Black Panther Party Leader Huey P. Newton Captured in Sculpture and Documentary | related to art | Arts & Culture
At the intersection of Mandela Way and Huey P. Newton Way in West Oakland is the bronze bust of Huey P. Newton, Oakland’s first public monument honoring members of the Black Panther Party.
A few blocks from where he was murdered in 1989, the bust was revealed on a rainy day in october 2021created by sculptor and former KPIX reporter Dana King at the request of Huey’s widow and president of the Huey P. Newton Foundation, Fredrika Newton.
“It just hurt my heart that nothing was placed where Huey had taken his [last] breath,” Fredrika said. When Fredrika started thinking about the best way to honor Huey, she also discovered that there were a number of people in Oakland who didn’t know who Huey was or the Black Panther Party.
Since Huey’s death in 1989, Fredrika has carried on the name, legacy and advocacy work of the Black Panthers. Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party (BPP) with Bobby Seale in 1966. The party created a 10-point program outlining community needs that are still relevant today, including fair employment, fair and decent housing, education, health care, and an end to brutality against people of color. The BPP also developed community programs, including free breakfast programs for children – which later became the basis of the WIC, free medical clinics focused on black health, housing co-ops and their own log.
The legacy of the BPP had so influenced not just Oakland but the world and needed to be recognized in a state of beauty, permanence and a craft in which King specialized – bronze. “Bronze statuary is an extreme honor. And it’s an honor mostly bestowed on white people,” King said. “I take a medium – bronze – an art form that is figurative, which is usually only available to tell a Eurocentric story and I tell a story of African Americans in the same material, in the same style. Because we deserve that too.”
King is the artist behind San Francisco monumental judgment and Guided by justice in Montgomery, Alabama to name a few. She explains that the use of materials is important in telling and shaping the story. “I create black bodies out of bronze. That’s what I do,” said Dana King. “This is my mission. I received this gift from God and I intend to use it on our behalf.”
King researched and read as much as she could about the Black Panther Party, including Huey’s poetry and autobiography. But it took more than history lessons about Huey as a revolutionary for the art to take shape. Creating Huey’s likeness required Fredrika’s shared stories of the man Huey was to her – her husband. “That helped form in my mind and in my heart, that came out of my hands, the Huey that she saw in there.” said the king. Studying the many iterations of Huey — the revolutionary, the man accused of murder, and the leader of the Black Panthers — he was the man Fredrika saw that King wanted to show the world. “The man who was her husband, a lover, a friend. He was the man I wanted to bring to this play.”
For Love and Legacy short documentary film by AK Sandhu
The process of making the bust of Dr. Huey P. Newton was documented by AK Sandhu as part of Take over Oakland, a two-year filmmaker training and mentoring program, starting mid-2020. Sandhu said following the process of creating the bust was perfect for a documentary considering its historical nature. The documentary “For Love and Legacy”, directed by AK Sandhu, follows King and Fredrika as they create the busts and the bond shared between the two women during the process.
At one point, King even asked Fredrika for photos of Huey naked from the waist up. Fredrika remembers laughing “Wait! Wait? What are you doing with my husband? What’s going on here? And so we kinda laughed about it. It’s actually in the movie.”
There would be many filmed moments of the stories shared between Fredrika and King that would make Sandhu want to laugh out loud, but she had to stay quiet to capture the audio. It was also in these discussions about Huey that King and Fredrika were able to make a connection that Sandhu was able to capture on film. “The relationship we were able to develop was built on trust.” said the king. “She [Fredrika] was very generous with herself and her relationship with Huey [and the] the life they shared together.”
Growing up in the Bay Area, Sandhu followed and admired Dana King’s career as a reporter for KPIX. During filming beginning in August 2020 and ending in October 2021 when the bust was installed on the rock, Sandhu knew she was witnessing something special.
When she first saw the documentary, Fredrika says she was unaware of her place. His focus has been on elevating the work of the BPP. The bust is the first public works sculpture dedicated to a member of the Black Panther Party, but there’s more to come. Currently, the foundation is working with the National Park Service and National Parks Conservation Association to create a Black Panther Party monument in Oakland. Fredrika describes it as “an urban park that will consist of sites that have been significant in the history of the Black Panther Party.”
“We are working on films of women in the Black Panther Party. Women who were simply not visible in the party to the media. But over 75% of party members were women and women leaders,” said Fredrikka. “Very few people know that.”
A similar sentiment was expressed about the process of creating the documentary, looking at the connection between Fredrika and King and the stories she wants to tell as a filmmaker. “As an Asian American immigrant filmmaker, one of my things is [to focus on] women of color, whose stories aren’t really being told,” Sandhu said. She adds that the stories of these women of color have not yet been given the space they truly deserve.
At 20 minutes in length, “For Love and Legacy” is Sandhu’s first documentary to hit the festival circuit. Sandhu hopes to one day make a bigger movie from the 80-100 hours of footage she gathered in the process, explaining that there are so many stories that can be told. There will be two screenings of the 20-minute documentary. Two screenings of “For Love and Legacy” will take place on Friday April 22 and Saturday April 23 at Cinemark for Pan African Film Festival in LA. “For Love and Legacy” director AK Sandhu and Fredrika Newton will attend the screening on April 23.