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This New Mural In West Oakland Honors The Women Of The Black Panther Party

By Jamie Ferrell

This New Mural In West Oakland Honors The Women Of The Black Panther Party

It was unveiled on the side of a house at the corner of Center and Ninth Streets. 

Jilchristina Vest commissioned Oakland-based artist Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith to paint this magnificent mural on the side of her home, calling it the Women of the Black Panther Party Mural Project. During the national protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Vest was inspired by the temporary murals she saw appearing on plywood-covered storefronts in the Bay Area.

She felt it was necessary to pay homage to the Black Panther Party, which was founded in Oakland, on a more permanent and large scale. 

In the 1970s, women comprised two-thirds of the Black Panther Party’s base, having an undeniable impact on its programs and legacy in the Bay Area and beyond.

That’s why Vest decided to feature four Black women to represent various parts of the organization’s structure: voting rights, self-defense, healthcare, and the People’s Free Food Program. 

Artist Rachel Wolfe drew inspiration from photos taken by Stephen Shames. She began painting at the beginning of February and unveiled the completed left side of the building in the middle of the month.

[Beer can design by @julia_the_creative]

The rest of the mural is still in progress, and Vest is still accepting donations to help it come to life. 

The community is also collecting donations to install a bust of Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton, to be installed just down the street. You can learn more at the Huey P. Newton Foundation website.

 

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The Black Panther Party, originally called the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was founded in Oakland in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. It was originally created to patrol Black neighborhoods and protect their members from police brutality, but it eventually developed into a Marxist revolutionary group.

An Encyclopedia Britannica entry asserts that the party “called for the arming of all African Americans, the exemption of African Americans from the draft and from all sanctions of so-called white America, the release of all African Americans from jail, and the payment of compensation to African Americans for centuries of exploitation by white Americans.”

The Black Panther Party outlined a Ten Point Program for community survival projects and more. This centered on the idea that all oppression in the US and abroad comes from economic exploitation, and capitalism must be abolished in order to move towards social justice.

The party has a long, uproarious history with U.S. government and police forces, as well as a great deal of influence in community programs for education, healthcare, transportation, and food access.

The party’s rhetoric caused Hoover’s FBI to classify them as a “black nationalist hate group,” a communist organization and an enemy to the U.S. government. In 1969, this culminated in a 5-hour police shootout at the hands of the FBI’s counterintelligence program, for which the FBI issued a public apology years later.

Be sure to read more about the history of the Black Panther Party in California and beyond here.

 

[Featured Image: @miyaelaine via Instagram]