Huey P. Newton’s widow, Fredrika, speaks out after memorial vandalized

The site where her husband was killed is “a sacred space," Fredrika Newton told theGrio's April Ryan

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Huey P. Newton’s widow is speaking out about a memorial site that was vandalized in Oakland. The area was designated to be the site of a bust honoring the late co-founder and leader of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. 

The bust will be installed at Dr. Huey P. Newton Way (formerly 9th Street) and Mandela Parkway in West Oakland on Oct. 24. The intersection is close to where Newton was gunned down in 1989. The installation ceremony will also commemorate the founding of the Black Panther Party 55 years ago.

Newton’s widow Fredrika Newton told theGrio’s White House correspondent April Ryan that the bust unveiling will cap off a weekend of events.

The site where her husband was killed has “been deemed safe, a sacred space by the community,” she said. But Fredrika was “mortified” recently when she went to visit the location “to place flowers and a candle in memory of my husband,” and found the memorial site “had been defaced.”

“There was tagging graffiti on the actual boulder where he will be placed, as well as on the sign that we had to put to notify the community of this placement of the bust. It was a city-required sign,” she said to Ryan. 

Huey P. Newton memorial site vandalized / Twitter

“And on that sign, it said something disparaging about the artist and the sculptor, Dana King, who has sculpted this incredible piece. And there was random tagging all over the boulder. I was shocked and saddened and disappointed and pretty shaken up,” she continued. 

Fredrika said several community members helped with the clean-up effort, including the taggers who vandalized the sign.

The community knew who the taggers were,” she said, noting that the vandals reached out and “were very remorseful.”

“They had no idea of the significance of this bust or that it was connected in any way as a memorial,” she continued.

The taggers were so distraught over their actions that they “came forward and offered to do whatever it was that they needed to do to make this right.”

“It spoke to their strength of character that in the face of a lot of righteous anger, which was right to have — the community was disappointed and angered and incensed and protective — that these young people reached out in wanting to meet with me personally,” Fredrika added.

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Huey P. Newton’s widow, Fredrika Newton/ Twitter

The memorial site is “almost cleaned up entirely now,” she said.

Fredrika didn’t call the police about the incident. Instead, she wants it to serve as a teachable moment.

“I think what happened here is you’ll see a unifying of communities. This tagger community, I hope will learn to hold all spaces sacred, all community spaces sacred. Huey spoke of, ‘don’t bring me the problem, bring me the solution.’ And that’s what I’d like to do is move forward. The U.S. government didn’t stop the Black Panther Party, and a little bit of paint definitely not going to. This was a little blip on the screen. It really brought the community together.”

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