Ethnic Heritage Museum reopens with new exhibit
ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) — Today, the African American Gallery at the Rockford Ethnic Heritage Museum reopened and showcased its brand new exhibit. The exhibit highlights the achievements of the Black Panther Party and will be on display until the end of April.
The exhibit features many different pieces depicting the history of the Black Panthers and their lasting impact on black empowerment. Today, the influence of the Black Panther Party is still felt in current social movements such as Black Lives Matter. Gallery board member and curator David Ruffin calls the exhibition “a labor of love.”
Ruffin says growing up as an African-American boy was confusing because the news would speak negatively of the Black Panthers Party itself, but he saw all the good things the party was doing for the community.
“Now that I’ve put it together as an exhibit, I can see where some of the confusion lies,” Ruffin said. “But now that you look back in history, you can see some of the good things that they actually did, things that are now part of everyday life.”
Ruffin said the exhibit was originally scheduled to open for Black History Month in 2020, but the pandemic put it on hold.
“I think my favorite piece is either the berets, because the Black Panthers were associated with their black leather berets and jackets, or the picture of Bobby Rush,” Ruffin said. “Bobby Rush was backed by the Black Panthers, he founded the Black Panthers in Illinois, and he’s the only person to beat Barack Obama in an election.”
Ruffin said there was constant traffic to view the exhibit given COVID-19 concerns and the cold weather.
“I’m very happy that people are concerned and curious about the exhibit,” Ruffin said.
The Heritage Museum Park is located in the 1100 block of South Main Street and is handicapped accessible. Masks are mandatory for all indoor activities.
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