Marvel has a movie for everyone no matter what age, sex, occupation or religion. So many people around the world love characters like Spider-Man, the Hulk, X-Men, Iron Man, and Ant-Man. Women across the nation fantasize and dream about handsome heroic men like Thor, Captain America, and the Wolverine. Kids everywhere fell in love with cute little Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy. Spiderman’s evil nemesis Venom even has a movie coming out later this year.
Deadpool, the Fantastic Four, and Doctor Strange have a couple of amazing films too but America hasn’t really seen anything like Black Panther before. A groundbreaking celebration of black culture and an undeniable impact inspiring more than African Americans, Black Panther marks a major milestone in Hollywood. Former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama said, “Congrats to the entire Black Panther team! Because of you, young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen. I loved this movie and I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes of their own stories.” The movie Black Panther definitely spread African pride throughout the world. It’s rare to see a big-budget Marvel film that highlights black creativity, intellect, and power in an African setting in America. Oprah Winfrey posted on Twitter, “Just saw it with Stedman. It’s Phenomenal!!! Layers and layers of it. Wakanda ForEveeeerrrr!”
Here’s a short summary of the film if you haven’t already seen it. In the 90s on a basketball court in Oakland, California a little black boy stops playing basketball and looks up at the sky. Symbolically, he’s looking at the loss of hope by the glowing lights disappearing into the night. Representatively expressing the current state of black oppression in America. We later find out those lights belong to a futuristic flying machine from the African country of Wakanda. Wakanda is the main setting of “Black Panther.” Wakanda is an unapologetically black universe that was never colonized by Western Europeans, and because of its main resource vibranium, is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. In one of the scenes, Princess Shuri performs an unbelievable back surgery on Everett K. Ross. When Everett wakes up he asks Shuri, “Is this Wakanda?” She replies jokingly, “No, it’s Kansas.”
The cast of Black Panther is majority black. The cast includes many A-List black actors such as Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira. The antagonist of the story is Erik Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan. T’Challa, the protagonist better known as Black Panther, is played by Chadwick Boseman. After the loss of his father, T’Challa returns to Wakanda. Most of the royal tribes do not challenge T’Challa for the throne, but M’Baku does. While M’Baku tried, he could not defeat T’Challa and T’Challa becomes King. His estranged cousin, N’Jadaka better known as Erik, the little boy from Oakland, suddenly appears and challenges the new King. Erik had military experience and worked with the CIA to destabilize foreign governments. So, when the new King T’Challa is defeated by Erik, son of N’Jobu, the fate of Wakanda and the entire world is at risk. T’Challa’s character develops the most throughout the movie. Foreshadowing occurs when N’Jobu tells Erik, “I fear you still may not be welcome… They will say you are lost.” Erik dies delivering a powerful monologue ending with, “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”
The movie Black Panther taps into 500 years of African history. Black Panther’s costume designers researched traditional culture and clothing from different parts of the continent of Africa. Black Panther’s costumes were a loving tribute to the art and history of several African nations. Queen Ramonda’s crown is inspired by a Zulu flared hat, with a cylinder shape that Ruth Carter designed. To give the hat and shoulder mantle a futuristic feel, Carter recruited architect Julia Koerner, who is leading the way in making 3D-printed wearable art.
“She is the queen of Wakanda and they are forward-thinking in technology, so her crown would have been crafted in the most forward-thinking manner,” said Carter. “The triangles are perfect, the shape of the circle is perfect, and the only way you could achieve that is by doing it on the computer and have it printed in a 3D printer.” The River Tribe elder had an unforgettable look serving contemporary high fashion and African tradition with a distinctive lip plate. Carter, the designer said, “Usually we see this lip plate on National Geographic on women with no tops who are sitting on the ground, and here he is with his legs crossed and a beautiful suit by the fashion designer Ozwald Boateng. He is bringing so much pride and so much honor to it.”
Right now, young black people are flooded with direct and indirect messages that their bodies, minds, and history do not matter. Bullets from unjust police officers act as letters that spell out death sentences to anybody black. Many are restricted by underfunded and understaffed educational systems in low-income communities because the larger society does not truly believe that they can achieve academic excellence, especially in the highly lucrative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. And, although there are Afrocentric schools of thought within the black community, many black youths are also bombarded with misguided notions that the continent of Africa is a monolithic space filled with disease, jungles, and bloated stomachs.
Many young black people believe that their own family trees began with slavery. Imagining not even their greatest-great ancestors had any control over the blood in their veins, the cells in their brains, or the souls in their bodies. This thus leads some black youth to wonder how long do they have to live and what for. It breaks down the black family and emasculates the black man. It makes some question whether blackness is a generational curse and causes a lot of self-hate. Hence the need for platforms like My Black is Beautiful.
It makes some mock the accents and names that their own forebears may have had when they were living in their own communities in pre-colonial Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, or other African countries. And it makes some feel like they come from absolutely nothing. In light of the consistent physical, mental, emotional and spiritual onslaught that is directed at black youth, the Black Panther movie has been created for and marketed to them and they should be influenced by the film itself. The Black Panther experience could thus lead more black students to view African cultures as distinct expressions of life. Encouraging scholars to learn and live the culture. To see, hear, feel, taste, smell and ultimately claim African culture as their own.
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