AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – SURVIVAL STRATEGIES FOR WHEN THE DYSTOPIA ARRIVES

[Brought to you by donations by the Indiana Humanities and CICF. Catered by the phenomenal We Run This.]

The theme of our Afrofuturism Fridays discussions is to ponder the questions “Where are we now?” “Where do we want to be?” and “How do we get there?” because we have to imagine the future we want to see.

Let’s start with a re-cap of Octavia Butler and her seminal work Parable of the Sower.

Who was Octavia E. Butler?

(AP Photo/ Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Joshua Trujillo)

Born in 1947 in Pasadena, California, her mother was a maid and her father a shoe shine man who died when she was seven. She was raised in a strict Baptist home by her mother and grandmother. Though introverted and socially awkward, and having severe dyslexia, she spent hours reading science fiction and fantasy in her public library.

When she was 10, she saw the B-movie “Devil Girl from Mars” which changed her life. She had two epiphanies: “Someone got paid to write that.” And “I could write better than that.” So she convinced her mom to buy her a typewriter.

A well-intentioned aunt told her that “Negroes can’t be writers.”

She graduated high school in 1965 and began to take night classes at a local community college. She entered and won a fiction writing contest with a draft that would become Kindred, her best-selling novel. While working a series of temp jobs, she was encouraged by science fiction great, Harlan Ellison, to keep writing.

In 1984, her short story “Speech Sounds” (about the unraveling of civilization when a disease renders everyone mute) won the Hugo for Best Short Story. The next year she won the Hugo and Locus Awards for her novella Bloodchild. Parable of the Sower came out in 1993 and Parable of the Talents in 1998, the latter won the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction novel. In 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur “Genius” Award.

The Parable series was supposed to be at least a trilogy, but researching it proved too depressing for her so she gave herself a break by writing a science fiction vampire novel called Fledgling. It was her 14th and final book. She died of a stroke in 2006.

She inspired a generation of writers (myself included – I sent out my first story in 1993).

Parable of the Sower

[If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, here’s a Crash Course Literature by John Greene.]

Octavia Butler has said that she came to this of the future by imagining our current problems progressing unchecked to their logical ends. How prescient was Butler? Here’s a taste:

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

That quote was about a presidential candidate running on the platform “Make America Great Again” … which she wrote in 1998. And that was in the sequel, Parable of the Talents. Her work combines imagination with social, political, and even religious practice. It creates blueprints to find new ways to understand ourselves and the world around us. And, with its Afrofuture promise, it paints a vivid portrait of what the world could look like. In our discussion we’ll be looking at themes in the book focusing on community strategies to survive a dystopian landscape as well as a discussion on what transformative justice may look like.

BOOK DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What were some of your favorite takeaways from the book?
  2. What do you think Octavia Butler was trying to say?
  3. What was unique about her portrayal of the future?
  4. Part of what Afrofuturism does is to make the unimagined tangible, to create something to long for. What do you long for after reading Parable of the Sower?
  5. There’s a theme of personal responsibility and the needs of the community that runs through the book. Why does Jo react so negatively to Lauren’s concerns about being better prepared as a community and as individuals to face crises?
  6. Lauren’s father has pointed out that the community as a whole has trouble thinking far ahead and into such sensitive areas. How are we preparing now for when the dystopian future arrives? What should we be doing?
  7. Religion is an important theme in the book. Earthseed is basically presented as a new religion. Is there anything about it that you think could be described as comforting? Or liberating? Is Earthseed a system of beliefs that appeal to you?

Books cited in the discussion:

  • A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone
  • An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture by John McKnight, Peter Block, and Walter Brueggemann
  • Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown
  • Beyond Fear: A Toltec Guide to Freedom & Joy by Don Miguel Ruiz

Adrienne Brown (a co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements) wrote that “Octavia understood that these are the conditions that emerge when we are trapped in the imagination of racists, fundamentalists, and smart people addicted to hierarchy—people who don’t think of the whole; people who don’t love people like me who are black, queer, feminine of center, fat, wear glasses, etc. Octavia understood that we have to claim the space to imagine ourselves beyond this world.

