BY SONNY PINKNEY
As a child Meres-Sia Gabriel’s parents were members of the Black Empowerment Group called the ‘Black Panther Party’ and her father Emory Douglas was a vital component of the group as theMinister of Culture from 1967 until the organization folded in the 1980s. Over the last 50 years, Douglas’ BPP paintings and slogans have become iconic, conveying messages of positivity and uplifting black people. Also, during that period her mother was an artist and teacher for the BPP. Meres-Sia remembers the impact that the Panthers and her grandmother had in her life.
“My grandmother is the one who nurtured me, took care of me and made sure that I had one-on-one attention during that time. Because a lot of the [Black Panther Party] parents were living a collective lifestyle, so they would take care of many children.” Gabriel remembers.
Meres-Sia’s father cautioned his daughter about discussing the family’s ties to the Black Panther Party to individuals outside of their community because he was concerned for his daughter’s safety—as he believed that some people wouldn’t share the same views as he does.
“My father [Emory Douglas] told me don’t tell people that we were in the [Black Panther Party] group. He didn’t want any problems from people. [Because] he didn’t know how conservative people were.” Gabriel recalled.
Gabriel added: “When it came to close family, friends and individuals within their community who shared the same beliefs as her father, Gabriel said “It was no big deal.”
At one point, Meres-Sia was apprehensive to divulge to people that her father was a major figure within the Black Panther Party. However, over the years, the Panthers have been praised for their contributions and the imprint the organization has made on American society.
“It become mainstream now. People have embraced it—movies have been made, documentaries [and] it was infused in the early 80s of hip-hop.” Gabriel believes.
Under the guidance, of the-late Huey P. Newton, the Black Panther Party ceased operations in 1982.
FeedbacktheMagazine.com asked Ms. Gabriel: Will a ‘New Black Panther Party’ emerge within the next decade or two?
“The Black Panther Party itself, I think that was that—and now there’s a new thing that has to happen.”
The Howard University alum, who studied French and Anthropology at the prestigious HBCU located our nation’s capital is a musician that’s on a hiatus after releasing a several songs and an EP.
“I’m currently focused on my developing writing empowerment program. And then once that really takes off, I will start to focus back on the music. I had to take a break—because I had to pull back to really get an understanding of what was my mission with the music.”
The 45-year-old Oakland native revealed that she does feel a sense of responsibility to uphold her family’s legacy by instilling what she was taught to the younger generation.
“I feel like empowerment is the biggest takeaway, I got as a child of the Black Panther Party. So, teaching kids to think critically and to be self-empowered how to be autonomous thinkers. So I pass that down to my children [and] students when I work with them.” Gabriel explained.
In 2011, Meres-Sia released her book titled, ‘I Twirl in the Smoke’ which contains poems and essays. She described the aspects of writing a book and the differences the writer(s) may encounter along the way.
“I think every author has their own process and I think it also depends on what you’re writing. So, a person writing a novel versus a person writing a self-help book is going to have a different process. And, my book was poems and essays because I write all the time. [And] I had some of that material already, ready.” Gabriel explained.
Three years later, Meres-Sia released her EP entitled “Sweet and Lovely.” Although, the EP didn’t garner much fanfare, Gabriel recognized the love and support from her Bay Area community.
“It got rave reviews in the [San Francisco] BayView, which is a community newspaper, so I really appreciate that.” Gabriel shared.
“I had to understand how to market, and how to do the public relations to make myself known—at that time I didn’t quite understand that aspect of it.” Meres Sia admitted.