Posters are synonymous with rebellion and visual wit. They’re “ephemeral” cultural viruses that change political stories all over the world. These three examples from the Bay Area illustrate the hammer-to-brain messaging that serves as a democratic media channel, live from the grassroots.
Rachael Romero’s 1977 linocut served as a defiant message against the apartheid regime, which at the time enjoyed the support of the U.S. government. Printed in large numbers by the worker-owned Inkworks Press, it flipped the story about the rebellion in South Africa. (Romero was part of the famed San Francisco Poster Brigade.)
“Gay rights are human rights” was hand printed by John Jernegan (Northern California Alliance) for the 1978 Gay Pride march. The simple, obvious slogan and its crude but charming drawing reinforced the message’s universal appeal and reframed the LGBT struggle. Thirty-three years later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would declare exactly this same phrase to an audience of United Nations diplomats.
Posters aren’t just vestiges of the pre-Internet world. “Homelessness: It’s not just for poor people anymore!” by the San Francisco Print Collective was screenprinted in 2001. Wheatpasted all over San Francisco’s Mission district during the first Dot-Com gentrification battle, it used satire and humor to engage a local audience, and challenge the long-standing narrative of the indigent homeless.