Black Panther Woman
Photo by Alina Gozin’a
Inspired by their stylish African American brothers, the genesis of the Black Panther’s Brisbane Chapter is recounted through the eyes of Marlene Cummins, who looks back on the best and worst experiences of this controversial Aboriginal group in the police state of Queensland, in 1971. This unflinching documentary is a journey through the underbelly of Black experience in the volatile period of the 60s and 70s, from an insider’s perspective of a Black Panther woman. This powerful documentary is co-written by Marlene herself, written and directed by multi-award winning filmmaker Rachel Perkins and produced by Blackfella Films, the company behind the documentary series First Australians, the telemovie Mabo and landmark drama series Redfern Now.
Drawn to the party’s potent platform with its fight against racism, discrimination and abuse of black people, Marlene joined the civil rights movement’s Australian chapter. Like her US counterparts, Marlene realized that women “would have to fight for the right to fight for freedom” and provide the backbone for the men of the party. She also soon realized that being a woman was as much a target for abuse as being black and poor. However, capitalism, racism and discrimination was the bigger enemy of the day and this drove Marlene’s involvement in the party. It was the sexist treatment of women however, endorsed by the gender politics of the day, that would drive her out.
Marlene’s artwork depicts issues of black deaths in custody. Marlene was moved to paint this as her friend Doreen Eatts’ (pictured with gag) husband D. Gundy shot point blank by police in his own home in front of his 10 year old son. Marlene’s friend and music colleague, Kev Carmody wrote a song about his controversial death called ‘River of Tears’.
The image depicts Doreen Eatts gagged, as a symbol of the injustice perpetrated on her people since invasion. Although there was a royal commission into deaths in custody over 30 years ago, still not much has changed. The circles represent time eternal which is always on your side. The owl represents the warning that if you don’t make an attempt to right the wrongs, the law of Wandjina will prevail, as Marlene sings in the song ‘Payback’.