The film “Black Panther” garnered $900 million at the box office since the President’s Day weekend opening and during Black History Month. The goal of colossal film openings is to make gigantic stacks of cash. It’s no secret, mega-parent company Disney and Marvel wanted to make money. It’s capitalism and no country does it like the U.S.
Yet, there are eight reasons why “Black Panther” is not your everyday Hollywood blockbuster and exists as a revolutionary masterpiece for organizers to educate the African Diaspora.
African art, culture and customs
As a Black community organizer for approximately 20 years, one of my most significant and difficult tasks has always been to transform the everyday community member into a community organizer. We need to replenish human resources and develop sisterhood and brotherhood among our African people. Toward that end, Black people must know that they are African people. Being Black is not limited to having melanin.
“Black Panther” accomplishes this objective in the opening scene by identifying African artifacts and noting that Europe stole Africa’s art and culture. Erik Killmonger plays coy with the museum curator as she describes the different artifacts that he questions her about. He then corrects her on the last piece, although it was from a fictional country, it underscores the point that Africa has rich art and culture for millennia.
Of course, the entire film is rife with African art through the wardrobe and set design. In addition, there is the circle of elders and younger men and women from the Wakandan families. “Black Panther” gives the Black community the visual of seeing African families discuss as a unit.
A different type of Hollywood director
Let’s take a back step for a minute to learn who the genius behind “Black Panther” really is—Ryan Coogler, the co-writer and director. In a Vanity Fair video interview, Coogler goes off the usual Marvel Comics script to interweave the concept of liberation and Pan-Africanism. Pan-Africanism is the ideology of activists and organizers that unites members of the African Diaspora. It is hopeful to hear Coogler explain to viewers, “The Pan-African flag is red, black and green.” The clothes color combinations of Nakia, Okoye and T’Challa is not by accident.
Coogler first debuted as director and co-writer of “Fruitvale Station” (2013). The Oakland-born director beautifully transformed a budget of $900,000 into $17.4 million in sales, which is why he was tapped by Marvel executives in the first place.
“Fruitvale Station” was based on Oscar Grant III’s last day on earth and his untimely death at the hands of a white police officer on the Fruitvale Station platform in Oakland, Calif., in 2009. Coogler chose to humanize the whole person of Grant and briefly share the problems of police-profiling and the slew of powerful protests against police murder that followed Grant’s death.
Black women are the most valuable asset
There are numerous signs that indicate the filmmaker decided to not create Black actresses out of stereotypical caricatures only to exist as love interests. First up, Shuri, acted by Letitia Wright. She is the young genius who is responsible for the advancement of the modern Wakandan society. Shuri oversees the production and design of the military machinery and arsenal. She is also prepared to fight whenever necessary.
Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia. It is pivotal to point out that Nakia is already prepared to fight for Black women on the continent of Africa and she is internationally connected. She is the Black revolutionary you thought you envisioned in Erik Killmonger. Nakia believes in and promotes the idea that Wakandan society can utilize its resources to help others. She is the most resourceful and unattached for the most part.
General Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, is the powerful leader of the Dora Milaje, a warrior society of Black women. She is clearly fierce, but the most intriguing and revolutionary part of the movie comes when she declines Nakia’s request to follow her when T’Challa is dethroned and thrown off the cliff. This scene is translated as (1) Black women recognizing that they are stable beings able to keep the continuity of the regal tradition and (2) Black women do not have to follow men (Black or otherwise) to be great.
Black women caused none of the drama that ensued in Wakandan society or the world, but they stand guard as always to restore everything in its rightful place.
Black people, go veg!
For a vegan who abstains from consuming any animal products, it was shocking and liberating for M’Baku, leader of the Jabari clan, played by Winston Duke, to state, “We are vegetarian.” The point highlights that huge, muscular men can abstain from animal flesh and still obtain necessary levels of protein. Also, it’s a dog whistle to the Black community’s unhealthy eating of animal flesh, causing high rates of heart disease and cancer.
Erik Killmonger’s path isn’t revolutionary
Sorry, y’all. You can’t helm the Mother Elder up, slay the Wakandan shaman and threaten to destroy the most advanced African society with the goal of uniting African people. However, Killmonger, acted by Michael B. Jordan, did a tremendous job of illustrating how not to unify African people and how traumatic it is living under white colonialism. When Ross says, “Killmonger is one of ours,” he means he is bred by the U.S. and utilized as an incredibly sharpened knife for the purposes of imperialism. Therefore, he is not capable of being a leader of any African people.
Be an organizer like Black Panther
Before making this point, we must be careful in not fusing “Black Panther” the Marvel comic book with a Black Panther who is a former member of the Black Panther Party, formed to gain self-determination for Black people in the U.S. Seasoned organizers know best how to navigate this discussion or engage in community action to help shine light on political prisoners.
T’Challa was able to unite the Jabari clan with his clan and the other clans of Wakanda. He did not cape for Ross the CIA agent when the Jabari clan shut down Ross. T’Challa, the Black Panther, was able to understand that although Killmonger was wrong in his actions, he had excellent points and a right to be angry. The interpretation is that so-called Black Americans must comprehend that there are Africans in Africa who love us and understand our collective history.
T’Challa also relied heavily on all the Black women, all while fighting to change the ideologies of Wakanda’s former leaders.
White people, be allies
Ross, played by Martin Freeman, did blow up the last jet that was heading to the Western world. Ross was instructed and taught by Shuri.
White folks have a job if they are to be allies, and that is to take direction from the Black and POC organizers to set the world right today. White allies are key to stopping racism, imperialism and colonialism. They must relinquish the resources that were stolen by their forefathers.
The African debt is ridiculous
African debt is around a quarter of a trillion dollars. This debt is a game played by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the G-8 nations that provide funds to Western companies to work on projects crafted by U.N. partners. This reality makes the ending incredulous.
After film credits begin rolling, T’Challa addresses the U.N. to offer the world assistance. It is difficult to witness because it intends to give the world more access to Africa’s natural resources.
However, it is one of the most realistic scenes in “Black Panther.” Africa gave the world life and civilization, technology and deposits daily wealth through diamonds, gold, coltan, rubber, etc. Now, Africa wants to do more. At this point, I see this scene as T’Challa representing an Africa finally setting the terms of conditions.
Omowale Adewale is a vegan boxer and Grassroots Artists MovEment G.A.ME executive director.