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Movie Review: Judas and the Black Messiah

A longtime friend and Chicagoan told me that the checker pattern that the Chicago police has on its uniform cap is just like the Nazi swastika. This was in 1990 during a long marathon watch of the civil rights history series Eyes on the Prize. This is where I first heard about Chairman Fred Hampton.

This was also the same year that I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Hailey and began a life of working to throw away the ignorance that held my mind, the ignorant street mentality. Back then we called it becoming conscious. Today it is called being or becoming woke. To find out the racism that is stacked against you and to begin to understand your involvement in the destruction of your own families and communities was jarring to say the least.

Those who are activists understand what Chairman Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party had to go through trying to help a community that is being systematically and continuously harmed. Under the bad White leadership, education is bad for all, poverty is the standard, abuse, and malfeasance at the hands of the government is a solid reality. Institutions all work in concert to harm poor people. But where Blacks are concerned there is a special level of harm where opportunities are withheld, and physical abuse is the law.

Chairman Fred was one of those genius minds that come out of the community that decides to use his talents to change the world. Black phenoms in sports and entertainment are often given head of the line status. However, when the young Black phenom wants to use his and her gifts outside of entertainment, what is the reaction? During the 1960s it was to destroy them.

Kwame Touré, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seal, Assata Shakur, Afeni Shakur, H. Rap Brown, Julian Bond, John Lewis and too many others to name are all phenoms. Each understood the importance of using guts and education to change the evils of the system. Each understood that the system had violent law enforcement officers that operated the same way that a military occupying force operates in a colonized country. Each knew that you cannot just talk about it behind closed doors. You must act.

Chairman Fred Hampton was one of those young people who joined the local organization in hopes of being a part of the change. Organizations during that time were constantly in the news. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the mid-1950s. Fifty years before that, the NAACP was created by the likes of W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells. These organizations together understood the importance of having youth involvement. This is where Chairman Fred started.

More and more college students from different parts of the country did not want to sit on the sidelines during the civil rights struggle. Many Black students were angry that they could not eat at the local lunch counters that were so cool among the free, White and 21.

Emmitt Till had been tortured and the world was able to see the gruesomeness of southern racism and the justice system that let the Mississippi murderers Carolyn Bryant Donham, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam go free. They even made money selling the true story later but was never punished. Muhammad Ali said Emmitt Till’s death was the incident that sparked his consciousness. Emmitt Till was from Chicago. Chairman Fred’s mother use to babysit little Emmitt. We are all connected. So, what was a young and caring Fred Hampton to do?

The SCLC was the best in my opinion at using children during protests. They knew that many adults had jobs working for racists and could be fired. There is footage of groups of children being placed in Patti wagons and hauled off to jail by racist police office Bull Connor. The civil rights leaders filled the jails as a strategy.

More youth wanted to get involved so the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created by the SCLC under the powerful guidance of Ella Baker. The great Ella Baker wanted to ensure the independence of this group and was open to it being a radical movement of youth. There was also C.O.R.E. and several others who did the sit-ins and freedom rides. But some youth wanted more action so when the Black Panther Party came along in the mid-60s, it became attractive to the youth. The Black Power philosophy pushed by SNCC member Kwame Touré and the creation of the Panthers were by students.

Chairman Fred created a rainbow coalition of various groups to fight against racism and oppression. He grabbed gang members and created a coalition and decided racism was not the way to fight racism, but unity and common cause were the answers. Health and economics were also their targets. Incredible for people who were under 25 years old.

The FBI under racialist J. Edgar Hoover decided that Blacks fighting against oppression was the biggest threat to this country. This country’s government went about the business of breaking laws to stop the Black Panther Party. During the time they went after Chairman Fred Hampton, the Nixon Whitehouse and the Office of Solicitor General headed by William Rehnquist were fully involved in these illegal acts. The Senate Church Committee Report which was commissioned under the Carter Presidency has much of this information in it.

The film should be called “The Judas Country and Its Ghetto FBI Army”. The FBI were calling the many Blacks they were using to harm fighters for freedom their ghetto army. They know that most people with a street mentality are poor and miseducated and were subject to the criminal justice system. They know that a street person that is harming the community with drugs and violence can also be useful to their ends. The FBI knew about Chicago’s police department with its ruthless leaders. Some were even torturing people with a black box that would deliver an electric shock to men’s genitals to get confess.

They used people that were in trouble or already in jail to harm people who were feeding children and working to free their communities. The street mentality was used as a weapon against communities. This means the FBI encouraged and created violent criminal activity in poor communities. The organization manufactured events that produced tragedies that weakened communities and created negatives that last for generations. It took advantage of the poor in the worst way. The FBI leaders together were the biggest Judy’s in how it treated this country’s citizens.

Government informants such as William O’Neal in Chicago or Julius C. Butler in Los Angeles (Geronimo Pratt case) were but a couple in the FBI’s ghetto army. The film was good but, I saw the attempt to make the informant character a sentimental figure at the end. Boy Hollywood is great. The audience has decided to lessen the impact of the FBI’s evil by marrying it to language to kill all police instead of the language to get rid of violent and law-breaking cops.

I loved that there was a love story that produced a child. For that the film rises above a B+ grade. I give the film an A-. That child, Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr., who was in the womb on Monroe Street, December 4, 1969, has become an incredible activist himself. I am now hoping for a film about the life of the Panther Cubs. Fred Hampton, Jr., Tupac Shakur, and Kanye West are a few of the children of Black Panthers that we know today. I hope this film also sparks the conversation about the FBI and the price it must pay for the illegal acts it has done towards citizens in this country who wanted to make this world a better place for all.


Rated R
2h 6min
Biography, Drama, History 12 February 2021 (USA)

Directed by Shaka King

Actors: Daniel Kaluuya (Fred Hampton), LaKeith Stanfield (Bill O’Neal), Jesse Plemons (Roy Mitchell), Dominique Fishback (Deborah Johnson), Ashton Sanders (Jimmy Palmer), Algee Smith (Jake Winters), Darrell Britt-Gibson (Bobby Rush), Writers: Shaka King Kenneth Lucas, Screenplay by Will Berson & Shaka King

Warner Brothers; Released in Theaters and on HBO Max

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