Black Panther is for the Kids

Kids love superheroes.  Though recent decades have found superheroes skewing older with the explosion of comic cons and an indistry hungry for hot characters in barely-there costumes kicking ass and laying waste, let’s not forget that superheroes are also the bread and butter of childhood dreams.  We already know that Black Panther is for black people, a love letter of ancestry.  But did you know Black Panther is for the [age appropriate]children (Please read that in your best Old Dirty Bastard voice)?

Unlike lots of other superhero movies, Black Panther doesn’t include massive violence or hot chicks with their boobs out.  There are a few intense scenes, but nothing as frightening as what your kids are seeing in an active shooter drill.  More importantly, Black Panther challenges all sorts of stereotypes, giving viewers a different way of looking at blackness than we have seen in a mainstream American production.  My sister in law is taking my niece and nephews this weekend, and I’m here to help with smntks Black Panther movie FAQ kids edition.

Alert: major spoilers.  Please watch the movie first.


Black Panther is a movie about T’Challa’s rise to the throne of a fictional country Wakanda.  Along the way, T’Challa must learn about what it means to be a good man and a good king.  He learns about the mistake his father made and struggles to make a different choice.  The film is set in Wakanda, a fictional African country that was never colonized by another country, and lives in peace and isolation.  The country has a military–the Dora Milaje which is comprised of women. The country is made up of five different tribes, each unique, with their own skills, geographies, and styles, but these groups live in relative harmony under a king.  The country’s well being is based on its possession of vibranium an extraterrestrial material hidden in a mountain in Wakanda.  When outside forces conspire to sell some stolen vibranium, T’Challa must respond, but that opens the door to an unexpected challenge to the throne from Eric Killmonger, his long-lost cousin.  The result of their conflict changes T’Challah, and Wakanda forever.

Why is everyone saying this movie is special?

Black Panther is different from other major American movies:  for the first time in a Disney movie, Africans are represented as intelligent technologically skilled modern humans.  Most representations of black people are very stereotypical, casting them as criminals, super sexy singers and athletes, gang members, and reality stars.

In the movie, Black Panther black people are royalty, technologists, generals, and activists.  This is the first action movie with a majority black cast set in Africa.  This is the first time an American film has shown an African country that was not colonized.

Why is everyone black?

The film takes place in Africa.  The majority of the population of African is what we would in America consider black.  There are millions of European, Indian, and Chinese people in African, but with a population of nearly two billion people, it is safe to say they are a minority in every country.  Most countries have a white population that is under 10%, 1 out of 10.  That doesn’t mean that all Africans are alike.

There are over 3000 different ethnic groups across 60 countries in Africa.  Just like the people of Wakanda, there are many different groups of people in Africa with their own ideas, culture, and ways.

Is it racist to have a movie with all black people?

No.  Racism is when one race has power over a group of people from a different race. Racism is about unequal power, not just unequal numbers. Black Panther does not end inequality in our country. Black Panther does not give black people power over white people.

Roughly Three-Quarters of Film Actors Were White in 2014 SOURCE: USC ANNENBERG’S MDSC INITIATIVE

Having a movie with a mostly black cast is unusual.  This movie will not stop other movies with white people being made.  This movie does not try to focus on white people or disrespect them.

What’s a colonizer?

A colonizer is a person who takes over another country in order to steal their resources for their own profit.  England, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, and Portugal all colonized large parts of Africa.  They shipped people, gold, rubber and other natural resources and sent them to their home countries to build wealth and power.  Colonizers controlled the countries they took over with violence. While colonization ended for most African Countries 60 years ago, the effects of having their resources a stolen and many people killed still linger today.


Is Wakanda real?

While the country of Wakanda is (sadly) not real, a lot of what you see in the film is.  The fashion in the film is drawn from the whole continent of Africa.

Lip plates, neck rings, textiles, and hairstyles are based on real looks that originate all across the massive continent of Africa.

Is Vibranium a real thing?

No, there is no vibranium, but like the style in the movie, the idea is based on something real.  African is rich in material resources: gold, minerals, oil, rubber, diamonds and more occur naturally in Africa.  While these materials may not seem very modern, other lesser known resources are actually what fuels all our technology. Our wireless devices require a material called coltan mined primarily in the Congo.  Like vibranium, this element powers all sorts of technological devices.

Like vibranium, many western companies would like to get their hands on it and are willing to go into the Congo to retrieve it for themselves.  T’Challa is not wrong in worrying what will happen if they open up to the world.  Many countries in African are still trying to ensure their natural resources are not stolen.

Can you really fly a spaceship or drive a car from far away like in the movie?

Sort of.  While we don’t have vibranium models to navigate–yet–there are lots of ways that people use tools across distance using the internet.  The internet of things allows you to close a garage door, feed the dog or turn on a light from your phone.

da Vinci for robots.jpg

We can also use the internet to control robotic medical tools that will allow surgeons to operate on someone from another location.  So we can control some things from far away.


