By Stephanie Shonekan, Art, Music, and Pop Culture Contributing Editor
“The wise build bridges, the foolish build barriers,” King T’Challa tells the United Nations at the end of Black Panther. This sentiment resonated with me throughout the film. I was not thinking of the different world powers coming together on an equal footing to help each other and share resources. This is improbable and untenable in a hierarchical world where we still consider some countries third world and some first world. In this light, T’Challa’s statement is simplistic and cheesy. But as I thought about the relevance of this statement for the chasm between Africans and African Americans, it grew in profundity.
By Christian Rozier
“Without an image of tomorrow, one is trapped by blind history, economics, and politics beyond our control…Only by having clear and vital images of the many alternatives, good and bad, of where one can go, will we have any control over the way we may actually get there in a reality tomorrow will bring all too quickly.”—Samuel R. Delany
Bubbling up from the primordial soup of the Mississippi Delta mud, warbling and otherworldly notes of transcendence emerged from the dusky throats of sharecroppers and the guitar strings of convicts to transport the spirits of their communities to some dimension of eternity in which they were momentarily and ecstatically free from the daily humiliations and hardships of daily life.Delta blues musicians including Geeshie Wiley and Charlie Patton used their haunting voices to construct rocket ships to a new promised land. Earlier, enslaved Africans in 18th century New Orleans gathered each Sunday in Congo Square and with drums, bells, and bodies, conjured chariots for their spirits to escape the temporal and touch the eternal plane. From Alice Coltrane to Octavia Butler, George Clinton to Janelle Monae, the Black Imagination is the principal scaffolding of liberation. As Clinton and Eddie Hazel remind us, first you gotta free your mind, and your ass will follow.
By Marquise Griffin
For the next three weeks, Praxis Center will publish three different takes on the highly anticipated film Black Panther. In a Good Morning America interview, Chadwick Boseman was asked what he hoped people would take away from the film. His response was both simple and profound: you’ll get from the film what you take into it. In other words, each person will have a perspective that is unique to their background and position. In this spirit, we will be sharing three different perspectives—from a comic book geek, a filmmaker geek, and a black identity geek. All three writers are black and have particular ways of viewing and thinking about this film. We will start with Marquise Griffin, a self-described “blerd” (black nerd) and former student of mine, who entered the film with great apprehension as an enthusiastic comic book geek. Next week we’ll share a review from Christian Rozier, a filmmaker and film studies professor. After that, I will wrap up this Black Panther mini-series with thoughts on what the film offers to us on the issue of Pan-African black identity. —Stephanie Shonekan, Contributing Editor, Music, Art and Pop Culture