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Shortly after his mother died in 2018, a large number of Jeffrey Henson-scale childhood relics were unexpectedly found in his family’s home. His stepfather and brother were preparing the house for a final sale when they came across a pile of 40 volumes of film.
“I think these are probably yours,” they told The New York Times photographer and photo editor Scale.
The roll contained a photo taken by Mr. Scale when he was a teenager. This is an image of the major cultural, political and social moments of the 1960s. There were photos of student protests in Berkeley, California, photos of Jimi Hendrix, Sly & The Family Stone at the famous Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, and about 15 volumes of the Black Panther Party.
Mr. Scale was excited and relieved that the photos had not been lost over time.
Currently, they are part of an exhibition at the Claire Oliver Gallery in Harlem on September 16th.Exhibition “The Age of Panther: Lost Negatives”” Here’s a series of photos taken by young Scale when he was absorbed in the Black Panther movement in Northern California. These images capture the movement and its lasting response and its impact on the movement of Black Lives Matter today. It also marks a crucial time in his life when Mr. Scale realizes his strength as an artist and young activist.
I tell Mr. Scale about his time in the Black Panther movement, how his photographs of that era are still relevant today, and what he wants from those who see his images. talked. Our conversation has been lightly edited and summarized for clarity.
How did you get absorbed in the Northern California Black Panther movement?
My dad was a little activist. We moved from the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco to Berkeley in 1964 and moved to this house with a ballroom for a big party. When Stokely Carmichael took over the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to H. Lap Brown, they held a celebration and ceremony at our home. When I was little, my mother took me to the picket line in San Francisco. They were protesting the quarantined hotel. So we were activists.
It was 1967, I was 13 and I had a lot of friends who still live in Haight Ashbury. It was going to be Haight Ashbury’s Summer of Love. My parents said, “Well, I might send him to be with my Midwestern relatives.” So I went to Minneapolis to live with my father’s sister. And my grandmother took me to various relatives such as Des Moines, Chicago and Detroit. It turned out to be “a long and hot summer of 1967”.
There were riots in some of these places in the city center, and I had never actually seen anything like that. And I think it was probably radicalized to some extent and impressed with it. And the Panthers were starting to pick up in the bay area. So I went to take pictures of them and just started hanging out. They gave me really incredible access. And I’m not entirely clear why, but they did.
How was it when you were so young that you went around these moments and caught them?
Photography was like a hobby and it was fun. My dad was an amateur photographer and the house had a darkroom. But in Auckland and Berkeley, the Panthers were the coolest people in the movement. The whole presentation with a leather jacket and beret. They were very cool. You had a hippie in San Francisco, then a Black Panther in Auckland, and it was very powerful, and it was during the 68th year of the Vietnam War.
It was a movement that could change society. It may be effective. It was a very exciting place. It was dangerous because of police violence against Panther. I don’t know when police started firing at one of Auckland’s offices, so I remember being in an office with sandbags piled up under the windows.
It’s all as a very exciting teenager, as you’re not so concerned about safety as you are as you get older. And I believed that I was trying to stop police violence against blacks in the community and other fundamental issues of the civil rights movement. They went to 60 across the country from two or three offices in the Bay Area. This organization had a fascinating swell.
Here are some images that are part of the exhibition.
This image was the day Huey Newton left prison. They called me and said, “Oh, he was out. I’m going to have a press conference.” So when he was talking to the press, I went over there. This was one frame in which he was actually in direct eye contact with me, as I knew each other from me who visited him in Auckland prison during the trial. That’s why I like the frame.
I spent a lot of time taking pictures of Bobby Seale. I remember taking one of the first successful photos I wanted. When I was about 11, my dad gave me a Leica camera. It was like my independent photography study. I remember thinking that the composition of this was really perfect.
I like this image with side-by-side posters of photographer Blair Stap’s famous Huey Newton. I like a guy with an ice cream cone. It is opposite Oakland’s Alameda County Courthouse. Apparently, my dad worked on the poster with Blair and Eldridge Cleaver. He told me that in the 1990s.
In these images, could you tell us a bit about the similarities to the moment we live in now?
I see police murdering black people repeatedly. Visually see how much atrocities are happening using the internet, mobile phones and media. And when I saw the Black Lives Matter move back, it had some familiarity. It brings back many memories of the time and personal frustration that we are still overcoming. There is a little sadness there. But at the same time, it’s also exciting to see much wider movements.
Who do you think the exhibition will reach?
I like the gallery in Harlem. We hope it reaches young people who are not familiar with this particular aspect of the history of black civil rights. I hope it encourages people to find out what the Black Panther Party really was. The original Black Panther Party was really about building an alliance with all races and people of all kinds. They focused on the black community, but they were not a nationalist organization. It was one of the conflicts that took place with several other groups at the time.
They had ideologies and platforms for the specific things they wanted to do, and community service was a big thing they did, serving and improving the community.
What have you learned around the Black Panther Party?
As a young activist, I learned how important it is to have a concrete mission to help improve the community you are talking about. It’s not just slogans and protests. It’s also about improving communities and servicing those who aren’t well-served in those communities, and how important it is. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned recently and where it will fit in 50 years.
Pierre-Antoine Louis is a National Desk news assistant and Race / Related reporter. Many of his works focus on race, identity and culture.