SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- “People were identifying with revolutionary movements throughout the world — that was the beret,” said Judy Juanita, who served as editor in chief of the Black Panther, the newspaper of the Black Panther Party, starting as a student at San Francisco State in 1967. Although Juanita herself did not wear the Panther dress uniform, she remembers, “For the marches, rallies, the uniform was effective.”
For Juanita, the Black Is Beautiful aspect of Panther culture, popularized by the movement, was an equally important theme of the era, both aesthetically and philosophically. She mentions party leader Kathleen Cleaver’s call for African American women to embrace their naturally curly hair instead of straightening it as being an especially meaningful message to receive as a young woman.
“Changing our feeling about our kinky hair was an important outward step that either led to or led from internal change,” Juanita says. “Several interviewers have asked, ‘Was Black Is Beautiful that important?’ As if to say the political act of protest was more important. Africa from Hollywood depictions had a negative connotation in the black community. The Black Is Beautiful movement restored our appreciation at the beauty and resources of Africa.”