Black Futures Month | Q & A with Fredrika Newton
For Black History Month 2022, we honored and remembered our past, as well as look ahead with hope and excitement for our future. To celebrate, we highlighted local Black heroes throughout February who constantly inspire us. These trailblazing Black artists and creatives have made an impact on the lives and hearts in our community.
Our second interview was with Fredrika Newton to chat about what led to her start of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation to honor her late husband's work and legacy. For over 25 years, she has been committed to preserving The Black Panther's legacy through education, exhibits and activism while carving out a permanent space of the party's history in Oakland. Her vision and dedication has greatly impacted our lives and hearts in the community. Find out what inspires Fredrika to keep moving forward and more.
We sat down with our dear client and friend, Fredrika Newton to chat about what led to her start of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation to honor her late husband's work and legacy. For over 25 years, she has been committed to preserving The Black Panther's legacy through education, exhibits and activism while carving out a permanent space of the party's history in Oakland. Her vision and dedication has greatly impacted our lives and hearts in the community. Find out what inspires Fredrika to keep moving forward and more.
What led you to create the Huey P. Newton foundation? Tell us about it and what you look forward to?
"I started the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation with David Hilliard more than 25 years ago. There seemed to be no tangible representation of the party alive in Oakland and also the history of the party was so grossly denigrated by the narratives that had been told throughout the tenure of the party and we both just felt that something needed to be done. I had this legacy from Huey sitting here, in my home and in my head and in my heart - and felt there was something that we could do so that today's and future generations know of the sacrifices, commitment, work and dedication of these young women and men who worked so hard to improve our community and communities around the world. Today, I look back at what we've accomplished and how much momentum we've had in just the last year and even I'm amazed. From renaming a street here in Oakland after Huey, "Dr. Huey P. Newton Way" to the placement of the first permanent public art piece commemorating the party in Oakland, a sculpture of Huey - it's energizing.
We have so much more that we're doing and so many other groups that we are collaborating with to ensure more is done. We have a podcast, we're working on a book and other creative projects. We're working with the national parks to explore the place of a park unit dedicated to the legacy of the party here in Oakland so there's a lot and at the same time, there's so many other possibilities!"
What impact do you hope to have on Black futures 5-10 years from now?
"I want the accurate history to be the only history known, shared and told. I want people to see the same possibilities for helping improve the lives of others that The Black Panther Party members saw in themselves. I want people to know there is great power in great great love."
The unveiling of Dr. Huey P. Newtons' statue was a momentous occasion for our community. What did that day and seeing his likeness mean to you?
"It still takes my breath away to think about that day. The skies opened up and rained joy that day as far as I'm concerned. It was so fortifying to see the community come out to celebrate this deeply important and historical occasion. And then to have so many people take the podium to share their memories of the party and of Huey and talk about the impact the party had on them. Recently, I feel like Oakland has come alive with The Black Panther Legacy - in murals, celebrations, ceremonies and now this statue. Huey just loved Oakland so much and I think seeing the city come alive in this way to capture and tell the true history of The Black Panther Party would be so meaningful to him."
Tell us something we don't know about your late husband?
"There's a lot of sides to Huey, but I think the thing that surprises people the most, is whenever I share that deep down, he was quite shy."
What's a fun fact about you?
"One fun fact is that I love fashion! And I love working with Oakland-based experts. Actually, for Huey's statue unveiling, the amazing Sherri McMullen styled me for the event that day. She selected the most magical white dress, but I didn't take into account that the skies would open up that day and rain. I was terrified of ruining the dress, so I chose to save it. I look upon that dress every day in my closet and I'm just waiting for the most deserving of occasions to finally wear it."
What inspires you? Name some creatives, designers or artists that inspire you?
"Young people inspire me. I would say that in the last maybe two years, I've met so many young people who are trying to change the world one step, one word, one meaningful action at a time. They're artists, they're podcasters, they're activists, they're the kids taking in their elderly neighbors' trash cans in the rain. When I think about it, I think that it's really an incredible time to be alive and see people, who I know have love and passion for what they do, willing to make things better for others. It's their humanity that I choose to focus on."