Location of Newton's Death

From shrines to hashtags

When Black Panther leader and co-founder Huey P. Newton was gunned down by a gang member on August 22, 1989 his last words were allegedly “You can kill my body, and you can take my life but you can never kill my soul. My soul will live forever!”
Newton may have been right because the legacy of his activism still echoes in today’s social justice conversations. What’s different, however, is the way today’s activists have managed to shape media coverage of black deaths. Newton’s was framed by problematic language as evidence unfolded. Even the Chicago Tribune played up the “ghetto” manner of his death in their series of articles (linked below). One by Bruce Buursma published two days after Newton’s death reads:
“Newton was shot in front of a tattered Victorian home in a drug-plagued neighborhood, and the blood-stained sidewalk has become a kind of shrine to his memory. About 200 people marched to the site Tuesday night from the nearby building where Newton first organized the Panthers, keeping a candlelight vigil, chanting slogans and decorating the pavement with flowers.”
The Black community’s grief and mourning, too, was sensationalized:
“As word of Newton`s death spread through this hard-scrabble city across the bay from San Francisco, scores of mourners streamed to the sidewalk where he was found dying, scooping up his blood in plastic cups as a memento and leaving bouquets of gladiolas and carnations against a fence there.”
The street shrine clearly had symbolic meaning to those who created it. However, media coverage shaped it into a one-dimensional thing without unpacking this deeper significance.
For black deaths in 2015, the street shrine has become a hashtag. Where before media and law enforcement had almost total control over how the public understood these incidents, social media platforms have turned the tables. Activists and allies alike have been able to reclaim the true significance of their emotions via the digital realm. In many ways, allowing public responses through comment threads, tweets, etc. has created a space for people to see the reasons behind the mass grief and mourning. In the case of Newton it was the loss of a revolutionary figure whose causes affected many. Most of today’s digitized mourning provides perspective on the deeper social implications of an individual’s death at the hands of police. #MichaelBrown, #Tamir Rice, #EricGarner, and countless others are able to become something more influential than flowers on a street because those touched by their deaths are able to process and explain in a public and widely accessible medium.

Access Information:

Location is approximate. House numbers have changed in the area since 1989.

Street Address:

1456 Center St, Oakland, CA 94607 [map]

Cite this Page:

Camille J. Brown, “Location of Newton's Death,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 14, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/122.

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