Around the time Black Panther came out in China, I saw an article ( https://qz.com/1226449/a-torture-for-the-eyes-chinese-moviegoers-think-black-panther-is-too-black/ ) that discussed the response of Chinese moviegoers to the movie. As I’m sure most of you know, the movie stars a mostly black cast with only a few caucasian characters. The movie is about a superhero but has many underlying themes of black power and nationalism. In this article, the response to Black Panther in China that was discussed was overwhelmingly prejudiced. Chinese people interviewed described the movie as aesthetically unpleasing because it was to dark, in reference to the main casts skin color. Though this can be blamed on ignorance since China has a very lacking population when it comes to diversity, but I remember thinking that such an ignorant response would be hard to come by in my daily life. Yet, within an hour, I was scrolling through the comments of another post on Black Panther and I came across a thread of commentators arguing the fact that the film should have been named differently because people believed it to be about the Black Panther movement, and so they felt turned off by that. I have seen this reaction to the Black Panther Party before due to stereotypes and myths perpetrated by the government back in the 60’s to villainize the Black Panther Party. What struck me as so unbelievable was that people didn’t think to look at a synopsis, trailer, or even a poster to see that the movie wasn’t a fictional account of the Black Panther Party. Though there is mention of the party in the movie, it is not the basis of the film, and the fact that people were so quick to ignorantly villainize a movie because of the mere use of a term such as Black Panther shocked and annoyed me. But it helped me remember that not everybody has the same education as I do and that unfortunately I shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of behavior on a Facebook comment section.
In my final essay I chose to talk about the article we read earlier in the semester, Where Were the Women in the March on Washington? by Jennifer Scanlon and I realized that there wasn’t a prominent disconnect between men and women in just the Civil Rights Movement, but also the Black Power Movement. Women of color have always been dealt the worse hand in the US because they are a part of two different groups that are both discriminated against heavily in the US, but simultaneously. In the black power movement, I was specifically thinking of the author Zora Neale Hurston, who most notably wrote the book Their Eyes Were Watching God. This book handled the fictional story of a black woman and her life growing up in the south. The character faced both ends of discrimination, gender and racial, which is a similar testament to the author, Hurston. Initially, Hurston worked closely with famous Harlem authors such as Langston Hughes, but when she began to write more radically and show her opinions, they were rejected by society, both white and black, and she was outcasted by Hughes and the other Harlem writers she had become a colleague with. I find it very ironic how both the black power and civil rights movements were for freedom and equality, and yet within the black community, there was so much rampant sexism. I think this shows how even though there has been a great amount of progress in our country in terms of human equality, there is always more work to be done.
When I took African American History in high school I knew very little about Malcolm X except that he was a part of the civil rights movement and was treated as the opposite of MLK. My teacher chose to have our class mostly focus on the civil rights movement through Malcolm X’s story and I remember thinking just how wrong all the preconceived notions were about him. He didn’t advocate for violence anytime anywhere, he advocated for the right to defend oneself from harm. He wanted people to fight for themselves and protect their own. I can see how this could be easily misconstrued by media at the time, most likely purposefully, because the idea of African Americans protecting themselves is seen as unacceptable since they were seen as inferior to white people back then.
I liked the fact that we focused more on MLK in ths class because it gave me a new perspective of the Civil Rights Movement that I hadn’t previously been taught. My high school class focused on Malcolm X as an activist, but also a muslim and, a human who made mistakes. I think often MLK is treated as a saint, which isnt necessarily a bad thing, but it does disconnect him from others almost as if he had the only way to proceed in the Civil Rights Movement.
I think it is important to acknowledge that there were many different approaches by activist and organizations to forward the civil rights movement and I’m glad this class acknowledged that since it is often not the picture painted by schools in America.
With the recent release of Childish Gambino’s new single This Is America, and last years album DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar, specifically the song XXX. I started thinking about how different political music about advocating for civil rights has changed. My first experience with music with a similiar message to these two songs would be Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday which was released in 1939. The songs lyrics are:
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
Don’tcatch you slippin’up (ayy)
Look at how I’m livin’ now
Police be trippin’ now (woo)
Guns in my area (word, my area)
I got the strap (ayy, ayy)
I gotta carry ’em
When watching Traces of the Trade I was really interested in the part in Ghana because as I mentioned in class, I went to Ghana a few years ago. I was interested to see where they would go and how different their experience would be. I went with my choir and we were the only group at both the Cape Coast and Elmina slave fort. A few things really struck me about their scenes in the slave forts. Firstly, I noticed they were filming in the back of one of the slave dungeons where an altar for returning descendants and visitors could leave their prayers and offerings for all who had suffered in Cape Coast. During our tour, my group was explicitly told not to film the altar or the priest that attends to the altar and its visitors by giving prayer when asked. I noticed both of these were filmed and there were people in the background at the altar. I found this very disrespectful and insensitive that they would film at such a sacred private place in the slave fort.
I also didn’t like how they made the slave fort seem like a monument to solely show whites their faults. Many parts of the tour I had, we were shown how descendants have taken back the slave forts to be a monument of hope and a reminder of theirs and their ancestor’s soul value and how it can never be taken away. The documentary briefly mentioned the “Door of No Return” where slaves were transported through to the slave ships on the beach below. What they didn’t mention was that if you re-enter the fort through that door, the opposite side has been made “The Door of Return”. This part of the tour was very powerful for everyone, but especially my friends that were of African descent, because it represented that they had beaten the odds and made it back to their motherland. The documentary also didn’t mention the actual function of the altar that they filmed next to, which is to serve as a space of communication with the past through the offering of goods and flowers which line the adjacent wall to the altar.
Overall I felt the participants ultimately meant no harm, but should have researched more about the places they were visiting along with the research of their families past.