Black Panther Party Art Installation To Open In Oakland

In Oakland, a historic hot dog restaurant used by members of the Black Panther Party will soon feature a permanent art installation commemorating the group.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Kasper’s Hot Dogs, which opened in 1943 in the Temescal neighborhood in North Oakland and is set to reopen by year’s end, will honor the legacy and roots of the Black Panther Party in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood where party co-founder Huey P. Newton grew up.

Temescal is where the Black Panther Party was founded and was active in the community, launching initiatives such as free breakfast for children and a newspaper. The group also had a 10-point program that emphasized things like freedom, employment and housing for Black people.

Kasper’s, named after founder and Armenian immigrant Kasper Koojoolian, has been closed since 2003. It was said to be one of Newton’s favorite childhood haunts and catered to several other party members, politicians and musicians.

“Everybody used to come in that place,” Harry Yaglijian, Koojoolian’s grandson, told the Chronicle. “When the Panthers were prominent, (Huey Newton) used to come in.”

After new owners purchased the historic building to renovate and reopen it, the restaurant is set to reopen this fall, serving Chicago-style hot dogs. 

On permanent display outside the restaurant will be artwork honoring the Black Panther Party created by the Temescal Roots Project and organized by the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District, the Made in Color creative agency and the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, according to The Chronicle 

“This would really be a big moment in Temescal to actually have a dedicated memorial to the party, to really root their history there,” said Katie Larson, executive director of the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District.

These groups will co-host community discussions and workshops around Oakland in the coming months to come up with ideas for the installation with residents, artists, historians, local business leaders, and others, according to the outlet.

Although a bust honoring the Black Panther co-founder was unveiled in West Oakland last year, according to Newton’s widow and former party member Fredrika Newton, the city has no plaques, statues, or permanent art installations commemorating the group’s legacy as a whole.

“It’s not a history that’s widely known,” Fredrika told the outlet, adding that the ongoing displacement of long-standing residents in Temescal makes it even more critical that there are local markers to “celebrate that history and the young men and women who made supreme sacrifices to serve that community.”

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