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Oakland artist creates city's first Black Panther Party monument

Artist creates Oakland's first Black Panther Party monument
Artist creates Oakland's first Black Panther Party monument 04:33

Walking the streets of Oakland with artist Shomari Smith offers more than just a tour of the city, it's a walk through history.

"We are in the Temescal District right now," said Smith. "This neighborhood is very significant for the Black Panther Party. As young people, this is where they would, come together and eat and plan. It is a very significant space."

A space so important to the neighborhood, the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District wanted to honor the history and legacy of the Black Panther Party by constructing a public art installation.

"The Black Panther Party started in Temescal. Our first office was in Temescal. Huey (Newton) and Bobby (Seale) went to school at Merritt College, which is in Temescal. So, Temescal is the genesis of the Black Panther Party," said Fredrika Newton, widow of the late Dr. Huey P. Newton.

Last year, the Temescal Roots Project team along with the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District and the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation began searching for an artist and concept. They chose Smith's work and vision for the project.

"The name of the piece is the 10 Points to Liberation, and that's in reference to the Ten Point Program of the Black Panther Party," said Smith.

The monument, once complete, will be a curved piece of concrete, standing 8 feet tall and 13 to 16 feet in diameter. It will feature the faces of some of the most prominent members of the Black Panther Party, including Dr. Huey P. Newton, Emory Douglas, Bobby Seale and Tarika Lewis.

It will also display the party's Ten-Point Program written by founders Newton and Seale in the 60s:

  • We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
  • We want full employment for our people.
  • We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our Black Community.
  • We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
  • We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
  • We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
  • We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people.
  • We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county, and city prisons and jails.
  • We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
  • We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations– supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the Black colony in which only Black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of Black people as to their national destiny.

"So, we had free health clinics, we had free breakfast for children, we had programs to meet the basic needs of the community," said Newton. "And it was an embarrassment for the government, because they were not meeting those needs."

Newton said, Smith's message in the monument was one of the main reasons the advisory committee chose his work.

"It was striking that Shomari, as a young native son did so much research with the guidance of Emory Douglas, and his work illustrated the whole breadth of what the Black Panther Party was," said Newton.

For Smith, he calls the art project and monument one of his most important works as an artist.

"I can't be who I am, without the work of the Black Panther Party," said Smith. "It is a responsibility to tell this story and to make sure the history is told, and that the legacy of the Black Panther Party continues."

Once complete, it will become the first single monument honoring the Black Panther Party as a whole. Currently, there is a bronze bust of Dr. Huey P. Newton that was installed in West Oakland in 2022 that was created by former KPIX Anchor Dana King.

The Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District is now trying to raise $500,000 for construction costs for the newest monument.

"We hope to break ground in 2025," said Jordie Bornstein, Board Member of the TTBID. "We are in the process of working through the issues related to site access and ownership with the City, property owner and future Kasper's business owner."

The monument will be built along a parklet at the intersections of Shattuck, Telegraph and 45th. It will sit on the same stretch of land of the iconic Kasper's Hot Dog used to stand, until it closed in the 2003.

The historic neighborhood restaurant was a long-time gathering space for member of the Black Panther Party.

"Huey would frequent there, we would frequent there," remembered Newton. "Growing up, it was a place that welcomed him and other members of the Party. And they affectionately spent a lot of time there to eat and plan.

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