Marvel’s Black Panther & Pan-Africanism With A Twist.

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( Considering my occupation as an African-American Studies professor, frequent discussions over Pan-Africanism are to be expected. However, the assertion that Pan-Africanist issues have taken a prominent place in the forefront of my mind is not rhetoric as I have just emerged from a full week of lecturing about Marcus Garvey and Pan-Africanism. Anyone with even a mere understanding of African-American History will tell you that Garvey should be considered the King of Pan-Africanism as he serves as one of the foremost advocates of the political ideology that calls all persons of African descent together.

So, I hope that you can understand a Color Purple inspired feeling of “maybe God is trying to tell you something” as I watched the riveting sub-discourse between T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in the recently released Black Panthermovie. If I did not know any better, I could be convinced that this was yet another sign from the ancestors that the only reasonable road for the liberation of persons of African descent is Pan-Africanism.

Although the vast majority of ‘conscious’ African-Americans trace the marginalized socioeconomic status that has dogged our community for centuries to unwise decisions to pursue integration with a hostile white populace, others such as Garvey, DuBois, Clarke, and Nkrumah would point toward an even bigger issue of the absence of a Race first mindset among persons of African descent. It is this issue of Pan-Africanism that sits prominently at the center of Marvel’s Black Panther. Questions regarding the relationship, or the lack thereof, between the citizens of Wakanda (Africans) and outsiders (diasporic blacks) are fertile ground for copious amounts of conflict between T’Challa and Erik Killmonger. The alluded to questions separating these cousins, both of whom has royal blood flowing through their veins, include the following:

  • Do continental Africans consider diasporic blacks kin?
  • Did Africa do a gross disservice to African-Americans by abandoning them in a foreign land?
  • Are African-Americans such as Erik Killmonger rational in their anger toward Africans for their blatant resistance to address the atrocities occurring in America? (One must remember that Malcolm X called for the United States of America to be brought up on Human Rights violations in the 1960s)
  • Who is responsible for healing the intra-racial divide that divides continental and diasporic persons of African descent?

Although many may assume that the blood-thirsty Erik Killmonger is the antagonist in Black Panther, I am confident that I have much company in resisting such a designation for the Oakland, California native. It could be reasonably argued that it is Erik Killmonger who is the protagonist as he possesses not only the most progressive worldview regarding the perilous plight of persons of African descent around the globe but also our only hope for ending a 500 year African Holocaust.

Unfortunately for persons of African descent, the issue of Pan-Africanism remains so highly contentious that no other issue proves our non-monolithic status in regards to political priorities or racial matters.

In many ways, it was shocking to see Pan-Africanism placed at the center of such a prominent film, yet extremely encouraging that thousands of persons of African descent were exposed to the political concept. One can only hope that continental Africans arrive at the same conclusion that T’Challa (the Black Panther) does by the film’s culmination that Africa’s abandonment of diasporic blacks is in many ways, “a crime against humanity.” The repeated failure to address this matter expeditiously is an obvious sign that the minds of Africans have not been effectively cleansed of the residue that the British, French, and other European colonizers implanted there. The shortcomings of diasporic blacks in this matter will be similarly revealing as they have repeatedly displayed a tendency to adopt the perspective their white oppressors have held regarding their kin who are the inhabitants of the “dark continent.”

It is imperative that African-Americans heed the admonishment of Dr. John Henrik Clarke who scolded our kind that “until Africa is free, you will never be free.” It is likewise important for African nations to realize that there is a sizable population of educated and financially well-off diasporic blacks eager to aid in the freeing of Africa. Until these basic realities are understood by persons of African descent around the globe, we will continue to lose in the ‘Game of Life’ where collectivism, education, planning, and the pooling of resources are the most significant difference makers one could ever imagine.

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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