Black Panther by Marvel Studios

Reviewed by James Martin

Recently a group gathered to view and discuss the movie Black Panther, the third in the Koinonia Team's summer series related to racial reconciliation and social justice. 

The movie Black Panther (Marvel Studios. 2018), based on the Marvel Comics superhero, tells the fictional story of Prince T’Challa, who, after the tragic loss of his father, is made king of Wakanda and also becomes the Black Panther, the legendary protector of Wakanda.

The special effects, the soundtrack, and the music initially distract you from the serious story that begins to unfold, which revolves around the unique challenges T’Challa faces.

T-Challa’s first challenge is Wakanda’s isolationism. Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world, because of its vast stores of vibranium, used to develop advanced technology. Fearing discovery and exploitation, Wakanda has kept its identity hidden from the international community and instead poses as a poor, Third World country in Africa. Nakia, one of the many strong female leads in this film, is disappointed in the apathy of Wakanda to the plight of the other African countries surrounding them and argues that Wakanda could open its borders and care for refugees.

That’s T’Challa’s second challenge. “If you let the refugees in, they bring their problems with them,” a general warns. HeThgeneral is worried about Wakanda losing its way of life, but he has no qualms with conquering other nations and imposing Wakandan ideals on them.

T’Challa faces his third challenge with the arrival of his cousin Killmonger, and at this point in the movie, the narrative takes a dark turn.

Killmonger’s father was a spy in Oakland, CA, who was murdered by T’Challa’s father for betraying Wakanda. Rather than caring for his orphaned nephew, T’Challa’s father abandoned Killmonger in America, which bred resentment in Killmonger. Having grown up seeing the discrimination and oppression of black and brown individuals in America, Killmonger believes that Wakanda’s technological power should be used to overthrow those who had oppressed his people for centuries. He almost kills T’Challa when he arrives in Wakanda and assumes the throne.

As this is a superhero movie, the good guy always wins in the end. Killmonger is defeated and T’Challa reinstated as both the king and protector of Wakanda. The conflict ends when Killmonger receives a fatal blow from T’Challa. T’Challa offers his cousin a chance to be saved, bu Killmonger responds, “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the [slave] ships, because they knew death was better than bondage." That’s when the movie became personal for me.

As a black man whose great-grandmother was born a slave, I related more to the villain of this story than to the hero when I heard him say those words. Like Killmonger, I desire a heritage I can be proud of. I desire to belong, but being African-American very often means that I am neither accepted as either African or American. And I desire to be treated fairly. I have been abused and oppressed by authorities and systems in place here in America, and have often thought, “What should I do in response?” But I decided that Killmonger’s path is not the path I want to take, even though I understand it all too well.

I am the son of African natives who were taken from their homes and families, and were forced to serve under white oppressors. These individuals tried to strip away their identity and culture, and also used the Bible that I love today, and the God I serve, to justify their beliefs and actions. But my ancestors never gave up hope; if they had, I wouldn’t be here writing to you today. I am a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University majoring in Molecular Biology.

Some of you may not know who I am, but you may have seen me leading praise and worship at Stone Hill Church on Sunday morning. I believe that my ancestors endured, prayed, and died believing that one day God would vindicate them. I believe that my ancestors took the Lord at His Word when He said He is the God who judges justly. In light of that hope, they could look into the eyes of their oppressors and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual:

“Precious Lord, take my hand,

Lead me on, let me stand

I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm alone

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.”

I am a product of the faith of my ancestors. Unlike the tragic Killmonger, I have a hope in Jesus that overpowers any structure of racism, sexism, or classism present in our society today.

 

The movie Black Panther, based on the Marvel Comics superhero (Marvel Studios, 2018), tells the fictional story of Prince T’Challa, who, after the tragic loss of his father, is made king of Wakanda and also becomes the Black Panther, the legendary protector of Wakanda.

The special effects, the soundtrack, and the music initially distract you from the serious story that begins to unfold, which revolves around the unique challenges T’Challa faces.

T-Challa’s first challenge is Wakanda’s isolationism. Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world, because of its vast stores of vibranium, used to develop advanced technology. Fearing discovery and exploitation, Wakanda has kept its identity hidden from the international community and instead poses as a poor, Third World country in Africa. Nakia, one of the many strong female leads in this film, is disappointed in the apathy of Wakanda to the plight of the other African countries surrounding them and argues that Wakanda could open its borders and care for refugees.

That’s T’Challa’s second challenge. “If you let the refugees in, they bring their problems with them,” a general warns. The general is worried about Wakanda losing its way of life, but he has no qualms with conquering other nations and imposing Wakandan ideals on them.

T’Challa faces his third challenge with the arrival of his cousin Killmonger, and at this point in the movie, the narrative takes a dark turn.

Killmonger’s father was a spy in Oakland, CA, who was murdered by T’Challa’s father for betraying Wakanda. Rather than caring for his orphaned nephew, T’Challa’s father abandoned Killmonger in America, which bred resentment in Killmonger. Having grown up seeing the discrimination and oppression of black and brown individuals in America, Killmonger believes that Wakanda’s technological power should be used to overthrow those who had oppressed his people for centuries. He almost kills T’Challa when he arrives in Wakanda and assumes the throne.

As this is a superhero movie, the good guy always wins in the end. Killmonger is defeated and T’Challa reinstated as both the king and protector of Wakanda. The conflict ends when Killmonger receives a fatal blow from T’Challa. T’Challa offers his cousin a chance to be saved, but Killmonger responds, “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the [slave] ships, because they knew death was better than bondage." That’s when the movie became personal for me.

As a black man whose great-grandmother was born a slave, I related more to the villain of this story than to the hero when I heard him say those words. Like Killmonger, I desire a heritage I can be proud of. I desire to belong, but being African-American very often means that I am neither accepted as either African or American. And I desire to be treated fairly. I have been abused and oppressed by authorities and systems in place here in America, and have often thought, “What should I do in response?” But I decided that Killmonger’s path is not the path I want to take, even though I understand it all too well.

I am the son of African natives who were taken from their homes and families, and were forced to serve under white oppressors. These individuals tried to strip away their identity and culture, and also used the Bible that I love today, and the God I serve, to justify their beliefs and actions. But my ancestors never gave up hope; if they had, I wouldn’t be here writing to you today. I am a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University majoring in Molecular Biology.

Some of you may not know who I am, but you may have seen me leading praise and worship at Stone Hill Church on Sunday morning. I believe that my ancestors endured, prayed, and died believing that one day God would vindicate them. I believe that my ancestors took the Lord at His Word when He said He is the God who judges justly. In light of that hope, they could look into the eyes of their oppressors and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual:

“Precious Lord, take my hand,

Lead me on, let me stand

I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm alone

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.”

I am a product of the faith of my ancestors. Unlike the tragic Killmonger, I have a hope in Jesus that overpowers any structure of racism, sexism, or classism present in our society today.

 

 

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