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TCNJ alums hit the red carpet at 2021 Academy Awards

The Lucas Brothers, Kenny and Keith, co-wrote the original screenplay for the Oscar-nominated film Judas and the Black Messiah. The brothers graduated from TCNJ in 2007. | Photo:

As Hollywood prepares for its biggest night of the year, twin brothers Keith ’07 and Kenny Lucas ’07 are poised to represent TCNJ in a big way with their Best Screenplay nomination for Judas and the Black Messiah.

The brothers’ idea for Judas — which honors the life of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party who was assassinated by police in 1969 — was first sparked when they learned about Hampton in a TCNJ African American Studies class. Hampton’s story stuck with them, and though most of their careers had been rooted in the world of comedy, they vowed to one day tell it.

“Fred Hampton’s a footnote in Black history,” Keith told’s Amy Kuperinsky. “Even in that class, his story wasn’t emphasized. It was almost like in passing.”

Starring Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther) as Hampton, the movie explores his betrayal by William O’Neal, who infiltrated the group, befriended Hampton, and then turned him over to the FBI.

“Once you hear about Fred Hampton’s assassination, it’s not a story that leaves you,” Keith says.

The biopic has garnered national attention, including Academy Award nods for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song, and Best Original Screenplay.

Judas and the Black Messiah | Photo courtesy

The film has already earned the Lucas brothers The Paul Selvin Award, given by the Writers Guild of America for a “script that best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere and to those whose defense Paul Selvin committed his professional life.”

“It feels amazing,” Kenny told Colorlines about the film’s accolades. “Considering the process that went into getting it done, the history that was made, the fact that the film was well-received, I’m very excited about it.”

Says Keith: “It was good that we were able to honor Fred’s legacy at the highest level, and that matters to me more than anything.”

Dave Pavlak

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