Black Panther Party Legacy Mural

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Date: 1994

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Public Art


Artist: Noni Olabisi

Confronting Bodies: Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission

Dates of Action: 1994

Location: Los Angeles, California

Description of Artwork: A 54-foot mural depicting the legacy of the Black Panther Party. Images contained party founder, Huey Newton, and others holding rifles as well as pictures of Panther community programs like the Sickle-cell Anemia drive and the establishment of food and clothing banks. The mural sought to reflect the diversity of the group's activism and viewpoints throughout their history

The Incident: The mural was a part of the Resource Center's multi-cultural public art effort to commission local artists to create area neighborhood art. Olabisi was selected by the Resource Center to make the mural. Members of the Jefferson Park community, including building owners, local artists, and community and local organization members supported Olabisi's proposal. The L.A. Cultural Affairs Commission rejected the proposal on grounds that it may promote violence in the neighborhood and lacked neighborhood support. Olabisi returned to the commission with 900 signatures and a report on the community involvement in the design process, however the proposal was still rejected.

Results of Incident: The sponsors of the project, the Social and Public Art Resource Center, petitioned the ACLU, who wrote the Commission accusing them of violating "freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment." The next day the Commission approved the mural, however the Resource Center decided to rely on private funding for the project.

Source: Artisic Freedom Under Attack, 1995.