Word to Wakanda: Five Must-Read Articles About ‘Black Panther’

By Sameer Rao Feb 20, 2018

This post contains spoilers for "Black Panther."

Months of anticipation culminated Friday (February 16) when "Black Panther" finally opened in movie theaters across the United States.

The Marvel movie fulfilled many of the expectations set by its advance sales record. Disney, the parent company for Marvel Studios, confirmed to Deadline today (February 20) that the film grossed $241.96 million between Friday and yesterday (February 19). That makes "Black Panther" the highest-earning debut for a superhero movie with a solo protagonist, squashing the $174.14 million benchmark previously set by "Iron Man 3." It also more than doubles the $100.2 million record set by "The Fate of the Furious" for the biggest opening weekend for a Black director.

The Hollywood Reporter attributes much of that success to Black viewers, citing a report from media analytics company comScore that says African Americans constituted 37 percent of the film’s total domestic audiences. White people purchased 35 percent of tickets, and Latinx moviegoers purchased 18 percent.

The release of "Black Panther" has prompted a number of articles that address the movie’s place in ongoing discussions about race. Jump into the conversation with these excerpts from five must-read articles: 

"I Took 7th Graders to See ‘Black Panther.’ Here’s What They Said."
By Kevin Noble Maillard, The New York Times

"For people of color, [the film] shows us that we that we can get through any obstacles that are thrown at us if we work together. We can also help the world by sharing our resources." —Jaheim Hedge

"This film is important for Black people because we must represent ourselves and not be scared to show who we are. Also to make ourselves known to the world." —Ethan Tudor


"Black women are as strong as any men and Black little girls can be superheroes." —Gabriela Myles

"Black Panther’s Women Are More Proof Marvel Should Make A-Force"
By Sarah Moran, Screen Rant

Coming out of Marvel Comics’ "Secret Wars" (2015) crossover event, A-Force was an Avengers team from the nation of Arcadia. During this event, the Marvel universe was divided into a patchwork of different nations, called Battleword, and each had their own theme or identity. Arcadia was a nation of only women, and so A-Force was a team of women heroes led by She-Hulk. … The A-Force team of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) doesn’t need to copy the one introduced in the comics, but simply apply the idea of a team that more prominently features women. This could extend to an all-women team, combining heavy hitters like Captain Marvel and Valkyrie with the more tactical skills of Black Widow and Gamora, or something more like what we see in "Black Panther"—where Nakia’s skills as a spy, Okoye’s as a warrior and Shuri’s as a tech genius [work] in tandem with T’Challa’s superpowers. In both cases, women heroes are being given roles of equal importance to their male heroes, and that’s exactly what the MCU can and should learn from "Black Panther’s" example.

"In Defense of Erik Killmonger and the Forgotten Children of Wakanda"
By Brooke Obie, Shadow and Act

Killmonger’s pain, abandonment and generational trauma touch on the rawest parts of being African-American. Sure, the imprint of the continent our ancestors hailed from is embedded in our gums, but our AncestryDNA results don’t exactly lead us into the open arms of our ancestral cousins. We are a homeless people, not welcomed anywhere. If Wakanda is the Black Promised Land, then we are its forgotten children, sold away, left behind, rejected, condescended to. 

Swirling in constant reminders of worthlessness, of the specific anti-Black-American toxicity experienced by Black folk in the USA, Killmonger is angry—not just at White supremacist oppressors or systemic racism, but also the Black elite who left him behind. And he has every right to want vengeance.

"The Trouble with Hero Worship: Is #TeamKillmonger Also #TeamToxicMasculinity?"
By S.D. Chrismon, The Glow Up/The Root

Killmonger repeatedly expresses his desire to demolish White European supremacy in favor of a Black empire. His analysis of the European oppressors that stole, raped, and pillaged their way across the world are not inaccurate. Black people all over the world (except the fictional Wakanda) have had their asses kicked by colonialism. But even with expansive technology and wealth at his fingertips, the only way Killmonger can think to correct this is by mimicking the behavior of the colonizer. He is not merely desiring justice, but lusting for revenge. He’s not on a mission for liberation; he wants annihilation. His brutality is the very embodiment of toxic masculinity.

In a movie where no character uttered the n-word and Black womanhood was centered, Killmonger’s violence towards women—Black women in particular—was stark and pronounced.


But "Black Panther" presents another path to global Black freedom for its audience to consider. Instead of #TeamTChalla or #TeamKillmonger, why aren’t we #TeamNakia?

"The Song of Killmonger"
By Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic 

[Kendrick] Lamar’s broader catalogue contains few happy endings, but at the core he preaches mindfulness, solidarity and spiritual righteousness as the path to progress. The "Black Panther" musical project, on which he features in every song but credits himself as a primary performer on only five tracks, may even be him practicing the film’s message about spreading one’s wealth around the Diaspora. Killmonger-like anger and T’Challa-like prudence thread through all his songs, but song itself, in Lamar’s view, may be the superpower that eases injustice. In that "To Pimp a Butterfly" outro, during which Tupac predicts a new, bloody Nat Turner–like rebellion, Lamar replies, "In my opinion, only hope that we kinda have left is music and vibrations"—which is, perhaps, the closest thing he has to Vibranium.