Just as the house has been transformed many times over the years, the mural drafts have transformed many times over the months. James Shields created the first concept draft and color palette in July of 2020, and Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith created the final draft and design in January 2021.
Jilchristina Vest, the homeowner and curator of The Women of The Black Panther Party Mural, was born in Chicago in 1966. At 19, she moved to the Bay, and in 1995, after earning degrees in Black Studies, Women’s Studies, and Multicultural Education from San Francisco State University and USF, Jil began her search for a home in West Oakland. She chose this area for its powerful Black community, and rich history of success and activism as the home of the Black Panther Party. In 2000, the dream of living in West Oakland came true, and Jil found the perfect house.
Twenty years later, in response to the continued violence and systemic oppression of BIWOC and the seeming invisibility of Black Women, Jil hatched a plan to put Black Women on center stage in the mural. The mural thanks the Women of Black Panther Party and is a gift and thank you to Jil’s friends and the entire community, without whom, she would not be.
The image of the mural began to form, and Jil’s next step was to contact Black Panther leader Ericka Huggins. It was imperative that the women of the Black Panther Party inform the mural’s content and message to ensure that it accurately tells their story and reflects their experiences.
Ms. Huggins emphasized the need to highlight the Survival Programs and pay honor to the Rank & File women, the comrades who have lived in the shadows all this time.
So, between the curator and the mentor, the design for the mural was born: Brown-skinned women, Panther Blue, the names of the women, the survival programs, joy, love, and motherhood.