Most Bajans love Black Panther but don’t know Malcom, Garvey, Huey.

I start this article with some facts about the history of the Marvel character The Black Panther.

The Black Panther joined the Avengers in 1968, where he became a mainstay for the next several years. Although the character predated the revolutionary political organization of the same name, Marvel briefly changed the Black Panther’s name to the Black Leopard in an attempt to dissociate the two. A short time later he was back to being the Black Panther again, and in 1973 he headlined his own book for the first time.

The “Panther’s Rage” story arc ran for two years in Jungle Action, a series written by Don McGregor and drawn for the most part by the African American artist Billy Graham.

Reflecting the times’ interest in African roots and black consciousness in general, the strip returned T’Challa to a Wakanda riven by infighting and sedition, where he managed to balance superheroics with musings on colonialism and democracy. For the duration of the tale, the strip featured an all-black cast, something that had never before been attempted in mainstream superhero comics, and the innovations continued in a later story, which saw the Panther take on the Ku Klux Klan. Note the use of African consciousness being exploited by Marvel then.

Poor sales prompted Marvel to cancel Jungle Action before the Klan story was finished, and it was replaced in 1977 with a new Black Panther title by Jack Kirby.

Dr. Francess Cress Welsing once said of African descended people in the west, that they had excelled in sports and entertainment yet failed to organize ourselves in a manner that would effect our true empowerment. She said:

“Black people are afraid, but Black people are going to have to get over their fear. Black people do not know what is happening, but Black people are going to have to learn and understand what is happening. Black people are not thinking, but Black people are going to have to begin thinking. Black people are not being quiet, but Black people are going to have to start getting quiet so that they can think. Black people are not analyzing and planning, but Black people are going to have to begin analyzing and planning. Black people do not understand deep self-respect, but Black people are going to have to learn the meaning and practice of deep self-respect. Black people are going to have to stop permitting Black children to play with parenthood. Black people are going to have to stop moaning, rocking, crying, complaining, begging. Black people are going to have to stop thinking that rhyme and rhetoric will solve problems. Black people are going to have to stop finger-popping and singing. Black people are going to have to stop dancing and clowning. Black people are going to have to stop laughing and listening to loud radios. All of these behaviors, and many more, have absolutely nothing to do with addressing the challenges and conditions of the open warfare continuously being waged against the Black collective.”

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After the movie The Passion Of Christ was released, there was a massive influx of people attending church. In Barbados for the Black Panther many people adorned themselves in African outfits and expressed African pride as they attended the movie. I wonder if after the movie, did any Pan African organizations who are poorly supported by African descended people, see any increase in individuals wanting to get more involved in pan Africanism? I, as the president of one such organization can say no, we have not seen this happen to date. Barbadians love the hype of the day. They want to be seen at the event just to say they were there. They love to follow the crowd, and this was what people were doing globally when attending the movie. Why should Bajans be left out. But tomorrow what? I wonder if Emancipation celebrations for 2018 in Barbados will see a notable increase in attendance? Many of these same movie goers, that love the power of the Africans in the Black Panther movie don’t understand the issue of Nelson and his statue in Barbados. They don’t even care if it remains or not. So while the cinemas (Black Owned?) enjoyed massive revenue increases in the time of the Black Panther, pan Africanism and its organizations in Barbados continue to struggle due to a lack of interest on the part of the majority of African descended Barbadians. Note that Barbados has no pan African media, very limited presence in schools 11 months of each year. Emancipation celebrations remain poorly attended, Nelson remains, the Mabalozi Programme, of the Commission for PanAfrican Affairs looks good on paper but is poorly supported/implemented and we have no African centered festival. The illusion is real.

Here is a portion of an article published on the African Holocust.

What you do with something truly determines the value of the thing. If after Black Panther, we are still afraid to be African and wear African clothes then Marvel took our money and we just fools. If all our children know is Wakada, but still never heard about Kush, Songhai, and Axum then we really are stupid and deserve to be exploited. Because unfortunately despite all of this hype, have our people (in the main) taken a deeper interest in African culture and history? Do people now know the fictional people in the film were based on real cultures like the Mursi of Ethiopia? Then it is a wasted opportunity. Did the film cause people to go and look at the Black Panther Party which shares the same name? Are we going to step beyond Marvel and do for self or has our WILL TO DO been traded for greater dependency?

The Black Panther is not a “Black” film since the money from sales does not go to any “Black” people. It is a film of significance only because Hollywood has been so racist in the past. It is a film of cultural significance only because our cultures are so neglected and unrepresented especially by us Africans. You actually cannot blame a capitalist company like Marvel for seeing a gap in the market and targeting Africans with this film–it is a good business move on their part. Like how we got thrown Obama to make us feel the illusion of inclusion. But it was all strategic, just like this film–and it works because we are too lazy to create and support our own stories and products. We will run and dance while Marvel collects the profits from our community during Black History Month.

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So the issues with this film lie in the area of ownership. Because between Marvel and Disney, all the Black faces stop with actors, director and script. And to sum up this short article, the blame is almost exclusively with African people for why in 2018 we still need the White hunter to tell African stories, real or otherwise.

Anyone silly enough to state “it is just a fun film” needs to be sent to sit at the kiddy table. Nothing created by the hands of powerful men/women is innocent. The last point of note is what about the real Black Panthers? And whiles the Black Panthers comic hero predates by a few months the BPP the word “real” denotes what is real to us as an African people. Fiction is fiction, no one died in the making of the film. The ones who fought a real struggle for people’s justice are ours, they are real to our lives. Will their names be remembered by the youth, or will (per Google) everytime you search Black Panther a clown in a suit shows up? You see there is good and there is bad in these things and people in a conscious state are capable of discussing these things beyond the emotion of seeing a “Black”version of an action hero created by the multimillion dollar Marvel franchise.

But that is not the end of it, far worse is now that African see a film with an African hero will it inspire us to make our own? NO! We will let White Hollywood do the work. Because the issue of ownership does not bother us. We are happy to see people build malls for us to shop in, make makeup and skin products for us, books for us, films for us and we just consume these things. The great issue of ownership is not important.

Black Panther film will never in a million years teach us to be our own masters of story. It is teaching us wait on Whites and maybe they will hire us to make Mansa Musa and Askia; Just ask them nicely and they will give us the job. Credit where credit is due, I am happy to see a positive African superpower on screen. but there is something more important than that, and that is our own agency. And in the war we seemed to lose our pride to own our own stories and the world we live in. 

Written by Alik Shahadah

‘Alik Shahadah is a master of the Documentary format and progressive African scholar. Shahadah uses film for social revolution. A multi-award winning recipient including the rare UNESCO award for his critically acclaimed film on slavery 500 Years Later.. He is best known for authoring works, which deal with African history, social justice, environmental issues, education and world peace. He states his primary motivation for making these films was being frustrated with “Tarzan’s voice” as the central narrator in African stories. He noted that while scholarship challenges these issues, the common knowledge of the majority is generally unaltered, writing alone is not enough, the ultimate tool for re-education on a mass level is film

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Will the Black Panther inspire African descended people in Barbados to finally awaken from its colonial slumber. Will we take a closer look at neocolonialization in Barbados?Will we address the issues of racism in Barbados now? Will images real heroes and heroins of the African liberation struggle be more visable in our schools? Will we finally put the Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey in schools? Or will the Black Panther remain just a good lime and good opportunity for photos?

Bartender, another round of rum for Barbados for it has serious issues to discuss.

Simba. I think very deeply.

Author: Admin

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