The mural was created by students at Franklin, in collaboration with members of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party. “I want people to know that youth did this and we have a voice,” says one of the students. A community celebration will be held Friday at the school.
Amina Dawud, a recent graduate of Franklin High School, and other students installed a 40-foot-wide, multi-panel mural Friday that honors the legacy of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party. The mural is located at Franklin’s athletic field on Rainier Avenue South.
The mural was created by Art of Resistance & Resilience, an after-school club at Franklin that focuses on social- and environmental-justice art projects. Adult volunteer artists helped with the project, and Unapologetic Artists & Creatives also helped install the artwork.
“I want people to know that youth did this and we have a voice,” says Dawud. “When we’re together and we have the resources and we’re given the space we just make amazing things. We pay homage to the people we look up to and we try to continue the legacy.”
Lauren Holloway, co-adviser of Art of Resistance & Resilience, said an estimated 25 students collaborated on the project with former members of Seattle’s Black Panther Party, including Elmer Dixon, Aaron Dixon, Leonard Dawson, Mike Tagawa, Garry Owens, Rosita Thomas and Vanetta Molson. In January, Elmer Dixon and Garry Owens led a community forum so original founders and members of the local Panthers could help inform the history, imagery and narrative of the artwork.
After students received approval of the design from former Seattle Black Panthers, they began painting in mid-March. They presented the finished mural at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Seattle Black Panther Party there this spring.
“We see it as a great honor and great tribute to the sacrifices that members of the Seattle Black Panther Party gave in service of their community,” said Elmer Dixon, co-founder of the Seattle Black Panther Party, about the mural. “It speaks to our legacy, the establishment of our free medical clinic that is still running today, the Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center, the breakfast program and the courage of young people to fight racism and oppression.”
Sophomore Savannah Blackwell says the mural serves as a time capsule and she hopes it makes community members curious to learn more about the contributions of the Black Panthers. Blackwell said she noticed commonalities between today’s political climate and what was happening during the era of the Black Panthers. She said the experience of working on the mural inspired her “to get out and be more active in social work.”
“This was really inspiring and really opened my eyes to what is possible, especially being a high school student,” said Blackwell. “We don’t learn about this in school. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to learn about this part of history and this was an opportunity for me to do that while creating.”
A community celebration for the mural will be held Friday from 6-9 p.m. in conjunction with Unapologetic Artists & Creatives at Franklin High School. For more information visit their Facebook page.
Bobby Seale, co-founder of the national Black Panther Party, will speak at Friday’s celebration, as well as at Saturday’s Seattle Black Panther Party Youth Empowerment Summit, which begins at 9 a.m. with registration and a free breakfast at Rainier Beach High School. Seale will also speak from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Washington Hall. For more information on Saturday’s events, visit the Summit’s Facebook page.