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Where are they now?

Queens Museum hosts “Unfinished Business,” a panel discussion during which local members of the Black Panthers will talk about the legacy of their movement — which is now 50 years old — on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Bryan Shih, a photojournalist who co-authored the September 2016 book “The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution” with historian Yohuru R. Williams, will moderate the chat.

The panelists include three members of the Corona branch of the Black Panther Party, including Claudia Chesson-Williams, who is quoted in Shih’s book as follows: “When you’re young, ‘fear’ is really not in your vocabulary.”

Cyril Innis Jr. and J. Yasmeen Sutton are also set to participate. Innis, who is also known a “Brother Bullwhip,” went on to hold several leadership positions with the NYC Board of Education before retiring. Sutton managed finances for the Black Panthers for a while. She is currently a senior accountant at the Center for Rapid Recovery, a mental health nonprofit in Hempstead, Long Island.

The non-Queens panelists are Thomas “Blood” McCreary, a Brooklyn native who later got involved in the Black Liberation Army, and Nana Ohema Akua Anum Njinga Onyame Nyamekye, a board member of the National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party. Born Patti Byrd, she joined the organization in Baltimore.

The discussion coincides with “The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution,” an exhibition which will be on display at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park museum through Dec. 4. The show features 25 large-scale portraits and interviews of local and regional Black Panther members from Shih’s book.

Controversial, revolutionary and at times violent, the Black Panther Party was originally established to patrol African-American neighborhoods in Oakland in the 1960s. Founders asserted that they were volunteering to protect residents from police brutality.

The group stressed Black Liberation and fought what it termed “American Imperialism,” often organizing protests and openly confronting the police. By 1970, the party hit its peak with thousands of members and offices in 68 cities in the United States and Algeria. The movement waned in the 1980s with critics purporting murders, drug dealing and other crimes to members.


Top photo: Britannica; bottom photo: Bryan Shih


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