Panthers & Lords: In Unity & Struggle

Published on November 20, 2009, 5:47 pm
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The Maysles Institute will be hosting a series of films that will explore the roles played by two vital, revolutionary civil-rights groups, The Black Panthers and The Young Lords.

Young Lords Party

The series is entitled “Panthers & Lords: In Unity & Struggle.” Screenings will be followed by lively and provocative panel discussions by many of the films’ various participants.

The series marks the 40th anniversary of several important historical events: the “New York Panther 21” case, themurder of Fred Hampton, the founding of the Young Lords Political Party, and its subsequent take over of the “peoples church.” The series explores the interlocking vision of the Panthers and the Lords. They were not only connected by their similar visions, but also by the fact that the Young Lords’ founder Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez met Fred Hampton in prison and from that meeting grew Jimenez’s determination to form The Young Lords. It, thus, became inevitable that the Panthers and Lords would jointly cooperate on many endeavors.

The Panther 21 raid: At five o’clock, one warm April morning, in 1969, one hundred members of the New York City Police Department’s Special Services Division were dispatched to arrest 21 Black Panthers on charges of arson, conspiracy, and attempted murder. That same day, 8 of the “Panthers”, were quietly shuttled out of detention and released. These 8 confidential informants had acted as agent provocateurs advancing the outrageous schemes to bomb Abercrombie & Fitch and The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens that led to the arrest of the leadership of the Black Panther Party’s New York chapter. On May 13, 1971, after the longest political trial in New York’s history, all 21 New York Panthers were acquitted of all charges. The jury needed only 45 minutes to reach its decision. The acquittal was a major political embarrassment for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the New York Police intelligence unit known as BOSSI, which had infiltrated and then disrupted many of the Panthers’ community programs. Of the Panther 21 case, the brilliant journalist Murray Kempton wrote: “A man’s spirit can be marked most clearly in its passage from the reform to the revolutionary impulse at the moment when he decides that his enemy will no longer write his history.” Developed in collaboration with the surviving Panther 21 and East Coast Black Panther Party alumni, this film and speaker series sets out to redeem and re-tell this revolutionary history.

Regarding the murder of Fred Hampton: He had been deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party when he was murdered in his apartment by a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His murder was examined in the 1971 documentary film The Murder of Fred Hampton (which will be screened in this series).  In 2004, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved the following resolution naming one day as “Fred Hampton Day in Chicago.” The resolution stated in part that “Fred Hampton made his mark in history not so much by his death as by the heroic efforts of his life and by his goals of empowering the most oppressed sector of Chicago’s Black community.” And as he himself said: “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.”

The Peoples’ Church: After leading numerous protests in support of the Puerto Rican community, the Young Lords took over the First Spanish Methodist Church in East Harlem on December 28, 1969. It was an action that generated considerable media coverage, thus helping the Lords to broadcast their demands which were similar to the Panthers’ 10-point program. Among those defending the Lords was a young lawyer named Geraldo Rivera. Young Lords carried out many occupations of hospitals and churches, demanding that they operate programs for the poor. This included a campaign to force the City of New York to increase garbage pick-up in Spanish Harlem. Much of their health care activism was carried out by a mass organization they formed with the Black Panthers known as the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (HRUM).

The history: The Black Panther Party, formed in the 1960s in Oakland, California, had a seminal influence on race and politics in America through the 1960s and 1970s, and it is still a force in African American neighborhoods. Its 10-point program, demanding land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, full employment, and peace among other items, is still very much part of the Panther’s ongoing community-based programs.

The Young Lords, which was also founded in the 1960s, wanted to provide the same kinds of services and sense of empowerment that the Panthers were providing in their neighborhoods. The Lords grew into a national movement, pursuing its vision of self-determination for Puerto Rico. Both groups were instrumental in helping to elect local political leaders and thus helped to change the way America saw itself as well as the way it had oppressed and curtailed the ambitions of people of color.

And many Americans understood that keeping people oppressed was not only inhuman, but it would also bring down the whole society. One cannot treat whole classes of people as sub-humans and not expect revolutionary eruptions. In the words of William Blake, “A dog starved at his master’s gate / Predicts the ruin of the State.”

Suggested Admission: $10.00*. No one will be turned away for lackof funds. *Proceeds Benefit: The SafiyaNuh Foundation’s Political Prisoner Projects.