What are you doing to prepare for the future?

Let’s leave with this quote from Parable of the Sower: “All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change.”

Go forth and be the change.

 

Mo*Con 2018 – A Recap in Pictures

Thank you to my guests of honor, Mikki KendallLynne Marie Thomas, Michael Thomas, John Urbancik, and Jen Udden. As well as special guest star, Chesya Burke.

A special shout out to all of the community partners who helped make it possible: Kheprw Institute, Spirit & Place, Sip N Share Wine, Empowering Cuisine, and The Switchboard.

Thank you to the extra helping hands who work so diligently behind the scenes, Jerry Gordon and Rodney Carlstrom (and the entire Carlstrom family)

And special thanks to the hostess with the mostess, Sally Broaddus, whose patience and spirit of hospitality make this all possible.

Until next year (and we’re already planning next year)!

The Valkyrie – StarShipSofa No 535

My Afrofuturist heroine, Second Lieutenant Macia Branson, gets the full podcast treatment thanks to StarShipSofa. They are “reprinting” her first appearance in the short story “The Valkyrie” from War Stories Anthology (Apex Books, 2014).

This story takes place before her appearance previously in “Voice of the Martyr” (from which my short story collection is titled) in Beyond the Sun (Fairwood Press, 2013). Most recently she appeared in “Vade Retro Satana” in FIYAH Magazine (2017).

“The Valkyrie” sets the stage for what Earth is like while many black folks left for the stars (see “At the Village Vanguard” or “El is a Spaceship Melody“).

Enjoy the podcast.

StarShipSofa No 535 Maurice Broaddus

 

An Evening with Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke (a pre-Mo*Con event)

At the intersection of race, gender, social justice, and speculative fiction, two powerful voices, Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke, join us for a night of what is sure to be lively conversation. Mikki and Chesya will interview each other and host a Q&A in a free-flowing dialogue on oppressive politics, the state of fluid literature, white feminism, and paths for moving forward.

ABOUT MIKKI KENDALL

A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and DePaul, Mikki Kendall has been blogging since 2003 under the pen name Karnythia. With nearly 100K Twitter followers, in August of 2013, Mikki started the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. It sparked a global conversation about racism, solidarity, representation, and access to resources in feminist circles. Her other hashtags (including #fasttailedgirls, #NotJustHello, #AbuserDynamics, #MillenialMammy, #NotYourMandingo, and others designed to make room for hard conversations about feminist issues) have also gone viral. Her hashtag #HistoricPOC was used by the US National Archives as part of the 2015 Black History Month events.

She has written for The Guardian, Ebony, Essence, Publishers Weekly, Global Comment, Salon, xoJane, The Toast, and other online and print markets. She has also been published in several anthologies, both fiction and nonfiction. She edited the Locus nominated anthology Hidden Youth with Chesya Burke, and is part of the Hugo nominated team of editors at Fireside Magazine. In addition, Mikki is an accomplished public speaker, frequently speaking on race, feminism, and social media at a variety of conferences and colleges.

Sample Mikki here:

Want to thank black voters for defeating Roy Moore? Tackle voter suppression.

Want to see Oprah be president? Maybe she should start with city council.

ABOUT CHESYA BURKE

Chesya Burke is a doctoral candidate in the English department at the University of Florida. She received her Master’s degree in African American Studies from Georgia State University in 2015. Currently, Chesya is a double fellow, receiving both the Florida Education Fund McKnight Fellowship and the PhD Graduate Student Fellowship from the University of Florida. As a scholar, she teaches such topics as Black Women Spec Fic Writers, The Racial Dynamics of Nationality Politics and The Literature of Resistance: From Nat Turner to Black Panther.

