The Black Panther party was an organization started by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. I want to start this post by saying that I had the distinct honor and pleasure of meeting and hearing Bobby Seale speak, and it was one of the most memorable moments in my adult life. With that being said, it is very hard to watch films like this, Fruitvale Station, and the like because you know the outcome. This death, in this instance, even more egregious because of a person like William O’Neal.
They don’t teach our children about organizations like the Black Panthers, and if they do, they tell them the bad. They tell them about how they were on the FBI watchlist because of their hate for government and police. They didn’t hate government and police just because. They hated how the government and police treated people that looked like them, the poor people, the people who had nothing. They saw what was happening in their community and decided to do something about it. The party created free breakfast and daycare programs across the country and provided free healthcare to those in their communities. They filled the gaps that the government left open. Ok, now I’m off my soapbox. Let’s get to the movie.
I loved this is film. I felt joy, pain, pride, and anger all in one scene. This is one of those movies that I will see maybe once or twice and then never again because it makes me too sad or angry. The only complaint I have about this movie is they didn’t include how he go into the Panthers. It went from the interrogation room to him in the room with the rest of the Panthers. Let’s focus on ole Bill. I always wonder what motives people in Bill’s position to do what they do. Instead of taking his punishment for crimes he actively committed, he decided to play into the government’s hands and help them murder a man who was for the people. A man they continued to badger for no reason other than the fact that he wanted to unite the people in his community. I love the use of the clips from the 70’s and from O’Neal’s interview. Spike Lee did that in Da 5 Bloods, and the only reason I didn’t like it there was for the simple fact that the clips lasted too long. Anyway, O’Neal started this mission as a way to avoid prison because of his own faults, but in doing what he did, could it be said that he was responsible for the deaths of dozens of Panthers based on the information he provided to the FBI and Chicago police? Here’s what really grinds my gears. At the point where you knew there was no terrorist threat from these people that you befriended and who grew to trust you, you could have stopped, but he didn’t. He accepted the money, the fancy food, and the immunity, so to speak. He started to like what he was doing because of what he was receiving in return.
So, at what point does he deserve our sympathy from us as a viewer? I’m not talking about sympathy from me because I have none, and I know he committed suicide and that is awful but I have no sympathy for this man. But for you all who watched the movie and are reading this now, when did your sympathy senses start tingling? And another thing, there is always that moment where the movie, and the character, shifts. We start to realize that the character is in too deep– start to feel trapped. But, again, my argument is he could have just said enough is enough and took his punishment like he should have done in the first place, but he went for self preservation and betrayal. In the clip from Eyes on the Prize 2 that was included at the end of the movie, he seemed content with what he did, and yes, you could argue that his suicide after the docu-series aired in 1990 would juxtapose that. Maybe, maybe not.
Is there anyone who disagrees with me? If you do, please let me know.