GARFIELD PARK — The newly released film “Judas and the Black Messiah” dramatizes the illegal FBI investigation of the Black Panther Party, culminating in the police raid that killed Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter.
In real life, Hampton’s family is still battling to protect his legacy by trying to transform his childhood home into a headquarters that will memorialize and continue the work of the visionary leader.
A GoFundMe for the Save Hampton House already has blown past its $350,000 goal to help bring the house back up to code and pay to convert it into a community resource center. The home at 804 S. 17th Ave. in Maywood had been in foreclosure before being purchased by Hampton’s relatives, who also are seeking landmark status for the property to protect it from demolition.
Hampton House would archive the true history of the Black Panthers through a museum and political education programs, said Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Hampton’s son and leader of the Black Panther Party Cubs.
Visitors will be able to visit the Hampton House to learn “the history of the Black Panther Party, the 10-point-platform,” Hampton Jr. said. The house will also be a headquarters for resources and programs that follow the model of the survival programs started by the Panthers in the 60s to help Black people neglected by the government meet their basic needs.
The house has started a community garden to provide food for neighbors “in the spirit of the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program.” The house will also have a recording studio to run music programs and host Hampton Jr.’s Free ‘Em All Radio, a weekly broadcast “which is done in the spirit of the Black Panther Party newsletter,” Hampton said.
It’s important for fans of the film to seek out the full truth of the Panthers, Hampton Jr. said, including chapters of history that weren’t palatable for a Hollywood production.
“The revolutionary is never satisfied. We wish we could have gotten more political content in,” Hampton Jr. said.
Hampton’s family was consulted on “Judas and the Black Messiah,” unlike many other film projects made without their participation that “attempt to revise history,” Hampton Jr. said.
The film starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield draws attention to government attempts to destroy pro-Black movements, but the movie’s creative liberties fall short on accurately portraying the Black Panthers’ history and the party’s struggle for Black liberation, Hampton’s family said.
The film also exaggerates the role FBI informant Bill O’Neil had in the Black Panther hierarchy, Hampton Jr. said. The emphasis of the movie on O’Neil rather than on the revolutionary platform of the Panthers caused “struggles for everything from the script to proposed titles,” Hampton Jr. said.
Hampton Jr. said he clashed with producers on parts of the script that would have had O’Neil’s character recite sections of speeches that were in reality given by Hampton, he said.
“We took a hard line about this. This is a no-go,” Hampton Jr. said.
Hampton Jr. launched a podcast Friday that takes a deeper dive into history of the Black Panthers in Chicago than what was possible in the film. The Judas and the Black Messiah podcast also shares what it was like behind-the-scenes as Hampton’s family pushed producers to stay true to revolutionary message of the Black Panthers.
Future episodes will dig into more current struggles for racial justice, including conversations on incarceration and the pandemic, Hampton Jr. said.
“It talks about some of the realities of Chairman Fred. It talks about what wasn’t put in the movie, what was touchy subjects and what positions we took that couldn’t go, ranging from which organizations could be mentioned to who was represented,” Hampton Jr. said.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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