Take a fun and magical ride with a young girl as she is pulled to the world of the dead to learn what Día de los Muertos is all about. This vibrant and fast-paced animated short, created by students at the Ringling College of Art & Design, shows you some of the customs and the importance of the Mexican holiday.
At the dawn of Black History Month the timely release of “Judas and the Black Messiah” echoed the cries of injustice following a summer of civil unrest. In what was considered the largest multicultural protest of the 21st century, the words of Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton ferociously chanting “I AM…A REVOLUTIONARY!” continue to resonate.
The timely Civil Rights film, available to stream on HBO Max, follows the life and betrayal of The Illinois Black Panther Chairman (played by Daniel Kaluuya) at the hands of a party member and FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield). Kaluuya’s captivating performance as the charismatic Hampton received widespread acclaim and his first Golden Globe win for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.
For some audience members, this film will be their first introduction to Chairman Fred Hampton and an extension of the Black Panther Party. While the film is relatively accurate, the brief inclusion of the original Rainbow Coalition is pertinent to Hampton’s legacy. You can see its relation to the rise in multicultural youth-driven activism we see today.
In February 1969, Hampton and other Panther members met with Young Lords leader José “Cha-Cha” Jimenez after the Puerto Rican street organization shut themselves in the 18th District police station. The protest was calling attention to the police harassment of Latinx residents in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
The Young Lords started as a turf gang in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1960. By 1968, the Young Lords became a Civil Rights organization. The Illinois chapter and Young Lords formed the original Rainbow Coalition in April 1969. Jimenez referred to the coalition as a “poor people’s army” in an interview with Southside Weekly. Shortly after, the coalition grew to include the Young Patriots Organization a white, southern working-class group from Northern Chicago.
The Rainbow Coalition fought against police brutality and institutional racism in Chicago while working to uplift their local communities. The organization, consisting of people in their teens and early 20s, offered free breakfast programs and child daycare centers funded by donations from local businesses.
“It is impossible to make revolutionary change without the people,” Jimenez said in an interview with FightBack! News on the 50th anniversary of the coalition’s foundation.
“The Rainbow Coalition was more than just a gang of activists or folks trying to gain one or two small victories,” he told FightBack! News. “Each of our groups were already small revolutionary armies connected to the people’s struggle and trying to create a People’s Army to win the battle.”
Hampton and Jimenez were both sent to solitary confinement at Cook County Jail for their activism. In another incident noted in the film, Hampton was once sentenced after taking ice cream pops from an ice cream truck to pass out to neighborhood kids.
Supporters claim that it is a consequence of their street organizing and a threat to government authority for their Marxist-Leninist views.
The tension between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers failed to cease, and the FBI was closing in on silencing Hampton. On December 4, 1969, the Cook County’s State Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan conducted an overnight raid on Hampton’s apartment with a warrant to search for illegal weapons.
Police barraged into Hampton’s apartment shooting gunfire wounding several Black Panthers and killing Black Panther security chief Mark Clark. Hampton was asleep in his bedroom next to his pregnant fiancée Deborah Johnson (who now goes by Akua Njeri) when he was struck by the gunfire, killing him.
Hampton was 21 at the time of his death.
The assassination of Fred Hampton left Coalition members distraught and fearful for their own lives as leadership slowly diminished. By 1973, the Rainbow Coalition had officially disbanded.
The embodiment of radicalized thought, in a sea of young revolutionaries, adorning their berets of black and purple. The roars of unapologetic protest against racism persisted and the legacy of youth-driven advocacy for the unified equity of all peoples vehemently lives on.
“Ours is not about individuals but a people’s struggle led by the common folk,” Jimenez said to FightBack! News. “Ours is a protracted struggle that will take years and we must prepare ourselves for the long run via structured community programs specific to the revolution.”
Filmmaker Celina Escher wanted to capture a historic moment in the Caribbean through the eyes of someone you might not expect. As an assignment from the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (EICTV), Escher was tasked with finding a compelling character to cover. Her response was a woman who fought for the Cuban revolution and her excitement for President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in a film titled “Verde Olivo.” CiNEOLA is bringing the short documentary to the U.S. audience to have a peek into this historic moment.
“Verde Olivo” captures one of Cuba’s most historic moments through the eyes of a revolutionary soldier.
Escher wanted to speak to someone from the Cuban Revolution because of the influence it had on her own home country: El Salvador. The filmmaker wanted to see the people who encouraged the guerilla fighters she learned about growing up. Her search led her to Teresa, a woman who fought for the revolution and has maintained her unwavering support for Fidel Castro and his vision.
“When I met Teresa we spoke about her life and the woman’s role in the Cuban Revolution. On one occasion, Teresa mentioned that she needed to repair her television for the arrival of Obama,” Escher says. “It was a historical moment for Cubans, and especially for Teresa who had devoted her life to the revolution. I was inspired by her and it was then I began to film Teresa’s preparation process.”
Escher appreciated that Teresa and her husband were getting their television repaired in order to watch President Obama’s visit. Cubans are known for maintaining old cars and appliances because of the scarcity of stuff available on the island.
“In Cuba, what is broken is repaired. The Cuban people don’t throw away what is broken and replace it with a new one, like most other western consumerist societies,” Escher says. “Cubans found a way to survive and thrive despite the U.S. embargo. In this precarious situation, the Cubans have been forced to be creative, to repair and recycle.”
“Verde Olivo” shows the resilience of some in Latin America to retain socialist ideals.
The documentary, according to Escher, is important to highlight the strength some in Latin America have maintained against “U.S. imperialism.” Despite the U.S. embargo, life has continued to go on in Cuba after the revolution.
“There have been numerous U.S. military interventions and coups d’etat throughout Latin America where left wing leaders have been replaced with authoritarian military regimes,” Escher says. “There are 76 U.S. military bases in Latin America and the Caribbean with the purpose of securing their economic and political interests. It’s remarkable how Cuba managed to survive all the aggressions and violence.”
The civil war in El Salvador is a strong example for Escher. She grew up knowing of the violent civil war the killed tens of thousands of Salvadorans. The civil war was funded in part by the U.S. government and adds to the overall narrative of U.S.-backed coup d’etats in Latin America.
President Obama’s visit was a wonderful experience while on the island.
Escher remembers that the island was electric as the Cuban people waited for President Obama’s arrival. He was the first president to visit the island in decades and created a renewed hope in cooperation between the two countries.
“It was as if a superstar was arriving. The streets of Havana were cleaned, streets were closed for his arrival, and overall the Cubans were very excited,” Escher recalls. “First of all it was the first U.S. President to arrive in Cuba since 1928, and it happened to be the first Black U.S. President. There has never been a Black president or comandante in Cuba which added to the excitement of many Cubans.”
Despite the visit, many of the Cuban people remained frustrated and disappointed with the overall impact. Escher spoke with Teresa, and her husband Orlando, after the visit. The couple has soured a bit on the visit because the embargo remained and Guantanamo Bay remained occupied.