Will Black Panther improve black consciousness?


Monday, March 12, 2018

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Like perhaps millions of others, I purchased tickets to add to the US$360 - US$387 million in sales worldwide for the première weekend to see the movie Black Panther . On Monday, February 20, 2018, Black Panther, based on the Marvel Comic hero, destroyed the myth that movies celebrating black culture don't do well overseas or period.

Many movie cinemas, like the one I sat in, had told me that every day they had to use half their total number of auditoriums to accommodate the crowds wanting to see Black Panther. I observed many people attending the movie wearing African cultural attire to both celebrate the fictional African country of Wakanda and attend a movie named Black Panther.

Black Panther, the namesake of the Black Panther political party in the 1960s in the United States, endorses the idea of black liberation because European colonialism and imperialism passes by the country of Wakanda.

It has a superior civilisation to Europe and Asia combined because of an energy source that is a rare metal among Wakanda's raw materials called Vibranium. It was used in many forms to protect and isolate its people from anti-black/African racism for centuries.

Regarding the movie's value, the question is best raised by Ezrah Aharone, author of Sovereign Psyche, who years ago wrote, “So the question becomes: Is there any contemporary value in recognising Africa's sovereign heritage?” Furthermore, do we give Africa more value while acknowledging fictitious African countries and heroes as observed in the Black Panther movie?

Did the movie promote racial pride by using the name T'Chaka for the king of Wakanda, which was a real great African Zulu king from Southern Africa in the early 1800's? Is Ezrah Aharone correct when he also wrote, “Otherwise, neglecting such information or approaches gives credence to popular but false notions that Europeans exposed Africans to constitutional and representative government after the 1500s?” Does the movie help destroy the myth about Africa “ basically never having an academic, literary, or intellectual heritage worth mentioning”?

While the country Wakanda is fictitious, will it have the effect on some to revisit what our scholars like Lerone Bennett Jr, Carter G Woodson, William Ferris, John Edward Bruce, John G Jackson, Ivan Van Sertima, John Henry Clark, and Yosef Ben Jochannan wrote to learn about how Africa did have great civilisations, kingdoms and rulers?

Africans (blacks) spent millions of dollars to see the movie, but would it be reward enough if our youth, for reconstructing purposes, researched ancient African kingdom-nations that exercised full sovereignty through structured governments like Kemet, Nubia, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Aksum, and the Ethiopian Empire? How inspirational it would be for them to learn how, just recently, we found over 700,000 books, documents, and manuscripts in Timbuktu, Mali?

When I first saw the city of Wakanda in the movie Black Panther it reminded me of what Jamaican National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey (born August 17, 1887; died June 10, 1940) founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA & ACL) wrote that we should “teach the higher sciences to our race and remember to develop a race of scientists par excellence”.

Can a movie about a Government, like fictitious Wakanda, lead to an end result of effort to expand our imagination around the idea of improving our race scientifically? Could the mere possibility of a superior or exceptional African country threaten the idea that Africans and the African Diaspora would always remain a second-class race with countries that the United States President Donald Trump can refer to as s***hole countries?

Will Wakanda be an inspiration to Africans/blacks because Wakanda is an African country with a sovereign structure that could compare in sophistication or performance with modern nation states because of the scientific and technological progress?

This fictional, but advanced Government of Wakanda reminded me of the challenge referenced by Marcus Garvey, 80 years ago, when he wrote, “If you can contemplate these things and realise that your civilisation must go beyond him, you can understand what I am talking about.

“Your civilisation must project a thought in the world, and if you are to be the people that we want you to be, you will have to surpass what man has done by doing what you can do. What the Negro has contemplated under the programme of the UNIA is to project a civilisation that will surpass the programme of other men.”

I also recommend that we watch this movie Black Panther because the acting was superb, clothing worn superb, use of Xhosa dialect superb, African traditional culture superb, the almost entirely black cast of black/African actors and actresses superb, appropriate for youth superb, and the length of the movie was perfect.


Shaka Barak is third assistant president general and minister of education of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. Send comments to the Observer or

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