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The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016) — Watch it Now

February 22, 2016


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party. For most of us, this historical fact would have been swept under the rug and largely ignored had Beyoncé’s stirring performance at the Super Bowl not brought the Party back into the mainstream consciousness. Donned in leather outfits with black berets garnishing their afros, Beyoncé and her crew of female dancers reminded the world of the power once held by the revolutionary group, but the Super Bowl performance’s focus was only the Party’s aesthetic. The Black Panthers’ potential in dismantling America as we know it today during their reign has gotten lost in the translation of their history to the younger generations.

That’s not an accidental blunder. To my delight, I was lucky enough to enjoy continuous enlightenment over the weekend at a Black activism conference at Emory University. There, Ebony magazine Senior Editor, Jamilah Lemieux,  stood as the keynote speaker further dropping knowledge on all of us who stayed to listen to her cultural critics and discussions on intersectionality. Raised by a Black Panther, Lemieux poignantly assessed much of this generation’s summation of The Black Panther Party. Our knowledge of the Party has been limited to phrases, slogans, and slivers of their empowering message that had gotten watered down over the years: Free Huey, Angela Davis got arrested for something so Free Angela. Kill the pigs. Wear berets. Feed the kids. Something like that.

To dig deeper into the Party, their intentions, and how they almost accomplished a complete toppling of the white supremacist system, one should turn to PBS’ brilliantly constructed documentary, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. The film highlights the key players within and of the Party, their functions within the Oakland community, and how their universal themes of freedom from oppression and community assistance streamlined into major cities all across the country. Through a collection of footage, FBI files, present day interviews, photographs, and valuations within the documentary, Stanley Nelson Jr. commemorates those who fought long and hard in the movement only to get halted and terminated by a government hell-bent on keeping the status quo.

Nelson’s major achievement, which sets The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution apart from every other Black Panther Party documentary, is how he highlights the sobering meddling that J. Edgar Hoover and the government had in deflecting the impressive progress that the Black Panther Party had attained. The powers that be thought they had The Civil Rights Movement for social change controlled with the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Nevertheless, The Black Panthers picked up where the Civil Rights Movement left out, and though peace ceased to act as the forefront of their message, the Panthers carried the torch in the fight for a change of systematic norms.

Katherine Cleaver, Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale, Bobby Hutton, and hundreds of others across the country endured bodily harm, phone tapping’s, jail, sting operations, and set ups by authorities. Yet, they continued to shout through gagged mouths in courtrooms, unify across the world, protect themselves and others, and provide services for their community that the government refused to do. The Black Panther Party weren’t trying to appeal to the masses by sending feelings of fuzzy joy and peace to make a statement. The Hippie movement tried that and shootings at Kent State, among other moments of government noncompliance, showed these methods don’t work.

The Party wanted to uplift members of the African diaspora and remind them of their own influence and beauty. The government possessed resources that proved too powerful, however, and it worked hard at stifling that message and dismantling The Black Panther Party leaving remnants of their memory behind. Everyone needs to take the time to watch this documentary so that history can stop repeating itself and we can break the chains of inequality and the status quo of injustice once and for all. 2016 is the year to pick up the broken pieces from those before us. We have the ability to reconstruct those pieces and make them stronger than ever, so let’s take responsibility and pay back those before us by doing so.

Click here to watch The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution now.

          Click here to watch The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution now.


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