From the New York Times:
‘Black Panther’ Brings Hope, Hype and Pride
By SALAMISHAH TILLET FEB. 9, 2018
But the excitement has also been fueled by the origin story of the African superhero.
In many ways, Black Panther is part of a current wave of black superheroes, like Netflix’s Luke Cage and CW’s Black Lightning. But “Black Panther” has the setting of Wakanda, a fictional African country that is wealthy (thanks to vibranium, a mineral with energy-manipulating qualities) and technologically advanced. Part of the movie’s emotional and visual appeal lies in the fact that Wakanda has never been colonized.
“Wakanda is a kind of black utopia in our fight against colonialism and imperial control of black land and black people by white people,” said Deirdre Hollman, a founder of the annual Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. “To the black imagination, that means everything. In a comic book, it is a reality, and through a major motion picture, it’s even more tangibly and artistically a reality that we can explore for ourselves. There’s so much power that’s drawn from the notion that there was a community, a nation that resisted colonization and infiltration and subjugation.”
Where have we heard the term “infiltration?”
For Frederick Joseph, a marketing consultant who created the #BlackPantherChallenge, a GoFundMe campaign to buy tickets so youngsters can see “Black Panther” in theaters, the complexity of Wakanda takes on new meaning in our current moment. Compared with President Trump’s disparagement of Haiti and African nations, he said, “You have Wakanda as a place of Afro-futurism, of what African nations can be or what they could have been and still be had colonialism not taken place.” …
In this sense, “Black Panther” is as much an alternative to our contemporary racial discourse as it is a throwback, not only a desire for what could have been but also a nostalgia for what we once had. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this movie appears precisely in a moment in which our politics seems inescapable,” Mr. Gray said, adding later that “Black Panther” should be understood in a political context in which both the legal gains of the civil rights movement and the interracial optimism of the Obama era have been undermined.
For Marc Bernardin, an author of the comic book “Genius” and host of the podcast “Fatman on Batman” with the director Kevin Smith, the movie taps into “the cultural longing for what Obama was, the time in which you didn’t check your phone every day hoping the world wasn’t on fire again. A time where devaluation of young black life wasn’t as stark and awful as it feels like it is right now.”
Simply going to the movie can be interpreted as a small gesture of protest and a grand expression of cultural pride. …
In Oakland, Calif., LaDawn James Williams originally intended to fly to New York to see it with her college friends from Howard University. Instead she plans to host a “Black Panther” screening for her local chapter of Jack and Jill of America. She, her husband, and their 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son will watch it with more than 90 other African-American families in a private viewing.
I’ve got a new, quite different theory about the cultural/political roots of Wakanda Worship, but maybe I’ll hold it back while I work on it for a few days.