Full of Promise: Why Black Panther Threatens to be a Transformational Movie in African-American Lives

One of the most influential pieces of advice I ever received was to build traditions. In time, I have learned that this advice has been an integral part of not only who I am, but also my relationship with my sons. In fact, one of my favorite traditions is arriving early to the movies with my sons so that they have ample time to secure their popcorn and drinks and then view the previews of upcoming movies.

It is during the moments after the alluded to movie trailer ends that the routine of me looking in my youngest son’s direction to gather his impression of the movie; basically, it is my means of comprehending if he thinks the film is worthy of viewing or not. Although I can only make out my son’s silhouette in the darkened movie theater, this slight sketch is sufficient for me to gauge his reaction to the movie preview. He communicates his desires in a few ways. A thumbs down (meaning, we aren’t going to see that one) a single thumbs-up (meaning, yeah, that looks interesting and I would like to go see it) or a double-thumbs up with a smile (meaning, man, I have GOT TO SEE THAT MOVIE).

As a comic book fan who has viewed every Marvel superhero movie, I am confident that you can imagine the trailer for Black Panther received not only a double-thumbs up with a smile, but also led to a new perspective of James standing up and pointing at the screen. Translation: We are DEFINITELY going to see this film several times. I could do nothing other than nod my head in agreement.

When one considers that without the supplement of familial contributions, it is nearly impossible for African-American children to develop a healthy sense of black pride and self-esteem. It is difficult to effectively argue against the contention that one of this nation’s foremost traditions has been the denigration of African-Americans via the media. Considering the invariable disrespect and negative images presented by white media outlets, Black America was in a more advantaged position to be ignored and omitted from mainstream programming. Put simply, the cultural and intellectual diet that blacks have received from an often hostile and blatantly disrespectful white majority population has left the minds and self-esteem of Black America in what can be best termed a woefully malnourished state. It is the need to counter the historical negativity associated with the black presence that Black Panther should be attended by all persons of African descent.

This matter reminds me of the very question of “Don’t blacks have their own great stories?” that figures such as W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus

Garvey, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, and Lanston Hughes were asking a century ago as this nation emerged from World War I and places such as Harlem were darkened by droves of black southerners pursuing a significant improvement in their economic misfortunes. Most black writers realize that there is a psychological liberation that justifies our humanity to be found in positive stories centered on black men, women, and children. Most reasonable people understand that positive stories that feature their kind as heroes and heroines are akin to soul food as it provides an intangible nourishment to those that consume it. Black Panther offers a promise to inject a sense of self-worth to a people who far too frequently are devoid of it; it is for this reason that I will be in attendance at Black Panther and hope that you make the same decision. I am confident that my son would give that decision two thumbs up and a smile.

See you at the movie.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.

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