Thursday, February 04, 2016

Vanguard of the Revolution--The Black Panthers

I took some of my students last night to see a special screening of "Vanguard of the Revolution--The Black Panthers." It was a good documentary, and given the questions and responses from my students it was a part of America's Civil Rights movement that they knew nothing about.

It is due to be presented on PBS on February 16 I believe.

That being said....

It clearly was meant for a "mainstream" audience....

The moderators at last night's event underscored that we only saw a 70-minute highlight of the total 2-hour documentary. OK--I can accept that. But what I saw really "sugar-coated" the history of the Panthers. 

The foundation of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, CA was Maoist Communism. Pure and simple.

I fully support that foundation.

Now, Huey and Bobby "knew" that the image of black berets, leather jackets and open-carry firearms would "attract" members to the Party. What they did with these new members, both males and females, was incredible. The programs initiated at the community level have been implemented in our society in a variety of ways (Free Breakfast and Lunch programs for the poor, free groceries, legal counseling, etc.). But the essence of the 10-Point Plan and the Party was Maoist Communism.

This philosophy began to be marginalized when Eldridge Cleaver joined the party....

There are a number of choice video snippets in the documentary. I am not going to give any away, other than to say the words of Governor Reagan and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover "floored" my students. Be on the watch for those great public statements.

For me, the key is that in the late-60s/early 70s we, as a society, had the greatest potential in our history to radically reshape our society. The previous opportunity happened after the Great Depression. Just as with that time, the Federal Government did its damned-est to physically eradicate elements of dissension and change within society. What emerged after the Great Depression were the social programs initiated by the Roosevelt Administration. What emerged after the 70s, though, was a movement to reverse the FDR policies. A total shift--a reaction to the growing fear in our society of strong social movements led by minorities and young people.

The documentary is important because it exposes an important part of our social history that many in today's generation know little, if anything, about. 

It is also important for cynics like myself to see how little we have progressed as a society since that time....

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