Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens next Monday, January 27:
THE FIRST RAINBOW COALITION
Vermont, Global Peace
The story of a pioneering but little-known multi-ethnic coalition of activists.
In the watershed year of 1969, Chicago was one of America’s most segregated cities, with different areas understood to be the exclusive domain of specific demographics, and, in the poorer neighborhoods, gangs or other organizations arising to protect their turf. The one thing that united rival groups like the Latinx Young Lords, the African American Black Panthers, and the self-described white rednecks called the Young Patriots was class disparity and what came with it – lower quality housing, education, and health care – as well as poor treatment from law enforcement. Finding a common cause, they set aside their petty rivalries and joined forces, adopting a multi-hued striped flag as a diverse symbol, and becoming political activists – a development that didn’t sit well with the FBI, the Chicago police, or Mayor Richard Daley, who targeted their Rainbow Coalition as extremists, leading to the death of Panther leader Fred Hampton. Ray Santisteban draws from participants in this forward-thinking coalition members as well as archival footage to offer a primer on this fascinating history, but the film’s too-short length limits its fuller impact.