Tuesday, October 7, 2008

UIS political art series to present a look at the Black Panther Party

The next program in the Political Art and the Public Sphere series at the University of Illinois at Springfield will be a screening of excerpts from "What We Want, What We Believe," a documentary about the Black Panther Party, at 6 p.m. Monday, October 13, in Brookens Auditorium, lower level of Brookens Library on the UIS campus. Both the film and the discussion session that follows are free and open to the public.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Panthers were considered one of the most dangerous militant groups in America. Newsreel Films was the unofficial documenter of the Panthers, and "What We Want, What We Believe" -- not a documentary so much as living history preserved on film -- has been described as "a fantastic journey back to a time when equal rights were the name of the game, and the price to pay for them was very high."

Footage includes interviews with founding members Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, and Huey P. Newton; a look at some of the group's activities, such as demonstrations, speaking appearances, and the Breakfast Program for neighborhood children; and interviews with FBI agents and film of police raids on party offices.

Each month Political Art and the Public Sphere features a showing or performance of some kind of "political art," followed by a group discussion of the issues it raises. "The basic idea is to consider how 'art' raises provocative social and political questions," said series facilitator Richard Gilman-Opalsky, UIS assistant professor of political philosophy.

This fall, the series focuses on questions of race and class in 20th century American politics with topics ranging from the Springfield race riot of 1908 to the disenfranchisement of black voters in the 2004 elections.

"Public spheres are the places where people come together to communicate, to evaluate, and to circulate ideas and arguments," said Gilman-Opalsky. "In the public sphere, people form a collective political opinion and will. Ultimately and ideally, the public sphere brings the interests and demands of the public to bear on those who hold power."

The presentation of "What We Want, What We Believe" is also co-sponsored by the ECCE Speakers Series at UIS – events that aim to exemplify engaged citizenship as part of the university’s effort to foster appreciation for and practice of diversity and the active effort to make a difference in the world.

The next PAPS event will be a showing of the film "American Blackout" at 6 p.m. on Monday, November 10, in Brookens Auditorium. For more information about the PAPS series, contact Gilman-Opalsky by phone at 206-8328 or by e-mail at rgilm3@uis.edu.

Upcoming ECCE programs include a screening and discussion of the film "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama" on October 17. For more information about any ECCE event, contact Kimberly Craig, series coordinator, at 206-6245 or send an e-mail to speakerseries@uis.edu.