East Bay artist Sadie Barnette adds her powerful work to the Oakland Museum of California’s permanent collection.
Oakland-raised artist Sadie Barnette has turned her family history into thoughtful, provocative work that is now part of one of the East Bay’s greatest collections.
The Oakland Museum of California recently acquired three of Barnette’s works, each centered around her father, Rodney, who was a member of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s after serving in Vietnam.
“He came back from serving overseas and went to Los Angeles to bury his nephew, who had been killed in Vietnam,” says Barnette. “He felt like he was still at war because of the way the police treated the Black community.”
After coming to California, Rodney moved back and forth between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, where he was inspired by the number of people involved in civil rights activism. As his association with the Black Panthers grew, he became the unknowing subject of an investigation by the FBI.
A four-and-a-half-year effort to obtain her father’s FBI surveillance record through a Freedom of Information Act request paid off for Barnette in 2015. The results were stunning—the FBI had compiled a 500-page dossier on him.
“When I first read the report about this young man who would become my family, my response was very protective,” says Barnette. “I felt that he was lucky to have lived through that period. There are many activists who are still incarcerated because of their work with the Panthers.”