I learned something new about the Blaxploitation movement, that in addition to the NAACP, the Black Panthers at some point also started to protest this genre of film. Seems like they had more of a love / hate relationship with Blaxploitation.

I thought that the Panthers were supportive of these films that showed Black folks stickin’ it to the man. Todd Boyd supports this view with the following excerpt from his article Blaxploitation’s Baadasssss History (http://www.theroot.com/views/blaxploitation-s-baadasssss-history):

Yet Huey P. Newton, head of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, wrote his own lengthy essay about the film in the Panthers’ newspaper. Arguing that Sweetback was a cultural reflection of the same types of political ideas that the Panthers championed, he went on to suggest that the movie was the “first truly revolutionary black film.”Sweetback would become required viewing for members of the Black Panther Party.

However, I recently came across the following film archive from San Francisco that shows the Panthers protesting Blaxploitation films. The link to the film clip is here https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/208083. The summary of the interview with Bobby Seale is below:

KPIX Eyewitness news report from September 27th, 1972 featuring a protest over the exploitation of the Black community in Blaxploitation films. Protesters carry signs that read, “The Black Community Will Not Be Exploited Anymore!” Seale gives an interview in which he discusses the ways in which white producers exploit the black community to make Blaxploitation films. Seale says, “they use the Black community to make the movies in the first place, so why can’t the black community at least get a percentage back?” Seale proposes that the Black Panthers’ Survival Programs should get a percentage of the profits from Blaxploitation genre films which could then be reinvested in the Black community.

According to the book There’s A Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars and the Rise And Fall Of 60’s Counter Culture by Peter Doggett, the protest captured in the KPIX film clip was over The Mack, which was being filmed in Oakland. Reportedly, Huey P. Newton also had a problem with Superfly, declaring it “part of a conspiracy”.

Learn something new everyday…

1 Comment

  • sand
    January 16, 2013

    Huey Newton wrote about Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song a film that was not about exploiting Black people in 1971. This was right before Black exploitation cinema took off. It took off with the money and left the stereotypes and caricatures for Black, Brown, Yellow and White folks to sift through and figure out 40 years later that these are stereotypes and not supported by the leaders or community of the day. Artists like Quentin Terentino have made a living off stereotypes and caricatures like Jackie Brown and Django or characters that Samuel Jackson tends to support. Black cinema didn’t start with Melvin Van Peebles but he was key in creating a Black character that didn’t stay a victim against police or state brutality. The character of Sweetback does not end up a statistic in the films ending he escapes from the law. That is why Sweetback was supported by the BPP and many other community groups of the day. Films like Shaft explored alternatives in making a Black man in citing with the Law so they made him into a COP and in turn humanized the image of the Police again. Who they hired was Gordon Parks Jr not the famed Black photographer but his son. Shaft was a story written by John D. F. Black a White screenwriter who wrote for Mary Tyler Moore show. The screenplay was written by Ernest Tidyman a White writer who wrote action films like French Connection and High Plains Drifter. Then there is Superfly also directed by Gordon Parks Jr. In Jet Magazine September 28, 1972 the future Mayor of Washington DC Marion Barry stated that Superfly “robs us economically and spiritually” and that it was “mind genocide.” The complexity is here… Superfly was produced by two upper class Black dentists and Gordon Parks Jr. Upper and lower class Black communities are dialectically confronted with economic situations that differ their experiences in a society that still treats both classes as outsider.

    Read behind what we celebrate today through popular culture. It may have been constructed for you to assume one thing while it negates self worth from within.

    “Warner Brothers, Sig Shore and Gordon Parks Jr. got themselves together and are selling to the Black community a cinema brand of cocaine designed to appeal to the same people that are the targets of the hard-drug traffic.”

    -Vernon Jarrett

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