One of the problems with Black superheroes in Marvel and DC comics is that they may look Black, but very rarely do they reflect the experiences and struggles of Black people. This was a point that was made Kenneth Ghee who explained in Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation that: “Historically in comic books and movies, the Black superhero operates in a totally Eurocentric (White) context; no Black family, no Black lover, no connection to community or culture…For him (and for us and our children) there is no Black consciousness or Black cause, only a generalized ‘humanitarian’ supportive role from a Eurocentric worldview and perspective.” Given that the Black Panther movie is set to be released next month, I would like to point out that one of the unique things about the Black Panther is that he is one Black superhero who has to confront many of the problems that Black people confront daily. The Black Panther doesn’t just live in Africa, he also lives many of the real problems that Africa has faced and continues to face. Black Panther comics are filled with themes of Western imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism in Africa. These themes are especially prominent in the six episode cartoon series which was an adoption of Reginald Hudlin’s run of the comics.
In the comics Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world because the people of Wakanda are able to utilize their country’s resources for their own benefit. Wakanda was the only African country never to be colonized or conquered, so it did not suffer through the ravages of the slave trade and colonialism which disrupted Africa’s development and, as Walter Rodney explained, underdeveloped Africa. Some have defended colonialism by arguing that colonization was a benefit to Africa because it introduced European technology, but this was not entirely the case. The technology that was introduced was utilized in the service of European domination in Africa. The vast majority of colonized Africans were exploited and impoverished, and they did not benefit from European technology in any significant way.
Ethiopia was able to fend off the Italian invasion and under Menelik II’s rule Ethiopia made many technological advances, including establishing a railway, a postal service, and the country’s first hospital. This was because without European domination Ethiopia was free to adopt European technology and apply it in ways that were beneficial to their country, but the other colonized African nations did not have this benefit. Whereas Menelik was able to establish a hospital, in many colonies Africans were malnourished and given inadequate medical care. In Mozambique the Portuguese failed to train a single African doctor and Guinea-Bissau was even more neglected by the Portuguese colonialists than Mozambique was. Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, once explained that by the time Tanzania gained its independence the country only had 12 doctors. Wakanda presents us with a glimpse of where Africa could have been had it not been for colonialism, as well as a glimpse of where Africa could very well be with the proper leadership.
Comic book superheroes are typically people who decide to become superheroes due to personal tragedy or by obtaining superheroes, but the Black Panther is unique in that he has inherited his role as a superhero. T’Challa comes from a long dynasty of Black Panthers that have protected Wakanda for thousands of years. The Black Panther does fight the typical super villains that are found in comics, but what makes this character unique for people of African descent is that the Black Panther also fights a threat that Africans had to fight in real life, which is European colonization. For example, one story in Hudlin’s run depicts one of T’Challa’s ancestors defending his nation against an assault led by a European settler known as Klaue. In the story Klaue is a soldier who fought military campaigns in South Africa and has nothing but contempt for Africans, whom he views as uncivilized savages.
T’Challa’s own story is rooted in Africa’s struggle against neo-colonial forces. T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was murdered for refusing to give up Wakanda’s most valuable resource, which is a fictional metal known as vibranium. In Hudlin’s retelling of the story, T’Chaka’s assassination was part of a plot that was carried out by various Western countries that were unable to talk T’Chaka into giving them his country’s resources. When they realized that T’Chaka could not be bought off, their next option was to simply kill him. This brings to mind the assassinations of Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, and other African leaders who were killed or overthrown by Western countries for refusing to serve the interests of those countries. T’Challa ascends to the throne and has to remain cautious about the fact that the very governments that assassinated his father would be plotting to do the same to him.
Aside from the Western governments that seek to undermine Wakanda to exploit its wealth, the Black Panther also has to confront African dictators such as M’Butu, who is one of the antagonists in the cartoon series. M’Butu is the dictator of a nation that borders Wakanda and he is depicted as being the opposite of T’Challa. M’Butu is greedy, self-serving, and is easily paid off like many of the dictators that continue to rule Africa today. M’Butu is also a close American ally and even agrees to participate in a plot to overthrow the Black Panther. Black Panther not only fights to protect his nation against European invaders, but against African traitors as well.
