Long before Black Lives Matter became a rallying cry for justice, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was demanding a similar call to action with “All power to the people.” The new documentary Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution reminds us that unfortunately, so much has not changed over the years.
The revolutionary organization was founded, in part, to fight police brutality and monitor cops. Filmmaker Stanley Nelson told The Root after a showing of the documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered Jan. 23, that “the Panthers were fighting against police brutality 50 years ago, and here we are today walking through the streets saying ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’”
Nelson’s film could not be timelier, with next year marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. The director said he was 15 years old and living in New York City when he first learned about the group, whose trademark uniform included a black beret, black pants and black leather jacket.