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Film Review: "The Black Panthers"


In his absorbing documentary, "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," director Stanley Nelson traces the Black Panther Party's short but complicated history. Founded in Oakland during the mid-60's by activists Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the group was a direct response to the violence enacted against African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. To achieve its goal of empowerment in the black community, the group utilized tactics that ranged from walking the streets with open-carry weapons as a means to combat police brutality, to providing free breakfasts for inner-city youth -- and creating some high-profile enemies along the way. The Panthers were ultimately brought down by schisms between the group's chapters provoked by pressures both within and without. As one member says, "The great strength of the Black Panther Party was its ideals, and its youthful vigor and enthusiasm. And the great weakness of the party was its ideals, and its youthful vigor and enthusiasm." The Panthers gave root to the current Black Lives Matter movement, showing that the party's revolution is still in progress.