Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

From Wakanda to Zamunda

5th March 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

I really didn’t know what to expect — and therefore had no expectations when I sat down to watch the highly anticipated film Black Panther.

All I knew was that the Black Panther struck me as “superbad” when I first caught a glimpse of him doing his thing in the film Captain America: Civil War and that the actor who played him (Chadwick Boseman) had already portrayed everyone from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to Soul Brother No. 1 James Brown and Major League Baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson in recent years. That was enough to make me want to see the film.

By the time I saw Black Panther, the film had already earned $192 million its opening weekend and had become the topic on just about everyone’s minds.

I immediately associated it with other projects like “Luke Cage” and “Black Lightning,” both of which offer alternatives to the nihilistic and mind-numbing entertainment routinely marketed to “urban viewers.”

I am grateful to Black Panther for stimulating the minds of people of African descent and showing us that we can expand our cognitive and entertainment diets while continuing to strive to get back to the days when we created and supported a film industry of our own.

Having said that, I do think that it would be somewhat naive to think that Hollywood made this film to elevate the minds of Black people or to make us think more about the issues that confront us globally and locally.

Rest assured, there will be more Madea movies and there is already talk about the release of Coming to America 2.

Hollywood has a long, sordid history of distorting the images of Black people that goes all the way back to Birth of a Nation and continues through Tarzan, The Mummy and Gods of Egypt. The fine folks in Tinseltown had many of us believing that Queen Cleopatra of ancient Kemet (Egypt) looked like Elizabeth Taylor and that Hannibal was some cannibalistic serial killer instead of one of the greatest military strategists of all time, who just happened to be Black.

For those who don’t know, Hannibal was the brother from Carthage who famously said “We will either find a way or make one” and crossed the Swiss Alps with his warriors on elephants to deliver a sound defeat to the Roman Empire.

He lives in infamy in Rome to this very day and you may recall that in the blockbuster film Gladiator, the Romans referred to Hannibal and his men as “savages.”

Black Panther contained some very impressive characters, from the fearless female warriors that brought to mind the real-life warrior queens of the Congo to the mighty male warriors and members of the royal clans who also did not back down from a challenge and fully understood their role as protectors of their families, their clans and their nation.

But as compelling and engaging as these characters were, they pale in comparison to the real-life heroes and sheroes of ancient Kemet and other parts of the Motherland.

I would venture to say that part of the reason so many of us found these characters in Black Panther so appealing is that they fill a void created by our lack of knowledge of our ancestral legacy as children of the children of the Beloved Ancestors who refused to die and those who came before them.

Many of us have heard that Africa is both the Cradle of Humanity and the Cradle of Civilization but cannot fully process and grasp what that means.

Our Beloved Ancestors were the first people to walk, breathe, laugh, love and procreate on the planet, crafted in the image of the Creator. No one can take that history away from us.

Our Beloved Ancestors also established ancient learning centers across the African continent in places like Timbuktu, Songhay and ancient Kemet. Ancient Kemet and other African nations led the way for the rest of the world and were the innovators and leaders in fields and disciplines like science, medicine, theology, architecture, navigation, agriculture, etc.

You would never know any of that if you listened to Western scholars and media organizations who have taken very calculated steps to understate and downplay ancient Kemet’s influence on Greece, given the fact that Greece is widely considered the cornerstone of Western civilization.

They would have us believe that the ancient Egyptians looked like Europeans and spoke with British accents like the characters in Gods of Egypt, that Imhotep was some ancient homicidal maniac and not one of the most brilliant human beings in the history of “everdom” and that ancient, extraterrestrial beings and not Black Africans designed and built the pyramids at Giza.

It is both exasperating and appalling that Europeans continue to push the narrative that Black Africans have played no significant role in the building and civilizing of the world even as they continue to collect and stockpile art and artifacts that underscore the historical and cultural greatness of Africa.

Who knew that “sh*thole” nations filled with undesirable people could produce such majestic works of art?

The biggest lesson to be learned from Black Panther may very well be that we shouldn’t need anyone outside of our community to tell us how beautiful, magnificent and powerful we are. The Creator already showed us that when he made us in His/Her own image and breathed life into us.

The long-term effects of Black Panther remain to be seen.

Will Black Panther, for example, have the power to convince millions of television viewers to walk away from mental junk food like “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Basketball Wives” and “Married to Medicine”? Will its inspiring words and powerful images convince us to stop killing us or selling drugs to one another?

Will BP compel us to pick up a book and make a serious effort to learn something about us and our African heritage? Will it give us the strength to turn away from hair relaxers, weaves, bundles of hair, overpriced car rims and expensive sneakers? Will it convince us to stop putting one another down and attacking one another daily with our words and actions?

Will Black Panther help us to understand and remember that the most revolutionary thing Black people can do is love one another and that when we achieve unity of thought, purpose and action we are invincible? Will it help those of us who are members of Black Greek-letter organizations to understand that these fraternities and sororities are a carbon copy of a carbon copy, replicas of Greek organizations that, as the late Dr. Asa Hilliard taught us, modeled themselves after what the ancient Greeks witnessed in Kemet’s “Mystery Schools”?

We should still be grateful to Black Panther for opening up our eyes to new possibilities and helping us to understand that we don’t have to accept the kind of mental junk food and trash that Hollywood usually feeds us. We can demand better films that capture our beauty, intelligence, power and complexity or make those films ourselves as Black film pioneers like Oscar Micheaux have already shown us.

I am thankful for the pride and joy Black children will experience when they watch Black Panther and for the way the film has sparked some long-overdue conversations among Black people.

The bottom line is that we have a lot of work to do.

We have to start reaching out to our African brothers and sisters on the continent and throughout the Diaspora and to begin tearing down the walls and barriers between us that have been erected by Western media organizations, State Department officials and multinational conglomerates who benefit economically from a disunited Africa and Africans.

It is up to those of us who live in the U.S. to support our African cousins on the continent in their quest for the unification of African states and control of Africa’s vast natural and mineral resources. It is up to all of us to establish economic partnerships with our brothers and sisters in the Motherland and throughout the Caribbean, South America and Central America and other parts of the African Diaspora.

We need to do more to reach out to our kinsfolk in the Motherland and establish more medical schools, engineering schools, business schools and do whatever we can to establish mutually beneficial relationships with them.

For the record, it would be nice to see Black folks get excited about seeing films like Crown Heights, Detroit and The Birth of a Nation and find ways to support the dreams and strivings of aspiring Black filmmakers.

Movies alone are not going to save us. We need to make time to read about our collective history and take advantage of the wisdom and leadership of master-teachers like Baba Ashra Kwesi, whose Kemet Nu Tours of Egypt are a major step toward reclaiming our rightful place in world history and our understanding of who we were and are.

There is an African proverb that says to forget is the same as to throw away.

We should never allow ourselves to forget how superbad we are.

We come from a long line of superbad people that includes men and women like Harriet Tubman, Shaka Zulu, Paul Robeson, Nina Simone, Denmark Vesey, Ida B. Wells, Queen Ann Nzingha, Kwame Toure, Huey P. Newton, Dr. Martin Delany, Dr.. Daniel Hale Williams, Marcus Garvey, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, Charles Deslondes, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Fannie Lou Hamer, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Garrett Morgan, Dorothy Height, the Hon. Shirley Chisholm, the Hon. Barbara Jordan, Benjamin Banneker and Steve Biko.

Ain’t nobody bad like us. Now get out there and make our Beloved Ancestors proud. Harambee.

This article originally published in the March 5, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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