After watching Black Panther Woman by Rachel Perkins on January 15, 2018 (8pm EST), as part of season 10 of AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, you may have a lot of questions and thoughts about the film’s key issues. Here is the background on the film and some discussion prompts for engaging audience members. For more prompts, historical context, and resources for those seeking additional information, you can download the complete guide to Black Panther Woman here.
In 1972 Marlene Cummins fell in love with the leader of the Australian Black Panther Party. With the breakup of that relationship, she spiraled into a cycle of addiction that left her on the streets and vulnerable. Forty years later, the now renowned musician, radio host, and activist travels to a gathering of international Black Panthers in New York. The journey takes her back in time as she reveals the secret of abuse she once held onto as a sacrifice for the greater political cause. Now, working to overcome addictions, she believes it’s time to break her silence instead of breaking herself.
Topics: activism, addiction, Australia, Black Panther Party, Black Power movement, feminism, gender-based violence, government suppression, history, intersectionality, racism, sexism, substance abuse, violence against women, womanism
Selected People Featured in the Film
Marlene Cummins is Australia’s foremost Indigenous female blues writer and performer. She refined her skills as a blues saxophonist and songwriter at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the mid-90s. She released her first full-length album, Koori Woman Blues, in 2014 and continues to busk a few times a week as she finds this helps her to maintain and develop her feel as a musician. In addition to her musical talent, Marlene has been a longtime broadcaster on Koori Radio with her renowned blues show, ‘Marloo’s Blues.’
Born in the southwest town of Cunnamulla, Marlene’s traditional people on her Father’ side are Guguyelandji, and Woppaburra on her Mother’s side. She grew up with the destructive constraints of the Aboriginal Protection Act and already bore the scars of discrimination and institutionalized racism when, as a teenager, she met Denis Walker and joined the Black Panther Party. As an Aboriginal woman activist, Marlene has been outspoken, engaging in political struggle through her music and art.
Co-founder of the Australian Black Panther Party, current Aboriginal Sovereignty rights activist.
Co-founder of the Australian Black Panther Party
Activist and poet
Original USA Black Panther and BPP’s first Communications Secretary; formerly married to Eldridge Cleaver; currently teaches at Emory University School of Law
Former British Black Panther
Rachel Perkins’ Australian Aboriginal heritage (Arrernte/Kalkadoon) has informed her entire filmmaking career. In 1992, she founded Australia’s premier Indigenous production company, Blackfella Films, and has contributed extensively to the development of Indigenous filmmakers in Australia and, more broadly, to the Australian film and television industry.
Rachel has directed three feature films and the acclaimed telemovie MABO, which screened on Australian television in 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the historic High Court decision challenging land ownership granted under the theory of terra nullius, (that allegedly unoccupied territory was not owned by anyone, so the first nation to discover it is entitled to take it over, as “finders keepers”). Rachel also directed two episodes of the landmark television drama series REDFERN NOW, the first Australian drama series written, directed and produced by Indigenous Australians. In 2014 she wrote, directed and co-produced the award-winning seven-hour documentary series FIRST AUSTRALIANS.
She has co-curated film festivals featuring works by Indigenous filmmakers, served on the Council of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), the NSW Film and Television Office (now Screen NSW), the Australia Film Commission, Screen Australia, and was a founding member of the National Indigenous Television Service (NITV). A friend of Marlene Cummins for two decades, even she did not know Marlene’s secrets prior to filming BLACK PANTHER WOMAN.
If you were going to tell a friend about this film, what would you say?
Summarize the main message(s) of this film in a single sentence or tweet. How does your summary compare to what others in the room wrote? What do you think accounts for the similarities or differences?
In a word, what’s your initial reaction to this film?
Describe a moment in the film that you found particularly moving. What was it about that scene that was especially compelling?
Was there anything in the film that “spoke truth” to you?
If you could ask Marlene a question, what would you want to know?
Reviewing Core Content
What did you learn from the film about the Black Panthers and their philosophy on equality, justice, and civil rights? What were they demanding?
How did the Black Panther women explain their silence about violence committed by Black Panther men?
Why didn’t Black Panther women see feminists as allies?