Marlene Cummins was a poor, uneducated teenager, already carrying the scars of discrimination, when she met the leader of AustraliaGÇÖs Black Panther Party in 1972. She fell madly in love with him and her education into Black Power began the night she moved into the Panther headquarters in Brisbane. The little known Brisbane chapter of the Black Panther Party was directly inspired by the American Panthers. They adapted their politics, and their militant, sexy style of black leather and a defiant attitude. Like their American comrades, they also raised suspicious attentions from the Police and ASIO. Yet unlike their American comrades, who numbered in the thousands across America, the Australian chapter comprised just ten members. In one heady year, this small group of young Aboriginal people staged educational theatre shows, kept watch on the police on what they called GÇÿpig patrolsGÇÖ and were at the forefront of demonstrations including the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. The ideological revolution sweeping the world coincided with the sexual revolution. Suddenly black men had status and white women wanted a part of it. The tensions around the movement and her personal life tightened around Marlene and finally led to the break up of her relationship with the partyGÇÖs leader. Marlene filled the vacuum with alcohol and quickly spiralled into a cycle of addiction that left her on the streets and vulnerable. Her vulnerability and her belief in the movement made her a target for black men in power. Marlene recalls the incident of her rape, by two Indigenous leaders, after which she made the difficult decision to stay silent. Dedicated to the cause and distrustful of police, she, like other Aboriginal women facing abuse, chose to stay silent to protect the movement from criticism. Forty years later, and still struggling with addiction, she looks back on her involvement in the Aboriginal protest movement from her housing commission flat in the community of Redfern. Marlene journeys to New York to an international gathering of Black Panthers. The journey takes her back in time, to her love affair, her time with the Panthers and the question of the place of women in the movement. Now a grandmother and no longer afraid, she speaks out about her experiences. This film presents her attempt to heal herself and her ongoing battle with addiction, and to add her voice to those calling for a halt to the abuse of black women from within their own community.
Black Panther Woman
Sometimes the price of revolution is higher than any one woman can pay.