Film sheds light on life and death of Black Panther activist
Desteny Maragh – News Editor
Based on a true story, “Judas and the Black Messiah” debuted at the perfect time as Black History Month is in full swing. The film follows the life and death of Black Panther activist Fred Hampton.
The movie tells the story of the betrayal and unfortunate demise of Hampton, who served as chair of the Illionois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He met his fate at the hands of an undercover FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) informant in 1969.
Hampton, beautifully depicted by the accomplished and immensely popular actor Daniel Kaluuya, highlights how monumental Hampton was in that time.
The film truly highlights historical details and lives that have rarely been given camera time or mainstream focus.
Chicago Police burst into the apartment of Hampton with machine guns, rifles, shotguns and handguns, the police wearing normal clothing came in shooting and let out a total of over ninety shots.
Hampton was murdered while he lay asleep in bed.
The government and Chicago Police had it out for the Panthers and wanted to put an end to everything the organization was doing to better the community, but they could not do it in plain sight.
They had an informant, William O’Neal.
O’Neal had become an informant for the FBI at age 17, after he was arrested for driving a stolen car across state lines.
O’Neal joined forces with FBI agent Roy Mitchell, and together they devised a plan for him to become the personal driver for Hampton.
The more O’Neal become immersed in the organization, the more he feels skeptical about turning on the Black Panthers which became a primary conflict between the character’s personal beliefs and the job he’s hired to complete.
Then FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, was the one who had the idea to use a counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO to track and dismantle the Black Panther Party.
The FBI originally used the program in the 1950s to target Communist figures in America. The film showed how its tactics included monitoring and harassing potential perpetrators of popular political interests.
Hampton was only 21 at the time of his assassination. He was a talented public speaker with a passion for opposition to racial oppression. He longed for social equality.
Having previously heard Hampton’s speeches prior and portrayed in the movie, issues that what he preached about decades ago are still relevant today.
As Hampton rises to power in Chicago and continues to disrupt the racial status quo, he becomes even more of a target for the FBI.
The first time Hampton appears on screen, he is delivering one of his notable quotes.
“we don’t think you fight fire with fire best; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism,” Hampton said.
The Panther’s primary focus was combating racial oppression by achieving self-determination for black communities in America. The organization was originally formed in Oakland as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
After graduating from high school in 1966, Hampton became president of the local NAACP Youth Chapter. He advocated for the establishment of an integrated community pool in his neighborhood and recruited upward of 500 new members.
Hampton is presented as an expert strategist who works to develop a vast coalition to expand the Party’s power.
He takes significant risks to reach out to the Crowns, a Black gang, the Young Lords, a radical Puerto Rican organization, and the Young Patriots, a group of white leftist Southerners in Chicago.