The wait is nearly over. In less than a week, Black people and lovers of Marvel movies are going to flood theaters to see Black Panther. The superhero movie is a huge win for Black audiences who’ve been craving to see themselves as the hero for a change. It’s not the first Black superhero movie, but it certainly feels like it. Black Panther is so enticing because it hopefully suggests a shift in centering white men as saviors of the world. But it also conjures the spirit of a radical political organization that shares a name with the new Marvel project.
Dressed in all Black, donning afros, and frequently seen accessorizing with rifles and the ammunition vests that inspired Beyoncé’s 2016 Super Bowl look, members of the Black Panther Party inspired the same sense of Black pride in the ‘60s and ‘70s as Chadwick Boseman does in his panther suit today. The Black Panther Party was established by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seales in 1966 in response to evolving forms of racism — namely police brutality — Black communities were experiencing in Oakland, California, in the wake of freshly won Civil Rights. One of their major practices was arming Black citizens with knowledge and weapons to defend themselves. However, they also instituted other programs like community health clinics and their Free Breakfast program for children. Ideologically, the BPP believed in socialism as a means of accomplishing Black liberation during a time when Black communities were severely lacking in resources. They also believed in fighting the fire of white supremacy with even more fire.
Unfortunately, the FBI (under the control of J. Edgar Hoover) identified the Black Panther Party as a domestic threat to the “security” of the country. Hoover oversaw COINTELPRO, a counterintelligence program that infiltrated the organization and ultimately led to its demise in the ‘70s, even going so far as assassinating its leaders. Despite the strong influence that the Black Panther Party had on the overall fight for Black liberation in the United States, they are still considered a hate group and shamed for their radical practices.
As such, there aren’t an abundance of films that pay tribute to this important organization. But there are a few that are definitely worth your time. So while Black Panther is setting the tone for the future of Black people in the superhero genre, watch these movies to dust up on some Black history about the real Black Panthers.
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