*This is a review and discussion of the movie Judas And the Black Messiah in theaters and on HBO max now. There are spoilers in this review. If you have not yet seen the movie, I recommend you go see it before reading this. Also, there are opinions in this post, If you disagree with said opinions, I ask that you respectfully discuss them with me privately. thank you for reading.*
also this is more so a discussion revolving around the depictions of Fred Hampton and Bill O’Neil. therefore, it isn’t a full review. A full review will come soon to this site. Please enjoy
Judas and the Black Messiah is a powerful film depicting the actions of the deceased Deputy Chairman of the Black panther Party Fred Hampton in Chicago, Illinois up until his death in 1969. It is a movie that reveals the events through the eyes of William O’Neil, one of the more famous infiltrators of the Black Panther Party.
The Film Itself
This film is a masterful depiction of the story of Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton. It reveals a number of truths and ideals that were hidden by history and propaganda. It even goes as far as to reveal the harsh truth about American Democracy and the FBI. specifically, their involvement in dismantling the Black Panther Party. This movie unveils so much about this time in history. It opens the doors into the life of a man once depicted as a villain in American politics. It does so by showing the world the truth that he was a hero. An intellectual with such passion and charisma that he united all people against tyranny. All the while enraging viewers as they witness the dissent within Fred Hampton’s ranks.
For anyone that has watched this movie, there’s no secret that this movie was about a snitch. Judas and the Black Messiah is a view of Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton through the eyes of William “Bill” O’Neil. Therefore, it opens up the world to the radical and charismatic man who unified many and built his community up.
However, This movie focuses more on Bill O’Neil and how he navigated the Black Panther Party. It also highlights the direct infiltration in the Black Panther Party. Many who witness this film will feel the initial rage in reaction to the snitch and his treachery. The movie makes an attempt to humanize a man that participated in infiltrating and destroying the black panther party in Chicago. It shows us the turmoil both Bill and FBI agent Roy experienced in their roles in the assasination of Chairman Fred. It was a beautiful movie, yet it missed the mark on doing so. Disclaimer, the actors did an amazing job. Lakeith Stanfield (Bill O’Neil) is an amazing actor who has once again added another tremendous role to his resume. His acting as the Judas of the film is one to be remembered. Jesse Clemons also does a solid job as FBI agent Roy.
However, the act of revealing the raw human feeling within the movie, the idea that these characters felt remorse when they realized that they condemned a man of the people to death through their actions, does not humanize them or garner sympathy in my eyes. Also, There wasn’t enough revelation of who Chairman Fred Hampton was in the film. However, the film was very effective in opening the world to Fred Hampton and what his cause was. More than enough to feel terrible for his ultimate fate thanks to saboteurs.
From the free breakfast program, to the Rainbow Coalition. Fred Hampton was a man of the people, who galvanized all he came across. The depiction of him in this movie was light, yet great in its own way. Therefore, the sympathy to be garnered for his Judas is minimal. O’Neil knew what he was doing, and there was no going back.
I bring this up to discuss a topic that I believe will arise from this movie. I’ve had conversations with plenty of folks who discussed the analogy of Bill’s actions. The age old conversation of ” this is why we never advance in the black community” arises. I believe that this idea is detrimental to the progression of our people and the movement we are advancing in this moment in time.
However, I do believe that there is a greater conversation of self responsibility to protecting ourselves that is brought to life through the actions of O’Neil. I fully understand how certain actions can cause setback in the road to freedom. this such instance is one, and that we do have a self responsibility to hold ourselves accountable at times for our progression.
Although there is a message that supports this notion to a certain extent, I believe that this can easily be debunked, and that there is another message to be delivered through this movie.
I can combat the prior discussion in another article on another day.
