“With Judas and the Black Messiah,” director Shaka King produces the thrilling true story about the radical Illinois Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton and FBI informant William O’Neal. From beautifully shot scenes to the stunning performances of Daniel Kaluuya (Hampton), LaKeith Stanfield (O’Neal), Dominique Fishback as Hampton’s supporting partner, Deborah Johnson, and many more; this exhilarating motion picture left me paralyzed for half an hour trying to process it all. This film carries you along an emotional rollercoaster of hope, love, anger, and utter disappointment with O’Neal’s betrayal that ultimately led to the late Hampton’s tragic end.
Watching the trailer I knew this was going to be an intense film, but I was not prepared to be as angry and upset as watching the entire film made me. I was familiar with the story of Fred Hampton; a promising leader succeeding in creating a “Rainbow Coalition,” facing a common enemy of brutal police presence in their communities as well as the systemic oppression brought upon by America’s government.
It crushed my soul knowing what was going to happen as the film approached its climax after witnessing how caring, wholesome, and powerful of a person he was. Someone so inspiring and generating a genuine difference was met with an unjust death due to racism and overall inhumane acts of the FBI. I even shed a few tears in the end.
The cause of Hampton’s death is no secret, in fact the FBI admitted to his inhumane murder that took place in 1969 — gunned down in a police raid, sleeping in his own home. Even though we know the tragic story of Hampton, the story this film presents will inspire you to believe there must have been a better outcome for the charismatic and sensational leader.
Something that stuck to me was the overall conflicting feelings that the young FBI informant O’Neal had when he became a part of the organization. You can honestly see a young man fighting with himself on whether he is making the right decision or not. After being welcomed into this party by Hampton, you can truly see that O’Neal is believing that he too is helping with the revolution that Hampton is so determined to make happen; that he believes in the cause that the Black Panthers stand behind.
In the late 60s, The Black Panthers were deemed as “The greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” according to the FBI director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover who was portrayed in the film by Martin Sheen. The BPP has always been criticized as a terrorist, militant group. Though they promoted open carry, they used this to spread awareness to Black citizens that are constantly threatened with police brutality, have the right to act in self defense. The BPP was a political organization that also provided free after school meals for children, medical funds and education for their neighborhoods, and advocated for class struggle no matter the race.
Hampton wanted to advocate for all those who were affected due to government corruption and injustice. Hampton’s radical Socialist views on how we can create a better future encouraged many to stand alongside him. When he died, Hampton was in the midst of building a revolution against a racist and classist government, helping people understand that no matter what walk of life you come from, you have the power to come together and make an earth shattering change.
This film represented the true African American experience in the 1960s. “Judas and the Black Messiah,” showed what could have been and what could still be, as long as there are people willing to fight for change. Throughout this film, Hampton reiterates that “Where there are people, there is power,” much like the voices that have been echoing the words “Black lives matter,” for years. We all must remember that we have power in our voices, we are able to make change happen, and in the words of Chairman Hampton and supporting organizations of a once promising coalition… “I am a revolutionary!”