Self-driving cars, like the one T’Challa rode, are also something inventors like Tesla and Google are working on now.  Experts predict we will have self-driving cars on the road in the next 10 years, by the time my nephews can drive.  Look out, T’Challa!

Why did they let the girls fight?

Women are able to do anything that men are able to do, and that includes fighting in the military.  In America, women are barred from combat positions.  Other countries, like Israel, allow women to be soldiers just like men.

Across the continent of Africa, there are lots of women who have fought in battles.  Here is Yaa Asantewaa who fought colonialists in Ghana


Here are the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female fighting force that the movie’s Dora Milaje was modeled after. Like the Dora Milaje, they acted as security forces.


Why is the scientist a girl?  Princesses can’t do computer stuff.

Girls and women can do anything they want.  There are lots of women scientists who invent technology, map the stars, and fly to space.  Girls don’t need to worry about their looks or chase boys.  girls are smart and strong and want to do amazing things, just like boys. People of every gender and every orientation can choose any job, goal or friends that they want.

That means that people will have the best and brightest person doing work, like Shuri.  Imagine if she wasn’t allowed to do tech because she was a girl:  there would be no suit, not car driving from far away, no way to save Wakanda.  That’s why it important to let all genders and races work in all the fields, especially science, math, and technology.

Why did T’Challa’s dad kill his own brother?

d54acb32c933fb149a1de56baf67333e.jpgBecause it is hard for a good man to be king.  T’Chaka had to choose between caring for his baby brother and putting the people he led at risk.  Knowing the history of colonization, T’Chaka chose to keep his country a secret so no one would know what they had.  His brother had good intentions–to help back people struggling with racism, and police brutality–but his decision to use vibranium to commit violence was a way that T’Chaka thought would create more problems for Wakanda.  It was a difficult choice, and even though he was a king that doesn’t mean he made the right choice.  Leaders are not always right.  We need to hold leaders accountable when they do the wrong thing.

If it was wrong for T’Chaka to kill his brother then why did T’Challa kill his cousin?

5a8a11342000003900eaf3a0.jpgBecause it is hard for a good man to be king.  T’Challa is a king, but also a human.  Like all humans, he sometimes has to make hard choices, choices where you aren’t sure what is right.  He did not agree with Eric that they should use vibranium to start a war around the world.  Eric was determined to use their technology as a weapon, and use violence to end racism.  T’Challa removed him from the throne to stop him from doing this.  But Eric was right that T’Challa had a responsibility to try hard to help black people all around the world.  Eric reminded T’Challa that even though Wakanda was amazing, their black brothers and sister around the world still faced serious racism and need to be free. That is why T’Challa ended the film by opening up Wakanda to the world, to help all black people around the world who were his brothers and sisters be free.

What did Eric mean about the ocean?

In the end, Eric said:

Nah, just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage.

During the transatlantic slave trade, slave ships carried Africans into slavery in the United Staes and the Caribbean.  Slaves were chained below deck in torturous conditions.  Rather than be turned into slaves, some Africans Jumped overboard while the ship was at sea.

This sad event tells us that the conditions that Africans were kept in were very very bad, and they chose death over imprisonment.  Eric too decides he does not want to be imprisoned for trying to kill T’Challa and take over Wakanda to start a war.  While Eric was trying to use violence, he still was T’Challas family.  He cared about justice and hopefully, he will be back in the sequel.

Have a question you’d like added?  Throw it in the comments! Hope you enjoyed the movie Ebin, Kaden, Seba, and Kelton!





One Day

1 Its cold and traffic is terrible as the Uber inches ahead toward the light. I look out the left-hand side window and see row houses, thin, stacked up against each other, some remodeled, others older and decaying, their history in plain sight. Row houses in Georgetown were created to house the slaves and free blacks who came to Washington D.C. to build the nation’s capital. All day streams of tourists milled about the monuments, gazing up at the great men credited with creating our great nation but here too is a memorial, small broken down houses, now caught up in a storm of regentrification with tiny rooms going for $800 per square foot.

The light changes, we inch forward and then break free around a corner. Outside the cold air whips at my legs, and at the dashikis and Ankara skirts the crowd is wearing to go see Black Panther. Inside, movie-goers in yoga pants and flannels are heavily seasoned with a crowd dressed to go see the crowning of an African Prince. Their bright shirts and pants, carefully curated outfits that only hours earlier were laid out on beds, hanging in closets, waiting patiently for a moment—this moment—to be rocked in all their glory. Inside, the bright colors are invisible in the darkened theater, full to capacity for this one of five or more showing the theater had. The lights go down and we go home.

2 She is on the ramp from the first floor to the second, starring out from a wide cotton field half the length of a football field. Her face is tilted slightly, with the sun shining in the reflection of her dark skin. Her head is wrapped in white, and a bag for the cotton she picks is slung across one shoulder. The whisper of a smile or a smirk plays on her lips. Is she smiling? I have seen faces like this before—in the Ghanaian auntie sitting on the stoop of the house in Accra, in the face of a woman waiting for a train in Boston.  I feel like she is looking right at me. I look back. I know she can’t see me, but for some reason still, I feel like she can. I have seen her here before; well, of course, she is here every day, posted up in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in this huge photographic mural.  

