“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred, and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their deaths, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them…” – Lenin, State and Revolution
Two years ago, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Illinois chapter deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party (BPP), Fred Hampton, and Peoria, Illinois chapter member Mark Clark by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.) J. Edgar Hoover, Chicago Police, and Chicago F.B.I. office’s Racial Matters Squad.
This Black History Month, Shaka King’s Judas and he Black Messiah has allowed a new generation of organizers, activists, and every day working people and youth born out of Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd rebellion to discover this vital history of the radical Black Freedom movement and capitalism and institutional racism’s response.
The violent and destructive response by the forces of the state to the BPP, forging a united working-class and youth movement the Rainbow coalition that would stand against war, poverty, law enforcement terror, and racism – spearheaded under the leadership of Fred Hampton and the Chicago. In this moment of capitalist crisis, a burgeoning new anti-capitalist and socialist consciousness, Black lives, and a crisis of revolutionary organization and leadership, what lessons do we learn from this Hollywood production about the life and legacy of Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, and BPP today?
Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) in Judas and the Black Messiah
The Making of Judas and The Black Messiah
Firstly, credit should be bestowed upon the tireless work and sacrifice of Fred Hampton’s wife, Akua Njera, formerly Deborah Johnson, and their son, Fred Hampton Jr. Akua Njera is one of the seven survivors of the law enforcement assault on December 4, 1969. The two of them served as creative consultants on the film.
They have kept Fred Hampton’s legacy alive by saving the Hampton’s home to be used as a museum and educational center and Fred Hampton Jr chairman of the Black Panther Party Cubs.
The idea for making the film had existed for several years before Warner Bros. picked it up. It was produced by the acclaimed director Ryan Coogler of Fruitvale Station and MCU/Disney Black Panther. The screenplay was written by Shaka King and Will Berson, with the story developed by King, Berson, and comedy team twin brothers Kenny and Keith Lucas.
The film William O’Neal, 17-year-old car and impersonator of an F.B.I. agent, who is busted immediately after stealing a car. Stanfield, 12 years, attempts to convey a troubled, confused, and rudderless young black man seeking economic stability and a sense of self.
Upon his arrest, he is told that if charged, he would serve a few years in prison. O’Neal is then approached by Chicago F.B.I. special agent Roy Martin Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) O’Neal several questions about Malcolm X and Dr.King to see his thoughts on the struggle against racism. Mitchell offers O’Neal an opportunity to save himself from prosecution if he joins the Chicago BPP and gets close to Chairman Fred Hampton.
William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) and Martin Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) strike a deal.
O’Neal Mitchell as a mentor.
There is an attempt to humanize Mitchell re-his investigative role in the murder of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi 1964. As a point of the historical record, at the time of events, the F.B.I. did nothing to bring the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner to justice.
a snapshot of the life and political work of Fred Hampton. It begins with Dr.King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, and subsequent rebellion around the nation.
We don’t learn anything about Hampton’s early years, which greatly informed his political development. Fred Hampton was born on August 30, 1948; his family was one of the thousands of black working-class and poor people from the south, specifically Louisiana, after WWII. Black workers and families traveled up to the urban manufacturing and textile centers in the north, Midwest, and West oast to escape Jim/Jane Crow poverty, violence, and endemic racism.
Fred Hampton speaking at a rally in Chicago.
Fred Hampton grew up in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago oth of his parents worked for the Argo Starch company, so he had a stable working-class lifestyle. He became a star athlete and student leader, leading marches and walk-outs against racism in high school, feeding young people with a food program. Hampton joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and wanted to study law more effectively challenge the impunity of law enforcement’s power. He began to draw more revolutionary conclusions. He was part of a generation that was intensely radicalized by Mao’s Chinese Revolution of 1949, the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the urban guerilla warfare struggle in Algeria against French colonialism, the Vietnam War, the anti-colonial struggle, and the radical Black Freedom Movement through figures like Malcolm X. He joined the BPP for its revolutionary politics and program.
Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as Chairman Fred Hampton is stunning for capturing the essence of Hampton’s cadence, oratorical skills, mannerisms, stance, and walk. His performance will certainly garner award nominations in the coming months.
As brilliant as Kaluuya was, writer Angelica Jade Bastien of Vulture raises an interesting point about the age of the actors portraying these figures states, “…How much more impactful could the film be if the actors were closer to the ages of the men they’re playing, allowing the utter tragedy of this dynamic to shine through?”
The average age of a BPP member was 17 to 21 years old. Choosing younger actors to portray these historical figures would have highlighted the innocence, courage, youthful idealism, and danger of facing an empire head-on. There were several tender moments between Hampton and his partner Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) beautifully acted. Thse tender scenes punctuate the precarity, outright fear of death, and loss of black people in the struggle against this racist capitalist system
The film barely deals with the role of women in the BPP The BPP rank-file membership was 70% women. Once again, Hollywood’s treacherous patriarchal storytelling is on full display.
Where is the Rainbow Coalition, Socialism, and ?
“The State targeted the Panthers because we were socialists, not because we were armed.”- Eddie Conway, a former Baltimore Black Panther Party chapter member, served 44 years in prison as a political prisoner, Reality Asserts Itself, 4/12/14.
