Lakeith Stanfield, foreground center, and Daniel Kaluuya, background center, in a scene from “Judas and the Black Messiah” released in theaters and on HBO Max on Feb. 12. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

By Micah Caldwell
Special to the AFRO

Many people are raving about the new movie “Judas and the Black Messiah” which premiered on Feb. 12, in theaters as well as HBO Max. 

Critics and viewers are already debating what awards the movie will receive. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is the story of William O’Neal, played by actor LaKeith Stanfield, and his hopes to earn a plea deal by going undercover as a Black Panther to gather incriminating information on Chairman Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya. 

The jaw-dropping, suspenseful and action-filled film will leave viewers on the edge of their seats. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is sparking discussions on talk shows, social media, radio stations and even in college lectures. The film is predicted to make millions, already earning $2.5 million its first weekend out.

WHO IS THE REAL FRED HAMPTON?

Fredrick “Fred” Hampton worked as an activist and revolutionary socialist with a focus on Black rights. In Chicago, Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party where he led hundreds of Black people towards the fight for true freedom. 

The film shows scenes from when Hampton was incarcerated and how the other Black Panthers continued to work in his absence. While imprisoned, the Chicago Police Department set fire to the party’s headquarters and Hampton was notified by a prison guard when given that week’s newspaper. It did not take long for the Black Panthers and the Chicago community to rebuild the headquarters. 

By the time Hampton was released, the building was completely refurbished and he instantly got back to work. Dec. 4, 1969, police officers stormed into Hampton’s house and killed him while he was sleeping. Hampton’s girlfriend, Deborah Johnson now Akau Nijeri, was nine months pregnant at the time and gave birth to Fred Hampton Jr. nearly a month. 

The Chicago Police Department was able to find Hampton and the other members of the party due to a setup orchestrated by William O’Neal, who went undercover for a plea deal. After being featured in part two of “Eyes on the Prize” where O’Neal confessed his actions of setting up Hampton and the Illinois chapter, O’Neal committed suicide.

1969 TO 2021: WHAT HAS CHANGED?

As viewers watched “Judas and the Black Messiah,” the scene of his death was gut-wrenching. Chicago police stormed into his house unannounced and began to shoot, beat and harass everyone. Even Hampton’s pregnant girlfriend. 

This admittedly reminded many viewers of the shooting death of Breonna Taylor that took place on March 13,in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville police broke into her home unannounced and began firing shots when she was in bed as well. 

How has it been 51 years and nothing has changed? This is what Fred Hampton was fighting for in the first place. He saw the injustices that black people were facing in America and simply wanted to educate and help his community.  

Breonna Taylor was an EMT where she worked to help the community as well. Neither of them deserved this. As you watch “Judas and the Black Messiah,” try to highlight injustices you see taking place in the film and how they are still taking place today. Compare and contrast how the KKK was treated in the film compared to how the Black Panthers were treated. Does it remind you of how peaceful protesters were treated last summer compared to the individuals who attacked the Captiol on Jan. 6? 

History comes full circle and this film is an amazing depiction of that. Add it to your watchlist this Black History Month. 

The writer is a student in the Morgan State University school of global journalism and communication.