Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thoughts on "The Murder of Fred Hampton"

I've had a Netflix membership for a few years, which started out as a way to cut down on trips to the local rental place. I've greatly enjoyed the huge selection they have to offer; nearly every obscure film I searched for, they had. In some cases, the delivery originated from farther away (Maine, Wisconsin, etc.), but I've also found films I've never heard of. Berkeley in the Sixties, The Weather Underground, and One Bright Shining Moment led to the latest documentary, The Murder of Fred Hampton.

I'm not going to review the film, but talk about the context(s), then and now.

When I mentioned on Twitter that I was watching this film, I got this response, "Great stuff the black Panther stuff and Daley senior 68 conv machinations will never make it to Chicago Olympics 2016 website". I was born in the 50's, and I remember the 60's. My brother got into the reserves, but I was in the age-group where the lottery started, and had number 364, not to mention heading to college. I was at a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concert at the Atlantic City racetrack the day after Richard Nixon resigned. The smile on David Crosby's face as he held up a copy of that day's New York Times was a sight to behold.

I lived in Chicago in the late 1970's and though I was a civil servant, still felt the ire from "Chicago's finest" simply for having long hair. Maybe things have changed there. I hope so.

Once I was invited to a New Years' Eve party on Chicago's South Side, and brought a co-worker along. Charley had been in the Naval Academy, a federal employee, and probably lived in the suburbs. Marlene from the office invited us to her apartment, where we listened to music, danced, ate and drank. It was an awesome party. As we headed out in the wee hours, Charley thanked me for persuading him to overcome his hesitation in visiting a neighborhood he would never have been to otherwise. As I recall, he simply said how normal it all seemed. People are not that different.

If you don't have Netflix service, search for "Fred Hampton" on YouTube. The movie is there in 4 parts about 25 minutes each. A "Must See."

In addition to the documentary there's footage of a "Cicero March". While I recall many scenes from Selma Alabama and other Southern freedom marches, I don't remember hearing about this episode. While it doesn't seem to have been uploaded to YouTube, the fact that the Chicago Film Archives has original footage means future generations can continue to learn from the past.

On the same day that I watched The Murder of Fred Hampton, I happened to have visited parts of Baltimore City with friends from out of town (Pennsylvania and Texas), along with a Maryland Institute College of Art student. An offhand comment about the poor people in the projects preying on the rich(er) people in Bolton Hill didn't really surprise me that much, but when we pulled up on North Avenue preparing to enter the expressway that leads to the suburbs we saw a guy selling newspapers and food (bean pies).

I knew this gentlemen with the nice suit and bow tie was a follower of the Nation of Islam. When I mentioned this, I got the idea that no one else in our vehicle knew what I was talking about. I asked if they had heard of Minister Farrakhan or Malcolm X, only a glimmer of understanding. We would not be offered the newsletter or the bean pies; we were an SUV of white suburbanites. Hopefully my elevator pitch summarizing hundreds of years of racial conflict, the continued tensions and inequalities, was heard by my friends.

I tried to explain that this was not a panhandler often seen at traffic lights, asking for handouts. He is selling information and community-produced food. While I don't agree with the theories of separatism, I understand the lineage of thought that brought this gentleman onto the median strip of North Avenue.

After realizing that the Cicero March happened only 40 years ago -- that's 2 generations -- I know that memories persist. I have hopes for improving relations among various groups.


Jon Reed said...

Added to my netflix queue, good call. I love this kind of history.

jspath55 said...

Jon (AKA afc east) - thanks for the comment. I can tell you're younger than I am, because I remember the 60s. Or, as the saying goes, maybe you were there because you can't remember them. // Jim