
I've seen reproductions of this poster in a few different books of poster art of from the period but the artist is never credited. According to Billy the artwork was done by a kid called Steven Levinson (only 10 or 11 years old at the time) whose parents were members of the Panthers' National Committee to Combat Fascism. The poster was used as part of a 1970 campaign advocating for community control of the police. The petition ultimately failed but the campaign was instrumental in the passage of subsequent legislation that created the police review boards.
TRIcontinental Magazine. The mouthpiece of OSPAAAL (Organization of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa & Latin America) which was founded in Havana in 1966. It was through the TRIcontinental magazine that OSPAAAL was able to distribute their iconic posters across the globe.
Billy schooling Kensey and I.
Just scratching the surface. Notice the copy of Giant Robot on the table...the collection is deep!
I could have been here all day. Direct access to this kind of collection is heaven for me. No bs library politics.
I AM A MAN. 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while in town to support the strikers. See more info on the strike here
Thanks again Billy.
For everything Black Panther Party related see the website that Billy X runs - www.itsabouttimebpp.com
See You Thursday, February 19th!