I was here a year ago, on the day of the women’s march. Then too, in this place housing perhaps millions of black faces, her face alone stuck out to me. I stood on the ramp, arrested by her looking at me. Did she know, or even hope that one day her kinfolk would fly through the sky to come to this copper memorial to her suffering and the triumph of the enduring hope for freedom? Could she ever have imagined that we would stand here, face to face, two women across centuries living in different worlds who are no less than relations? I want to talk to her. I want to tell her we made it. I want to tell her we have so far to go. I want to ask her about the story written on her face. I want to know if I am doing all she hoped we would. Is she looking at me?

Now back at the museum, I thought maybe her impact would be different this time. Maybe the intensity of her gaze was a projection, my mind racing to find connection amidst the painful history inscribed on the lower levels of the museum. But she is here waiting for me. I feel her before I see her, waiting patiently for me to process up the ramp towards her. I stop and we connect. People pass behind me—after all, this big photograph has no label, is not carefully lit so as to encourage viewers to stop and look more closely, but still, she is what draws me. I stand for a while. I wish there was a bench right here. She is nameless, an unknown slave lost in a wash of history, but right now we are together. I want to tell her I couldn’t wait to see her, that she is my favorite. I want her to know that I love her. I want to know her wildest dream: I want her to know that I am trying to make her proud.

3 I need to buy a suit. I need to buy a suit so I can get a new job. I have been a professor for such a long time that I don’t own a suit anymore. I want a black suit because I love black. He tells me it should be blue. I think he is wrong but I don’t really have any evidence. He has been in financing and corporate America for decades while I have been in the ivory tower so I cannot be completely sure that he is wrong. What do I know? I try on the navy blue and look at myself in the mirror. Who is that? I don’t look like me. I tell him that and he shakes his head. “ It is what it is.” We have had this conversation before. I know he is trying to help me; I know I don’t like what he is saying. I call over the attendant and plead my case. She agree, tells him ladies like black. I am vindicated and try on a black blazer while they chat about my suit choices.

Her: Ladies do love to wear black and its different for women than it is for men.

Him: But she is going to have to pay the tax

There is a beat. She is remembering. Her face, now serious and a little regretful turns to me.

Her: He’s right honey; you can’t just wear what you want. You’re going to have to be better.

I don’t want them to be right. I want to be able to choose. I want to be myself. To be myself and to be in white spaces is to be black, to be at a disadvantage that I can only overcome if I do more, tow the line. I have to be better if I want any chance of being equal. The suit will cost me $500. It will cost me $500 just so I can walk in the door and not be mistaken for the maid, for a cleaning lady, or an uneducated negro who doesn’t know what color suit to wear to a corporate job interview. I do not buy the suit. I buy instead an emerald green dress.

I will buy the suit next week.

Black Movie Ticket Sales Matter

Marvel’s much anticipated Black Panther is set to open February 16, but if you haven’t gotten your ticket yet you may find yourself out of luck.  Movie tickets went on sale this week and soon after began to sell out.  Even Black Panther star Lupita N’yongo found herself ticketless for opening night.

Set in part in an African country, Wakanda, untouched by colonialism, Black Panther promises to be all kinds of black excellence–from the costumes and set to the music. Kendrick Lamar is set to release a Black Panther album and contributes a theme song in the trailer below.  Black movie audiences are so here for it that groups are buying out theaters for black audience watch parties, and donating tickets in several cities to make sure no black boy or girl will be left out of having a ticket. What’s all the fuss about?

The importance of the representation of blackness in Black Panther is significant, too much to be stated in this small post, but before the movie is already released, advance ticket sales help open the door for future productions. Major movies are, after all, made not just for art, but for profit.  The more tickets sold, the better an investment that artist, director or a similar movie may be in the future.

If all these ticket presales result in a huge box office win for Black Panther opening weekend, the film will be in good company.  Last year, both Girls Trip and Get Out proved to be not only good filmmaking but great money making.  Girls Trip was the first black-led movie to make over $100 million.  Get Out, with an original budget of only 4.5 million was the most profitable movie of 2017.  Films like these, and potentially Black Panther show that films centering Black characters and themes can be extremely lucrative as well.

Hollywood has a bad track record when it comes to supporting films and filmmakers of color. Amazing films from directors like Ava DuVarney, Ryan Coogler, and  Barry Jenkins are paving the way for more films to be made by and about Black stories. Ticket sales like we’ve seen with Girl’s Trip, Get Out and now Black Panther help to break down the old myth that black movies aren’t profitable. So if you haven’t already gotten your tickets, get them now–those tickets are more than a night at the movies, they are part of a movement.