Rep. Bobby Rush calls ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ a film that ‘must be seen’

The congressman and former Black Panther sat with theGrio's April D. Ryan to discuss the feature film.

The newly released Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of how an FBI informant infiltrated the Black Panther Party. Congressman Bobby Lee Rush, a representative of the first district of Illinois and a former Black Panther himself, shared with theGrio‘s political correspondent April Ryan his reaction to the feature film.

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theGrio reported the film, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, is produced by Ryan Coogler and stars Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and Lakeith Stanfield plays FBI informant William O’Neal. Martin Sheen co-stars as J. Edgar Hoover, who was the head of the FBI during the notorious events.

Rush, a former Black Panther, was not only affiliated with the political movement, but he also had ties to Hampton as he carried out his lasting legacy. He has seen the film and shared his opinion that it be required viewing.

“[It] is a very important movie. This movie must be seen by all freedom-seeking, justice-seeking, good-hearted Americans because it really is a movie that shows all to see this brilliant, young, courageous Black man, Fred Hampton, who was an upstanding, courageous man,” Rush shared with Ryan.

He continues, “A young man who was a leader of men even at 21 years old. He had such a deep-seated love, even a sacrificial love for his people — and not just Black people but for poor people in general. Poor whites. Poor Latinos. Poor Asians. He had such deep-seated human values that he just couldn’t hold back. He had to express.

House Holds Hearing On Department Of Energy's Actions During COVID-19 Pandemic
WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 14: Chairman Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) listens during testimony at a House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy hearing in the Rayburn Building titled “Oversight of DOE During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. The hearing will examine the impacts of COVID-19 on the energy industry on July 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

In 1968, Rush helped cofound the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, and after Hampton’s assassination, he became the acting chairman. As a member of the party, he established the Free Medical Clinic in Chicago and other efforts to empower and sustain the community. He eventually left the movement but stayed in politics.

From 1983 to 1993, Rush was a member of the Chicago City Council. Since 1993, he has served the first district of Illinois in Congress.

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During his time as a Black Panther, Rush was aware of the government’s view of the then grassroots movement. He shared the magnitude of the believed threat the group caused to politicians of the time.

“The Black Panther Party in general, was called by J. Edgar Hoover himself, the number one threat to national security, And why was it the number one threat to national security? Because it was an organization that really was committed and had the discipline to study and understand social movements in the past,” he remarked.

“We had the courage as an organization, to stand and use the laws of this nation, to take on the numerous police departments all across this nation. We knew the police as an occupying army that really trampled on human rights and civil rights, [and] the legal rights of Black and poor people, just like some do today,” Rush added.

Darrel Britt-Gibson, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

In 1969, Hampton was killed while laying in bed during a police raid. According to the Washington Post, the 21-year-old community leader was shot dead as well as fellow Black Panther 22-year-old Mark Clark.

Four other members of the Panthers and two police officers were wounded in the incident. Seven Black Panthers were charged with attempted murder and which was eventually dropped. Documents released in a civil suit revealed the group was targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign.

O’Neal shared information with the FBI, allegedly drugged Hampton, and gave law enforcement a layout of the apartment to prepare for the raid. He died by taking his own life in 1990 at the age of 40.

According to the Chicago Tribune, he was struck by a car after running onto the highway. Although ruled death by suicide, his wife informed the outlet she believed it was an accident.

Although Hampton was a life taken too soon, Rush remembers him daily. He shared his belief in the potential of his former colleague and friend.

“it is hard for me to put into words how great Fred Hampton was because every day I live in the spirit of Fred Hampton. I have no doubt that had he lived to become more of an adult, Fred would have been one of the greatest probably lawyers, and maybe even politicians that we ever had. He had a desire to be a lawyer, he wanted to go to law school,” Rush shared.

“Fred was such a dedicated, talented, courageous leader and had an amazing love for the people. Fred would raise his voice when he saw even members of the party taking advantage of their leadership position and being cruel or being antagonistic toward regular party members,” he concluded.

Judas and the Black Messiah opened in theaters on February 12 and is available to stream on HBO Max.

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