175 people gathered Friday, February 25, 2011, in Travis Auditorium on the Pasadena campus of Fuller Seminary to screen 41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers.
The documentary examines the founding, activity, and ultimate fall of the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles during the 1960s. The film centers on the charismatic leader of the group, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter. The film contends that “Bunchy” provided the galvanizing force the more militant civil rights activitsts needed in the late 60s before he was mysteriously gunned down by opponents. The film uses “Bunchy’s” tale to examine whether or not violence and justice can coexist.
Following the screening, the audience was invited to engage with a discussion panel featuring writer/director of 41st & Central Gregory Everett, film critic George Alexander, Fuller professor Ralph Watkins, and Reel Spirituaity co-director Camille Tucker.
Everett detailed the circumstances surrounding his decision to make the film. He claimed he was able to gain access to so many people who were an integal part of the movement partially because his father was an active member of the party in the 60s. He also stated his intention to expand the film into two parts, the first dealing with the Black Panther Party’s activity under “Bunchy” Carter’s leadership and the second focussing on fabled shoot out at 41st & Central and the conspiracy theories associated with both “Bunchy’s” murder and the ultimate demise of the party.
George Alexander commented especially on the role of African American’s in filmmaking. He referenced the late 80s and early 90s as the surrgence of black filmmaking, and then commented that currently society seems to be experiencing a dearth of such filmmakers. Alexander and Everett then discussed the opportunities available to black filmmakers today, specifically on the independent level and on television. Alenxander also examined the role black filmmakers play in the black community.
Ralph Watkins noted the ways violence is used for justice throughout the scriptures. He connected the work of the Panthers to that of the Israelites in the Old Testament, emphasizing especially that the acts of the Panthers were acts of defense against the violence being perpetrated against their community. Dr. Watkins also noted the CIA’s apparent fear of a “black messiah,” as noted in the film, and reminded the audience that we already have a “black messiah” in Christ.
Included in the audience was a group of high school students from Thomas Jefferson High School which is located in the neighborhood where the incidents depicted in the film took place. Camille Tucker welcomed the students warmly on behalf of Reel Spirituality, and director Gregory Everett made it a point to inform the students that his production company started as a radio broadcast at their high school when he was a student there years ago.