Caption: My sister Laurinda & I after we saw the film this past Friday for the first time.
NOTE: Please do not read if you have not seen the film Black Panther! There are spoilers!!!!
Why Black Panther The Film Matters
The best part of Black Panther was seeing all of the little kids walking out excited.
In addition to the customary:
What’s your favorite color?
What’s your favorite food?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Another ice breaker for little people is “who is your favorite superhero?”
Spiderman, Superman, Batman and Captain America when unmasked are not reflections of little brown boys and girls.
There is Miles Morales, who is to replace Peter Parker as Spiderman, and he’s Black & Latino:
In many cases Black Superheroes on film have been a part of the ensemble… they contribute to the overall mission but they are NOT the leader or the focus of the storyline.
Check out this list of 35+ Black Superheroes, ranked by fans.
Imagine what it meant for women and girls when Wonder Woman was introduced in December 1941. It brings me to tears to think that when asked, black children can now say that their favorite superhero is “Black Panther.”
Wakanda Action Plan + Lessons From The Film
Black Panther as a film is important because (Note: Spoiler Alert!)
(1) “It is the first major superhero movie with an African protagonist; the first to star a majority black cast; and in Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”), the first to employ a black writer and director.” (New York Times)
(2) Africans and African Americans are often portrayed as primitive, second-class citizens, slaves, ignorant, ghettoized, etc. I’ll never forget my mother sharing stories about her education about Africa. She talked about seeing Tarzan, and learning nothing but limited and negative portrayals of the continent.
(3) Women are strong, intelligent and assertive. In Black Panther black masculinity is not challenged by black femininity. The male characters express vulnerability – they cry, they show affection to women. In the council of elders, women are represented & play an equal role. The most intelligent character, who is a scientist is T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri. The leading general of Wakanda is Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) who ultimately brings peace by threatening to murder her lover W’Kabi, challenging the stereotype that women make their decisions emotionally.
(4) The film addresses colonialism and white supremacy. The black characters are allowed to express their fear and apprehension of white supremacy & colonialism in ways that are reflective and honest. There are parallels between the most important natural resource “vibranium” with Africa’s actual natural resources – gold, diamonds, etc. Check out this article 12 Ways To Be A White Ally, and this comprehensive tool with tips for being a Strong White Ally. I also wrote a blog about different actions that can be taken to combat racism here. Also if you are a parent, here is a curated list of books that you can read with your children to begin teaching them about racism.
5) The black people in the film are diverse. There are those that live in the “urban” city of Wakanda, those that live in rural areas W’Kabi (played by Daniel Kaluuya) and M’Baku (played by Winston Duke) who lives in a snowy, mountainous area. Then of course you have Erik Killmonger who was an African raised in America.
(6) The tension between individualism and collectivism. T’challa has to wrestle with protecting the safety & security of Wakanda, vs. sharing resources and information for the black diaspora around the world.
(7) The promise of intergenerational unity. The elders are held in high regard and contribute in meaningful ways to the society. In order for the King to rule, he has to seek council of the ancestors through a ritual. It is the elders that facilitate the challenge rituals.
(8) Hip Hop is the soundtrack. Kendrick Lamar’s voice is heard periodically throughout the film. The film opens with Too Short’s “In The Trunk” and Oakland, an homage to Ryan Coogler’s roots, as he is from Oakland. Oakland also has significance to Black Americans because it is where the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was created in 1966. Notice the symbolism between the classic Huey P. Newton photo, founder of the Black Panther Party and T’Challa:
Check out the music video Kendrick & SZA did for “All the Stars” which is on the Black Panther Soundtrack:
(9) The film offers a solution at the end – collaboration and cultural exchanges as King T’Challa sets up a center in Oakland where his genius sister will lead a STEM Program for the kids in Oakland. It is a pan-African approach that many African & African American thought-leaders have explored. According to Wikipedia, Modern Pan-Africanism began around the start of the 20th century. The African Association, later renamed the Pan African Association, was established around 1897 by Henry Sylvester Williams, who organized the First Pan African Conference in London in 1900. For further study about Pan-Africanism read the writings and listen to speeches by the following individuals. When it comes to this study I recommend first looking for primary sources where the individuals are speaking directly about their philosophies and then you can read interpretations and second-hand accounts to draw your own conclusions.
(1) Malcolm X
(2) Kwame Nkrumah
(3) Haile Selassie
(4) Marcus Garvey
(5) Muammar Gaddafi (who was pursuing a new currency that all African countries could use prior to his death)
The University of Chicago hosted a Pan African Conference last Fall and created a library with useful articles here.
Here is a list of the top 25 African American Conventions. If you are aware of others that you’d recommend for others to attend please drop a link in the comments section below.
I am on the local advisory committee for Policy Link’s Equity Summit and encourage you to attend the convention in April if you’re in or near Chicago. We are anticipating 4,000+ attendees.
Other things you can do to advance the themes of Black Panther in addition to increasing your knowledge and linking up with other black people (and allies, as the CIA Agent in the film was an ally & we need people of other races to advocate, speak-up and in some cases literally fight against oppression with us)
(1) Donate to an organization that is doing great work in the community. (Donda’s House is always in need of support and I encourage you to learn more about our work with young creatives here or make a contribution to support the work here. Imagination is one of the most important and underutilized tools that we have to fight oppression and our work at Donda’s House is about cultivating the imagination so that we CAN have more Ryan Cooglers, Chadwick Bosemans, Lupita Nyongo’s. Feel free to drop a link to your own organization or favorite organization in the comments below so that more people can learn about you.
(2) Support black-owned businesses. Check out the Brij Embassy (it is an economic approach to creating Wakanda). Also Saint Heron (Solange’s company) has curated lists of Black Owned Businesses in multiple cities available here.
(3) Donate & support black candidates. Shout to my brother Michael Tubbs who is Mayor of
Wakanda Stockton, California. Learn more about him here. Follow him on Instagram here. Follow him on Twitter here. I can’t even describe how proud I am as we met through our connection with the Children’s Defense Fund and our mentor Marian Wright Edelman. If you can’t donate volunteer to collect petition signatures, make phone calls, etc. for candidates.
(4) Support black artists & black content creators by purchasing their art, attending their concerts, gallery showings, sharing their work on social media and sharing articles written about them and their work. In 2018, Metrics are super important and it doesn’t cost anything to “like” or “share” content.
(6) Support the past, present & future of those involved with the film.
Writer – Joe Robert Cole – Profile here.
Shout out to the entire Dora Milaje! #squadgoals #tribegoals
Everett K. Ross – Martin Freeman – Profile here. Not on Instagram or Twitter. There are a couple of fan sites for Martin available.
M’Baku – Winston Duke – Profile here. Instagram here. Twitter here. (Apparently this brother has women barking like dogs and willing to move to the snowy mountains lol, at least according to my timeline…)
For the remainder of the cast click here.
Set Decoration – Jay Hart – Not on social media.
To view the remainder of the crew click here.
This is resource. Please feel free to list any links to articles, black owned business directories, articles, etc. that would be helpful for others as we all collectively pursue manifesting Wakanda, as it was represented in the film.