“Judas and the Black Messiah”

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I’m begging people to see this movie as a moral text. Not just something to observe but something to live by. To reject the individualism that O’Neill favored by sacrificing his friends for his own betterment and instead embrace the collectivism that the Party stood for. I struggle with the push and pull between wanting to decentralize the viewer, to focus on what the art is trying to say rather than always looking for something to relate to. Then again, seeing this as only relevant to the ’60s would be like looking at Japanese kaiju films as monster movies and not reactions to nuclear warfare. 

Art is about connection. When I read the ten-point program or watch videos of Kathleen Cleaver talking about her natural hair, I can’t help but feel like they’re speaking across time. You can’t view this as a race-blind story of betrayal. O’Neill did what he did because he felt like he had no other option as a Black man in America. Not some new idea of Trump’s America but the America that has always existed to maintain a plutocracy. 

I wonder how producer Ryan Coogler felt doing this film after “Black Panther,” arguably one of the performative expressions of Black pride, that Hampton himself calls out in a scene where he says, “That dashiki ain’t gon’ help you when they come in here with them tanks.” Does he know that giving Disney all that cash made him a part of the capitalist machine? Does he know that Disney is a part of the reason why stories like Fred Hampton’s are suppressed in favor of whatever movie makes the most money or can at least be paid for by the U.S. military?

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