Black Panther Party unveils Huey P. Newton statue in Oakland

Newton's bust by artist Dana King was created in celebration of the 55th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party.

A bronze bust honoring Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, was unveiled in Oakland, California. 

The statue was created by artist Dana King, who crafted it in celebration of the 55th anniversary of the founding of the political party. 

Former Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton speaks to reporters in Oakland, California, outside the courthouse in March 1979. (Photo: Sal Veder, AP/File)

Oakland Side, a local media outlet, notes that the ceremony took place on Sunday in the rain, but that the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those in attendance. “The rain is very symbolic of the struggle and the obstacles that become our fuel,” said Oakland native and musician Fantastic Negrito, who performed during the event.

The statue was unveiled at an event at the intersection of Mandela Parkway and Huey P. Newton Way, and was attended by a mix of Oakland celebrities, including rapper Mistah Fab, recording artist/activist D’Wayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Toné! and others. The convergence is not far from where Newton was killed in 1989. 

Gina Belafonte, the actress daughter of legendary singer-actor-activist Harry Belafonte, was the emcee for the Oct. 24 event. She has long been a financial supporter of the historic organization, and noted that the bust is the first piece of permanent art to honor the Black Panther Party in the city where the organization was founded and had its deepest roots. 

“Public art is incredibly important,” said Belafonte. “It is a way in which we can build a dialogue around telling accurate history.” 

The event was also attended by California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Black Panther Party member Bobby McCall, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., the son of Chicago chapter Black Panther Fred Hampton, and Dr. Melvin Newton, Huey Newton’s brother.

Also present was Newton’s widow, Fredrika Newton, the founder of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation. 

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. The organization was best known for its 10-point program, a platform that encompassed the goals the group sought to achieve. The program included full employment, healthcare, education, fair housing and an end to wars. At its height, the Black Panther Party founded a free breakfast program for children, medical clinics, artist cooperatives and a newspaper. 

In an interview with Associated Press, Fredrika Newton said of her husband: “I would like for people to see him as a total human being.”

“He wasn’t just an iconic figure in a wicker chair,” she said. “This was a man with vulnerabilities, with feelings, with insecurities, with frailties, just like anybody.”

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