In addition, Burke wrote several articles for the African American National Biography published by Harvard and Oxford University Press. Burke is an award-winning writer, who has published nearly a hundred stories and articles, leading Grammy-nominated spoken word artist and poet Nikki Giovanni to call her work “stunning.” Her primary areas of interests are in African American literature, race and gender studies, comics and fluid fiction. She edited the Locus nominated anthology, Hidden Youth, with Mikki Kendall and her thesis was on the comic book character Storm from the X-MEN. Shiv, Burke’s stand alone comic, is scheduled to debut in 2019.

You can sample Chesya’s work here:

Zero Percent Chance

Say, She Toy:

Horror Is . . . Not What You Think or Probably Wish It Is

AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – FROM WAKANDA TO PARABLE OF THE SOWER

First off, we’re pleased to announce that we have received a grant from Indiana Humanities to continue these conversations!

Second, Afrofuturism considers these questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? Our goal is to imagine the future we want to see. So let’s start with a re-cap of how dominating Black Panther’s run has been:

At this point, Black Panther’s performance at the box office has stopped being surprising and is now just impressive. Black Panther was number one at the box office for five straight weekends, it is now the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time domestically and it is the most tweeted about movie ever. Black Panther has now passed the nigh-unsinkable Titanic to become the third highest-grossing film of all time domestically.

-It’s only surpassed by James Cameron’s Avatar, which sits at number two, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens at number one.

Black Panther will be the first film released in Saudi Arabia in 35 years.

 

AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – REPLICATING WAKANDA (A Re-cap)

After a vibrant (and standing room only) discussion about the movie Black Panther and its themes, our discussion ended before we had a chance to discuss the role of technology in our communities. Technology plays a vital role in Wakanda—in medicine, communication, protection, and transportation (we see a Wakanda designed to be walkable Wakanda as well as having a mass transit system). What we want to consider is that:

Afrofuturism is not just an aesthetic — it’s just as much a framework for activism and imagining new technologies. We’re interested in how the movement can make a practical difference in the lives of those from whom the thought culture draws.

We watched two clips about tech and Afrofuturism from Robin Thede’s late night show The Rundown as the basis of our table discussions:

  1. What (unique) resources does your community have?

-how can you use those resources to build your community?

-how can you leverage your privilege to benefit other communities?

  1. Considering the needs of your community, what are some technological aids (not fixes)?

-what kind of technology can you come up with?

 

RESOURCES

Afrofuturism and Outsider Tech

Sculpting Space for Afrofuturism as a Methodology of Liberation

 

NEXT UP: Octavia Butler’s seminal work, Parable of the Sower.

Octavia Butler’s work combines imagination with social, political, and even religious practice. It creates blueprints to find new ways to understand ourselves and the world around us. And, with its Afrofuture promise, it paints a vivid portrait of what the world could look like. So we leave you with this thought from Parable of the Sower:

“All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change.”

Go forth and be the change.

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN SPECULATIVE FICTION – A READING PRIMER

I recently spoke at the Kheprw Institute on the history of Black Spec Fic. This is the reading list I provided as a starting point:

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN SPECULATIVE FICTION – A READING PRIMER

Martin Delany
Blake, or the Huts of America (1859)

Charles W. Chesnutt
The Conjure Woman  (1899)

Frances Harper
Iola Leroy (1892)

Sutton Griggs
Imperium in Imperio (1899)

Pauline Hopkins
Of One Blood (1902)

Edward A. Johnson
Light Ahead for the Negro (1904)

W. E. B. Du Bois
“The Comet” (1920)
“Jesus Christ in Texas” (1920)

Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Mules and Men (1935)
Tell My Horse (1938)

George Schuyler
Black No More (1931)

Henry Dumas
Echo Tree

Amos Tutuola
The Palm Wine Drinkard (1952)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954)

Samuel R. Delany
The Jewels of Aptor (1962)
Dhalgren (1975)
“Racism and Science Fiction”

Virginia Hamilton (1934-2002)
Zeely (1967)
The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl (1986)
The Justice Trilogy (2012)

Ishmael Reed
Mumbo Jumbo (1972)

Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon (1977)
Beloved (1987)

Octavia E. Butler
Kindred (1979)
“Bloodchild” (1984)
Parable of the Sower (1993)
Fledgling (2005)

Charles Saunders
Imaro (1981)

Gloria Naylor
Mama Day (1988)

Charles R. Johnson
Middle Passage (1990)

Jewelle Gomez
The Gilda Stories (1991)

Tananarive Due
My Soul to Keep (1997)
The Good House (2003)
Ghost Summer (2015)

Christopher Priest (Jim Owsley)
Black Panther v.3 (1998- 2003)

Nalo Hopkinson
Brown Girl in the Ring (1998)
Midnight Robber (2000)

Sandra Jackson-Opoku
The River Where Blood Is Born (1998)

Victor LaValle
Slapboxing with Jesus (1999)
Big Machine (2009)
The Ballad of Black Tom (2016)

Colson Whitehead
The Intuitionist (1999)
Zone One (2011)
The Underground Railroad (2016)

Sheree Renée Thomas
Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000)
Dark Matter: Reading the Bones (2004)

Walter Mosley
Futureland: Nine stories of an imminent future (2001)

Linda D. Addison
Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes (2001)
Being Full of Light, Insubstantial (2007)
How to Recognize a Demon has Become your Friend (2011)

Steven Barnes
Lion’s Blood (2002)
Zulu Heart (2003)

L.A. Banks
The Vampire Huntress Legend series (2003-2010)
Crimson Moon series (2008- 2010)

Minister Faust
Coyote Kings of the Space- Age Bachelor Pad (2004)
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain (2007)

Brandon Massey
Dark Dreams (2004)
Dark Corner (2004)

Andrea Hairston
Mindscape (2006)
Redwood and Wildfire (2011)

Nisi Shawl
Filter House (2008)
Stories for Chip (w/ Bill Campbell 2015)

Wrath James White
The Resurrectionist (2009)

Nnedi Okorafor
Who Fears Death (2010)
Akata Witch (2011)
Binti (2016)

Maurice Broaddus
“Pimp My Airship” (2009)
King Maker (2010)
The Voices of Martyrs (2017)

Helen Oyeyemia
White is for Witching (2010)

N.K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010)
The Fifth Season (2015)

Chesya Burke
Let’s Play White (2011)

Mat Johnson
Pym (2011)

Milton Davis
Changa’s Safari (2011)

Balogun Ojetade
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (2012)

Tobias Buckell
Arctic Rising (2012)
Hurricane Fever (2014)

Sofia Samatar
A Stranger in Olondria (2013)

Bill Campbell
Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond (2013)
Stories for Chip (w/ Nisi Shawl 2015)

Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Summer Prince (2013)
Love Is the Drug (2015)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” (2015)

Jenn Brissett
Elysium (2014)

Tade Thompson
Making Wolf (2015)

Kai Ashante Wilson
“The Devil in America” (2015)
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (2015)
A Taste of Honey (2016)

Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown
Octavia’s Brood (2015)

Marlon James
The Dark Star trilogy (2017)

 

 

Shout Outs
John F. Allen
Paula D. Ashe
Michael Boatman
K. Tempest Bradford
Crystal Connor
Errick Dunnally
Andre Duza
Robert Fleming
Craig Laurance Gidney
LR Giles
Seressia Glass
Lawanna Holland-Moore
Valjeanne Jeffers
Jemiah Jefferson
Rhonda Jackson Joseph
John Edward Lawson
Kai Leakes
Alicia McCalla
Carl Hancock Rux
J. Malcolm Stewart
Geoffrey Thorne
K. Ceres Wright
Ibo Zoboi

 

Check out:

A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction

Science Fiction by African Writers

Upcoming Workshops

I’ve been getting a lot of (well-earned) grief about not publicizing my workshops and such. I try to keep my appearances updated on my web site, but here are some upcoming events:

Afrofuture Fridays – the second Friday of the month, I’ll be at the Kheprw Institute leading a community conversation on Afrofuturism and applying those themes to community work. Here are links to our introduction and out Black Panther conversations. Indiana Humanities has awarded us a $4,000 grant to continue the conversations. Next up, April 13th, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Characterization Through Dialogue – “Characters are at the heart of stories and dialogue helps define characters and drive story.  In this workshop you’ll learn to develop characters, consider word choice, and define their voice through dialogue. The workshop will present essential tips to improve dialogue and explore how to write dialogue that rings true, deepens character, creates tension, and more.” Saturday, May 19, 9-12p at the Indiana Writers Center.

