For a little more than a year, Black theatergoers eagerly anticipated the release of Black Panther. This February, when it finally premiered, the film did not disappoint. Featuring a predominantly Black production crew and cast, the film broke ticket pre-sale and opening weekend box office records. To date, the movie has made $700 million in a mere two weeks and will likely reach the billion dollar mark in another week’s time.
Visually stunning with a compelling storyline and plenty of intense action sequences, the movie is brilliant and beautiful for any audience to behold. But for Black people of all ages, it offered so much more. This movie was not about slavery, fighting for civil rights, or combatting the legacy of centuries of oppression. There were no drug dealers or addicts, pimps or prostitutes, gangsters, hustlers, or convicts. There was no persistent narrative of broken homes, abuse, poverty and social despair.
Instead this film portrayed black men and women as heroic figures in a world of their own creation untouched and un-influenced by colonization or exploitation. It showed unity among African tribes, and the recognition that those tribes see all the members of the African diaspora as their brothers and sisters. It showcased authentic African culture and heritage and the concept of Afro-futurism—a future in which African traditions are continued and built upon. It celebrated and respected African language and African imagery from antiques and architecture to hair, clothing and accessories. It noted Africa’s long history and interest in science, technologically and engineering. And finally, it presented a united African people providing solutions for its own and the rest of the world as well.
We’re obviously living in “interesting” times. To see all of those images and ideas presented so beautifully by us and for us was such a huge psychological boost and inspiration. Just to see blacks of all ages proudly wearing African and African-inspired attire in the theater was like a shot of mental adrenalin. This film stirred something within our community, something within our collective soul. The sentiment was and is clear; we have not forgotten who we are. We know what lies within us and we are unafraid to summon it. In fact, now IS the time and we do summon it.
In Atlanta, there was a week-long Black Panther Movie Festival put on by National Black Men’s Health leading up to the premier. The festival provided fun activities and attractions for the entire family including STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Math) activities, games, yoga, dancing, jewelry making, soap making, affirmation empowerment and financial education. Yes, these resources existed before but this film provided this group (along with many other African and African-American business and initiatives) both a golden opportunity and a particularly-interested audience with which to do even more.
In the wake of Black Panther, social media discussions and groups have proliferated between Africans and African-Americans like never before. Perspectives about the legacies of slavery and colonization are being shared, investigated. The imagined divide that existed between us is crumbling as we eagerly exchange everything from jokes to news to fashion. The Wakanda in the film has spurred the creation of a psychological Wakanda in reality.
Of course, I am beyond thrilled with what has happened and is happening. I’m seeing a revolution in thought unfold—and it didn’t take a war or a march or a tragedy to spur it. Just a movie. How amazing is that? What excites me even more is that this trend will only continue to grow. There will be a sequel to this movie. But long before that, inspiration will surely create more avenues in which our community can grow and thrive. I am confident in that because I already see it happening now. And it all brings me so much joy.
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