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A word from Eric Mann on The Great Fred Hampton and

Judas and the Black Messiah TOMORROW @6PM via Zoom

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow night October 28th at 6 PM the Strategy and Soul Thursday Night Revolutionary Organizers Film and Book Club will be showing the film, Judas and the Black Messiah, highlighting the extraordinary life of Fred Hampton, the chair of the Illinois Black Panther Party who was assassinated by the FBI and Chicago Police, and an informer, William O’Neal.

The film valorizes and explains the work of the Black Panther Party.

The film exposes the treachery of the FBI and the Police and leads us to investigate the “Red Squad” of the Los Angeles Police Department Today.

It also challenges all of us to ask ourselves, given that government infiltration of our social justice movement is persistent and inevitable, how can we build powerful movements against police brutality and the police state if the police are among us every day at our meetings?

Please join us tomorrow night and become a sustainer of the Strategy and Soul Thursday Night Revolutionary Organizing Film and Book Club

Judas and the Black Messiah is an important and excellent film. It frames the question with great political clarity—the Black Panthers were truly a Black Messiah and the FBI and Police are the permanent Judas’ in our midst. Fred Hampton was a brilliant organizer. As the Panthers evolved their theory he continued to focus on armed self-defense but as many others, although Fred was the best, moved to the most revolutionary theories of community organizing. Fred was a brilliant leader of women and men, and yes, played by Daniel Kaluuya with a brilliant inhabitation of Fred, a unique revolutionary. Fred was the charismatic embodiment of the great revolutionary visionary combined with great people skills. He was able to bring Latinos and Puerto Ricans, through the Young Lords Party, and poor white Appalachians from the Young Patriots, into the great Rainbow Coalition in Chicago in 1968, 1969. This was the predecessor and model that Jesse Jackson learned from but also appropriated for his 1984 and 1983 Presidential runs.

Fred Hampton was murdered by the Chicago Police with direct partnership with the FBI, whose master agent, Roy Mitchell, is played with disgusting authenticity by Jesse Plemons. As always, this could not be possible without an informer, a spy, a traitor, a Judas in the ranks. The film explains how the FBI got William O’Neal, played with chilling ambivalence and resolve by LaKeith Stanfield, to be the Judas to bring down the Black Messiah. Again, contrary to some of today’s anti-Panther stereotypes,  there were many strong women leaders in the Black Panthers and Dominique Fishback is so compelling as Deborah Johnson, who both mentored and was mentored by Fred, carried his son, Fred Jr., and came within an inch of being killed herself on the police massacre that night.

There are many minor “wish there had been more of this” observations about this fine film. The only one I’ll venture is I wish the scenes of Fred building support with the Young Lords and Young Patriots showed the level of quiet negotiation and complex discussions of strategy and tactics that I know went down in order to build those alliances.

But the brilliance of the film is the clarity of its politics at a time when many young Black students and community members and actually people of all ages have been denied so much of the revolutionary history that was made in their or at least our lifetimes, as well as of course Latinos/Latinas, Puerto Ricans, whites. So, the core political messages were made so clear.

The Black Panthers were great. They ran Breakfast for Children Programs, worked well in the Black community. They were part of the Black united front, and yes, were the bravest and committed members and the only force that believed the Black community should and would stand up to the pigs.

Big props to the filmmakers for showing the unmitigated police terror in living whiteness. No one can grasp what it’s like to just see the police, who are nothing more than armed thugs walking the street who like the Klan and the white mobs, can do whatever they want to any Black man, woman, or child walking down the street. They can kick down your door, beat the hell out of people, bring false charges, and murder in cold blood—and they face no opposition today. To imagine the unbelievable courage of the Panthers to arm themselves, to confront police to ask them to stop brutality, to risk their lives daily, is beyond what I can and I think you can truly comprehend, until the Panthers come back again. Or until each of us at least fight as hard as we can under the clear and present fascism that is the U.S.

Fred Hampton Jr. is now the director of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee and the Black Panther Party Cubs, Deborah Johnson, Akua Njeri, is chair of the December 4 Committee that continues to tell the story of the Chicago Police/FBI Raid.

Eric Mann will be leading the discussion

Eric was a national officer of Students for a Democratic Society and worked closely with the Black Panther Party in Boston. He then joined the Weatherpeople and was in Chicago when Fred was murdered. He attended Fred Hampton’s funeral on December 4, 1969. He will explain both his perspective and experience and welcomes the conversation.