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Review: ‘41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers’

March 5, 2013

by the People’s Minister of Information JR

“41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers” is a documentary about the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party, which was only the second chapter created after the Bay Area. The film was shot by Panther cub Gregory Everett, whose father, former Panther Jeffrey Everett, also appears in the film.

It gets its name from a five-hour shootout that the LAPD initiated against the L.A. Panthers at 41st & Central on Dec. 9, 1969. This was the first time that any police department in the country used a SWAT team.

What I thought was important about this documentary was that it covered a Panther chapter other than Oakland. L.A. Panthers were extremely instrumental in developing the persona of the “take no bullshit” Panther Party.

GÇÿ41st & CentralGÇÖ at Culver Plaza Theater, Pan African Film Festival
When “41st & Central” was shown as part of the Pan African Film Festival, Ayulo Babu, founder of the festival, said, “No documentary has ever captured the soul of the Black Panther Party – in particular the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party – until ‘41st & Central.’”
The documentary starts out talking about the history of the magnetic Panther leader and organizer Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, who was already a street legend in L.A. before being politicized. “41st & Central” also looks at the relationship that the L.A. Panthers had with Ron Karenga’s United Slaves organization, which erupted in violence on more than one occasion, eventually leading to the assassinations of Bunchy Carter and Jon Huggins on the UCLA campus.

Student leaders, government agents, former US members and Panthers were all interviewed about the tragic incident, including former political prisoner Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, who was on the campus but was not on the scene. The story then moves on to talk to people like former Panther Roland Freeman, who discusses why the Panthers did not just retaliate against the United Slaves, and Ron Karenga, who many know as the founder of Kwanzaa.

As shown in the gripping documentary, after the assassinations, the Panthers carried on their political work and continued to be attacked by the U.S. government via the LAPD and the Counter Intelligence Program. After a five-hour shooting battle with police, no one was killed on 41st & Central, and the tactics that Geronimo brought back from being a green beret in Vietnam proved successful in saving Panther lives, in what the police thought was going to be a massacre.

“41st & Central” is a beautifully crafted production that I would put alongside “All Power to the People” as a must see if you are truly studying the politics and actions of the Black Panther Party. In this film, there are not a lot of academics translating history. You hear from the Panthers like Ronald Freeman, Ericka Huggins, Wayne Pharr and others who were there making history.

If you are interested further, you could see this film on Saturday, April 6, at 9 p.m. at the San Leandro Performing Arts Theater, 2250 Bancroft in San Leandro, as a part of the Oakland International Film Festival. For more info, go to oiff.org.

The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

This is an archival interview with Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt from the documentary, “41st & Central.”

 

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