Franklin Students Plan Mural Honoring Seattle Chapter of the Black Panthers

by Susan Fried

About two-dozen people gathered in the Franklin High School commons on Friday, January 19 to help design a mural commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the forming of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panthers (SCBPP).

The community forum was organized by the Art of Resistance & Resilience, a social and environmental justice oriented art club at Franklin. It featured a presentation by Elmer Dixon, one of the co-founders of the SCBPP, and a community dialogue moderated by Franklin alumni and former Seattle Black Panther Garry Owens.

Lauren Holloway, the advisor for the Art of Resistance & Resilience club, said she became inspired to suggest the idea of the mural to the art club after seeing a film over the summer about the Seattle Black Panthers based on the book My People are Rising by Aaron Dixon.

Franklin High students discuss ideas for their planned mural. [Photo: Susan Fried]
The film, she recalled, reminded her of a conversation she’d had with a student who had expressed disappointment in how little black history was taught at Franklin. Finally, she said, she saw an opportunity when a few days before school started she noticed the MLK murals on the fence outside Franklin were starting to deteriorate. She proposed the idea of a mural commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Seattle Black Panther Party, and students enthusiastically embraced the proposal. The initial plan is to put the mural on the fence where the MLK murals are now. However, the club is open to other locations as well.

Ms. Halloway described the forum as a way of “providing community members who are invested in this history an opportunity to share ideas about the narrative they would like to see depicted in the mural.”

She asked the forum participants, “How do you want this history represented? Because we want to create a mural that has integrity and is represented accurately because this history is sorely misrepresented and misunderstood as you all probably know so we want to do justice for the city by showing not only do Black Lives Matter in Seattle but Black History does too.”

Lauren Halloway and Elmore Dixon prepare a presentation on the history of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panthers. [Photo: Susan Fried]
Organizers set up three boards in the back of the room where people could suggest what should be included in the mural. People could write down words they would like to see on the mural, describe historical themes or details they would like included, and sketch or draw pictures or three-dimensional art they would like to see in the mural.

The presentation by Elmer Dixon, which presented a history of the Panthers and social movements, and the  community dialogue that followed, gave the forum participants and the young artists a great deal of material to try to incorporate in the mural.

The club would like to have the mural underway by the time the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and Conference rolls around this April 26-28 at Washington Hall and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.

Susan Fried is a Seattle based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Seattle Globalist and Skanner newspapers. 

Featured image by Susan Fried

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