Africa is MORE Than Just Hollywood’s “Black Panther” (Pt. 1 of 2)

Originally posted on 1/6/19 on Zoot580.blogspot.com.

On February 16, 2018 Marvel Comics and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fans, especially those of African (and African American) origin experienced the historic release of “Black Panther” with great delight.  For the first time, a Marvel Cinematic release was located in, featured and revolved around people of color.

Black Panther characters Ramonda, Nakia, T’Challa, Erik Killmonger and Shuri.

Set in the fictional country of Wakanda, it is the story of heir apparent T’Challa, who becomes king (after his father, King T’Chaka is assassinated at a conference on German soil in “Captain America: Civil War”), of a technologically advanced, uncolonized and otherwise hidden country in Africa.  King T’Challa, also serving as superhero and warrior “Black Panther”, soon finds his new appointment threatened by the presence of the unknown and revenge-seeking Erik Killmonger, son of King T’Chaka’s late brother who betrayed the kingdom years prior.

Boasting a stellar and talented all-star cast, “Black Panther” raked in over $1.35 billion worldwide, making it the 9th highest grossing film of all time and the first Marvel film with a predominantly black cast and director.

Marvel Image

Top Row (l-r): Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright

Bottom Row (l-r): Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Serkis

Black people worldwide celebrated this incredible movie and quickly idolized the characters of T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, M’Baku and even sympathetic villian, Killmonger.  Action figures, posters, t-shirts and Halloween costumes went into mass production with representation of characters from this ground-breaking film.  Most notable was the use of the now classic phrase, “Wakanda Forever”, proudly proclaimed while forming arms and fists in an “X” formation across the chest.

Now, let me make this perfectly clear…

Nothing I state in this post is a slam against this movie or its fans on any level, as it was well-received, deserving of its praise and many awards and extremely long overdue (especially considering the fact that the character debuted in “Fantastic Four” comic issue #52 back in 1966). In fact, I’ve been praying for his character to come to film since I was a young teenager.

That’s right, the Black Panther character is over 50 years old. 

My concern comes from the love we’ve lavished upon this awesome movie, set in a continent that we have otherwise ignored and in many ways, forgotten.  I can’t begin to tell you how many people I’ve seen at parties, in internet photos and on the street that have crossed their arms across their chests in tribute while shouting with pride, “Wakanda Forever”!!!  I’ve even encountered children (and sadly, adults) that have expressed interest in visiting the great, yet non-existent country.  I’m willing to take it so far as to surmise that the average child (and again, once again, some adults) would mention “Wakanda” if you asked them to name the first African country that comes to mind.

What I CAN tell you is that this dreamy, countryside setting of Wakanda is widely known to have been designed based on Lake Bunyonyi in western Uganda.

In fact, let me try listing countries (from memory) in Africa: Uganda, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Chad, Sudan, Tanzania, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritria, Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Sudan, Rwanda…

Nope, sorry.  “Wakanda” does not come to mind and didn’t at any point.

I’m not naming countries to boast my knowledge or memory, but rather illustrate that my respect and love for Africa is not based on the wondrous images and traditions in a movie.  My love comes from the reality that IS Africa; one of the most beautiful continents on the planet.

If anything, Hollywood has perverted my knowledge of mother Africa since I was young with movies like “Tarzan”, “King Kong” and others that depict its citizens as unlearned, submissive to the so-called “superior” cultures or displaying savage and hostile behavior to foreigners in addition to each other.

  • Is there civil/political unrest and corruption in government in some areas in Africa? Yes.  Just like other places around the globe on BBC World News. And I won’t begin to speak about the division in THIS country.  Lord, that man and his “wall”…
  • Are there areas in Africa where it’s unsafe to roam, unescorted? Sure.  Driven through some of these cities in AMERICA with a high crime index lately?
  • Are there uncharted lands that beg to be photographed and inhabited? Of course.  All over.  Just like America, particularly my own back yard (these kids need to get to mowin’).
  • Are there children, starving, not knowing where their next meal will come from? Indeed, just like here.  I once worked with two teenage sibling employees that were homeless and looking out for each other.  I had to talk the young girl’s brother out of committing suicide because of their plight. 
    This problem is everywhere and yes, some places more than others.

