In the heart of West Oakland, at the intersection of Center and 9th streets stands a striking mural of a group of women—one clutches a rifle, another raises her fist in protest. At the bottom left corner of this beautiful art display, a woman smiles at a young boy, his black beret slightly tilted to the right. These are the women of the Black Panther Party.
Unbeknownst to most, at the height of the Black Panther Party, over 60 percent of its membership was comprised of women of color. They were organizers, activists, teachers, and often at the front lines of many of the party’s battles for equality and social change. Yet, many of their contributions have been lost to the pages of history, this mural aims to recapture and highlight their legacy.
The mural stands around 30 feet tall and resides in the same neighborhood where the foundation of the party was established. The striking work of art is just a few feet from where Black Panther leader/founder, Huey P. Newton was shot and killed on August 22, 1989.
Commissioned by Jilchristina Vest, the work of art was designed by muralist Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith and was oversaw by former Black Panther Ericka Huggins. The image depicts Delores Henderson, Angie Johnson, Lauren Williams, and her child. The image was crafted from archival photos captured by Stephen Shames.
The mural actually covers the side of Vest’s home, and there are plans to turn the entire facade of the house into a mural dedicated to the women of the Black Panther Party. The image will include the names of more than 250 women who were members of the party, further highlighting the important role these women played not only within the party, but also on the ground in the communities the party aimed to aid.
In June 2021, a 1000-square-foot mini museum opened inside the home. It focuses on the community programs of the Black Panther Party and is open by appointment.