In February 2011, inspired by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, a group of young people of color in Gothenburg, Sweden, organized themselves and formed the Panthers for the Restoration of the Suburbs. Gothenburg is one of the most segregated cities in Europe when it comes to ethnicity, creating ghetto-like suburbs far from the city center. Swedish filmmaker Leo Palmestål, who has participated in Panther events, will discuss the Swedish situation and how the Panthers (or in Swedish, Pantrarna) have responded; he’ll also show his documentary, directed with Anders Rundberg and Jennifer Jerez, I’m a Fucking Panther (http://youtu.be/fDIjffXhhFg). Emory Douglas, minister of culture for the Black Panthers, will join Leo in this conversation.
The last couple of years Sweden have suffered from reductions in the welfare system, causing increasing poverty and social vulnerability. As a result, criminal gangs have grown stronger and shootings that end in deaths have become almost everyday occurrences in many suburbs. The Panthers, a group of young people of color in one of these suburbs, refuse to stand by and watch while the world around them collapses. They demand participation in the decisions taken by politicians and officials in order to create a shift in power—that is, more power to the people.
Their actions have ranged from storming politicians’ meetings to demand that they open up a long-closed youth center to arranging soccer tournaments and summer camps to engage youths in positive activities. Just like the Black Panther Party, the Swedish Panthers use social programs to get young people involved in the democratic processes and become politically aware. The group’s aim is to help youths turn away from crime and demand their rights. And the Panthers do this while chanting “All Power to the People!”
For an interview by Gabriel Kuhn with Panther members Homa Badpa, Yassin Ben Salah, and Murat Solmaz, see http://www.alpineanarchist.org/r_pantrarna.html.
Leo Palmestål studied filmmaking at the University of Gothenburg, worked as an editor for music videos, including Madonna’s Music video, and has made several short films and two documentaries about the Panthers. For more info about the film, see http://imafuckingpanther.wordpress.com/english/