‘Black Panther’ opens window to souls of black folks


LOS ANGELES — Eager fans have been flocking to see Marvel’s new sci-fi movie “Black Panther” that is breaking box office records worldwide.

Fans have been enthralled by the movie, which features plenty of action and excitement, breathtaking costumes, beautiful cinematography and promotes unity, a representation of traditional African culture and the importance of family ties.

“This film has created a reawakening within the black community that is profound,’’ said the Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd of the KRST Unity Center. “It correctly portrays us as being a technologically advanced people who are wise, creative, aware, and most importantly heirs of great civilizations. This film has opened a window into the souls of us black folks and it says that everything is possible.’’

Byrd added that the film, released by Disney and directed by 31-year-old Ryan Coogler, shows that Hollywood is capable of crafting relevant and outstanding films about and for black people. Byrd said he hopes that there will be more films of “Black Panther’s” caliber produced in the near future.

The ground-breaking movie, which features a predominately black cast and is in its third week of release, has briskly racked up $900 million in sales and is predicted to break $1 billion this coming weekend.

Set in the mythical country of Wakanda, the movie stars Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), the Black Panther and the African king of Wakanda; and Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger), a soldier who portrays his nemesis.

The film centers around a power struggle over who will eventually rule the kingdom and control the distribution of vibranium, a powerful mined substance used to develop Wakanda’s advanced technology.

Along the way, the movie features a cast of strong characters. Lupita Nyong’o portrays Nakia, a spy for the Wakanda nation and T’Challa’s love interest; Letitia Wright, (Shuri), T’Challa’s sister and a technological genius; Forest Whitaker, (Zuri), the king’s spiritual leader; Angela Bassett (Ramonda), the wise mother of T’Challa and Shuri; Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi), head of security of a tough border tribe; and Danai Gurira, (Okoye), who sports a shaved head and is Wakanda’s personal guard.

At the Cinemark Theatre in Baldwin Hills, moviegoers pouring out of the movie praised the film, some dressed in African garb and confessing that they have already viewed it two or three times.

“It was good,” Raven Tony said. “I loved Chadwick Boseman’s character. He was a strong man.”

“I liked seeing the technical part,’’ Yvonne Collins said. “It was empowering to see black people in charge of technology.’’

Nomeli Rosay said that she was gratified to see a lot of senior citizens sitting in the audience.

“I liked seeing the older generation enjoying the movie,” she said. “I think they’re proud to see black people standing up for themselves.”

“The movie was good,” Beverly Butler said. “It shows what we need to be doing — taking care of each other as a human race.”

“It’s an excellent movie,” Steven Shepherd said. “It sends a message of coming together and making the world work. We need to create bridges, not barriers. There’s more that connects us than separates us.’’

“This movie has crossed racial barriers,” Nick Daniels said. “Whites, blacks and browns are going to see it and there’s no age barrier. My mother is 76 years old and she loved it.’’

“I’ve seen it three times,’’ Jay Brown said while enthusiastically shaking his head. “I loved the idea that it is a place occupied by black and African people and that it was not colonized.”

“It was inspirational,” 14-year-old Jamiah Beverly said. “I liked the bald-headed general. She’d rather fight for her country than for love.”

Julian Bernard Curry Sr., who brought his 5-year-old dashiki-wearing son, said, “It was a movie with a great message. It’s about understanding who you are, where you came from, and connecting us descendants of the African diaspora.”

Pausing, he added, “It’s a great film and it features a lot of great actors. I hope it creates more spinoffs and more opportunities for black people.”

Community activist Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope who also loved the movie, said, “‘Black Panther’ has electrified and brought joy and inspiration to blacks all across America. It has broken box office records in its first two weeks.’’

In honor of the film, Ali is launching a campaign to rename Leimert Park, the cultural hub of the local African-American community, Wakanda.

“Even though Wakanda is a fictional African country, its name and what it means has brought inspiration to people across the world,’’ Ali said.

He said he is concerned about growing gentrification in South Los Angeles that threatens to displace members of the African-American community, some of whom whose roots in Leimert Park extend back decades.

“Gentrification is a real and growing threat to Leimert Park and most of black Los Angeles,’’ he said. “We need to start claiming and marking our territories and renaming streets in our community after black heroes and black culture.’’

“Black people regularly drive down Adams, Jefferson and Washington boulevards in South Los Angeles and don’t even realize that they are driving down streets named for former slave owners,” Ali added. “We feel that the name of Wakanda Boulevard will boost tourism in Leimert Park. Just as there is a Koreatown, a Chinatown, and a Little Ethiopia, Leimert Park needs to be named after black heroes.”

 

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