Last Friday, the film Judas and the Black Messiah, hit theaters and was released on HBO MAX, and it was spectacular. This historical drama, directed and written by Shaka King, depicts the real life story of the Chairman Fred Hampton, and FBI informant, William O’Neal.
We were able to relive a historical moment through the big screen, on Black History Month. This film is very powerful, and we are able to see how the U.S. Government targeted the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s in Chicago, Illinois, from harassing old black people in their own convenience store, to plotting assassinations of the chairman of the Black Panther Organization.
The story revolves around young William O’Neal, who is played by Lakeith Stanfield, who is best known for his character Darius in television series, Atlanta. A deal is made with FBI agent, Roy Mitchell, played by Jesse Plemmons, best known for his role in Breaking Bad, as he offers him a choice to either get jailed for six years, because of a crime William committed earlier in the film, or to be an undercover in the political organization, the Black Panther Party.
As O’Neal gets close to the chairman Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya, who is known for Jordan Peele’s thriller, Get Out, he catches a glimpse of reality and sees the true intentions of the Black Panther, and recognizes how they are not a threat to society, but rather a Revolutionary Organization. We see that the Federal Government has constant surveillance among the Panthers, and we see the Panthers constantly being harassed by them as well.
Judas and the Black Messiah is King’s third project as a writer, and his fourth project as a director. Although some scenes were altered to look better on the screen, Shaka did a great job turning history into a movie. One scene that was altered was when young Panther member, ‘Jimmy Palmer’ gets involved in a shootout with the police when he sees them harassing a store full of elder black men. In reality, the event that actually occurred was very similar, but didn’t go down quite like this. In fact, there were two Panthers at the scene.
Watching this film taught me that it is important to never stay quiet on something you believe is wrong, no matter what. Fred Hampton believed in this revolution, and was never afraid to speak up and be a voice that was heard. Hampton was only 21 years old, when he was assassinated by the FBI, but his story continues to be told today, and will never be forgotten in the future to come. Rest in Power Fred Hampton, and I hope your legacy will live on forever. (August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969.)