Oakland puts new focus on Black Panther Party history with two weekend events

Just around the corner from City Hall, Fredrika Newton wants to show people another side of Oakland's history.

"Many of the neighborhoods don't look like they did during the era of the Black Panther Party," said Newton.

The Black Panther Party's logo is now painted across a building at 1427 Broadway, the home of the Dr. Huey Newton Foundation's new Center for Research and Action.  

"There are many people that don't even know that the Black Panther Party had roots here in Oakland," said Newton.

Fredrika Newton's roots run deep.

"I joined the party in 1971 and I was 19 years old," said Newton, who married the party's co-founder Huey Newton years later.

Now, more than 50 years after the birth of the party in Oakland back in 1966, there's still controversy over the party's militancy and clashes with law enforcement during a volatile era.

Fredrika Newton says she hopes the new research center will be a place to bring balance to the party's place in history.

"The media only portrayed us the Black Panther Party with images of angry men with guns. "

She says what wasn't shown, were the party's community programs such as the Free Breakfasts for Children, and free health clinics that provided testing for lead poisoning, hypertension and sickle cell anemia.

"We had 65 survival programs...65. The ambulance program in North Carolina was created by women because black people were dying on the streets and no ambulance because no ambulance would come into the black community to pick them up," said Newton.

That history is also being told at the Oakland Museum of California this week, with a book-signing and panel discussion on Friday for the new Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party. 

"Now people get to see the other side of the Black Panther Party, from the people that were in the party," said Newton, "70% were women."

The Newton research center also is planning to hold its first preview event Saturday with a private gathering for founding members.

"This will be an oral history studio. It will have exhibition space. It will be an interactive museum and think tank," said Xavier Buck, Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation and research center.

Buck says it's a chance to reflect on Oakland's past and help shape the future.

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"What we are building is monumental. This is not just a storefront. It's the first time the Black Panther Party will be recognized in this kind of way where there's a central location where party members tell the story themselves," said Buck.

"That's the Black Panther Party that I was attracted to and fell in love with," said Newton, "It's so meaningful to me. It means everything to me that the community know."

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.