'Panthers' fiction, and the harsh Black Panther reality

Nayaba Arinde | 2/15/2018, 8:44 a.m.
Sumptuous scenes and luscious garments quietly screaming African strength and pride in every seam and fold worn by stoic warriors ...
Sekou Odinga

Sumptuous scenes and luscious garments quietly screaming African strength and pride in every seam and fold worn by stoic warriors with powerful speeches is the Marvel Studios-Walt Disney production of “Black Panther.”

“With all the excitement around the ‘Black Panther’ film, we’d like to acknowledge the real Black Panthers,” said veteran Black Panther activist Sadiki Bro. Shep Olugbala, noting names such as Mumia Abu Jamal, Mutulu Shakur (Tupac’s father) and Jalil Muntaqim.

Dequi kioni-sadiki explained, “Hollywood already knows it will make tons of money from the marketing of the iconic-named ‘Black Panther’ movie. What isn’t as equally known is that 13 members of the real-life Black Panthers are serving indeterminately long prison sentences and repeated parole denials in federal and state prisons across this country as U.S.-held political prisoners from the 1960s and ’70s war on Black liberation.”

Kioni-sadiki, the chair of The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, continued, “These real-life Black Panthers, like their fictionalized movie namesake, are committed to and struggled for Black self-determination against imperialism, colonialism and capitalism. These real-life Black Panthers also have pride in the glories of African history, identity and culture, serving and defending the Black nation with a legacy of free breakfast programs, health clinics, drug abuse treatment, food pantries, clothing drives, challenging of police terror and murder of unarmed Black people and other survival programs since co-opted by the government. Sadly, many of them have paid for protecting Black people with their lives, freedom and multiple generations of family separation. For these real-life Black Panthers, the struggle for Black/New African independence and self-determination is anything but a ‘feel-good’ moment of Hollywood fiction. Perhaps, we ought to be asking our real-life Black Panthers their thoughts on this movie, and the irony of a much-maligned, demonized, distorted and threatening to the status quo name and idea like the Black Panthers now being so very mainstream.”

There is most definitely a burgeoning excitement surrounding this already pre-ticket sale record-breaking movie featuring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett and Michael B. Jordan in the fictional African nation of Wakanda.

Reports state that there were at least 100 #BlackPantherChallenge campaigns to bring African-American youth to see the movie cost-free. Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, Sen. Jesse Hamilton and his The Campus initiative partnered with Reel Works to take students from Brownsville’s PS 284 to a pre-screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Some of those students have already stated that they felt inspired seeing an all-Black cast and a fiercesome Black superhero. This accompanied by a palpable Black pride flowing throughout this city and beyond makes for fervent conversations on social media and vibrant dialogue in the real world and digital and print media. All hail journalists such as WPIX 11’s Ojinka Obiekwe, who wore beautiful Topefnr African print and velvet headties several times this week. While interviewing the cast on the red carpet at Tuesday’s Manhattan premiere, she asked, “Did I mention that it is Black Panther week? All week.”

There is a new energy vibrating. Observers are asking will all this trending pride with African warrior symbolism translate into action—education curriculum, political and cultural exchanges?