(THE PICKET) – On Monday night, a showing of The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution was held in the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education and hosted by Jay Wyatt, director of programs and research.
The documentary, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson Jr., offered a brief history of the Black Panther Party, a polarizing and often misunderstood group. It also chronicled the attempts of the government to eradicate the party. The documentary uses archival footage from the 1960’s and ‘70s as well as interviews with former party members, LAPD officers, and FBI agents.
The story starts with the formation of the Black Panthers in Oakland, California, to monitor the behavior of police officers toward black people and advocate for black rights in the community. Tensions between the Party and law enforcement heighten, and finally the Party begins to unravel due to the various deaths, imprisonments and rivalries of important members.
The film was well-received by the audience in the Byrd Center, with many points brought up in the discussion following the film. Audience member Barbara Humes pointed out the difference in how vehemently the FBI went after the Black Panthers vs. their much less invasive actions toward the KKK at that time. Shepherd student Adlonijah Gilmore suggested that it seemed the FBI didn’t start attacking the Black Panthers until they noticed the Party was more than just a radical group—they also sought to spread positivity and education to the black community, often hosting outreach programs such as free breakfasts for kids. “It’s like, when the FBI realized the Panthers really cared about their people, that’s when they started attacking them,” Gilmore said.
Another shepherd student made an intriguing point: “In the past 40 years, the government has managed to change the narrative of the Black Panther Party into a negative one. Makes you wonder how many other narratives they’ve changed.”
Overall it was clear the audience found the film thought-provoking, eye-opening and relevant. Watch Vanguard Of The Revolution to see the story for yourself, or check out other films by director Stanley Nelson Jr., such as his award-winning documentary Freedom Riders.
Join us for the next film in the 2016 spring film series, Jay: A Rockefeller’s Journey on Wednesday, April 27th at 6:30pm in the Byrd Center.