Black Baltimore Responds to Marvel’s Black Panther

Executive Producer Eddie Conway speaks to Baltimore residents about the controversy within the black community about the Black Panther film

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Story Transcript

EDDIE CONWAY: There’s a lot of controversy in the black community about the film “The Black Panther.” Now, I understand you saw it. Can you give me your impressions, what did you think of it and how you think it’s going to impact the black community?

DARIUS SHELTON: People who came up with the quote-unquote struggle, people who came up in the struggle, have a more relatable sense towards Killmonger based on his views, or how he wanted to help the oppressed people. But then you had T’Challa that’s like, man, listen, if we all just come together period, we wouldn’t even need a whole bunch of this stuff.

DR. TODD STEPHEN BOROUGHS: I love everything about the movie except its politics. The problem is, the movie is about its politics. Right? So it’s, it’s a very, it’s a very problematic murder of Tarzan, but it is a murder of Tarzan.

EDDIE CONWAY: It’s, on the one hand it creates in Killmonger a black radical that’s foaming at the mouth, so to speak. But on the other hand it clearly defines him as a creature of the CIA.

ERICKA BLOUNT DANOIS: He is flawed, obviously, as a character. But I think his mission was not flawed. So yeah, definitely resonated. And I think, you know, as a black person growing up in the inner city in America I really also related to him in his personal struggles as well.

EDDIE CONWAY: If you had to be one of those people in the movie, who would you be?

KAMARI: The Black Panther.

EDDIE CONWAY: You would be the Black Panther.

KAMARI: Yes.

EDDIE CONWAY: Is he a hero to you?

KAMARI: Yes.

EDDIE CONWAY: OK.

KAMARI: He is. He’s one of the good guys in the movie.

EDDIE CONWAY: The film itself represents a relationship between the Black Panther and the CIA, and an opposition to people that were struggling, or resisting oppression.

DR. TODD STEPHEN BOROUGHS: Between the 13th and 15th centuries the greatest achievement of Europeans was not the colonization of man, but the colonization of the mind.

EDDIE CONWAY: The military-industrial complex has been controlling the output of various movies with their liaisons. Among those movies, the Universal films, Marvel films, James Bond films, all military films, The Transformers. And one of the ways in which they do this is they make available military equipment, they make available military sites, they make available military expertise. And they have a final say so and approval of how Hollywood movie scripts are going to be presented to the public.

JABARI NATUR: CIA, FBI, CIA, none of those folks ever meant black people any good at all. So I mean, this is a movie, it’s Hollywood. They ‘ re gonna put their stuff inside of it. We’ve got to decipher it. Pull out the good, and use whatever we can use.

ERICKA BLOUNT DANOIS: I also thought that it was sort of unnecessary. I didn’t feel like it was, I don’t know. I could have done without that part of the storyline.

EDDIE CONWAY: What did you think of the movie?

KAMARI: The drama and …

EDDIE CONWAY: Did you like it?

KAMARI: Yes.

EDDIE CONWAY: Is that why you went back the second time?

KAMARI: No, I didn’t go back the second time. I saw it in …

EDDIE CONWAY: Oh, OK.

SPEAKER: The fact that families got, I see grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers, children, grandchildren, getting together to do something together. And wearing African clothes doing it. You cannot discount that.

ERICKA BLOUNT DANOIS: You know, in the theatre, somebody started singing the black national anthem, and the whole theater started singing it before the movie came on. So I think it is important to go and experience that, and have my kids experience it.

JABARI NATUR: I didn’t really have a problem with it. You know, the movie and the hype. Because if it’s that that’s going to get people into African culture, then so be it.

EDDIE CONWAY: In the film you actually have, I would say it’s a science fiction fantasy like all the superhero films are. But in the film you have a very advanced African society that’s light years ahead of every other society on the planet earth, and yet it’s still, he is to the king, the subjects, the rich, the poor, etc. Even in the midst of all that wealth it doesn’t have, it has an advance in terms of how society, how humans deal with each other in society.

Did you see anything in here that you learned about Africa or anything?

KAMARI: Yeah, like the wars and stuff, and the magic that was in the movie.

ERICKA BLOUNT DANOIS: It was an event. It was also like, you know, first time that Roots came out. Like, everybody in class, well, back then. I’m giving my age. But then, back then, you know, the entire class had to watch it every day.

DR. TODD STEPHEN BOROUGHS: The film is about maybe one or two tickets away from making half a billion dollars. And that’s in a 10 day period. So this may wind up being the first Hollywood film directed by an African American, written by an African American, to make a billion dollars.

JARED BALL: The pockets of money we can spend in aggregates that are just pennies, that we’re spending remnants of our income, can generate wealth for others but cannot be turned into a wealth, generate wealth for ourselves. Black Americans are only in like 12 segments of the economy, and they’re all at the bottom. So we’re not, we’re not building any, we’re not controlling any industry. So we can’t produce a Disney. So when people say, when I say I hate this movie and they’re like, well, go make your own movie, I’m like, I can’t. Because I don’t have a Disney. I don’t have a promotional industry. The joke I made is when you look at the credits rolling at the end of the film, those are all people being paid gainfully by an industry that is connected to state power that we don’t have access to. So we can’t just go and recreate that and then challenge that without a political struggle that confronts that directly.

DARIUS SHELTON: I wouldn’t even say it’s a problem, honestly. Because at the end of the day, this is a Marvel movie. Like, the movie itself was created, written, and directed by black people, but it’s a Marvel movie at the end of the day. It’s Captain America, but for the black race. Yeah, right, well, Thor. I mean, it doesn’t shock me. Yes, I would love for it to come back to the black community. But it doesn’t shock me at all.