I am not sure how deeply the movie will delve into these themes. The anti-colonialist message found in the cartoon series and some of the comics was toned down when the Black Panther was introduced in Captain American: Civil War. In that movie T’Chaka’s assassination was part of a plot to frame the Winter Soldier rather than being an assassination that was carried out because T’Chaka refused to give up his country’s resources. Even if the anti-colonialist message is toned down, I still think the significance of the Black Panther movie is that it’s a movie that will challenge some of the ways Africa and African people are typically depicted in the mainstream media. It is also significant in that it has a message that is relevant to all people of African descent. For African Americans and others in the diaspora it is a reminder that there is more to our history that slavery, and for those on the African continent it is a reminder of the great potential that Africa has.
Article by Dwayne Omowale
This past January 12th was the birthday of the great warrior Khalid Muhammad. He was born January 12,1948. I don’t know if there were any celebrations..but there should be. Khalid never bit his tongue. He always represented Black Power and Black Unity to the fullest. And all who love freedom,justice and liberation should respect him for that. He was an unflinching warrior in the face of white supremacy. His speeches always moved me and gave me chills! As far as Muslims go I like him much better than Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan tuned his back on him like a coward when he needed him the most. That’s when I knew Farr-A -CON was a phony. Since he passed away in 2001 I don’t hear black people mention him as much. But I don’t think he should be forgotten. He loved black people,African culture and was not afraid to speak TRUTH to power! I just wanted to pay some respect to a true African warrior. May his spirit live on forever!
The Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro passed away on Friday 25th November. I am not going to provide an account of the Cuban Revolution, rather I just wanted to pay a brief, but heartfelt tribute to Castro, without deifying him or pretending that he was perfect, which is a common tendency when people write about people they admire. Why do I admire Castro? Is it because I am a Communist or Marxist revolutionary? No, certainly not. I admire him because he was one of the few true friends, in terms of significant political leaders, that Afrika has had during the 20th century. Whilst some of the Afrikan leaders of the ‘frontline states’, during the apartheid era in South Africa, either sat passively by or in some cases, actively co-operated with the apartheid regime, such as the arrogant neo-colonial lackey Dr Hastings Banda who “… was careful never to appear radical in front of the former colonial masters and pleased the British government by maintaining trade and contact with South Africa, condemning his fellow African leaders more than he did apartheid.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/obituary-dr-hastings-banda-1296534.html Fidel Castro put Cuban forces into battle against colonial regimes in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola. Much Cuban blood was shed on the battlefields of Southern Africa in aid of Afrikan liberation.
A great example is the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. “The battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the Cuban intervention in Angola is one of the turning points in Southern African History. It led to the movement of powerful Cuban armed force, into the west, towards the Namibian border. The fighting in the south western part of Angola led to the withdrawal of the South African, ANC and Cuban presence in Angola, and to the Independence of Namibia.” http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/battle-cuito-cuanavale-1988 This battle was hugely significant in that it not only led to the withdrawal of South African troops from Angola and independence of Namibia, but it also destoyed the aura of invincibility surrounding the South African Defence Force (SADF), and was a significant contributory factor in the release of Nelson Mandela and end of apartheid in South Africa.
