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CULTURE

Upcoming Film to Portray Real-Life Black Panther Activist Fred Hampton

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Ryan Coogler speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con International

Ryan Coogler wrote and directed last year’s superhero blockbuster movie Black Panther, and now he’s set to produce a new film about a real member of the Black Panther political movement, Fred Hampton.

Coogler will team up with Charles D. King’s Macro, the production company behind acclaimed films Fences, Mudbound and Sorry to Bother You, to produce a film about the iconic black activist, revolutionary and Black Panther Party member.

The film, titled Jesus Was My Homeboy, will follow the rise and untimely death of Hampton through the eyes of the man who betrayed him, William O’Neal. The film will explore how the FBI infiltrated one of the most iconic resistant groups in American history, the psychology of their informant and the assassination of a young political leader who died at the age of only 21.

Fred Hampton was a respected grass-roots civil rights activist who rose to chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and deputy chairman of the national BPP. Subsequently, the FBI marked him as a threat.

Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark were ultimately killed.

O’Neal, who was also African-American, was then recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the BPP as a counterintelligence operative. This was in exchange for dropping O’Neal’s felony charges involving car theft and impersonating a federal officer, as well as a monthly stipend.

In 1969, Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark were ultimately killed during a raid by a tactical unit carrying out orders from the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. O’Neal was the man who provided the FBI with detailed plans of Hampton’s apartment.

Hampton and Clark’s deaths were initially ruled justifiable homicides, and the police claimed the Panthers had initiated hostilities. However, a number of investigations pointed to state-sponsored assassination and subsequent civil lawsuits led to settlements by law enforcement and Illinois’ Cook County.

Jesus Was My Homeboy will be produced by Warner Bros, with Shaka King (Newlyweeds) on board to direct and produce from a script he wrote with Will Berson (Sea Oak).

Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya is in talks to star as Hampton, with fellow Get Out actor and Sorry to Bother You star Lakeith Stanfield in talks to play William O’Neal.

Given the current politically charged environment in the U.S., it seems more timely than ever to tackle socially conscious stories. Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, based on a true story about a black detective who posed as a Ku Klux Klan member to infiltrate the hate group, won acclaim last year. It is currently nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.

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