Thursday, December 3, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
El Pueblo se Levanta: The People Are Rising (1971) 50 min.
The story of the beginning of the Young Lords Party in New York; NYPD confrontation with the Church takeover in “El Barrio” East Harlem.

Panel Discussion: Original Panthers and Lords Felipe Luciano, Cleo Silvers & Miquel “Mickey” Melendez and Youth Moderator, Sofia Gallisa.

Book Signing With YLP member Mickey Melendez author of “We Took The Streets, The Young Lords”

Friday, December  4, 2009 7:00 p.m.
The Murder Of Fred Hampton, (1971) 88 min.
The FBI/Police assassinated Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton & Mark Clark in a pre-dawn raid on December 4th, 1969. This film documents the scene of the crime and also includes original footage of Fred Hampton speeches and activities of The Black Panther Party in Chicago.

“Video Message from the families of Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton & Captain Mark Clark”

Panel Discussion: Original Black Panthers Cyril “Bullwhip” Innis & Sadiki “Bro. Shep” Ojore Olugbala, Panther Cub Sala Cyril & Moderated by Monifa Bandele of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Saturday, December 5, 2009 7:00 p.m.
All Power To The People: The BPP & Beyond, Dir. Lee Lew Lee (1996) 115 min.
Original Panther Lee Lew Lee examines the recent history of the radical left inside of the U.S., with a special emphasis on the U.S. Government’s racist and illegal COINTELPRO attacks on the Black/Latino/Native American community in general and the Black Panther Party in particular.
Panel Discussion: Black Panthers, Young Lords & BLA Members and Youth Moderator, Miles Rijper

Thursday, December 10, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
Historical Reenactments by Women of Color Productions, 30 min.

Passin It On: Black Panthers Search For Justice (1993) 102 min.
The story of Panther leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad and the governments attack on the New York State Chapter of the Black Panther Party. This film highlights Dhoruba’s involvement as a defendant in the N.Y. Panther 21 Conspiracy Trial and; the illegal FBI-NYPD’s COINTELPRO frameup of Dhoruba which ultimately led to his unjustly serving over 19 years as a Panther/BLA Political Prisoner.

Panel Discussion: Dhoruba Bin Wahad & Jamal Joseph, Attorneys Robert Boyle & Liz Fink, Bro. Tiyari & Moderator: TJ Whittaker

Friday, December  11, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
Historical Reenactments by Women of Color Productions, 30 min.

Palante Siempre Palante: The Young Lords Party (1996) 48 min.
This award winning film by former Young Lords Party member Iris Morales, highlights the history of the revolutionary organization from its origins in Chicago & East Harlem through its expansion into Puerto Rico and its ultimate destruction by the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO actions.

Panel Discussion: Original Young Lords Iris Morales, Carlito Rovira, Martha Aguello & Youth Moderator: Sofia Gallisa

Saturday, December  12, 2009
Screenings, Performances & Reunion Party at 3 Harlem Locations:

1) 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Women of Color Productions Human Rights Series Presents: Film Tribute to the Young Lords & Panther 21 @ Julia De Burgos Cultural Center, 1680 Lexington Ave, corner of 106th St. For full schedule, please go here.

2) 4 – 8 p.m.: “40th Anniversary Tribute To The NY Panther 21” @ City College of New York, Harlem Campus (free admission). For Details:

3) 8:15 p.m.: Screening of “Wrack 21 / A Power Sun” (40 min. excerpt) 9:00 pm: Dinner Reception & After Party For The Panther 21 @ Maysles Cinema (343 Malcolm X. Blvd, between 127 & 128 St.).

The films will be screened at various Harlem locations and at the Maysles Cinema, the only movie theater in Harlem dedicated to documentary film, which serves as a site of community based, low-cost popular education and entertainment. Its programming is selected in collaboration with its ever expanding community of viewers, independent curators, educators, and filmmakers. The Maysles Cinema provides a unique space for passionate, engaged and interactive exploration of topics of community interest. For further information, please go here.

The Maysles Center has organized this event in collaboration with a community of committed partners: the East Coast Black Panther Party Commemoration Committee, Women of Color Productions Inc., The Safiya Bukhari-Albert Nuh Washington Foundation, Field Up Productions, The New Black Panther Party, Universal Zulu Nation, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Its About Time BPP Alumni, The Black Student Union & The Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Center at City College.


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