Pop up Writing Workshop: Your Super Hero Story – “Learn tips to writing your own super hero story by transforming your personal memoirs and experiences into a masterpiece led by an expert at the Indiana Writers Center.” Monday, June 18, 6:00-7:30 pm at Metazoa Brewing

Midwest Writers Workshop Super Mini-conference – I’ll be conducting workshops on Worldbuilding, Dialogue, and the Business of Writing. July 27-28 at the Ball State Alumni Center.

Writing Excuses Cruise – Allow me to quote fellow instructor, K. Tempest Bradford: “Join me on the Writing Excuses cruise, a writing conference & retreat taking place this September. Hone your craft by attending talks & participating in workshops led by a huge roster of amazing writers, editors, & agents. I’ll be an instructor this year alongside Amal El-MohtarMaurice Broaddus, Piper J Drake, Valynne E. MaetaniDongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kathy Powell ChungSandra TaylerDan Wells, and Howard Tayler. The depth of our collective knowledge is rivaled only by the sea, which we will sail to Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico. Yes, this cruise is part adventure as well. Though you’ll only a get a brief taste of each place we dock, sometimes that’s just enough for inspiration. And maybe it will make you want to return, explore deeper, and fuel more creative fire. More details available at the link as well as registration.”

Indiana State Library teen-focused writing festival celebrating the horror and sci-fi genres. October 20, 2018. Details to follow.

[My Apperances page also includes the conventions I plan on attending. Look for me at the Steampunk SymposiumMo*Con, GenCon, and World Fantasy]

The Apex Takeover Continues

A year ago it was announced that I’d taken on the position as reprints editor for Apex Magazine. Recently I was saying to myself, “Self, you’re not that busy, is there anything else you can take on?” So Apex Magazine made this announcement…

am pleased to announce that Maurice Broaddus has accepted the position of nonfiction editor for Apex Magazine!

Maurice is a prolific and well-regarded author who works in a multitude of genres. He is also the Apex Magazine reprints editor and now wears two hats for our publication. Upcoming authors Maurice has lined up for essays include Mur Lafferty, Mary SanGiovanni, and Tobias S. Buckell.

You can find Maurice Broaddus on Twitter at @mauricebroaddus and online at www.mauricebroaddus.com. His novella “Buffalo Soldiers” was recently published at Tor.com.

Mo*Con Giveaways: USB Memory Direct

We have a lot of partners coming on board to help put on Mo*Con this year.

USB Memory Direct has provided us with 25 custom flash drives to give away on a first come first serve basis.

Their catalog of drives can be found here, but they can obviously customize them (THEY FLIP TO MATCH MY BUSINESS CARDS/BOOK COVERS!)

AFROFUTURE FRIDAYS – REPLICATING WAKANDA (A Re-cap)

Being The Only White Guy In A Black Office After Black Panther

https://www.facebook.com/AllDefDigital/videos/1676552389104286/

If you think Black Panther was just another superhero movie, then you’ll probably be thrown by our discussions on race, colonialism, the relationship between black Americans/Africans, who the real hero of the movie was, and the role of technology in our communities.

We were tempted to have the community conversation the weekend after the movie came out. Think pieces were coming out left and right. Though I’d already seen it twice opening weekend, I needed more time to digest them. Plus we wanted to give folks a chance to see it. And they have:

[From Forbes last Monday … BEFORE IT HIT $920M WORLDWIDE]

 Black Panther just snagged a jaw-dropping $65.7 million in its third weekend of domestic release. That’s the third-biggest third weekend of all time, behind only Avatar ($69m in 2010) and Star: The Force Awakens ($90m in 2016).

