The Big Cigar: Is Teressa Dixon Based on a Real Black Panther Party Member?

Apple TV+’s ‘The Big Cigar’ turns the spotlight towards Huey Newton, the leader and co-founder of the Black Panther party, focusing mainly on the villainization of the party and its members by the authorities. The events go back and forth in time from when Newton laid the foundation of the party and became the face of the movement to the time when the noose of the law started to tighten around him, and he was forced to flee the very country and people for whom he was fighting the system.

In the very masculine portrayal of the party, there is also a heavily feminine side with the women taking charge, even though it largely goes unacknowledged. With characters like Teressa Dixon, the makers of the Apple TV+ series pay tribute to all those women who worked behind the scenes and rarely got credit for it.

Teressa Dixon Represents the Tireless Women of the Black Panther Party

Played by Moses Ingram, Teressa Dixon is introduced as a fiery young member of the party who quickly proves herself highly resourceful, especially after she convinces Huey to let Bert Schneider give his money to the cause. It is unclear how Newton and Schneider met in real life, though in her book, Elaine Brown claims it was through her that the men met and laid the foundation of a friendship that would last for years. The show takes a bit of creative license in depicting that side of the story, but Teressa’s character isn’t limited to this notable introduction.

With the cops and the FBI on his tail, Huey is forced to leave his party and his people behind and focus on his own survival by fleeing to Cuba. In his absence, party members like Teressa take charge and don’t just keep the movement alive but help it flourish. Through her and other women in the show, we get a glimpse into the role that the women played in keeping up the spirit of the revolution, even though they were never really considered to represent it. That part was taken over mostly by men, who would also be a more important target for the authorities.

Reportedly, at that time, 66% of the Black Panther party members were women who were heavily involved in all social programs, from educating the young to feeding the poor. The women of the party were just as, if not more, strong-headed about the work of the party and the idea of liberation. Much like the men, they would be seen in afros and black leather jackets, upping the charisma of the party, something that it was already known for.

In ‘Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party,’ Stephen Shames and Ericka Huggins, a significant member of the party who served for fourteen years as its member, turn the attention towards all the women who had played a crucial role in keeping the party alive and kicking on all ends, while facing the same challenges, including the threat of prison, as a male member of the party. Recalling the times she spent with the party and the work she did with other women, Huggins said that their stories were “striking, touching and inspiring,” and despite all the pushback from the government, they “kept stepping out and stepping up, because [they] were giving [their] communities what had never been given.”

In ‘The Big Cigar,’ the presence of the female members of the party is strongly felt, especially by Huey Newton, who leaves everything upon Teressa and other women when he himself is not able to be there due to the murder charges. Despite the challenges faced by them, the women find ways to keep helping and serving their community, no matter what it takes.

Read More: Martin Gordan: Ex-Black Panther Member is Still Serving His Community Today