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The tumultuous period known as "the '60s" continues to cast a long shadow across the contemporary American experience. Few, if any, of the seminal conflicts that drove the era "” civil rights, war and peace, racism, women's liberation "” have been fully resolved today. Nor have all the key players in that national drama been tried, pardoned, punished, vindicated, or even allowed to come home.

"A Panther in Africa," a new documentary having its national broadcast premiere on public television's P.O.V. series, is the story of Pete O'Neal, one of the last exiles from the time of Black Power, when young rebels advocated black pride, unity, community service and sometimes, violence. Facing gun charges in Kansas City in 1970, O'Neal fled to Algeria, where he joined other Panther exiles. Unlike the others, however, O'Neal never found his way back to America. He moved on to Tanzania, where for over 30 years he has struggled to continue his life of social activism "” and to hold on to his identity as an African-American.

Pete O'Neal, the militantly outspoken founder of the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party, was eating breakfast on October 30, 1969 when four A.T.F. agents broke down his door and arrested him for transporting a gun across state lines. One year later, he was convicted of the charge, which he has always insisted was trumped up as part of the federal government's illegal COINTELPRO efforts "” subsequently exposed "” to imprison or kill Panther leaders. Before sentencing, O'Neal received warnings that he might not get out of prison alive, and decided to flee the country rather than submit to imprisonment.

"A Panther in Africa" is both heartening and heart-wrenching in its exploration of what life has held for O'Neal in the 30 years since he fled America. Still considered a criminal fugitive by the United States government, O'Neal continues to fight his conviction, refusing any deal that falls short of vindication. At the same time, while able to reflect on the excesses of 1960s radicals and his own past as a street hustler, O'Neal remains unapologetic about his Panther past. Even as he has worked to build a new and socially constructive life in Tanzania, O'Neal remains very much the man shaped by his youthful struggles "” and very much an American.

In 1991, Pete and his wife, Charlotte, who followed him into exile, founded The United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC) in Tanzania. The organization sponsors an international exchange program for underprivileged American and Tanzanian teenagers. The O'Neals also coordinate study-abroad programs for several U.S. universities, bringing American college students to The UAACC to work alongside young Tanzanians while teaching them English, computer skills and HIV/AIDS awareness.

But the ironies, both painful and humorous, accumulate in O'Neal's daily existence. Conversations with visiting white Americans from Alabama leave him uneasy about the country's willingness to face its recent history of racism. Inner-city black teenagers from Kansas City "” whose sojourn to rural Africa includes a ceremonial welcome by local tribes people "” don't share O'Neal's enthusiasm. They complain of boredom and the lack of fast food, and adamantly assert that they are Americans and not Africans. They eventually warm up to their hosts, but O'Neal frets that he is increasingly remote from American realities.

Nor does he feel completely at home in Tanzania. Even after 30 years, O'Neal struggles to feel rooted in his adopted country, immersing himself in community work while drawing strength from the steady and optimistic Charlotte. But the fact remains that O'Neal is the only member of the Wameru tribe who enjoys CNN, Charlie Parker and Southern barbecue. Battling isolation, yearly bouts of malaria, and the many difficulties faced by any enterprise in the African bush, O'Neal remains an exile in fact and in spirit.

O'Neal's anguish is partially relieved by two dramatic reunions that took place during the filming of "A Panther in Africa." His 83-year-old mother, Florene, arrives for a rare visit. Also, a former Panther comrade, Geronimo Pratt, only recently freed from prison after 27 years on a conviction that was quashed because of FBI malfeasance, decides to build a home nearby. But the reunions also serve to emphasize how O'Neal remains a man caught between past and present, America and Africa. He knows he may well never see his mother again, or even be able to attend her funeral. And Pratt, like O'Neal, is another man trying to find his place after years of exclusion from American society. Will O'Neal continue his legal battle to clear his name? Will he ever be able to return to the U.S.? And what does O'Neal's life of struggle and exile tell us about the American past and future?

"I view 'A Panther in Africa' as a companion piece to my previous P.O.V. documentary, "My American Girls: A Dominican Story," about one Dominican family and their experiences in Brooklyn," says filmmaker Aaron Matthews. "Around the same time that the Ortiz family immigrated to the United States in pursuit of the American dream, Pete O'Neal was fleeing this country and combining 1960s values from America with African notions of the extended family. I think that the stories of Sandra Ortiz and Pete O'Neal both offer an opportunity to look at America's past and present, and to explore the richness and complexity of being a modern-day American. Both Sandra and Pete struggle with their transnational identities but they also gain a tremendous amount of strength from their between-two-world status."

