Wakanda Forever: Part 4 – What Could Have Been…
It’s Sunday night: At the time of this writing, I’ve just come back from seeing Black Panther for the 3rd time since its opening two days ago. The first time I went with my wife and godmother. The second with some friends from church. The third with my parents. Each time has been a great and unique experience, primarily because each audience has been different and responds slightly different. Also, with each viewing, I notice more of the story by picking up dialogue I previously missed and by paying attention to what is happening in the background of a scene instead of the foreground.
A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE
This 3rd time seeing the film is unique as well because I’ve had time to process my thoughts a bit and have conversations with others who have seen the film. Also, I’ve seen other posts – mainly the ones where others are responding to those who don’t like the fact that African Americans are giving #BlackPanther so much attention. People keep saying, “Wakanda is not real!” We know that. But as my friend Okema replied in her FB post: “We KNOW Wakanda is not real, but the spirit and ingenuity is.” Having personally visited 7 African countries between 2003-2010, I wholeheartedly agree with her statement. Africa is so much more than the poverty and war often presented in the media. The people are so much more than those who need a handout from those with money. They are fully capable human beings who will amaze us if given the opportunity.
And then there’s this: The Art of Black Panther, which gives you a behind the scenes look at the concept art and creation of the film.
(As a huge lover of marvel films, I have a “The Art of” book for almost all of them in my collection. Got this on Amazon.com) But this one has extra value, because of the historical significance of #BlackPanther. African Americans (myself being one of them) have been hungry for positive, strong, Black characters to be presented and celebrated in mainstream media. I talked about aspects of this in my previous posts.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN…
In light of all of this, a thought came to me about the film:
“Over the course of centuries, if Africa (the richest continent on the planet) had not been stripped of its resources and people – and it’s still being stripped – there is a very REAL likelihood that some African countries would look and function very similar to Wakanda.”
It’s hard to imagine a technologically advanced Africa because the continent has been raped, mutilated and oppressed for so long by so many. I know these are very strong words – and I don’t use them lightly – but history bears the truth to their usage no matter how some may try to deny it.
There is an African Proverb which states: “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” Those in power continue to create a narrative for the world which states that a third-world country and her people have nothing of significance to offer to the larger, global community.
Here’s what Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler said, in The Art of Black Panther, about how he perceived Africa growing up:
“…As I got older, I came to understand that Africa was the birthplace of human life. But the representations of Africa in the media were rarely positive and always incomplete. I had learned to take great pride in my family and neighborhoods, but the images I saw about Africa often filled me with a sense of shame. I knew these images couldn’t be the whole truth about Africa. I longed to one day to go there and see it for myself.”
(Warning: Slight spoilers ahead…)
This idea about “the narrative,” comes out in the film (during a post credit scene) when T’Challa and company are at the United Nations. He has finished making his speech about Wakanda opening up to the global community and someone asks, “What can a nation of farmers possibly offer the world?”
ART IMITATING LIFE
Interestingly, one scene in particular stood out for me. After Erik Killmonger (the antagonist) had the herbs destroyed which granted the Black Panther his powers, the C.I.A. agent explained that Erik did what he was trained to do. Erik was a part of a secret military group which would go “off grid” in order to topple foreign governments. This group worked with the C.I.A. when needed.
This revelation in the movie is very telling, because it reminded me of what I learned about the first president of Ghana, West Africa after they obtained their independence from the British. Kwame Nkrumah was president from 1957-1966 and worked to unify people of African descent both on the continent and in the diaspora. In 1966 his leadership was overthrown. The C.I.A. is said to have played a key role in dismantling his leadership in order to “sway” the country in a different direction which was more palatable to US and European interests.
The role of “first-world” countries in dismantling African governments across the continent is extensive. They divide and conquer. They raise up or back indigenous military leaders to go against their own government and people. They refuse aid and medical assistance if it doesn’t suit their own agenda. Or they just come in and take what they want. Again, history shows this to be true. And whenever the people’s of Africa have extended an olive branch, “1st-world” countries don’t just receive the olive branch… they take it. Unfortunately, like what the U.S. is doing in Ghana with their oil and what China is doing in Ghana (and other African countries) with building/improving their roads in favor for huge monetary gains and widespread influence. Whatever “agreements” that are made between countries are terribly one-sided in favor of the outsiders.
Again, it raises the question of, “what could have been” if the peoples of Africa had been allowed to grow and flourish on their own – as equals at the table of the world? Instead, Africa, it’s vast people and African Americans are often viewed as commodities to be exploited.
I know this is just a movie, but the power of media is strong. For years, the media has been used to present one extreme about Africa. So much so that we need to go far in the other direction to help balance things out. Hopefully, with many around the world seeing Wakanda on the big screen, this will spark a revolution for Africa to take its rightful place in the world… more in the vein of T’Challa’s thinking than that of Erik Killmonger. (smile)
As Lisa Respers France, Senior writer at CNN Digital says in her review of the movie: “Black Panther is more than a movie, it’s a movement.”
Yes, Black Panther makes me think of what could have been… and also of what can be. And if movies like Star Wars and Star Trek can inspire generations of people to become scientists and physicists in order to make real what was only science fiction, I can only imagine what Black Panther will inspire this next generation to create and to be! #WakandaForever
Let me know what you think.
-Allen Paul Weaver III-