By Edwin Buggage
Black Panther Strike Box Office Gold
Black Panther,” Disney/Marvel’s African-oriented comic book adaptation, has taken the movie industry by storm breaking box office records for a film with a primarily Black cast. All over America and the globe for that matter, there is great hysteria over this film and its cultural impact. In its first week it’s made over 200 million dollars at the box-office domestically and with its international receipts; it jumps to an estimated 369 million.
The film is directed by the young African-American Director and Screenwriter Ryan Coogler and it has a stellar cast that includes; Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.
Across the country, civic groups, businesspeople, fraternal organizations and families have come out to see this movie that for many is more than just a film about a superhero, but about promoting positive Black images on the big screen and in the everyday existence for African-Americans and the African Diaspora. This film is a source of pride and has for some raising the hopes of future Hollywood projects that can have uplifting stories about Blacks proving they can be both a critical and commercial success.
Community Goes to the Movies to be Inspired
On the heels of the release of the of Disney/Marvel Studios “Black Panther”, local Attorney Juan LaFonta, gave back to the community by treating inner-city kids and local families to a red-carpet premiere of the film at the AMC Palace Elmwood Theater.
Partnering with several organizations that included non-profits, churches and community programs thousands showing up for this event. “I wanted the young people in attendance to see other professionals; I also wanted them to see they’re strong Black people doing things that are impacting the community in a positive way. Because too often the focus is on the negative things such as murdering, killing; the things that are destroying our community and that is not who we are as a people,” Juan LaFonta told Data News Weekly.
The premiere was filled to capacity. On hand was Data News Weekly’s Glenn Jones who spoke to Rapper and Activist Dee-1, whose brand of spiritually uplifting hip-hop is a breath of fresh air in an industry where images of Black men are often stereotypical and glorifying the most antisocial aspects of the Black community. “This film is about our heritage, we are here tonight because this symbolizes Black excellence at its finest.” He says of the film and the people who came out and braved for hours in a long line to see this film and that defy stereotypes.
Cumulus Radio, who is a Community Partner of Data News Weekly, was also on hand for the event. 102.9 Radio Personality Downtown Leslie Brown telling Glenn Jones on the red-carpet of the significance of Black Panther the movie in inspiring a community of young people, “As a Black woman with a Black son and Black daughter they need to see more positive role models.”
New Orleans native Brandon Okpalobi runs Dibia Dream, Inc. an organization dedicated to giving back to the youth. He splits time between the City of his birth and Miami Florida. Recently, he took a group of kids in Miami to see the film and is also sponsoring a group of kids in New Orleans to see the film as well. “We felt it was important for the youth of color to see a movie where people who look like them are portrayed as Kings and Queens, but also are leaders, inventors and belonging to a strong family unit. Due to the current political climate, we felt it was important for our youth to see a positive representation of themselves.” He says that this is more than simply about entertainment but educating and inspiring the youth after they watch the film, “There are many hidden messages within the movie and we will dissect those messages after the film with our DREAM Scholars.”
Black Panther and Inspiring the Next Generation
While many like those involved in community outreach like Juan Lafonta, Brandon Okpalobi and others across the country wanted to give back; for some, it was a family affair. In the case of Jamie Jones Sr., a local educator who took his 10-year-old son Jamie Jones Jr. to see the film. Jones is a dedicated father who in addition to raising his son plants the seeds of greatness in children every day in his role as an art teacher. He takes great pride in being a father and an example for his young son and others. “I felt great because it was Son and Father’s Day. It was a nice to see an African-American Marvel Character in a leading role because there are very few,” says Jamie Jones Jr.
A precocious and intelligent young man who is an honor student at his school and skilled drummer; he says of the film, “If you really pay attention to the movie, it was not only about fighting the bad guys, it showed proud African women dressed in African clothing, and many of the Blacks attending dressed in traditional African clothing to show support. It also showed how the use of technology can either destroy or make the world a better place; this is something we should all think about.”
Positive Role Models: Fantasy vs. Reality
This film is undoubtedly monumental and is helping spark a dialog about images of non-Whites onscreen and its larger impact on combating negative stereotypes. But in truth when this film is long gone from the silver screen there is work that needs to be done in coming up with solutions that plague the African-American community. This is something that one great film, however, well-produced can solve.
Jamie Jones, who is in the trenches educating young people every day speaks to this point, “I think Black Panther is a great film that can inspire our community as well as others about the positive attributes of our community.” And while he is excited that the film is getting rave reviews Jones feels that more emphasis need to be placed on our everyday heroes who work tirelessly to make the community better.
This sentiment is also echoed by Juan LaFonta, who is planning an event for the summer that will focus on anti-crime measures with its goal of lowering the murder rate in New Orleans. “It’s important that our young generation recognize that there are superheroes amongst them every day; lawyers, doctors, policemen, the list goes on and on”, and it’s even more important that our families spend quality time together in today’s society.”