Oakland mural first to honor women of the Black Panther Party

"We live in a world that doesn't give a central focus to the intelligence, the brilliance, the imagination of women." The first mural to honor the women of the Black Panther Party was painted on a home in West Oakland.

Video Transcript

RACHEL WOLFE-GOLDSMITH: I've drawn this drawing like three different times. So by the time I get to the wall, it's almost like it's ingrained in my memory.

KUMASI AARON: It's not only what Rachel Wolfe Goldsmith is painting on the side of this house that's left a mark. It's who.

RACHEL WOLFE-GOLDSMITH: I just felt honored to be able to represent these incredible women.

KUMASI AARON: She is painting the first mural to honor the women of the Black Panther Party.

RACHEL WOLFE-GOLDSMITH: And just getting deeper into the work that they did, it's inspiring me to think about what we can do organizing and, you know, fighting for our rights here in this present day.

KUMASI AARON: These are the images most often connected with the Black Panther Party, men in berets and black leather jackets. But it's these photos of women, who made up 70% of the party by the early 1970's, that inspired the mural.

JILCHRISTINA VEST: They drove the vans, they fed the kids, they printed the paper. They were the editors. They were the teachers. They literally did everything.

KUMASI AARON: Jilchristina Vest never intended to have a mural this big on the side of her house, but after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, she wanted to create something to bring her joy.

JILCHRISTINA VEST: I didn't want to memorialize things that had been done to us. I wanted to find a way to honor what it looks like when we do things for ourselves, when we fight for our liberation.

KUMASI AARON: This was the result. A mural highlighting the women of the Black Panther Party who provided food, education, health care, and more in local black communities. It will eventually list the more than 300 women by name.

This mural will be one of three memorials in this neighborhood to honor members of the Black Panther Party. As you can see, it is larger than life. But Jil and Rachel say it pales in comparison with the women who inspired it.

ERICKA HUGGINS: I was so touched.

KUMASI AARON: Ericka Huggins was a leading member of the Black Panther Party.

ERICKA HUGGINS: The reason we're doing this is not because the men in the Black Panther Party didn't acknowledge us. It because we live in a world that doesn't give a central focus to the intelligence and the brilliance, the imagination of women quite often. So we just wanted to hold that up, and I think we are.

JILCHRISTINA VEST: This mural is for the community and it's for everybody who walks by it, and it's for everybody that can look up at it and say, I know exactly what those women did.