Austin Clarke's "Death of a Panther"

2016 is the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Black Panther Party. The documentary "Death of a Panther" was produced by Canadian writer Austin Clarke in 1969. It tells the tumultuous and violent story of the Black Panthers two months after the death of one of its members, John Huggins.
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      Fifty years ago, in 1966, two black men, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, formed a radical group they called the Black Panthers. Their goal was to monitor police activity against blacks in Oakland, California. They believed the campaign of nonviolence and peaceful protest as taught by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was a failure, and the goals of the civil rights movement too timid. 

      The Panthers had a mixed agenda. On the one hand, they provided free breakfasts to school children and medical care to the poor. On the other, their reputation was as a violent organization with hard-line Marxist political views.  

      Austin Clarke, 2002. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)
      In January of 1969, Panther John Huggins was fatally shot at the University of California, UCLA, by a member of a rival black nationalist group. Canadian writer Austin Clarke used the event as the basis of his documentary Death of a Panther. It first aired in March 1969 on the CBC Radio program Concern. Clarke talked about the Panther movement with Huggins' widow Ericka, only 20 years old at the time.

      Earlier in 2016 PBS aired their documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, which charted the rise and eventual demise of the Panthers, and their lasting impact on American society. Ericka Huggins is featured in the film.

      In 1970 a group of Black Panthers in New Haven, convinced that one of their members was an informant, tortured and killed him. There were various charges laid against nine people, including murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. Among them were Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins. 

      The director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, called the Black Panthers "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." In 1971, a small group of activists broke into an FBI field office in Pennsylvania. They stole documents that proved the FBI had been spying on students, and also on activist groups like the Panthers. After the findings went public, the spy operation was shut down. But the reputation of both the Panthers and the FBI suffered damage after public exposure of their unsavoury activities.

      The Black Panthers officially disbanded in 1982.

      Austin Clarke died in June 2016 at the age of 81.

      Also on this program we featured some of your letters about last week's show on video games:

      Michael wrote:

      Dear Rewind,

      I couldn't help reflecting on how the rise of technology overlapped with my experience as a first generation Canadian of Nicaraguan heritage.

      I grew up with my grandparents who exiled their children - my mother and uncles - to other Central American countries while the Sandinista revolution raged in the country. Eventually we became Canadian in 1988 when I was a toddler.

      I grew up in Canada not being allowed to use video games because of the fear my grandparents, who were academics, felt they might cause my development. The majority of my entertainment was reading, writing and joining in on family conversations.

      All my childhood friends played video games. I attended a small liberal arts university that did not have a big IT emphasis and I was permitted to submit many of my assignments in handwriting. Then I worked as a teacher abroad.

      After returning to Canada I've learned how much not being exposed to video games and computers has limited me.

      I have a phone and use computers but am still ignorant about them.

      I encourage a discussion with refugees and immigrants to encourage IT. By not making these new technologies accessible, it may create limitations in future employment and competitiveness.

      Darryl in Toronto:

      Video games as a sport? Quite a stretch……. What's next, hopscotch?

      Adam in Oshawa:

      I love playing video games. I started when the original Nintendo came out. I was not good at video games until I finally beat Sonic the Hedgehog 3.  After that I got better and better. At FanExpo in Toronto this year I got to meet the voice of Mario from Super Mario Series.

      Thomas from Ottawa:

      I loved the show about video games. Back in the 70's and 80's sandwiched between practice sessions for my Bachelor of Music degree were hundreds of dollars and hundreds of..hours at the arcade.

      The money is only money, but those hours...I can't get them back and that sucks.

      Sophia from Toronto:

      It was amazing to hear reporting from the time of video games' inception (around the time I started playing) and contrasting it to now. Our gaming universe has expanded greatly. I'm 44 and have been gaming since about age 10. I'm the first to say that I play too much, though my life has also been greatly enriched by video games. There's so much room for creativity and community in games and it's an absolute delight to find a virtual world in which you can become immersed. Through games, I've met many wonderful, kind, creative people, some of whom I've happily met in real life.

      Pete in Trenton, Ontario

      I really enjoyed the walk down memory lane. I was a child in the 1980s. Many hours were spent battling gloriously pixelated foes in "Missile Command" and "Space Invaders." But what struck me most about this program was the similarity in opinions about the fear of screen addiction between parents in the 1980s and parents now. We often hear how Millennials waste time on electronic devices and do not spend enough time outdoors like when we were kids. It turns out, parents have been saying that for generations. Perhaps our youth of today are not so doomed as everyone likes to predict.

      By the way, "Zelda: Ocarina of Time" is the best game I have ever played.

      Thanks to everyone who wrote us. We're at Rewind@cbc.ca