Initially set for release August 21, 2020, Judas and the Black Messiah, the forthcoming film about legendary Black Panther Party organizer Fred Hampton is already creating a lot of conversation. The title of the film references the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) where it was said that the goal of the project was to “prevent the rise” of a Black “messiah” who would lead their people to radicalism and, therefore, freedom. But, as I have argued using The Vernon Philosophy of Black Media Avoidance (VPBMA), no oppressed community can expect to find themselves or their political movements accurately depicted in dominant media. In fact, those media, if consumed at all, should be approached with the greatest caution and primarily (only) for the purpose of criticism or analysis.
The recently-released trailer for the new film “about” Fred Hampton suggests already the correctness of the VPBMA in that, as predicted months ago in our interview below with Fred Hampton, Jr., the film seemingly centers the FBI informant, William O’Neal, and reduces Hampton to the more stereotypical depiction of the Black Panther Party; loud, brash, rhetoric-spitting from a microphone. The politics, ideas, and inspiration of Hampton and the BPP will be caricatured and marginalized to the point of obscurity with the goal that pan-Africanism, socialism, self-defense and internationalism be replaced with hype and spectacle and all presented as an “homage” we will be told is to inspire. Inspire exactly what, we will see. In the meantime enjoy our previous interview with Hampton, Jr. about his father and his involvement in its making:
Fred Hampton, Jr. joined us to talk about saving Hampton House and some of what he thinks about the movie and the experience of being behind the scenes and on set.*
*Originally published February 28, 2020. I mistakenly refer to William as “Eugene” O’Neal.