On February 12, 2021 in Hollywood, CA (USA), the iconic poster of Huey P. Newton in a rattan chair, was featured in the movie ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ by Shaka King.
There is a scene in Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King, 2021) where Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya) —Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther party and the ‘Black Messiah’ from the movie title— is looking at the poster of Huey P. Newton in a rattan chair. In that moment, he’s looking at the poster as if he is looking into a mirror, only to realise what he has become: a leader of mythical proportions, a legendary black revolutionary, a messiah.
“Anywhere there’s people, there’s power”. He realises that he has been given the power, to go against the greatest power of them all; the American government and the FBI. And with that comes the greatest offer: the sacrifice of his own life for the people and the cause. This scene emphasises the christian analogy the film wants to make. Fred Hampton, in the role of Christ, is talking to this ‘icon’ (original definition: “a painting, […] of Jesus Christ, or of a person considered holy by some Christians, […]” — Cambridge Dictionary), in the presence of his ‘Judas’, William O’Neal (played by LaKeith Stanfield). Hampton realises that he has the power to move his community, and -at that same moment- that he has become a martyr, who is destined to die for the people.
This moment shows all the complexity the image of Huey was, is and has grown into. From an image of that illustrated the 10 point program in the 2nd edition of the Black Panther Paper, via the archetype of the ‘Black Urban Warrior’ (K. Cleaver, 2018) that represents a counter-cultural, self-determined black cultural identity, to an all-powerful Christ Pantocrator (check the reference George Clinton’s alter ego Uncle Jam) and finally the martyr. And perhaps, in this movie we can also distinguish the idol (original definition: “an object or picture that is worshipped as a god”— Cambridge Dictionary) that The Society of the Spectacle turns its ideological leaders into.
“You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.” (Fred Hampton)