When filmmaker Mario Van Peebles made “Panther,” his highly stylized film about the stunning rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, some former members of the once-revered and feared organization castigated the film’s historical deficiencies. Panther cofounder Bobby Seale branded the movie as “poetic lies.”
So, on a balmy July afternoon shortly after its release in 1995, I went to see the film — with Kathleen Cleaver who, decades earlier, was the Panthers’ high-profile communications secretary and spokesperson. In a near-empty theater in Harvard Square, I watched as Cleaver, then a fellow at the Buntin...
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