By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information
As we celebrate the 55th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, created by Chairman Bobby Seale and the Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton during Black Panther History Month, we must acknowledge some of the people who have been involved in keeping the legacy of the Black Panther Party strong, in today’s times, such as Jilchristina, who has just created the first Black Panther Party museum anywhere, which is where it should be; in West Oakland on 9th and Center.
Many may not recognize her by name, but if you are familiar with West Oakland, it is her house that is across the street from the spot where Huey P. Newton was assassinated, which is adorned with a majestic mural dedicated to the freedom fighter women of the Black Panther Party.
Now Jilchristina, has created the first Black Panther museum, as well as a Black Panther Women’s Coloring Book. From October 22-24th, the museum will be free, in honor of Black Panther History Month, as well as Jilchristina will have a merch table, on Oct. 24th in front of the mural for people that want to purchase coloring books and other memorabilia. Now check Jilchristina out in her own words.
JR Valrey: What inspired you to create a Black Panther museum in your home?
Jilchristina: The museum was not my idea. As I have said about everything with this project- the mural, the museum, it’s ancestor-driven, not Jil-driven. My tenants moved out in Jan 2021. The mural started in Feb 2021. And even though I had every intention of getting new tenants by March 2021, once the women of the BPP were on the wall, the energy of everything shifted. I have had tenants for the 21 years that I have owned this home, and yet I knew I wasn’t going to rent the first floor again. I knew that it was destined to be something more than an apartment. On a random day in March a Black woman came by to see the mural, and while there asked the muralist “hey, can we go inside? Is there a museum inside?”. When I got home Rachel told me this story, and I knew immediately, “Oh OK. A museum’. That was an ancestor telling me what to do next. I am certain. From the beginning, I said “show me how to feel joy and spread joy, and I promise to say yes to whatever you ask me to do”. And my ancestors have been on point.
JR Valrey: What’s in it?
Jilchristina: The museum is an extension of the truth being told by the mural. It’s made up of images, artifacts, and articles that tell the untold history, activism and humanitarianism of the Black Panther Party. Like the mural, the museum is here to inspire, provoke joy, and uncover the missing puzzle pieces in the mis-told story of the BPP.
JR Valrey: Where did you get the memorabilia from? How big is it?
Jilchristina: It’s small, three rooms, 1000 sq ft tops, and it’s packed with goodness. Everything in the museum belongs to and was produced by archivist Lisbet Tellefsen. When the sista said there should be a museum, Lisbet is the first person I called. Within a week she dropped off everything needed for a mini Black Panther Party Museum. It’s gorgeous and amazing. Things here have been in storage for 4 or 5 years, unseen, not being used until now. It’s such a gift.
JR Valrey: How have people responded to it?
Jilchristina: The response has been overwhelming. And as wished for, it has brought me and the guests and the community all the joy that I asked for. People from around the country have come, and it’s only been open since Juneteenth.
JR Valrey: What will be happening at the museum during the 55th anniversary of the Black Panther Party events this month? What will be happening at the mural dedicated to the Women of the Black Panther Party during this time?
Jilchristina: The museum will be open all weekend October 22-24 and will be FREE all weekend in honor of the Panthers and their 55th anniversary. On the last day of the celebration weekend, Sunday, Oct 24th, the Panthers are meeting in front of the Mural to take their anniversary photo with the mural as the backdrop. This is such an honor. I am so looking forward to it. It feels like destiny, in a way that I cannot put into words.
JR Valrey: Where can people get more information online about the museum, the mural, and the Black Panther coloring book that you created?
Jilchristina: I will have a merch booth on the 24th of October outside the museum. All the hoodies, tees, posters and books will be there for sale. And for those that can’t make the 24th – More info on the project and merch can be found at www.westoaklandmuralproject.org.