Before you see Black Panther this weekend, Chaz Gormley would like you to consider signing his Change.org petition, which calls on Disney to donate 25 percent the film's profits to the black community.
In the comments attached to the petition, Gormley calls Black Panther a “symbolic victory,” criticizing its marketing campaign as being carefully crafted to stir up hype in and attract the dollars of the black community.
In calling for the studio to share the film’s profits, Gormley wrote, “we cannot continue to recklessly support these conglomerates, allowing them to profit off of us without demanding something more than just their products in return.”
Disney has yet to respond to the call. But Gormely’s petition has picked up steam with almost 7,500 signatories. Blavity spoke to its author to learn more about the petition’s underlying philosophy.
Do you feel that those involved with the creation of Black Panther like Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman are complicit in using their community to help a corporation profit?
We’re all complicit in using our communities to assist corporations in making profits.
Every time we lace up our name brand sneakers with the Swoosh on the side or throw on a shirt with a brand name or logo emblazoned on it — we turn ourselves into walking advertisements.
Each time you get in your car, with the make and model printed on the rear, the four-by-four decal on the side, you’ve turned yourself into a mobile marketing tool.
The issue isn’t the complicity itself, but how we’ve failed to work it to our collective advantage — this is what must change. There’s nothing illegal or negative about utilizing your God-given talents and being rewarded for them monetarily, however, if you come from a certain demographic, or community, I do feel as though the least one can do is ensure that the very places and people you come from are elevated with you.
It was recently revealed that Derrick Rose was able to negotiate annual salaries for his brother and best friend when negotiating his sneaker contract with Adidas. Imagine this same strategy being implemented not just for individuals, but entire areas, counties and cities.
If individuals have that obligation to help, do corporations also have a moral obligation to help society?
Corporate personhood, or the belief that “corporations are people too,” was established a very, very long time ago. If as people, we agree or at least act as though we’re morally obligated to help our fellow citizens, why would corporations — who’re people mind you — not be held to the same standard? Additionally, why wouldn’t we want these people or corporations, to help society when they are more than capable of doing so, considering not only the profits they make here in the U.S. but the money they continue to hold offshore?
The top 50 companies in the U.S keep more than $1.4 trillion in offshore accounts to avoid the 35 percent that the U.S government would tax them in repatriating those funds. If, instead of allowing greed to dictate how and why that money was spent, [we spent it based on] need, imagine the impact these same 50 corporations could have on the world — and that’s just the top 50 — imagine if all corporations and companies did this. We live in a world of excess, while simultaneously living in a world of famine, drought, homelessness, poverty and countless other man-made conditions —that can all be solved, cured or alleviated with another manmade creation: money. Yes, this way of thinking is incredibly altruistic but isn’t that what we need?
Should Disney decide to go a less altruistic route, and keep all of the Black Panther profits for itself, what can the average person do to help the black community?
In reality, this petition I’ve created, this idea I’ve shared, is simply us asking for 25 percent of our own (and others) money back. Imagine if we simply took 100 percent of the money we were going to spend or give to this same company, and invested it ourselves.
What if the average person, more specifically — the average black person — took the funds they expected to spend on this film and instead pooled it with other members of their community? By pooling this money, these average black people have begun to participate in cooperative economics, and through this practice, these people can now not only help but begin to identify and solve the problems facing their communities.
Is gentrification an issue? Pool your money together, and collectively purchase properties to keep them community controlled. Inadequate funding or schooling an issue, poor facilities? Pool your money together within a community controlled fund or organization, and you’ve now created an account from which funds can be used to solve those problems.
Of course, these are extremely simplified examples of group economics, but in theory, that is exactly how it works. As a collective we’ve basically pooled our money together to meet a common goal: we want a product, and that product is the film, Black Panther. The question we now have to ask ourselves is, not just what else we want, but what do we need?
How have people responded to the suggestions and commentary put forth in your petition — has there been any backlash? I’m particularly curious how you would respond to those who argue what you called a "symbolic victory" is enough for now?
When Blavity originally wrote about the petition, only 30 people had signed it, and there wasn’t any backlash whatsoever. Now that other publications have followed suit, and word has spread, everyone’s mother, father, brother, sister, auntie and uncle have something to say about it [laughs].
The saying goes, “Don’t read the comments,” but I do. I think it might need to be reworked to, “Don’t respond to all of the comments.” Because, although, there have been critiques that are completely off base, some great questions have been posted as well:
- “What does he mean by ‘black communities’?”
- “Why don’t we just invest our own money into our communities and programs?”
- “Why are black people always looking for handouts?”
I don’t believe it's up to me to define what constitutes a “black community;” that should be up to us as black people. Is it a majority percentage in a county, a city or just a certain side of town?
Why don’t we take it upon ourselves to invest in our own communities? Why did it take this petition, this idea I shared for you to say that?
Why aren’t we sitting with each other, discussing the issues that affect us in the places we live and solving them ourselves? Why is it that we’re able to make the time available — about two hours and 15 minutes — to sit an be entertained, but not to sit and converse with one another and really do something?
Why is it considered a handout when black people in America seek to gain funding for their communities as if we’re not owed something collectively?
For over 60 years, Germany paid survivors of the holocaust more than $80 billion dollars, is that considered a handout? Did Germany simply erect statues of notable Jewish citizens, and consider everything made right? How long are we going to continue to settle for and celebrate symbolism?
A black president hasn’t stopped the unlawful killing of black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement. A movie about a group of black women being responsible for helping NASA win the space race hasn’t closed the wage gap for black women. Renaming streets, schools and tearing down Confederate statues haven’t undone the generational trauma or rectified the centuries-old disadvantages we face here in this country as black people. So, for me, symbolism and “symbolic victories” will never be enough.
When I originally sat down to write the #BreakBreadMarvel petition it was simply because I hoped to start a conversation. That was more than one month ago, and I had all but moved on from it — at least I had reached 30 people. Thanks to you all at Blavity, my “conversation” has spread and hopefully, some great discussions are being had.
A man much wiser than myself once said, “The power is in the people, and politics we address.” Everything that’s happening now just shows how true those words are.