After the initial euphoria surrounding the blockbuster “Black Panther,” black people are beginning to debate elements of the movie.
For instance, the twitterverse had a string of tweets about the lack of light-skinned blacks in Wakanda, and what that says about colorism in Hollywood.
And others are now questioning whether the white CIA agent’s role in aiding King T’Challa in his fight to stop Killmonger is a rehash of the “white-man-to-the-rescue” trope.
I saw “Black Panther” twice.
The first time, I was walking on air when I left the theater.
I hadn’t felt that proud of being an African-American since the night former president Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech in Grant Park.
But the next time I saw the film, I left with a tinge of sadness.
It just seemed a bit pathetic that there was so much hoopla over an imaginary kingdom in Africa. We embraced “Wakanda Forever,” but what about “South Africa Forever.”
Fantasy is a great escape, and movies are made to entertain us. In that regard, “Black Panther” has been a blockbuster.
But the film is also being celebrated as a cultural phenomenon.
At last count, “Black Panther” was nearing $1.1 billion worldwide in its fourth weekend.
It is now the highest-grossing solo superhero movie in North America, according to Forbes. That’s just amazing.
Black people didn’t just come out to support this film. In many cities adults put their funds together to make sure children of lesser means wouldn’t have to wait to see the film when it came out on cable or bootleg.
If some of the profit from “Black Panther” found its way back to black communities in the form of community and recreation centers, then the movie would truly be the cultural phenomenon that the media has hyped.
After all, the shift from fantasy to reality is more than putting on African garb and learning the “Wakanda” handshake.
One Chicago teacher has taken steps to build upon the Black Pride that the Marvel comic book inspired.
Tess Raser, a sixth-grade teacher at Chicago’s Dulles School of Excellence, has created an entire special curriculum as a companion guide to the movie.
Raser was in the classroom when I reached out to her on Monday afternoon.
But in an interview with the Blavity website, Raser said:
“I hope that my students leave a lesson a little bit more confident in their blackness, that they see themselves as leaders equipped with the political analysis and tools to create the Wakanda of their dreams. I hope that they learn the ways in which our blackness connects us to people across the world, while appreciating and understanding and honoring our differences.”
Here’s some of what the curriculum contains:
The Legacy of Colonialism in the African Continent
- What is Colonialism?
- When did it occur in Africa?
- How did it affect the continent?
- Colonialism’s long lasting effects.
The Legacy of Slavery in the Americas
- What was the Transatlantic slave trade?
- How did it affect Black people in the U.S.
- Slavery’s legacy today
The curriculum includes an explanation of how the Atlantic Slave Trade operated, and maps showing the trade route.
It also contains a lesson designed to educate students about the “lasting impacts of slavery through studying the prison industrial complex through music.”
On page 15 of the 37-page curriculum, Raser notes:
“The 13th Amendment only ended slavery for those who were not convicted of a crime. We still have a system designed to dehumanize and keep Black people down — mass incarceration. We understand the horrors of chattel slavery, and we must see that incarceration is just as horrific and racist.”
The issue of mass incarceration is a controversial topic, but it shouldn’t stop educators, or parents, from using the in-depth curriculum to provide context for the Marvel epic.
For instance, the author uses photographs of authentic African tribal garb to show the significance of the clothing worn by characters in the film.
What Rasa has done by educating young people about existing African culture will be a source of pride long after the debate over this Marvel comic has ended.