Message in the Movie: Why All Persons of African Descent Need to Heed The Pan-Africanist Message Found in Black Panther, It Could Be Our Liberation Road

Considering my occupation as an African-American Studies professor, frequent discussions over Pan-Africanism are to be expected. However, the assertion that Pan-Africanist issues have taken a prominent place in the forefront of my mind is not rhetoric as I have just emerged from a full week of lecturing about Marcus Garvey and Pan-Africanism. Anyone with even a mere understanding of African-American History will tell you that Garvey should be considered the King of Pan-Africanism as he serves as one of the foremost advocates of the political ideology that calls all persons of African descent together.

So, I hope that you can understand a Color Purple inspired feeling of “maybe God is trying to tell you something” as I watched the riveting sub-discourse between T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in the recently released Black Panther movie. If I did not know any better, I could be convinced that this was yet another sign from the ancestors that the only reasonable road for the liberation of persons of African descent is Pan-Africanism.

Although the vast majority of ‘conscious’ African-Americans trace the marginalized socioeconomic status that has dogged our community for centuries to unwise decisions to pursue integration with a hostile white populace, others such as Garvey, DuBois, Clarke, and Nkrumah would point toward an even bigger issue of the absence of a Race first mindset among persons of African descent. It is this issue of Pan-Africanism that sits prominently at the center of Marvel’s Black Panther. Questions regarding the relationship, or the lack thereof, between the citizens of Wakanda (Africans) and outsiders (diasporic blacks) are fertile ground for copious amounts of conflict between T’Challa and Erik Killmonger. The alluded to questions separating these cousins, both of whom has royal blood flowing through their veins, include the following:

  • Do continental Africans consider diasporic blacks kin?
  • Did Africa do a gross disservice to African-Americans by abandoning them in a foreign land?
  • Are African-Americans such as Erik Killmonger rational in their anger toward Africans for their blatant resistance to address the atrocities occurring in America? (One must remember that Malcolm X called for the United States of America to be brought up on Human Rights violations in the 1960s)
  • Who is responsible for healing the intra-racial divide that divides continental and diasporic persons of African descent?

Although many may assume that the blood-thirsty Erik Killmonger is the antagonist in Black Panther, I am confident that I have much company in resisting such a designation for the Oakland, California native. It could be reasonably argued that it is Erik Killmonger who is the protagonist as he possesses not only the most progressive worldview regarding the perilous plight of persons of African descent around the globe but also our only hope for ending a 500 year African Holocaust.

Unfortunately for persons of African descent, the issue of Pan-Africanism remains so highly contentious that no other issue proves our non-monolithic status in regards to political priorities or racial matters.

In many ways, it was shocking to see Pan-Africanism placed at the center of such a prominent film, yet extremely encouraging that thousands of persons of African descent were exposed to the political concept. One can only hope that continental Africans arrive at the same conclusion that T’Challa (the Black Panther) does by the film’s culmination that Africa’s abandonment of diasporic blacks is in many ways, “a crime against humanity.” The repeated failure to address this matter expeditiously is an obvious sign that the minds of Africans have not been effectively cleansed of the residue that the British, French, and other European colonizers implanted there. The shortcomings of diasporic blacks in this matter will be similarly revealing as they have repeatedly displayed a tendency to adopt the perspective their white oppressors have held regarding their kin who are the inhabitants of the “dark continent.”

It is imperative that African-Americans heed the admonishment of Dr. John Henrik Clarke who scolded our kind that “until Africa is free, you will never be free.” It is likewise important for African nations to realize that there is a sizable population of educated and financially well-off diasporic blacks eager to aid in the freeing of Africa. Until these basic realities are understood by persons of African descent around the globe, we will continue to lose in the ‘Game of Life’ where collectivism, education, planning, and the pooling of resources are the most significant difference makers one could ever imagine.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.

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.

Black Panther: The Latest Victim of American Racial Bias, Paranoia, and Misunderstanding

Anyone who has been examined America’s history of racial animus understands that it is impossible to effectively argue against the assertion that Race changes everything.

The voluminous shadow of Race has and always will impact every aspect of American society. I make these poignant assertions with full understanding that this latest generation of Americans includes many individuals possessing copious amounts of optimism regarding the closing of a centuries-old racial divide. The alluded to naiveté is in a word, cute.

When I encounter the purveyors of such thought, I point them towards a daunting history of Race that effectively refutes their optimistic worldview. If such persons studied Race in America, they would realize that their current actions that amount to little more than being cordial and friendly to other racial/ethnic groups are nothing new. In fact, the Civil Rights Movement was full of moments where black, white, and Jew joined together in a concerted effort to break down the cultural/religious barriers separating them. Obviously, such overtures failed as racial animosity remains the single-greatest social problem facing Americans. It is reasonable to assert that racial discord is the stitching that holds “Old Glory” together. Although difficult to accept, the most strident attempts of our countrymen to lessen Race have been an exercise in futility because this nation is ravaged by Race in some form or fashion.

One needs to look no further than the highly-anticipated Marvel film Black Panther to garner the depths of how Race impacts every segment of American society. As crazy as it sounds, Race has constricted the minds and imaginations of what is permissible in the genre of Science-Fiction/Fantasy writing. Yes, Race is such a formidable opponent that it makes its presence in the fantasy world that houses the Ryan Coogler, directed film Black Panther. This highly anticipated film is the 18th movie emanating from the Marvel comic book world.

The moment that I saw the initial trailer for Black Panther, a voice in my head stated that this film was destined to polarize this nation for a host of reasons. I knew that an irrational population of whites would oppose the screening of a film focused on a black superhero and the requisite black supporting cast, but I also predicted that someway/somehow Black America would also divide itself. My intuition was correct as a segment of White America, a populace that knows no more about racial matters than their darker-skinned brethren, cried foul and advanced ridiculous arguments that asked African-Americans things such as “How would you feel if we made movies with white superheroes?” I paid little attention to such drivel as it is a reliable sign of willful ignorance regarding American racial matters. I am confident that you understand that I was more concerned with the reaction of my community to this big-screen debut.

Although it seems like a funny thing to say, the truth of the matter is that I know my “brothers and sisters” and fully expected that a significant portion of them would find something wrong with Black Panther. Anyone who has dealt with the so-called conscious community realizes that their search for conspiracy theories and racial paranoia lends itself to irrationality. Put simply, they are seeking an “Aha moment” that will explain why white Hollywood allowed this black superhero to reach the big-screen; for this crowd, profit motives are an insufficient explanation. The alluded to rag-tag band of pseudo-intellectuals and revolutionaries would most certainly find some way to educate us to the fact that Black Panther was a covert attack against African-Americans. As usual, my people did not let me down and offered irrational criticisms of the film such as:

  • Michael B. Jordan’s dating of a non-black woman compromises the worth of the film.
  • The Black Panther fights against other persons of African descent in the film. Obviously, this is social programming designed to encourage the black-on-black violence that is occurring in black neighborhoods.

Considering such asinine arguments, assertions, and positions, there is scant room to argue against my assertion that Race has driven this entire nation crazy.

The furor surrounding Black Panther proves that American racial matters are so pervasive that they exist in the comic book world. Let’s face facts, Race rules the minds of most Americans, it always has and always will. And unfortunately for the few sane individuals existing in this nation, there is not a darn thing that they or anyone else can do about it.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018