When Beyonce paid homage to the Black Panther movement during her Super Bowl performance, people like Rudy Giuliani, Rush Limbaugh, and others lost their minds.
Perhaps because they have little-to-no understanding of how the Black Panthers impacted the African-American community, politics, and style.
A new documentary by director/producer Stanley Nelson, titled The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, explores the controversial group’s influence and enduring legacy.
Nelson joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to discuss his film, which premieres Tuesday night on PBS (check your local listings), and said when he started the project, he “felt the Panthers story was relevant” and that it had “never been told.”
“Little did I know that events would unfold to make the story even more relevant today than it was seven years ago when I started,” Nelson said in reference to Beyonce’s “Formation” performance during Super Bowl 50.
He added, “Women in the Black Panther party had a much more prominent role than in the traditional Civil Rights movement of [Dr.] Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy.“
Nelson believes African-Americans still hold onto the symbolism of the Black Panthers because “The Panthers started because of police brutality in Oakland, California and then spread across the country because other African-Americans were experiencing police brutality in their communities.”
He also believes “the look” of the Panthers is still appealing to members of the Black community. “They looked so cool and I think Beyonce tapped into that in the Super Bowl,” Nelson said.
“What the Panthers did in Oakland, Calif. was amazing,” said Nelson. “They found out that there was an open carry law — that you could carry guns, loaded weapons, out in the open. So they said, ‘OK, the people are brutal in our community, we’re going to police the police. We’re going to follow the police and if the police jump out on an African-American, we’re going to jump out of our cars behind the police, and we’re going to see and make sure it goes on part of the police.’”
“Whatever you think about it, it’s a very courageous move,” said Nelson.
The Panthers scared former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and the federal government considered the Black Panthers “the most dangerous group in America.”
“When we talk about the Panthers scaring America, you have to understand they scared part of America … another part was saying yes. That was not only Black people, that was a big section of the community out there,” Nelson continued.
Watch Roland Martin and Stanley Nelson discuss the upcoming documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution in the video clip above. Don’t miss the premiere of the film tonight on PBS.