Photo Credit: Variety
Today, Marvel Universe released the much anticipated Black Panther film as part of the Avenger's series. If you are not into action movies or are unbothered by comic book's making their way to the big screen, this announcement may mean very little to you. Even if you could care less about the genre or the plot an decide to sit this movie out, you are doing yourself an injustice.
I personally could NOT wait to see the movie and went to the advanced screening last night. I was livid when a blatant lie was told on social media that Black Women were not going to support the movie.
I also had to get my Black Panther gear from a Black Owned business - AfriconShop.com, just in time for the movie premier.
Black Panther is hella BLACK, JUST AS I EXPECTED AND WANTED it to be. This movie has action (like I like it), Black star power, and vivid imagery. Proper African and African American REPRESENTATION is interwoven throughout. The acting and the African dialects (used by the American and British actors) are believable. Tribal music is offset by the Kendrick Lamar soundtrack. The costumes are regal. African spirituality is on grand display.
And the plot.... well...
The plot is familiar; a story of REVENGE... The long lost cousin shows up to the Wakanda cookout, bringing up old family dirt about the patriarch everyone believed walked water. Said cousin is in his feelings and looking for retribution. Secrets are revealed and traditions that seemed to have been keeping the family together threaten to tear it apart.
Aside from the bad-assery Marvel's Black Panther is, it is also a metaphor for the division and dysfunction of the Black community since our ancestors were stolen and brought to the Caribbean and the America's. How Sway? Keep reading and stay with me.
The Civil Right Movement was a collective of demonstrations and strategies, sit-ins and speeches, marches and murder that lead to the end of desegregation and the demand for equal rights. Many will say we aren't much better off in 2018 than we were in 1954 for reasons that are obvious.
The Crack Epidemic
The pre-school to prison pipeline
Inadequate funding of schools in low-income communities
The de-funding of HBCUs
Wage differential between Black workers and er'rebody else
Redlining of Black Communities
The failure to properly investigate, try and imprison police officers who kill unarmed men, women, and children of color
And so on and so on and so on...
WTF does this have to do with Black Panther?
The beautiful and too real struggle in the Black Community mirrors the conflict found in Wakanda, the African country where the power of the people lies - Wakanda's natural resources. In the film, you see a family and a nation divided over what to do with the resources and the power that it yields.
Photo Credit: Marvel Studios
Like Malcolm and Martin, Erik Killmonger and King T'Challa find themselves in a battle of the Revolutionary vs. The Peacemaker. Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, is enraged by the leaders and they people of Wakanda who have been portraying to the global community that is is a suffering third-world country when in fact, Wakanda has the technology to help the oppressed living around the world. He's come to take the thrown, empower the oppressed suffering violence by the hands of the "colonizers" aka white people, and through violence, reclaim a position of power by force, giving them Wakanda's advanced weaponry. Essentially, Erik wants revolution by any means necessary straight from The Black Panther Party 10 point program in the righteous indignation of Malcolm X.
King T'challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, opposes this idea. T'Challa is comfortable and complacent. He only fights for others when necessary and he only fights in disguise as Black Panther, keeping secret his true identity and the vast wealth Wakanda holds. He has little desire to involve himself in the affairs of the world even as he attends United Nations meetings. He calls for unity but like his father, King T'Chaka (who died in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War) he is willing to do very little PUBLICLY for the betterment for people outside of his community who look like him but are hurting.
I know plenty of people in the Black community like T'Challa who live life unconcerned about others because "me & mine are straight". Those within the Black community who seemingly made it out of the hood with degrees, passing judgement on other Black folks for buying weave, Jordan's and chicken. Yeah, y'all negros. Focusing on poor choices while ignoring the systemic and institutional issues that also attribute to poverty in the Black community. But I digress.
Photo Credit: Marvel Studios
Erik Killmonger, grew up in 1990's era Oakland in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating living in an apartment with his father that don's a Public Enemy poster on the wall, a far cry from the kingdom that is Wakanda. The movie details how Erik's father was murdered, by who, why and how he advanced in his career to position himself to one day challenge his cousin T'Challa for the throne. He has masterminded his way to righting the wrongs done to him personally and to put Africa diasporac people in their rightful place, fully prepared to fight the power. Seriously, how the hell did anyone expect him to react? Erik was left in the hood while his people were over in the promise land.
T'Challa grew up a King's kid being groomed for the crown in the admiration of his father planning to walk in his footsteps and mirror his political exploits within and outside of Wakanda. Upon leaning of the mishandling of long-lost cousin Erik, T'Challa is challenged to change his views of misleading the world about Wakanda's thriving society.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a similar "come to Jesus" moment just before his assassination. In a conversation with actor Harry Belafonte, King stated, “I fear I may have integrated my people into a burning house.” Dr. Martin Luther King realized the advancement of colored people would ultimately be an issue of Black spending power and economic empowerment. By the end of Black Panther, you will see just how T'Challa chooses to integrate Wakanda into the rest of the world by BUYING THE BLOCK.
The role of the women of Wakanda in Black Panther also run parallel to the Civil Rights Movement "ran by the men while the women keep the tempo" and our place of prominence in the #MeToo Movement.
Photo Credit: Marvel Studios
Wakanda's STEM genius happens to be T'Challa's teenage sister, Shuri played by Letitia Wright, the quintessential essence of BLACK GIRLS CODE. She is solely responsible for the technological advancements the people of Wakanda enjoy as well as the suit Black Panther wears when he is in fight mode.
Every member of the Wakanda army is a BLACK WOMAN, donned in all red, bald-headed and ready to do battle. Leading the Dora Milaje Wakandan military and royal secret service is the loyal Okoye, played by Danai Gurira. She's so fierce, she stops raging rhinoceroses in their tracks. The Queen, figuratively and literally is Angela Bassett in the role of Ramonda, unarguably standing by her son.
Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is a Wakandan spy, sent on global missions to alert T'Challa and the Dora Milaje of injustice and unrest. She is also T'Challa's love interest, an alpha female choosing to use her skills to help others instead of sitting idle next to the king. When the time comes, she protects the ones she loves and fights for her country.
My stance on Black Panther has been and continues to remain the same: a fictitious Wakanda is everything Mother Africa would be had their been no actual colonization. Modern medicine, science, philosophy, government, math, astrology, astronomy, trade and economy has its original roots in Africa. We can only image what Africa could have been had it not been invaded, looted and plundered. On this entire planet, Black people have no where we can go to find refuge. There is no safe space for us to be an enjoy our blackness, celebrate our success, assess our strengths, weaknesses and develop a plan to defeat oppression uninterrupted. Where do we go, what do we do, and how to combat what is being done to us as well as address our inability to mobilize among ourselves to reclaim what was stripped from us? Like Martin and Malcolm before us, Killmonger and T'Challa afford us two sets of ideas to achieve one purpose.
If you have the mind to apply force and revolt, a character like Erik Killmonger will resonate with you. If you realize at the root of injustice, global leadership, the abuse of power or the decision to wield it by economic investment, then an conscious King T'Challa will impress you. Morality and ideas of social uprising cannot be set aside; Black Panther is more than entertaining - it causes you to pause and challenges you to keep fighting the good fight. If it doesn't, re-read this blog post again.