You have to put this all into context by remembering that the white world vacillated between overt and covert support for the apartheid regime, as perhaps best exemplified by UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher referring to the Afrikaners as “our kith and kin” during a state visit to the UK by the then South African leader, the despicable war criminal, PW Botha. In global terms Cuba is a small island nation with a small population and which has been under economic and political attack by the United State ever since the revolution in 1959. Over the years there were more than a dozen documented assassination attempts against Castro by various US governments and yet despite living in the shadow of a hugely powerful; hostile neighbour, Castro had the vision and commitment to reach out to African people in Afrika, the Caribbean and other parts of the world and lend direct practical military, economic and medical aid. Just take the example of the massive earthquakes in Haiti where Cuba sent teams of doctors and the US sent in hordes of soldiers. That is a direct legacy of Fidel Castro and also illuminates the Euro-American mindset of always coming to conquer. Cuba even offered to send in medical teams in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina whilst the US government once again sent in teams of soldiers to face down a non-existent threat from the stranded, mostly Afrikan residents of New Orleans. Over the years Cuba has run a program giving free medical training to African-Americans.
Castro should also be remembered for his strenuous attempts to wipe out racism in Cuba. I should be clear that he did not succeed in this, but it was not for the want of trying. Racism is still alive and kicking in Cuba as you can see by the behavior and attitudes of many of the European Cubans who migrate to the US from the island. Since, as I have mentioned many times before, racism is a normative part of European culture, all Castro could do was to suppress overt manifestations of racism in Cuba, but he could never kill its cultural root. I recall an Afrikan woman telling me of her holiday to Cuba, which took place in the last 10 years, and how she was constantly asked for her ID on the private beach associated with the hotel she was staying in and how it was regularly insinuated that she was a prostitute. You also have all of the skin color and shade issues in Cuba as is found in places such as Jamaica, UK, US etc. as well as the same European beauty ideal.
Human Rights – We have to speak about human rights because this will be the biggest criticism made of Castro. Did the Castro government suppress people’s human rights? To my mind the answer is obviously yes, however I think again we have to look at this in context. What do you think is going to happen when you lead a tiny nation with the most powerful nation on Earth as a very hostile near neighbor which is making every attempt to not only overthrow your government but also to directly kill you? It would be naive to think that you can have an open society under such abnormal conditions. Just take the failed ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion in 1961 as an example of US hostility http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13066561 No one knows for sure how Cuba would have developed if it was not faced with the ongoing US economic embargo designed to impoverish the Cuban people and destabilise the Cuban government.
The Future – With the transition of leadership to Fidel Castro’s brother Raul in 2008, the lifting of the US economic embargo and the flow of US money into Cuba which will become a tidal wave, the future for Cuba is likely to be Back to the Future. Prior to the revolution Cuba was a playground for the rich and famous from the US, a place where the Mafia could launder money and centre for gambling, drugs and prostitution. I predict that in 5-10 years Cuba will be transformed. There will be huge infrastructure investment in the key tourist areas with hotels, casinos, theme parks etc popping up and a massive spike in property prices in these areas. Cuba will become one of the top holiday destinations for US citizens and will become a hotspot for sex tourism. Some Cubans are going to make significant amounts of money, whilst the US transnational corporations are going to make a killing. Cuba will become yet another neo-colonial island in the sun.
Article written by Ifayomi Grant
I love this rap song! It’s by David Banner and Sa Roc. It was actually recorded back in 2014. I meant to post it back then and never got around to it. It’s a song dedicated to African hero Patrice Lumumba. I love the lyrics and the powerful statement being made. More hip hop artists should be doing this. We don’t want our great heroes and sheroes to be forgotten. Black children should know the names of the people who fought for their freedom and liberation.
Patrice Lumumba (1925-61) is perhaps the most famous leader of the African independence movement. After his execution in 1961, when he had been prime minister of the newly-liberated Congo for only seven months, he became an icon of anti-imperialist struggle. As the news came out, his picture was brandished in demonstrations in capitals around the world, along with Che Guevara and Mao Zedong. His life and the independence that he sought for the Congo made him a pivotal figure of the 20th century, highlighting ongoing Western colonialism and the problematic nature of the independence granted to huge swathes of the globe after 1945. In this book, revised and updated to include new thinking on the Congo crisis and incorporating material recently released from British intelligence archives, Leo Zeilig tells the story of the Congo in the dying days of colonialism, and of Lumumba’s transition from nationalist to revolutionary to international symbol of African liberation.