Forest Whitaker shared his neighborhood with a number of revolutionaries in his youth.
The 52-year-old Academy Award-winning actor stars in political biopic The Butler.
He portrays real-life manservant Cecil Gaines, an African-American who worked in the White House serving every American president from Dwight D. Eisenhower through to Ronald Reagan.
In the feature Cecil’s son gets involved with the Black Panther Party, but the butler was reluctant to compromise his job by supporting any Civil Rights Era activities.
Forest was inadvertently involved with political revolutionaries as a boy and he has fond memories of his neighborhood insurgents.
“I grew up and I was raised in South Central LA, so the Black Panther Party’s office was around the corner from my house. So, every day I saw them as kids, they picked me up, they knew my name,” he told Cinema Blend.
“I knew the Panthers were cool. I remember looking at the poster of [Huey P. Newton]. It was right there on the corner, and I remembered that they were really nice to me and I knew that they stood for strength and I remember what happened in school when the deaths happened, with King, and things like that.”
Forest respects the Panthers for how they contributed to his community.
The star claims that although he didn’t really understand their purpose when he was a kid, he now believes vilification of the organization is far-fetched.
“I don’t think I’d understand the principles of the party, because originally, like the Black Panther Party, a lot of organisations started off as neighborhood help organizations, like the Crip was a neighborhood, the gang was a neighborhood help organization,” he explained.
“They started in Los Angeles, to help the community, you know what I mean, and then it grew into something else and turned into something else, basically because of pressure and dysfunction of what society does when it doesn’t offer the economic opportunities as well as opportunities to be able to be treated as a human being.”
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