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San Francisco Artist, Former Black Panther, Influenced Civil Rights Movement for Generations

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Six decades on, the art of Emory Douglas is back in focus following recent social justice protests.

Douglas was known as the "Minister of Culture" for the Black Panther Party in the 1960s.

The 77-year-old artist attended City College of San Francisco before becoming a creative visionary for the Black Panthers.

More than 50 years ago, in pamphlets, posters and in the Black Panther newspaper, Emory Douglas used his artistry to paint a picture of what was going on as American culture underwent seismic changes.

"[He] was the Van Gogh of the day. It highlighted for us the beauty of who we were at a time when we were still struggling to be recognized," said UCSF alumni president and longtime activist Dr. Ramona Tascoe.

"The primary focus when the organization started was the intensity of the police murders and the brutalization taking place. It's the same as it is today, " said Douglas.

He applauds how NBA players and other athletes have walked out of games to strike and protest the recent killing of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

"They're going to try to demonize those who are game-changers, who have the mindset of breaking the mental bondage of those who feel stuck," said Douglas.

"People want the distraction from shelter-in-place so to be able to bring that message into the homes of millions of Americans is a powerful statement by these athletes," said John Jones III of Oakland's Together We Stand.

On Thursday, Douglas shared some of his work in a webinar hosted by Letterform Archive in San Francisco and discussed why he became involved with the Black Panthers in 1966 and how his art evolved.

"Woodcuts took so long so I began to mimic that bold look using markers and pens," Douglas said. "Out of that I was able to create a style that gave a woodcut look to it."

Douglas' work is featured as part of Spike Lee's new "Da 5 Bloods" on Netflix.

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