In the weeks leading up to the premiere of Black Panther, I read and heard many great reviews for the movie. The hype was so tremendous that I began to wonder if any movie could live up to it. After seeing it I can say not only did Black Panther meet my basic expectations of a sci fi superhero movie—it exceeded them in a way that goes way beyond sci-fi entertainment.
Black Panther 101
For the uninitiated, Black Panther, is a fictional superhero published by Marvel Comics. Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent in long list of superheroes.
The name Black Panther is given to the chief of the Panther tribe in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Wakanda is a hidden oasis of advanced technology and culture that evaded European colonization, which ravaged other countries on the continent.
Although Black Panther is an hereditary title, the heir still must earn the right to rule. As you can guess, Black Panther possesses qualities of a black panther, such as acute senses, speed, agility, and reflexes. And as a superhero, his panther-like qualities are enhanced by super strength, stamina, durability, and healing.
I want you to see this movie, so I won’t provide specific plot details. But I will make a few comments about my general observations.
The acting in the Black Panther movie was superb. Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther was great casting. He captured the complexity of being the ruler of Wakanda. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger delivered a solid performance as the sympathetic villain. The villainy of Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue combined treachery and gallows humor for a memorable performance.
It was fantastic to see Lupita Nyong’o in her role as Nakia. This Oscar winner deserved a role worthy of her acting range. Angela Bassett was regal and strong as the mother of Black Panther. Letitia Wright as Shuri, Black Panther’s genius inventor sister, was a joy to watch as Wakanda’s version of James Bond’s “Q”.
The cinematography and digital effects were top notch. Kudos to director Ryan Coogler. He weaved a masterpiece that combined the suspenseful action of a superhero movie with a strong, thought provoking storyline.
A few thoughts
When you see Black Panther, you’ll undoubtedly come away with many thoughts and impressions. For me, two themes resonated the most—the role of women and the issues of the African diaspora.
In Wakanda, women are fierce warriors who protect the kingdom. They contribute to every facet of their society—politics, military, science and technology—as well as being nurturing mothers and loyal citizens. In many African cultures women lead their society. The concept of relegating women to subservient, submissive roles emanates from the notions of colonization. The power and strength black women possess are often maligned. This white male patriarchal society is threatened by the fierceness and determination of black women who bear the weight of racism as it tears the fabric of our families.
When our men are killed, imprisoned, or psychologically deflated, it’s black women who bear the torch of freedom and resistance. We rock the cradles, often by ourselves. We work jobs for significantly less pay, regardless of the profession. We are called “emasculators” because of our strength and authority, or ugly because we’re judged by European standards of beauty. These attitudes and insults strip our femininity and humanity. In this society, we never get the respect we expect and deserve. Yet, in spite of this legacy, we press on—for our children, for our men, for ourselves.
I’ve been working on technology education initiatives in eight Sub-Saharan Africa countries for over the past ten years. I spent a year teaching in a university in Tanzania (Zanzibar). In my first lecture to my students, I expressed my desire for Africans to become leaders in technological innovation. If Africans embraced technology and became major players, it would not only improve the lives of continental Africans, but influence others in the diaspora.
I urged those students to reach out beyond the continent when they reached a level of success. African children, whether in the United States, the Caribbean, and so on, would be inspired by their example and support. The students didn’t seem to get that they could reach out to Africans in the United States. I suppose because of Obama, they couldn’t see how they could influence and assist African Americans. To them, we have it made.
When I mentioned my views to many African Americans, I was often met with disdain for Africa. They saw Africa as either a godless, worthless third world society, or expressed resentment of Africans for not reaching out to us over the centuries as we languished in slavery, Jim Crow, and police brutality.
As Black Panther so beautifully explored, a strong continental Africa is vital to lifting Africans who struggle all over the world. Africans, no matter where we rest our heads, must reach out to each other. Centuries of oppression prove that colonizers and enslavers don’t love us. Only we can love ourselves out of our cultural and spiritual malaise.
Wakanda is possible. We just have to believe it!