The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, an excellent new doc by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, comes at precisely the right moment in American history. (JLH: 4.5/5 & RBM: 4/5)
Rave by F2 Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner
After the shock of last summer’s riots in Ferguson, Mo, most Americans of Conscience have finally begun to confront our true legacy of racial discrimination…
Our history as a nation is tarnished not by slavery (which was endemic across the Americas), but by “Jim Crow” and all that followed from it in the century AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which supposedly guaranteed “citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws” to all [male] citizens of all colors, creeds, and races.
We know what did happen when J. Edgar Hoover–with the full support of newly elected President Richard Nixon–declared “Justice is incidental to law & order.” There are no apologies from those who–even today–would put these incendiary words on the homepage of their website. Even with all we know now about what the FBI actually did–with reckless disregard or the Constitution they had pledged to defend. If you have any doubts going in to The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, you will have no doubts coming out.
What we will never know is what would have happened to millions of African-American citizens in the United States if members of the Black Panther Party–men and women together–had continued to serve breakfast to the school children in their communities. How would the lives of these children–now adults–be different today if they had had these strong male role models in their communities?
But no. First young African-American men were disproportionately sent off to fight and die in Vietnam, then African-American men from urban communities were targeted by a “War on Drugs” that imprisoned them for the very things their White cohort did routinely in the comfort and privacy of their suburban homes.
If I sound angry, I am. See The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and you will understand why.
© Jan Lisa Huttner (9/5/15) FF2 Media
Q: Does The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution pass the Bechdel Test?
One of the unexpected aspects of this film for those of us taught to think of the Black Panther Party as a group of testosterone fueled militants is the revelation that approximately half of the Black Panther Party members were women!
The goal of the Black Panther Party was JUSTICE. In retrospect, that becomes totally clear.
WHY A 4.5/5 INSTEAD OF A 5/5…?
While this is a superlative film about the Black Panther Party, a bit of historical context would have made it perfect.
J. Edgar Hoover did not begin his evil machinations with a War on the BPP. As we learned in Ava DuVernay’s film Selma (my Top Pick of 2014), Hoover did all he could to destroy Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement well before the emergence of the BPP. And he did all he could to destroy SDS–Student for a Democratic Society–and other White-lead Anti-War movements, simultaneously with his War on the BPP.
Although I know others disagree with me about this, the Selma I saw showed President Johnson doing his best to control Hoover, and ultimately rising to the occasion by calling for the expansion of voting rights in 1965. President Nixon–on the other hand–gave Hoover even more power than he already had to impose his ideas about “Law & Order” in the name of the so-called “Silent Majority” after winning presidential election in 1968.
Many people–many “Progressive” people–refused to vote in 1968 because they said there was “no difference” between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. I know this for a fact because I actively campaigned for Humphrey after my first choice candidate–Eugene McCarthy–failed to win the Democratic nomination.
They were wrong.
“Justice is merely incidental to law and order.”