Students and members of the Stony Brook community discussed and celebrated the black American experience at “On Being Black: The Black American Dream,” an event hosted by Tabler Quad resident assistants at the Tabler Arts Center Black Box Theatre on Friday. The performances and discussions covered a variety of subjects, from social consciousness to black image and identity. The latter discussion brought the new Marvel movie “Black Panther” to the front of everyone’s mind as an inspiring depiction of black culture and heritage.
“The movie being released during Black History Month is actually such a very powerful statement within itself,” Matthew Loye, a junior anthropology major, said. “I loved it. The way that they displayed African culture in the movie, I definitely thought they had done justice and I really enjoyed it. The arts, the costumes, the colors and the way the sets was setup, it was a very African movie.”
“Black Panther,” directed by Ryan Coogler, is the first Marvel movie to have a black director and a majority black cast. The movie, which debuted on Feb. 16 in time for Black History Month, portrayed black excellence at a time when most black people needed to be inspired.
“It was important [that "Black Panther” came out during Black History Month],” Fatima Henry, a graduate student in higher education, said. “Black History Month is more than just the African-American experience, and I feel like the film defnitely portrays that. It was very impactful and I think that right now in the state that we are as a community, we defnitely needed this.”
Starring Chadwick Boseman, “Black Panther” follows the story of T’Challa as he assumes the throne of the fictional nation of Wakanda after the death of his father. Long hidden from the rest of the world, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet thanks to its exclusive access to the fictional element: vibranium.
T’Challa ends up in conflict with his cousin, Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, over the path of their home country and its role in Africa going forward. Killmonger, born N’Jadaka and raised in America, causes a rift that almost tears Wakanda apart. By the film’s end, T’Challa defeats his cousin and Wakanda begins helping other African nations.
“I thought it was really impactful and significant, sort of like a symbol and message of like representation for black people,” Aba Jahnisealey, senior technological system management major, said. “Seeing black people in a position that’s, you know, not just like slavery, like being kings and being people who have control of their environment and world is pretty cool.”
“Black Panther” depicts the rich dressing culture of African nations. Most characters in the movie wear African native attire made with different colors and African designs. The film also explores some of the problems most African countries faced, such as colonization, or are still facing, like the ongoing #bringbackourgirls crisis in Nigeria.
In April 2014, 276 Chibok female students were kidnapped by members of the extremist Boko Haram group in northeast Nigeria. The incident drew international attention, but over 100 of the girls are still missing. The movie presented an alternative reality, Boseman’s T’Challa and Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia rescue female hostages from a terrorist group in the Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria.
According to The New York Times, “Black Panther” broke box office records and shattered “a myth about the overseas viability of movies rooted in black culture.” Domestic ticket sales passed $400 million and foreign box office totals reached $300 million through the film’s second weekend in theaters, according to Forbes.
Theaters scrambled to add showtimes to accommodate crowds. An AMC outside Atlanta scheduled 84 showings for the movie’s debut on Friday, Feb 16. On Sunday, AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 had 18 showings of “Black Panther,” far exceeding the five respective scheduled showings of films like “Annihilation” and “Game Night,” which both debuted on Feb. 23.
A lot of people showed their love and support for the movie before it came out during Black History Month. A video on Instagram showed students at Ron Clark Academy, a non-profit middle school in Atlanta, jumping on desks and chairs, clapping, dancing and singing in reaction to finding out that they were going to see the movie “Black Panther.” Pictures were posted on Instagram of people wearing colorful native African attires and using the hashtags #WalkingintoseeBlackPantherLike and #ForTheCulture.
“I think it is something that we needed to make us feel good about ourselves.” Nekita Whyte, the assistant director for university apartments, said. “I think we had a major accomplishment during this month; black history. Its amazing everybody should go see it. Wakanda forever!”