I mentioned in my last blog that I would be writing something about the phenomenon known as Black Panther. Of course, I’m not talking about the activist organization formed during the civil rights era in response to racism, and injustice experienced by African-Americans. Instead, I’m referring to the cinematic blockbuster that premiered worldwide during this past President’s Day weekend.
Recently, I happened upon a YouTube broadcast called “The Stream.” This show had several surveyors of popular culture from the continent of Africa and one African-American. They were having a deep discussion about the social, cultural, political, and just about every implication one could contrive, all centered around the Black Panther movie. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what was being said, while also thinking about the question of how anyone could glean all of this from a movie. I found it interesting that all the Africans couldn’t say enough positive things about the movie. They meandered on about how the movie was a hit on the continent, and how people were standing in line to see it. They also cemented for me the idea that the movie was a diverse representation of all things African; all things that might have been culturally, if not technologically, in some African nations minus the negative impact of colonialism.
Out of all I heard said during the conversation, things I had the most problem with came from the mouth of the African-American. This young lady talked about how much she enjoyed the movie. She was quite charitable with her praise of the cinematic venture; however, she felt strongly that the movie had only a vague identification with African-Americans. Shocked, to say the least, was my emotional response to this opinion. What about the concept of globalism as it relates to people of African ancestry, as well as people of color around the world? This movie, though imaginary in much of its construction, presented an ideal picture of what an African nation might look like if not damaged by colonialism. There would be no African Americans, if not for the raping of a continent via colonization. History shows us what colonist do to a culture, and it’s not to betterment the people who are colonized.
While I’m on the topic of cinematic imagination, do you remember the movie Avatar? This movie was one of the best examples of art imitating life. In it, we saw a corporate entity, with seemingly boundless resources, traveling across unfathomable miles of space to reach a resource-rich planet. The bad guys and gals in this movie weren’t concerned with improving the lot of the denizens who occupied the planet, instead plundering for economic gain was the dark calling for journeying there. Of course, movies have the luxury of giving us heroes in the short amount of time they exist on the screen, who can right all the wrongs that have befallen a people or a species. We saw the beginning of the introduction of justice in the movie, a few minutes before the credits ran. I’ve been waiting anxiously to see if the serving of justice will continue in the sequel.
I always find myself reveling in the escapism movies such as Black Panther and Avatar present. Although the few hours of sitting in a dark room with others, watching how great things are in Wakanda is pure escapism, the experience tells me that the human mind can envision a better experience for us all. Can any of us argue with the concept that: If we can conceive it, we can go a long way to making it a reality? Reality always begins in the mind first. There is nothing we see around us that didn’t begin in thought. Escapism has value. Many of the technological conveniences we have today, began as toys/props in the ancient Star Trek TV series of the 1960s. The cell phone, iPad, flat screen TV’s, etc. were gadgets we saw as, “what ifs” way back in the last century, but now we can’t live without.
The two hours given folks to sit in African garb, while watching Wakandans being quite satisfied with their legacy, is a valuable example of how much many of us long for a better reality. One where certain Peoples of the world are energetically welcoming pop-culture representation of folks who look like them on the big screen. One where these folks have evolved to heights culturally, politically and technologically unseen in the real world. Escapism has value; in many cases it fosters a new reality, or one would hope.
I’m old and blessed…hope you’ll be too.