This past Friday, on February 16th, my family and I went to Black Panther. The minute the movie started, and Black faces filled the screen, I started crying. The heroes were black, the villains were black. The people were black. Even though Wakanda is a fictional place in Africa, featuring fictional characters, it was the first time I saw a movie, where the black people responded to each other, and not to a white narrative. While the movie highlighted issues relevant to communities of color, especially black communities, the movie was also action packed, well written, and well acted.
What was most powerful for me was how the movie celebrated black women and their power. They are the Kingsguard. Unlike Wonder Woman, these women existed among men, yet did not rely on the male gaze to justify their existence. The general of the army was the best soldier in the army. She had no super powers, she was a better warrior than the king, and she was funny! She, and the other women in the movie, looked like my family. My mother, grandmothers, cousins, aunts. My daughters. I’ve never seen that many black women on film, representing so many varied experiences. It was amazing.
The comic book premiered in 1961, and is not connected to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, yet the movie made me think of the Oakland based social justice organization. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, in 1966, to prevent police brutality as well as establish a new social, political, and economic order, to improve the Black community. February 17th would have been Huey P. Newton’s 76th birthday.
Coincidentally, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party. The Seattle branch of the Black Panther Party was the first chapter formed outside of the state of California. This chapter helped raise the level of consciousness and resistance in Seattle.
We, at Arts Corps, work toward a world where barriers to arts education no longer exist and all young people can creatively lead the transformation of schools, neighborhoods, and beyond. Please help us work toward this world, and join us at La Festa del Arte on March 16th, at Fremont studios.