First I want to be clear I greatly enjoyed the film and look forward to Black Panther II, III, IV… etc. Second, I understand that a Disney film cannot be expected to promote a black liberation agenda nor confront white supremacy but of course, this is why there is so much excitement in the black community worldwide. We live in a white supremacist world and this film gives a 100 million dollars in special effects to a black community that is actually supreme to the “colonizers”. This American Disney movie thrusts a white CIA agent in as a hero and the film had to end with King T’Challa, The Black Panther, at the United Nations saying “Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separate us.” But regardless of the necessary whitewashing, N’Jadaka, aka Killmonger and the radical revolution he represents stands out as that which makes the film Black Panther burn with the electricity of black radicalism and the dream of a world without white supremacy. For a few reasons, Killmonger (and the black radicalism theme) is the victor in Black Panther.
1. Wakanda is the dream of people of color around the world. Wakanda, the mythical African nation from which the Black Panther emerges and rules is a nation rich in vibranium, a natural resource that provides incredible benefits in health, technology and warfare. Yet even with this incredible resource, the rulers of Wakanda know they have to keep this a secret from the Western world. It seems doubtful that even vibranium can keep Wakanda safe from those that plunder the world for resources at the expense of people of color.
2. Marvel recognized long ago what the Black Panther character would do. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense (founded in 1966, the same year as the creation of the comic book character) is so indelibly connected to black radicalism that the comic book character embodies a radicalness that its creators never imagined nor wanted. Marvel understood this when they unsuccessfully attempted to change the character’s name to Black Leopard.
3. Being Black in America makes one radical. When King T’Challa’s uncle was sent to the United States as a spy, the experience of seeing the treatment of black Americans in 1991 radicalized him to want to use the technical advancement of Wakanda to defend and fight for blacks. It is not a coincidence that this radicalization of a Wakandan happened in Oakland, California the birthplace of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
4. N'Jadaka had the right idea. It is unconscionable to sit back and watch the oppression of African people throughout the world when you have the means to stop it and do nothing. He wanted change.
5. Black Lives didn’t matter in Wakanda either.The defense that Wakanda must not do anything that could possibly reveal the secret of Wakanda’s resources and technology seemed only to apply to black lives. When white agents of the worlds leading white supremacist state, our own United States of America, were endangered, T’Challa found it perfectly acceptable to risk the secrets and security of Wakanda to save those lives.
6. “Rasta don’t work for no CIA” and neither should Wakandans. The final battle between Black Panther T’Challa and Black Panther N’Jadaka was to stop N’Jadaka from supporting a worldwide rebellion against the current white supremacist order. T’Challa and his allies with the help of Agent Ross successfully prevented Wakandan military support from leaving the country, thus preventing a military revolt against the current white supremacist world order.
7. N’Jadaka died like a boss and changed Wakanda, T’Challa and the Black diaspora for the better. N’Jadaka chose “death over bondage” like his enslaved ancestors that threw themselves overboard off of the slave ships. Not only did he die courageously but his death appeared to turn T’Challa from the path of accepting a white supremacist world order for the safety of his country to one where T’Challa was willing to risk Wakanda’s safety to assist black people worldwide.
I celebrate Black Panther the movie for its Pan-African vision and its struggle with black radicalism even within the limited political parameters allowed in mainstream corporate America. Just like the original comic character this film will be connected to black radical thought and ideas beyond the imagination of its producers and Hollywood studios. Finally let me suggest those interested in a more thoughtful and thorough analysis of the Black Panther comic superhero and his evolution I recommend Marvel’s Black Panther: A Comic Book Biography, From Stan Lee toTa- Nehisi Coates by Todd Steven Burroughs.
Long Live Killmonger and a Wakanda that fights for Black Liberation WorldWide!