“The Black Panther” by Emory Douglas, January 23 1971
Gordon Parks was undoubtedly an extremely talented man whose influence cut across many spheres most notably in photography and in film-making. He was also a poet, journalist and social activist.
But there was a dark side to the man which has elicited contempt among those who have probed into the hidden aspects of his life. Parks had a lengthy relationship with the CIA, the nature of which has given cause to people such as the Catholic iconoclast, E. Michael Jones, to refer to Parks as a “traitor” to his people.
Parks gave numerous debriefings to the CIA and FBI on his interactions with prominent black civil rights leaders as well as with black revolutionaries such as those belonging to the Black Panther Party. Parks was not merely questioned in regard to things he found out by happenstance, he was actually sent to acquire specific information and to gather intelligence on strategic matters. He may thus have been at least indirectly complicit in the manoeuvres of the American state in undermining of black organisations including the carrying out of assassinations.
Parks is also alleged to have been a key player in a diabolical episode of social engineering of the sort which has had catastrophic ramifications for the black community. The American elites were fearful of and had tired of the increasingly revolutionary bearing of American blacks personified by the radical politics of the Black Panthers and the likes of Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis. So what did they do? They gave Park’s money and a ticket to Hollywood to make so-called ‘Blaxploitation’ movies. Taking the germ of Melvin Van Peebles’ groundbreaking Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, he made Shaft and then helped fund Superfly which was directed by his son, Gordon Parks Jr.
It is Superfly which is seen as the greatest turning point. Many increasingly argue that this film began a trend of exalting the ‘black pimp’ as the role model for black American communities. It created and developed a culture which had a profound effect in destabilising the black family by subverting social norms and values; the fruit of which was increasing levels of homicide, illegitimacy and drug dependency.
Can Parks be blamed entirely for instituting such a ruinous climate? Perhaps not. But he appears to have played his part in creating a downward spiral in the black community which did not happen by chance. Those who financed Parks including Henry Luce of the Time-Life organisation for whom Park’s served as a paid agent had an agenda. And that agenda encompassed a range of objectives including one of social engineering. A Lumpenproletariat of pimps, whores and welfare dependent ne’er-do-wells was infinitely preferable to an ideologically indoctrinated black population committed to effecting change in American society.
High-rolling, drug-dealing and gun-toting gangster-pimps did not threaten the power structure in the manner which ideologically committed revolutionary black activists did. When Superfly came out, Martin Luther King had been dead for five years and the FBI had completed its assassination spree against Black Panther radicals.
The time was ripe for a new model black male, and black America is still counting the cost to this day.
© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)
Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.