The film’s glaring blindspots are the short vignettes of the original radical Rainbow Coalition’s birth and attempt to build alliances with street gangs like the Blackstone Rangers. The word socialism is utter once in the first few minutes of the film. Viewers don’t get the full breadth of the political analysis and program of the BPP that Chairman Fred Hampton brilliantly transmits in plain language in archival footage of the time.
Also quite disturbing is that the infamous Chicago Democratic mayor Richard Daley (1955-1976) is mentioned once, and Cook County State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan is never mentioned at all. Daley and the Chicago political and economic establishment governed under an extremely segregated and racist city, with a law-and-order iron fist on full display at the Democratic Party National Convention in 1968. The blood of protesters flooded the streets of Chicago from Daley’s law enforcement. These conditions led to the development of the Rainbow coalition. Hampton and the Chicago BPP sought to build a coalition of the poor and oppressed to challenge the Daley machine, and the political and economic system. The Rainbow coalition consisted of the BPP, and the Puerto Rican street gang turned political organization, the Young Lords under the leadership of Jose Cha Cha Jimenez of Lincoln Park. The BPP began political work with the Young Patriots of Uptown, made up of poor white southerners. The role of BPP member Bob Lee is never developed in the film. Bob Lee led the Chicago BPP-Young Patriots’ discussions and is chronicled in the extraordinary documentary American Revolution 2.
Hampton (left) pictured with members of the radical Rainbow Coalition.
This radical Rainbow coalition denounc law enforcement terror, poverty, racism, and the Vietnam War. The development of cohered leadership and organization became a domestic and international threat.
The rise of sn’t the brainchild of F.B.I director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) solely, but the capitalist state’s response to the revolutionary 1960s. J. Edgar Hoover is portrayed as a mad-man and racist in the film which he was. was an integral element of capitalism and institutional racismdefend the ruling elite’s interest by any means necessary.
C was a continuation of the Palmer raids of the early 1900s against the communists, anarchists, and black nationalists Hoover was a young agent during the Palmer raids. The Joe McCarthy red scare witch-hunts of the late 40s and early 50s social movements and struggle by the working class, poor, and oppressed. s ramped up after the Presidential election victory of Richard Nixon in 1968. He emphasized law and order to confront the “menace” of political radicalization and youth culture as he portrayed himself as a defender of the hopes and dreams of the silent majority.
n a new article based on newly released government documents, point to a broader plot to murder Fred Hampton by the J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, Chicago police and political establishment.
Winter in America
The release of Judas and The Black Messiah occurs at a critical stage of American and global capitalism. Next month will mark the first anniversary of the rise of the worldwide pandemic, -19. The global economy is on fragile ground as millions of working people, poor and oppressed in the United States face unemployment, a housing crisis, lack of healthcare, and more profound racial oppression.
Even though Trump exiting the White House is a significant development, the threat of the far-right, and right-wing white nationalism, remains a clear and present danger, as the siege on the Capitol on January 6 demonstrates. Biden has sought to reset the agenda of U.S. capitalism and its institutions after four years of the Trump presidency.
This May will mark the one-year anniversary of the George Floyd rebellion, the largest protest movement in U.S. history. We have witnessed the ebb of the historical movement, which was in part co-opted by Wall Street thanks to their two billion dollar donations to BLM-affiliated organizations and racial justice NGOs, as well as the Black misleadership class’ dastardly role in directing the justified rage into the safe channels of the two-party system and Black capitalism. This effort was led by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, like Black South Carolina congressman James Clyrburn, who outright attacked demands like defunding the police. The Democratic Party used performative rhetoric and acts to stifle the movement, like the Minneapolis Democrat-dominated City Council’s initial proposal to ‘abolish the police’ – and later their betrayal of that demand. Black Lives Matter activists have been under constant attack since Trump’s Justice Department “Black Identity Extremists”
Protesters in Minneapolis on May 26 demand justice for George Floyd.
The vicious attacks against BLM are in the capitalist states’ tradition cr f freedom and justice. From Occupy Wall Street Standing Rock Ferguson, Baltimore, and targeted arrests, convictions, murder .
Our movement must develop and cohere around a revolutionary analysis, program, and approach that raises consciousness and sustains daily activity around things that matter to us.
“I hope people actually go study fred hampton’s analysis on u.s. imperialism and fascism beyond just seeing a movie, most of his politics were stripped from that film.” –Noname, Chicago native, Hip-Hop artist, Twitter post 2/9/21
Fred Hampton’s political work and ultimate legacy are rooted in building a multi-racial working class and poor people’s movement with daily organizing and mobilizing to end the tyranny of capitalist oppression and exploitation. He was fighting for a socialist transformation of society that would facilitate us living a dignified life. Fred Hampton’s self-sacrifice revolutionary love for the people is what has inspired millions of young people around the world to speak out and organize around housing, jobs, education, and ending law enforcement terror, imperial war, and systemic racism.
New Jersey Senator Corey Booker attempted to truncate and whitewash Chairman Fred Hampton’s revolutionary words in a Twitter post on February 5 Black History Month.
It is only right to conclude with the full words of Chairman Fred Hampton.