The Oakland community came together this week, holding vandals accountable for tagging a site “sacred” to residents and showing how important the legacy of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is to them.
Vandals last weekend defaced a sign and stone in Oakland where Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton’s bust will be installed, according to the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation.
On Sunday night, Huey Newton’s widow Fredrika Newton went to where the bust will be installed at Huey P. Newton Way and Mandela Parkway and discovered the vandalism.
The rock where the bust will be placed and a city sign were tagged. On the sign were derogatory words about the sculptor creating Newton’s bust.
“They expressed how disturbed they were that they had disrespected the legacy of (the) Black Panther Party and the West Oakland community.”Karin Unger, Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation
“In these moments of discomfort we remind ourselves why we do this work and why preserving the history of the Black Panther Party is so important,” said the foundation’s deputy director, Xavier Buck.
“The Panthers evoked such a strong response from the government, police departments, and everyday people because they were sustaining revolution and building the society our racist government refused to provide to Black, brown, and poor people for centuries.
“Fifty-five years since their founding and people are still trying to silence their voices and their legacy,” Buck said.
Huey Newton took his last breath 32 years ago Sunday and Fredrika Newton decided to place flowers and a candle at the bust site in the neighborhood where her husband was shot.
Her husband’s bust will be installed in October to help commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Black Panther Party.
In what may be a rare turn of events, friends of the taggers saw the Instagram post of the vandalism and alerted the taggers.
The taggers reached out to sculptor Dana King and expressed shame.
“I think it speaks to their character,” Fredrika Newton said of the taggers. “Community is sacred.”
“I think it took courage,” King said. “It was beyond courage.”
Foundation spokeswoman Karin Unger said the taggers did not understand the significance of the site.
“They expressed how disturbed they were that they had disrespected the legacy of (the) Black Panther Party and the West Oakland community,” Unger said in an email Tuesday.
“They couldn’t have been more remorseful,” King said.
Those expressing shame were only responsible for part of the vandalism though, Unger said. The derogatory comments made about King were made by others and the foundation does not know who that was, she said.
Still, the foundation feels “immense gratitude” for the outcome, at least so far.
“What this taught us at the Foundation is that the Oakland community is strong and generous and thoughtful,” Unger said.
Fredrika Newton was out at the site Monday and people stopped and offered their support to her, reinforcing that the work of the Black Panther Party “has a very real and tangible legacy in Oakland,” Unger said.