How to Use Black Panther to Win
This is an important moment no doubt. The most popular Black action figure of my youth was John Henry. The image of a tall strong bald brownskinned Black man with hammer stays with me. Not until well into my adulthood did I realized there wasn't much to aspire to in the heroic legend of John Henry. It was a tale of American individualism and hyper-masculinity. He worked himself to death trying to prove to white people that he could build their infrastructure better than their machines. He thought his labor would prove that Black lives mattered. Leaving a wife and child to mourn his... victory?
We're already on our way to letting Black Panther be a symbolic victory, that really only builds white infrastructure (i.e. " 'Black Panther' Set a Marvel Record With Advance Ticket Sales). I've seen nothing but plans for red carpet movie premiere events, parties, folks planning their outfit. We getting ready to celebrate. And should. We deserve this feel good moment. But could it also be more?
Here are some ideas for ways we can use this moment to our advantage:
1. Tell the truth about the Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Most Black children still think they're just the violent ones. There's a bunch of good books and documentaries about their movement. Most come with some controversy, because it's such recent history that many are still alive. The BPP's strategies and impact are worth celebrating and spending some family time with.
2. The greatest danger in Marvel's Black Panther film is that millions of Black children walk away thinking this is all fiction and fantasy. Right now, in schools, homes, churches, etc. we should be administering curriculum that teaches real life examples of glorious African civilizations, maroon societies, kingdoms, and warriohood, so then when they see it on screen it reminds them of the truth. When children see the Dora Milaje fight in the film, in should conjure images in their mind of the Mino regiment of the Fon people in the Kingdom of Dahomey.
3. Help young people develop their real life superpowers. Then organize and direct them towards real life enemies, not each other. Our children have more gifts, talents, skills and abilities than our community has problems.
4. Prepare for the backlash. Even if Obama was largely a symbolic emotional victory, Trump as a response has real life implications. Part of that preparation should include supporting more Black owned media producers so we can tell more of our own stories and be the ones benefiting. Here are some: ARRAY, Atlanta BlackStar, CRWN, Blavity, Flavor Unit, Green Door Pictures, SpringHill Entertainment, DulyNoted, Inc., Rainforest Films, and 40Acres.
5. Watch the animated series with your family. It's really good. I was supposed to air on BET a almost a decade ago but I suspect it was too Black. It features the voices of Djimon Hounsou, Jill Scott, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard, etc. It offers lots of great opportunities to have family discussions about colonialism, African sovereignty, and resistance. I'm gonna make an early predication, the animated series incorporated more penetrating political analysis than the film will.
This is the last episode that was released on the interwebs. I didn't have enough space on my free Vimeo account to upload it, but it's streaming here: EPISODE 6. I tried to upload them onto YouTube and Facebook but they deleted them or censored them almost immediately because of copywrite issues. So if they remove them before you watch they should still be streaming on Dailymotion site that episode 6 links to. I also realized today that it looks like you can purchase the whole season here on amazon.