Many beliefs and practices in Africa are similar to those around the world, simply existing in different forms.  One particular problem is that film and media ONLY report/illustrate danger and suffering.  This is all you see.  This is what’s emphasized.  I sit at home and see an infomercial with a young African child, eyes – yellow from jaundice or other conditions, skin – dried and broken from a lack of medical treatment, cracked lips, half naked, with flies buzzing around and on him.  They go untouched because he’s too weak to do anything about it.  Remember former actress Sally Struthers, spokesperson of the ChildFund campaign?  She led many to believe that the entire continent was comprised of nothing BUT this.

Yes, these children do indeed need help, as do many in various countries in Africa.  We get the pitch and send money, feeling good about ourselves because we’ve “done our part” to help that poor, starving continent.  Writing a check is enough. We can sleep at night.  We did “what Jesus would have done”.   Sigh…

But we won’t DARE take a trip to see it.  We’re afraid to visit, because we think giant apes, alligators and lions are waiting around every corner, if the area isn’t already heavily populated with guerilla warfare or mutated insects looking to infect us with diseases.  Let us not forget: this is where the supposed “green monkey” resided that created patient zero for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome (AIDS).  Jesus.

Again, please don’t think that I’m suggesting that because unfortunate conditions exist everywhere that you should not continue to offer assistance where and when you can.  It is indeed the humane thing to do; helping our brothers and sisters in Africa and around the world.  What I AM saying is that there is so much more to Africa, that you HAVE to learn about, experience, and more importantly, celebrate.

You can visit and bask in the beauty of the Sossusvlei Dunes in Nambia, Sahara Dunes of Morocco, the Pyramids of Giza, Sphinx and Wonders of the Nile in Egypt.  Take a riding safari in Kenya, learn about the great migration in Tanzania, Table Mountain in South Africa, Lower Zambezi in Zambia, Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The list goes on and on and on…

Uganda alone has wonderful places to visit, including the beautiful capital city of Kampala, hosting sites such as the Kasubi Royal Tombs, Nakasero Hill, Independence Monument, Destination Jungle.  Check it out.  Experience its rich heritage, check out the thriving markets.  Enjoy innovative music from all genres, bars and restaurants representing cultures around the world, in addition to its own. There is oh so much to see and do.  Take a peek at their literature!  I’ve even read “Flair For Her Uganda Magazine”, which is just as entertaining and informative as magazines such as Ebony, Essence, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan.

Beautiful Kampala, Uganda at night.

What I’m saying is that Africa, often referred to as the “Cradle of Civilization” is much MORE than what you see in a Hollywood movie, television commercial or variety show skit.  It’s more than what’s portrayed in the news – the Dark Continent.  It is a land, rich with national resources that we depend upon and treasure, such as: salt, gold, diamonds, petroleum, coffee beans, tropical fruits, etc. It is comprised of a very proud people, with healthy representation in science and industry – not just in America, but around the world.  It is a city that is diverse, yet miraculously similar in traditions, music, family values and its potential for growth.

And no, their technological advances are NOT the result of a substance called Vibranium, landing from outer space.  Although I AM glad it landed in Africa.

But hey, by all means, purchase a copy of the movie.  Watch it again.  Share it with others that haven’t seen it.  It’s streaming now, so have a “Watch Party”.  Continue to support and celebrate it, because this movie is something in which we can all take pride.  It is, INDEED, a beautiful tribute.

But do NOT forget or neglect the REAL people and land that this project represents.  Give love to Mother Africa!  Do your research.  Talk to people from the various nations of this fabulous continent.  Use your local library, google and watch the History and Travel channels to your advantage and learn what’s out there, just waiting for you to behold.

Oh, and please, PLEASE think twice before asking Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman to position his arms in the iconic “Wakanda Forever” pose.  As accommodating as he has been and continues to be, I’m sure he’s quite tired of doing it.

And I can’t blame him. Just like Robert Englund is, making imaginary “Freddy Krueger” claws, Macaulay Culkin, slapping his cheeks and screaming like he did in “Home Alone” or expecting R&B recording artist, Chante’ Moore to kiss you passionately for hours-   (Oops.  Sorry.  Wrong fantasy-to-reality moment).

So let us Marvel at the fantasy, but never forget to embrace the reality.

Wakanda UGANDA Forever!” 

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