Messages behind the film
For starters, the idea that ” this is why we never advance ” draws a dehumanization of our people. As if humans across history haven’t dissented to eliminate a revolution. The movie is titled Judas and the Black Messiah. I’m no expert of the bible, but what did Judas do to Jesus? Exactly. Throughout history there has been infiltration and snitches, even Brutus crossed Caesar. The only problem with this conversation is that black people are the minority at a deficit, in real time. Therefore, we see this incident subconsciously as a means to exploit and differ our struggle. Almost as if this infiltration were something new. Even to go as far as to contribute to the self hate we already experience. We do this by diminishing ourselves through believing we’ll never progress. All because of an incident that isn’t rare in the history of revolution.
Bill O’Neil’s actions although are treacherous and contribute to our longstanding exhaustion with the battle for justice, should not be the entirety of the message to be delivered in my eyes. Even if this movie is about a snitch, we should still do our best to focus on the revolution and the revolutionary.
My second point and the larger message I discovered behind this movie, is the message of the revolutionary. Throughout the movie, Daniel Kaluuya‘s depiction of Fred Hampton was that of a leader. Kaluuya portrayed a charismatic man that was loved, and who stood valiantly at the vanguard in the war for unity and social/ economic justice. However, his greatest message in this film was in his absence. When he was in captivity, the Black Panther Party’s office was burned down after a shootout with the cops. However, The community rallied behind the Panthers and rebuilt the demolished office. What does this represent? That even without their fearless leader the Party can run. That it is about the revolution, not the revolutionary. This becomes more evident in the film with Hampton’s speech after he comes from jail. ” You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.”
You can’t kill the revolution
The idea, that this isn’t about leadership, but the revolution. Fred Hampton in this depiction was transcendent. He knew that it was about changing the paradigm, not about him. That his goal was to be a part of the revolution the best way he could, as a leader. That his death was inevitable, and that the torch needs to be carried. This is even more evident in the final scenes. When The party was discussing where Chairman Fred would flee to, He stood up, spoke to his constituents and said that they spent all night discussing where he’d go, but not a word was said about what the party would do next.
If that isn’t the heart of a revolutionary then I don’t know what is. The idea that even the general is but a cog in the wheel of justice is a valiant effort to fight a battle so many dont know how to combat. These moments reveal but a fraction of who Hampton was, but it was just enough especially in the climate we’re in.
This is by no means an attempt to spark anyone to become marauders. However, this is intended to teach people that if they are to enter this fight for justice, to understand that those in power will utilize everything they can to eliminate voices that galvanize the people that are being marginalized. Because it’s the people that truly run the nations we live in. Those that can harness that power are more dangerous than any weapon to those in power. Also, that the movement isn’t about one person, it’s about the people. That a person can be a leader, but the true power is in the people. Fred Hampton was one who could harness such power. His untimely death was an unfortunate blow to the movement and a tragedy that took away a powerful voice that was changing the world.
Even though it was a glimpse into who he was, I believe that this movie is a gateway to the Chairman Fred Hampton. I believe that this is a means to learn the truth about this man and who he was entirely. I believe that it is imperative now more than ever to research Chairman Fred. Learn his history and his truth, this movie can be the catalyst for that for masses of people to do so. Below are a list of YouTube videos of Hampton’s speeches, as well as resources for foundations to support
As a recap, the messages I received from this movie are that it’s about the revolution, the revolutionary may fall but so long as the revolution continues they can rest in peace. And, that We must do our due diligence, to reveal the full about chairman Fred Hampton and the rest of the Black Panther Party. That we must learn from the mistakes of Bill O’Neil and not have history repeated in this battle for freedom.
“People’s political pores have to be open to it” Fred Hampton Jr. interview on These Urban Times on the truth about Chairman Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party
This is by no means an attempt to spark a revolution. Nor it is an attempt to encourage anyone to incite or commit violence of any act. There are a plethora of ways to build your communities. The free breakfast program, the rainbow coalition, the medical center are all ways to do so as examples. This is a review of a movie, and a message to tell others about a revolutionary’s views. It is to remind the people of their power, and open up the world to a man who was wrongfully depicted in history as a bad guy.
I urge you to research chairman Fred Hampton, donate to the Hampton House, and understand the various revolutionary principles that the Chairman stood for.
Now is the time.
Thank you for reading.