Black women have been outfitted with the over-worn label of “backbone” – of the family, of the church, of political or civic organizations. What a misnomer. Truth is we are the essential lifeblood – heart, soul and spirit – that gives these institutions light and legacy.
Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party is a beautifully bound gallery of images and ideas from and about the Black women who breathed clarity and cause into their revolutionary movement. A slice of American history is captured in the 191-page pictorial journey, complemented with brief commentaries and reflections from more than 50 Black Panther Party (BPP) members. Their expositions are a collective memoir from many unknown activists who found their voice and visibility in the movement.
The exquisite black and white photographs capture the energy that sister members poured into their work– constituting more than 60 percent of the BPP ranks. The imagery is a study in women doing, running community programs for food, education, health care, housing, cultural and social activism. But there are also visions and reflections of love for each other, their people and the movement that would forever change America and reverberate beyond our borders.
“Their role in this organization persuaded people all over the world – from Brazil and Palestine to New Zealand and South Africa – that radical change was both necessary and possible,” offers the foreword by Angela Davis, self-described BPP rank-and-file member, longtime supporter and life-long friend.
Sisters Comrade is certainly fitting for a place of honor on a coveted coffee table. But it should not be relegated to a stationary space or shelf. With most of the BPP activists well into their seventies and eighties, this volume – storytelling at its very best – must be a baton for the next generation of women revolutionaries.
By Gwen McKinney