Speakers explore 'Black Panther's hidden meaning

By Byron Patten - Staff Reporter

Despite featuring black superheroes, Marvel's Black Panther contains hidden agendas to diminish black movements, warned a Highline Unity Week panel on Monday.

Unity Week is an annual series of events designed to bring people together to learn and understand each other. This year's theme "Breaking Patterns: Our Time Is Now," looks at the diversity of the South King County community. 

The series was kicked off with "Agents and Agencies: Black Panther and King Leopold's Killmonger," Presented by Dr. Jared Ball, Todd Burroughs, and Mark Bolden. The film Black Panther was contrasted to its comic book version and related to political real-world scenarios. 

Dr. Todd Burroughs, comic enthusiast and author, compared the evolution of the comic and its transition into film. 

The Black Panther party that originated in 1966 was the main inspiration, said Dr. Burroughs. 

"Our entertainment often takes from the real world. What is in the news sells," said Dr. Burroughs. "The character [Black Panther] comes out at interesting times. How he goes back and forth and evolves depends on who is writing the story."  

Dr. Burroughs briefly covered the history of the writers, from the origins with Stan Lee to the later writers that added to the character. 

"We don't see the powerful and mysterious African sovereign of the movie until black writers begin to take over," said Dr. Burroughs. 

Dr. Jared Ball discussed the media's influence on populations. 

"The media has military origins in terms of delivery, commercial product and propaganda," said Dr. Ball. "We are the most highly propagandized population in the world, convincing people that things are better than they actually are."

Despite being written by black writers, both Dr. Ball and Dr. Burroughs warned of disguised motives within the film.

"If you are delivered something to do with black movements by mainstream media, you need to be cautious," said Dr. Ball. 

He also discussed the token characters that aid the entertainment industry to manipulate marginalized communities.

"Any group that might be threatening to the institution becomes a new token: Latino, LGBT, black, etc.," said Dr. Ball. "There needs to be a new tokenism for aggrieved communities to keep them ignorant and we're seeing an evolved version of that in Black Panther. You want less black people to see contradictions in society and rebel; put happier black people into film."  

Dr. Burroughs noted the hierarchy within the film.

"At the end of the day, this was all produced and approved by wealthy, powerful white men and major industries like Disney," said Dr. Burroughs. "It's a supposed good cause still produced by people who are after money."

Continuing, Dr. Burroughs described how Disney managed to please the masses and avoid total reparations. 

"This movie made loads of money and it is only natural the debate of reparations to the marginalized black community be considered," said Dr. Burroughs. "Within only a few weeks of the film's release, though, STEM centers were put in inner-city areas to create the new generation of black and brown Shuri children."

Shuri is a character in the Black Panther film notable for her knowledge of science and engineering. 

"They [Disney] knew she would be a fan favorite and they knew we'd [black community] want reparations," said Dr. Burroughs. "They went one step ahead of us, knowing oppressed people, and prevented any forms of protest by gifting us." 

In conclusion, Dr. Ball urged students to critique the entertainment industry. 

"Music, movies, and news all have an impact on us, especially when we like them," said Dr. Ball. "If you find that you like a movie, be critical of it. Remember that things aren't perfect and there is still work to be done in social movements."  

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