On the intersection of Mandela Way and Huey P. Newton Way in West Oakland sits the bronze bust of Huey P. Newton, Oakland's first public monument honoring members of the Black Panther Party.
Several blocks from where he was murdered in 1989, the bust was revealed on a rainy day in October 2021, created by sculptor and former KPIX journalist Dana King at the request of Huey's widow and president of the Huey P. Newton Foundation, Fredrika Newton.
"It had just given me heartache that nothing had been placed in the place where Huey took his [last] breath," Fredrika said. When Fredrika began thinking of how to best honor Huey, she also found that there were a number of people in Oakland who didn't know who Huey or the Black Panther Party was.
Since Huey's death in 1989, Fredrika has carried on the name, legacy and advocacy work of the Black Panthers. Huey P. Newton co-created the Black Panther Party (BPP) with Bobby Seale in 1966. The party created a 10-point program outlining community needs that still hold relevance today including equitable employment, fair and decent housing, education, health care and the end of brutality against people of color. The BPP also developed community programs including free breakfast programs for children — which later became the basis for WIC, free medical clinics focusing on Black health, housing cooperatives and their own newspaper.
The BPP legacy had influenced so much of not only Oakland but the world and needed to be recognized in a state of beauty, permanence and a work that King specialized in — bronze. "Statuary made in bronze is an extreme honor. And it's been an honor mostly granted to white people," said King. "I'm taking a medium — bronze — taking an art form which is figurative, that is usually only available to tell a Eurocentric story and I'm telling a story of African Americans in that same material, in that same style. Because we deserve that too."
King is the artist behind San Francisco's Monumental Reckoning and Guided by Justice in Montgomery, Alabama to name a few. She explains the use of materials is important in retelling and shaping of history. "I create Black bodies in bronze. That's what I do," said Dana King. "It's my mission. I've been granted this gift from God and I intend to use it on behalf of us."
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 the revolutionary for the art to take shape. Creating the likeness of Huey required Fredrika's shared stories about the man that Huey was to her — her husband. "It helped to form in my mind and in my heart, that came out of my hands, the Huey that she saw in that." King said. In studying Huey's many iterations — the revolutionary, the man accused of murder and leader of Black Panthers — it was the man Fredrika saw that King wanted to show the world. "The man who was her husband, a lover, a friend. That was the man that I wanted to bring to that piece."
The process of making the bust of Dr. Huey P. Newton was documented by A.K Sandhu as part of Re-Take Oakland, a two-year education and filmmaker mentoring program, beginning mid-2020. Sandhu said that following the process of the bust's creation was perfect for a documentary given its historic nature. The documentary "For Love and Legacy," directed by AK Sandhu, follows King and Fredrika in the busts' creation and the bond shared between the two women during the process.
At one point, King even asked Fredrika for pictures of Huey naked from the waist up. Fredrika recalls laughing "Wait! Hold up? What are you doing with my husband? What is going on over here? And so we laughed a little bit about it. It's actually in the film."
There would be many moments filmed of the stories shared between Fredrika and King that would make Sandhu want to laugh out loud but she had to remain quiet to capture the audio. It was also in those talks about Huey that King and Fredrika were able to build a bond that Sandhu was able to capture on film. "The relationship that we were able to develop was built on trust." King said. "She [Fredrika] was very giving of herself and of her relationship with Huey [and the] life that they shared together."
Growing up in the Bay Area, Sandhu followed and admired Dana King's career as a journalist for KPIX. Over the course of filming beginning August of 2020 and ending October 2021 when the bust was installed on the boulder, Sandhu knew that she was witnessing something special.
When she first saw the documentary Fredrika says she wasn't aware of how prominently she was featured. Her attention has been to elevate the work of the BPP. The bust is the first public works sculpture dedicated to a member of the Black Panther Party, but there is more to come. Currently, the foundation is working with the National Park Service and National Park Conservation Association to create a Black Panther Party monument in Oakland. Fredrika describes it as "an urban park that will be comprised of sites that were significant in the history of the Black Panther Party."
"We're working on films of Black Panther Party women. Women who were just not visible in the party to the media. But over 75% of the membership of the party were women and women in leadership," Fredrika said "Very few people know that."
A similar sentiment was expressed about the process of creating the documentary, watching the bond of 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 don't really get told," Sandhu said. She adds that the stories of these women of color have yet to be given the space they truly deserve.
With a run time of 20 minutes, "For Love and Legacy" is Sandhu's first documentary to make it to the festival circuit. Sandhu one day hopes to make a larger film from the 80-100 hours of footage she collected in the process, explaining 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 22nd and Saturday, April 23rd at the Cinemark for Pan African Film Festival in L.A. "For Love and Legacy" director A.K. Sandhu and Fredrika Newton will attend the showing on April 23rd.