 Like Jurassic World, it needed just 17 days to get to $500 million domestic, which will be one day slower than The Last Jedi and seven days slower than The Force Awakens.

Whether or not Black Panther catches up to The Last Jedi’s $619 million domestic total, it has already surpassed The Dark Knight Rises ($448m in 2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($459m in 2015) to become the third-biggest grossing comic book superhero movie in North America. It sits behind The Dark Knight ($534m in 2008) and The Avengers ($623m in 2012).

It has already passed Finding Dory to become the tenth-biggest U.S. grosser of all time, with a final landing spot of between seventh place and fifth place by the time it wraps up.

A BRIEF  HISTORY OF BLACK PANTHER COMICS

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby created the character in July-Aug 1966, making his debut in a two-part Fantastic Four storyline in issues 52-53 (right after the introduction of the Silver Surfer and Galactus). He goes on to join the Avengers.

His first starring role was in a comic called Jungle Action written by Don McGregor in 1973. Of additional note, the run was illustrated by Billy Graham, one of the first African American artists in comics. This highly respected run that gave us Eric Killmonger.

The 1970s brought us all manner of problematic villains, like Man-Ape (now M’Baku). [It wasn’t just him. For example, during this time Luke Cage was fighting the pimp-looking villain of the week.] After a couple mini-series, they turn to a writer named Christopher J. Priest.

Starting out as Jim Owsley, Priest became the first black editor and then first black writer at either Marvel or DC (1979). He went on to play a major role in Milestone Media. FOR ME, THIS WAS THE DEFINITIVE RUN ON BLACK PANTHER. He re-thought the approach to Black Panther: he’s not a superhero, he’s a king (Peter David mimicked this approach when he re-vamped Aquaman). So he gives a reason why a king would join a super-hero team (such as spying on a group of super-powered individuals for whom borders mean nothing) as well as the problems this causes back home for his rule. Priest is responsible for most of the world-building seen in the movie: the tribe structure (pared down to five from Priest’s 18), kimono beads, Dora Milaje, the Dogs of War; the rehabilitation of the problematic “villain” Man-Ape (M’Baku); and Everett K. Ross (brought over from Priest’s run on Ka-zar).

Black Panther has been largely in the hands of black writers since.

Reginald Hudlin, of House Party fame, took over next. It was his run that gave us Shuri and on which the BET animated series was based (you can now watch the entire run on Marvel’s YouTube channel).

[Our discussion about resources was answered by T’Chaka in the series at the 5:00 minute mark]

Ta-Nehisi Coates. Roxanne Gay. Nnedi Okorafor. Black creators have taken up the reigns of the book.

WHICH BRINGS US TO THE MOVIE – Why was this movie important to you?

There is a vision of black solidarity world wide, bridging the relationship between those in the Diaspora and Africans. It’s a beautiful celebration of blackness: excellence and art. And it continues the conversation on how best to achieve black liberation: Booker T. Washington “vs.” W.E.B. DuBois; Malcolm X “vs.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. One of the great things about the movie is that it allows for a lot of discussion points that allows everyone to have a defensible position…

Team T’Challa – remain in isolation (elitist)

Team Nakia – Wakanda as a beacon and model for the rest of the world

Team Killmonger – use technology to initiate a worldwide black revolution

…with the caution that this is not about black liberation vs. black radicalism, but about seeing ourselves in all sides of that discussion. We’re simultaneously the African ideal and the abandoned Diaspora. The movie is more about exposing the problems present even in a utopian Black society.

WHO IS THE REAL HERO OF THE MOVIE?

T’Challa – both hero and villain: his kingdom remains untouched by colonialism, yet he is also unwilling to help black people outside of his kingdom. He saved Wakanda and stopped their technologies from being being abused in the export of war, yet he abandoned black people around the world.

