Gala to honor Stanley Nelson Jr.

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Gala to honor Stanley Nelson Jr.

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Gala to honor Stanley Nelson Jr. 

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DIRECTOR: Stanley Nelson Jr.
PRODUCERS: Sam Aleshinloye, Nicole London
EDITOR: Aljernon Tunsil
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Antonio Rossi, Rick Butler

The history of African Americans has not been a straight ascendency from slavery. Change for black people, Stanley Nelson said, happens when black people push for change. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution tells the story of the rise an fall of the black militant organization from 1966 to 1973 and the times that created them.

The sixties were a time when young people were becoming politicized and were protesting injustice. The Black Panthers were started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale to address the police brutality of black people in Oakland, California. The Party grew as killings and arrests of Black Panthers increased their support in the black community and among those on the political left.  

The film tells a cautionary tale about standing up to power. It shows what happens when the power structure and internal rifts combine to destroy a movement that was striving to transform racial and cultural politics in America. Nelson had a rich archive of footage to use for the film since the Panthers were widely covered by the news media at the time of their activities.

He couldn’t interview the principals of the movement: Huey Newton died in 1989 in a gunfight in Oakland, Eldridge Cleaver died in 1998 and Bobby Seale did not agree to an interview. Instead we get firsthand accounts from the rank-and-file members of the Panthers, including Kathleen Cleaver, wife of Eldridge from 1967 to 1987 and Elaine Brown, head of the party from 1974 to 1977.

The film took seven years to make, but its release now is quite timely. A year ago Nelson said in a YouTube interview, we were talking about a post-racial society, but “no one is talking about it now.”