Black Panther: One for the Culture
Black History Month is a time to honor Black people and the many great achievements done by us, it’s important to understand how Marvel’s Black Panther, which was released that very same month, has had an impact on the Black community and for pushing Black excellence. A movie about Black pride, advancement and achievement, Black Panther is absolute greatness in showing what Black people can succeed in. While still bringing awareness to social issues like discrimination and racial inequality in the form of nobility and status among the five Wakandan tribes introduced in the film, Black Panther highlights how the Black race can inspire others to help those less fortunate or who have been victims of poverty and racism. What really makes this movie a hit is all the subtle moments of Black heritage, Black culture and Black ancestry that reflects the motherland continent of Africa by providing moments of African tools, symbolism, music and language.
Named the #1 movie in the world by Marvel Entertainment, Black Panther is another reminder of just how much Black people can and have achieved. While Black Panther isn’t the first superhero movie with a leading Black superhero (Ex. Blade, Catwoman and Spawn to name a few), it’s still nice to have a Black superhero movie dominate a mostly White genre.
Since its release, Black people from all parts of the country, especially those that have ancestral roots in Africa, have flocked to Black Panther because it’s a movie that places Black people in a positive light. While previous movies portrayed black people in less than stellar roles that often promote stereotypes about Black People, Black Panther shows us as leading and successful inventors, fighters and leaders compared to the rest of the world. Furthermore it shows that we are Rulers among ourselves. This film reminds us of a self-governing, prosperous place prior to the slave trade and serves as a reminder of what Black people were before being oppressed.
The plot of the film, the story, takes place in Wakanda, a fictional East African Nation. To the outside world, Wakanda passes itself off as a small, Third World nation of humble herdsmen filled with poverty, disease and an overwhelming lack of resources, but actually Wakanda is the most technologically advanced place in the world and using an advanced holographic projection, shrouds its borders to hide the advanced-technological civilization within. Additionally, the country does not require any foreign aid, due to the extremely valuable metal called Vibranium. Vibranium is a fictional metal that landed on what would later be known as Wakanda and is the main item of focus in the movie as well as the driving focus that triggers all the events in the film. Vibranium is used in the making of the Wakanda cities, the forging of it’s weapons as is used as the main ingredient in keeping Wakanda a secret from the world. Another area of focus is that Wakandans are deciding whether or not to share their resources with the rest of the world. Black Panther incorporates traditional African Customs with modern day progressives. In addition, Black Panther demonstrates how traditional ideas can still be preserved while still expressing progressive ideas in both story and characters.
Take note the strongest and the most brilliant characters of the movie were females. Nakia played by Lupita Nyong’o is a revolutionary for women in enslavement, Okoye played by Danai Gurira is the strongest soldier in Wakanda as well as the leader of an all female warrior tribe. Then there’s T’Challa’s Sister, Shuri played by Letitia Wright who is the leading scientist in Wakanda as well as the creator of Black Panther’s gadgets, including the Black Panther suits.
Black Panther also focused on the Black Revolution. This is shown perfectly by the two male leads, T’Challa/Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman and Erik Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan. Along with Nakia, Okoye, W’Kabi, Ramonda, Klaw, Everett K.Ross, Shuri, M’Baku, N’Jobu, Zuri, Ulysses Klaue, Ayo, T’Chaka. Both male leads are men who are proud and respectful of their ancestry, but are open to new ideas on how to run Wakanda.
In the beginning T’Challa follows the strict ways of his ancestry by not offering his country’s resources (including Vibranium) to the rest of the world. However after losing his title as King and due to events done by his father, T’Challa begins to doubt everything he once strongly believed. By the end of the film his views change and he decides to reveal and share his country’s resources to the rest of world.
In terms of the main antagonist, Erik Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan is a radical extremism that wants to use the advance technology of Wakanda to overthrow corrupt leaders across the world and have Wakanda be leaders of a new world order. Despite his good intentions he’s unable to realize that he was becoming one of the tyrants he wanted to overthrow and this was most likely due to the death of his father at the hands of T’Challa’s father, the previous Black Panther, prior King of Wakanda, also his uncle.
Despite his need for revenge because of his uncle king, he is very proud of his roots both as a Wakandan and a Black man. His final words before his death were “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage. Ironically his goals are still achieved as T’Challa used his countries’ resources to not only help other countries, but also build an outreach center in Erik’s old neighborhood as a way to atone for Erik’s father’s death.
As a Black man with African roots, I can personally say that this movie made me feel proud of my ancestry. Anyone that sees Black Panther will laugh, cry and learn many important lessons about leadership and helping society. To borrow the words from an African Proverb. “If you are filled with pride, then you will have no room for wisdom”. This quote perfectly summarizes the thinking between T’Challa and Erik as both men were filled with pride. Erik’s pride was going to put Wakanda and the entire world at war, while T’Challa who was still prideful did not turn his pride into arrogance and was able to learn from his mistakes and emerge the winner in the end.
If a more clearer example is needed, look at the difference in leadership between Obama and Trump, both are prideful men, but unlike Obama, Trump allows his pride to prevent him from learning how to be a good Commander in Chief which is why every week a new disaster comes up in the White House. Black Panther is without doubt Marvel’s best film and it’s going to be very difficult for Marvel to top it. Definitely, go out and see it.