Elaine Brown, Black Panther

Meet The Woman Who Once Led The Black Panthers and Is Now Leading The Fight For Affordable Housing in Oakland

Elaine Brown, the only woman ever to lead the Black Panther party, is showing there is more fire in the furnace when it comes to fighting for what’s right. 

Brown, 80, is turning Seventh Street in West Oakland, CA back into the “Harlem of the West,” Kron4 reported. Brown and her nonprofit organization, Oakland & the World Enterprises, are working on co-developing 79 affordable housing units for extremely low-income families. Brown said she is amazed to still be able to do something for the people. “This is an investment. An investment in reducing recidivism, in reducing crime, and reducing poverty,” Brown said. “I never thought that I would live to be 80 years old and still be able to do something for our people.”

Named The Black Panther, the 79-unit building is scheduled to open in April 2024. As a $80-million project, the building will house five businesses, including popular restaurant, Tule, on the ground floor. The civil rights activist has had her eyes set on the vacant lot for more than 30 years. She finally got a license from the city of Oakland to develop itaccording to ABC 7 News.i

“Nobody knows how I did it,” she said. “I don’t even know how I did it. But I forced my way into the system to get enough money to do this.”

Determined to work only with Black contractors to build the Black Panther, Brown hired Antoine Long as the Project manager. Long said this is not something you see every day. “It’s very significant,” Long said. “It means a lot when people come people see that then they kind of get a different sense of you know, I can do that I can be there it can be possible.” Fellow activists, Misty Cross and Tolani King, share similar sentiments. Cross, who stayed with King in a vacant home in the area to highlight the housing crisis, said this project is an amazing opportunity. “It gives them an opportunity to be a part of Oakland’s development,” Cross said. 

“As we see all these nice buildings going up there unaffordable for us. So, to see a nice project being affordable for black people to live in. It’s a great opportunity.”

Brown served as chair of the Black Panther Party, which was founded in 1966 in Oakland by Huey P Newton. The organization was committed to fighting for the rights of people in marginalized communities, including housing, health care, and education for the Black community.