Temescal Roots Project
What is the Roots Project?
The Temescal Roots Project will honor the rich history of the Black Panther Party's beginning in/around Temescal through a public art installation in the heart of the district. This will be the first 3D public art piece to honor the legacy not of a single member, but rather the entire Black Panther Party as a whole.
Where will the installation be located?
The project will reside in a new plaza that is planned for the intersection of Telegraph, Shattuck Avenue, and 45th Street which is currently a bike and pedestrian-only zone. This location lies directly adjacent to the historic Kasper’s Hot Dogs building, a neighborhood eatery that first opened in the 1930s and was frequently patronized by many Black Panther Party members. The art installation, plaza, and restaurant are being planned and designed in parallel to create a culturally significant and vibrant outdoor resource for the neighborhood.
Did the Black Panther Party really begin in/around Temescal?
Yes it really did! Did you know:
- Huey P. Newton grew up in Temescal, graduating from Oakland Technical High School in the class of 1959.
- Two of the first Black Panther Party headquarters were in Temescal (remember, the western edge of Temescal was truncated by the installation of Hwy 24).
- The Black Panther Party’s 10-point platform was crafted at Grove Street College (now known as Merritt College), which was originally located in Temescal.
- The first successful community action conducted by the Black Panther Party occurred near Temescal.
- Kasper’s (a local hot dog stand which is being revitalized to reopen) sits in the center of the district and is where many party members hung out and ate.
How did the Temescal Roots Project start?
In 2021, the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District (TTBID) teamed up with the Huey P. Newton Foundation to win a grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. The purpose of the grant was to develop a concept for a public art installation honoring the history of the Black Panther Party in the neighborhood where it began. The importance of engaging the local community, artists, and stakeholders in this endeavor is paramount to it's success.
What is the path to completing the Temescal Roots Project?
The onset of our efforts began in 2022, when we hosted a public kickoff celebration in collaboration with both the Dr. Huey P Newton Foundation and Made In Color, a local and black-women-owned creative agency. The kickoff was followed by a series of panels and strategy sessions to engage the community in visualizing this installation. The community sessions were conducted to bring together artists, local experts, historians and business owners, as well as legacy Black Panther Party members. Each event was curated to function as a community dialogue wherein we could better conceptualize an art installation that would reflect the history, ideals, and legacy of the Black Panther Party.
VIEW IMAGES FROM PAST EVENTS
Artist selection process
Beginning in April of 2023, proposals were solicited from artists to conceptualize the outdoor art installation as a tribute to the Black Panther Party. We received proposals from Los Angeles to New York and of course many local artists too. Artists were encouraged to be creative, told that the process would be a collaborative one with the community and Roots team, and that they were free to design anything "except a mural!"
An Advisory Committee was formed with representatives of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, the TTBID board, Made in Color creative agency, a legacy Black Panther Party member, a local artist, and the City of Oakland’s Cultural Strategist for Public Art. The advisory committee narrowed the applicants down to seven semi-finalists and invited them to an on-site orientation in the plaza. The artists were given stipends to refine their concepts further, and to present their ideas during individual interviews with the Advisory Committee. After much deliberation, three incredible artists were chosen as finalists:
Artist's concepts rolled out at Pantherfest
After extensive feedback and edits, our finalists designed concepts to honor the Black Panther Party. The Temescal Roots Project team presented the artist's concepts at the festival in celebration of Huey P. Newton Day held in downtown Oakland in October 2023. Festival attendees were effusive about how impressed they were with all three designs; when asked to vote many moaned: "do I have to pick just one?"
Video clip from Pantherfest 2023: roll-out of artist's concepts
Because community input has been an important part of the art development process all along, feedback and ideas were solicited on the concepts both during and after the event. Third grade students from Park Day School (located in the district) took a field trip to the future Roots project site, voted on their favorite art designs, and shared their thoughts on what they liked about each. They utilized the project as a way to talk about artifacts of history in the built landscape and to learn about Black Panther history.
Shomari Smith selected as winning artist
We are thrilled to introduce the winning artist Shomari Smith and his design “10 Points to Liberation."
The Advisory Committee considered many factors in addition to the design itself, including community votes/feedback, installation/maintenance issues, and effectiveness of the overall message.
Next, @shomari7382 will refine his design further based on feedback from the Advisory Committee. We will keep you posted as his piece evolves to the next step!
How does Kasper’s relate to the Black Panther Party?
The original Kasper's Hot Dogs opened in Oakland in the early 1930s. Harry Yaglijian, longtime owner of Kasper’s, has had a long list of legendary regulars, ranging from Ron Dellums to members of the band, Metallica. Many of the founding members of the Black Panther Party were also regular customers, including co-founder Dr. Huey P. Newton, who was raised just blocks away.
The Kasper’s Hot Dog’s building – scheduled to reopen after being closed for nearly 20 years – will, once again, be a central location for the community to gather together.
"Panthers on Parade" photo by Stephen Shames
Want to learn more about the Black Panther Party?
While the Black Panther Party’s origin story is firmly planted in Oakland, the Party’s roots in Temescal are lesser known. TTBID is working with the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation - which preserves the history, ideals, and legacy of the Black Panther Party - to amplify this history with the “Temescal Roots Project.”
The Black Panther Party’s community efforts in Oakland and around the country are embodied by the party’s 10-Point Program. The program is a series of principles ranging from a free breakfast program to universal healthcare that remains as timely and relevant today as when they were first created.
Today, the Temescal district attracts people from all over the world due to its lively neighborhood with innovative small businesses, diverse restaurants, and a buzzing arts and culture scene. The energy and presence of the Black Panther Party still hum within the vibrant murals, the strong Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, and the organizing power of the local community. The Temescal Roots Project is not only about maintaining the legacy of the Black Panther Party but also bringing it to life by educating Oakland residents and visitors of the rich history below their feet.