By Jason Delgado
The Black Panther film in 2018 changed pop culture as we know it. Tupac once sang, “I remember Marvin Gaye used to sing to me. He had me feeling like black was the thing to be.” That’s the same feeling you get from The Black Panther. The movie is great entertainment, but the message of unity and African-American cultural pride elevates it even more. Marvel used to be called Timely Comics, and I’m glad that they have continued the tradition that Stan the Man Lee started when he and artist Jack Kirby created the character of the Black Panther in the 60s during a time of civil unrest and racial divide. In the film, T’Challa says “Wise men build bridges; they do not build walls.” This line, and this character, are reminders that we are all brothers and sisters in this world.
The book Black Panther: A Cultural Exploration by Ytasha Womack is a fun and informative look at the cultural influences that have shaped Black Panther from his inception in 1966 up until today. The book features beautiful full-color artwork straight from the pages of iconic Marvel Comics issues. As a comic book buff, that alone is worth the cover price for me. On top of that, this book includes the history of the character from his debut until the current comics, and film appearances. Lastly, but not least, Womack breaks down the real-world influences that helped to create the technological wonder and haven of the Panther’s people, known as Wakanda.
This book features many quotes from people who have been influenced, or have had an influence, on the Black Panther. One of my favorites is from the late, great leader Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.” I had never heard that quotation before, but these words ring profound and true. Do you want change? Go make it happen, and just know that it won’t be easy.
The land of Wakanda is such an inspirational place in and of itself. It is highly advanced, both in its technology and its culture, enough that anyone would be proud to call it home. I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the book that there is going to be a real-world place called Wakanda in Ghana, which exemplifies art influencing real life in the highest order. I wonder if Stan and Jack could ever have imagined the influence that their creation would have all the way back then.
The early history of film is littered with ugly stereotypes of minorities. We have come a long way from those days, and I think that The Black Panther has been one of the biggest influences to combat those stereotypes. Black Panther: A Cultural Exploration is essential for anyone who wishes to learn more about not only the character and his land, but how real-world black culture has left a positive mark on us all.
Black Panther: A Cultural Exploration is available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold on October 3rd.