ERIK KILMONGER MAY BE THE MOST NUANCED, COMPLICATED, AND SYMPATHETIC “VILLAIN” PRESENTED IN (COMIC BOOK) MOVIES!

Killmonger: “His royal father is killed by his uncle when he’s young, he’s stuck exiled from his homeland, and he returns there once he’s grown older to claim the throne from the person he views as a terrible king.” That’s the story of Simba from The Lion King, a hero’s journey. He was the abandoned child of Wakanda forced to fend for himself in a society dominated by white supremacy. He give voice to the idea of worldwide black liberation. He exposed the problems that existed in this utopian black society. On the flip side: he shot his girlfriend, he choked an elder woman, and he killed a member of the Dora Milaje. Ostensibly about black liberation, he seems content to do that with no regard for black women. In many ways he’s the personification of toxic masculinity (where did he learn that?).

Killmonger burned the garden of the Heart-Shaped Herb, which was his right as the king, however, it would leave a future with no Black Panthers to protect the kingdom. Thus the future he imagined wasn’t utopian for anyone but himself. Like the Joker, he’s content to watch the world burn, for Wakanda to suffer as much as he suffered. In the end, it was his bid for world domination through ruthless violence that had to be stopped (not black radicalism).

In many ways, who was the hero could be view through the lens of how each viewed women.

ON THE AGENCY OF WOMEN

With its Afrofuturist lens, Black Panther with its depiction of women offers a critique of the present (speaks to a deeply patriarchal society) and offers a model for what the future could look like: with women being equal to men, T’Challa not being threatened by their power, knowledge, or wisdom. Women play an active role in every segment of society, from the Wakandan “Secret Service” known as the Dora Milaje (based on the Dahomey Amazons) to scientists to cultural leaders. In fact, Black Panther is out of second act of the film and the ladies don’t miss a beat.

[One of the things that struck me was the depiction of black on black violence. It was largely bloodless, which was probably a deliberate choice of Ryan Coogler. When violence is necessary to be depicted, there is no reveling in broken black bodies (ala slave films).]

The presence of the CIA – a friend/manipulator of Wakanda?

When Everett K. Ross was introduced in the comics, it was largely to create an access point for white readers. The book was going to be unapologetically black under Priest’s run, so there was some concern from management. In Priest’s words “I figured, and I believe rightly, that for Black Panther to succeed, it needed a white male at the center, and that white male had to give voice to the audience’s misgivings or apprehensions or assumptions about this character and this book.” With the comic largely told through his eyes, this allowed Black Panther to remain enigmatic.

Throughout the movie, similar to the comics, Agent Ross gets presented as useless, the comic foil. As M’Baku says on behalf of the audience, “Why is he even here? Why is he speaking?” His role wasn’t as “white savior” as some people feared, but he was more an extension of Shuri during the climax. She was controlling him/he took his directions from her as he learned what it meant to be an ally.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BLACK AMERICANS AND AFRICANS

With many of the problems in African countries stemming from colonialism, mirrored by those in the Diaspora, the fact that the relationship between blacks and Africans is so fraught with -animus and competition (including the derogatory way we refer to one another) remains disheartening. African American culture is very influential in Africa (and vice versa). The movie calls for bridges to be built and unity to be had. But we continue to unpack this.

The conversation is to be continued.

For now know that there is no Wakanda, but the dream of such powers us—black people around the world—to continue to stand up and forge the reality of it for ourselves.  As T’Chaka told his son, T’Challa, “Stand up. You are a King.”

Additional reading:

‘Black Panther’: Why the relationship between Africans and black Americans is so messed up

Editorial: You Love Killmonger At The Expense Of Black Women

In Defense Of Erik Killmonger And The Forgotten Children Of Wakanda

The Most Important Moment in Black Panther No One Is Talking About

‘BLACK PANTHER’ SUCCEEDS AS URBAN UTOPIA: THERE ARE NO CARS IN WAKANDA