"I also hope that Pete's life in some way is a motivation for people," Matthews continues. "At a time when most people are considering retirement, he has opened up his home and turned his whole property into a community center. In spite of his difficulties, he continually finds new ways to contribute to the community."
Egungun, Egungun ni t'aiye ati jo! Ancestos, Ancestors come to earth and dance! "I'm sick of the war and the civilization that created it. Let's look to our dreams, and the magical; to the creations of the so-called primitive peoples for new inspirations." - Jaques Vache and Andre Breton "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone." -John Maynard "You know that in our country there were even matriarchal societies where women were the most important element. On the Bijagos islands they had queens. They were not queens because they were the daughters of kings. They had queens succeeding queens. The religious leaders were women too..." -- Amilcar Cabral, Return to the Source, 1973
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I have seen this thread several times while browsing through this board. Never clicking on it but saying everytime I seen I need to come back to it. Well I am a documentary buff, I am watching a documenatary as I write this. As I opened up my other net flix red envelope and take the movie out to see what had come in, I read "A Panther in Africa", I thought to myself, that sound familiar and then I come here to see was it here where I seen in and it was. I will watch this tonight or tomorrow and report back on what I thought of it. Just thought I would share that.

BTW Oshun if you love documentaries as I do, Netflix has a great library of them. Right now I have "A Panther in Africa", "Life and Debt" and that Spike Lee joint "Four Little Girls".
Originally posted by Faheem:
BTW Oshun if you love documentaries as I do, Netflix has a great library of them. Right now I have "A Panther in Africa", "Life and Debt" and that Spike Lee joint "Four Little Girls".

I know you were directing this at OA, but I had to chime in.

"Life and Debt" is one of the most eye opening docs. that I have ever seen - let me know what you think. "Four Little Girls" is, by far, Spike Lee's BEST work, IMHO - again, let a brother know your thoughts.
Hey if you all have satellite and get the chance to order it, I suggest that you all watch LinkTV. They have GREAT documentaries all of the time. Things that PBS won't even show. You can link to their website at
Some of the documentaries I had the opportunity to watch that were VERY enlightening were a documentary about the Nuba of the Sudan who are victims of genocide LONG before those in Darfur, a documentary about Mamady Keita, a documentary about Ali Faraka Toure, a documentary about the IMF policies affect in Ghana (very good), a documentary about the African influence on Brazilian culture.....the list goes on and on.
If you all don't have satellite go ahead and visit the website. Lots of good information there.
Thanks for all the advice on how to access more documentaries everyone. Faheem I share your "addiction"...and you guys have given me more access to getting my "fix"


I agree about Life and Debt being "eye openning" say the least. I actually purchased 'Life and Debt' on DVD as soon as it was available(I harrassed the distribution company for a couple of months to get the release date). I think it is one of the best movies I have seen at explaining IMF/World Bank policies with the 3rd world and the neo-colonialism that is a result of them.

I haven't seen the Spike Lee joint...I'll have to check it out.


You now have me doing pre-emptive budgetting to get Satalite TV... Big Grin

And for the fellow addicts, here are some other docs you guys might like...

The Revolution Will Not be Televised

A doc about Hugo Chavez and the C.I.A. backed coup...all actual live footage of the coup attempt.

Bus 174

A doc about a Brazilian bus hostage situation that explors race and class divisions

And although 'City of God' is not a doc...but an independant film(one of my favorites) I suggest getting the DVD because it has an additional documentary on Brazil.
The documentary I was watching when I wrote my post above was titled "Deadline". It is about the Criminal Justice system primarily in Ilinois. This documentary chronicles the Governor of Illinois clearing Death Row and what led up to it. I will be writing a piece on this doumentary for my blog. This is definetly a great one to see.

Also, the documetary "Hunting of the President".

This Documentary Chronicles the GOP battle to destroy Bill Clinton. The best thing about this Documentary is you get to see how these devils work together to destroy a person. This documetary gives great insight in to what a conspiracy is all about, and how it ca be carried out without the public knowing.

I have plenty more I will share...

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