It’s been a full week since I’ve seen Black Panther for the first time, and I still cannot get it out of my head. While we’ve heard about the movie and the amazing female characters within it, there’s another important aspect of the film—Community. Black Panther takes community to a different level than any Marvel Cinematic Universe film before it; audiences can only hope that this undercurrent continues in future films.
Wakanda does not need any other heroes to help them—they take care of their own, thanks to a strong sense of community.
Community is a group of people living in the same location.*
By definition, Wakanda is a community. But with a more critical lens, audiences could see two different versions of Wakanda. There’s the backwater, poverty-stricken country in Africa that continually refuses aid. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see the protected Wakanda that only a few outsiders get to see. The high-tech protections camouflage the industrial centers, the Vibranium mines and Design Group. Trading just a fraction of a small percentage of Vibranium has made their transportation and education enviable.
Not only have the high-tech protections kept them from those who might offer them harm, it also keeps away those colonials who might offer aid and bring in things that threaten their ecosystem, or the very fabric of their lives. Invasive species have not taken over Wakanda and, with the protections in place, they are not likely to take over.
Community is a group of people sharing a common interest or heritage.*
Look even closer, and you’ll see tribes within Wakanda. Ranging from the border guards to the War Dogs, all of these people have different jobs and different beliefs—T’Challa relies on those differences to help guide his rule (along with Black Panthers before him).
This system could turn into a nightmare, especially since one tribe, the Jabari, have settled in a remote cave that looks down upon the nation. Jabari are seldom interested in attending events put on by other citizens. A crucial moment in the film shows just how strong the differences are—and the impact shared by both a Jabari and Black Panther, himself.
Due to their shared heritage, the citizens of Wakanda are able to stave off any harsh infighting, despite some of the people being more isolationist or internationalist than their neighbors. T’Challa relies on these differences for the opinions and experience they offer. Taught to be an effective leader at an early age, he respects each of these differences in order to maintain balance—but ultimately he will need to make a choice that may not sit so well with one side or the other. Thankfully, in those situations, the shared interest in preserving the peace AND Wakanda’s heritage make those decisions a bit easier to take once made.
Community is closer than you think.
Director Ryan Coogler was named by Time magazine as one of 30 under 30 who are changing the world. With Black Panther, he certainly has (not to mention the various charities in the area he supports)—Oakland is PROUD to call him a local (Oakland IS an important plot point within the movie, too!).
Black Panther was so important and so essential to the next generation that many states had at least one showing for underprivileged kids, bought and paid for by sports organizations, beauty pageants and celebrities. Seeing Black Panther is something the next generation will remember for a very long time. Seeing the values within Black Panther on the large screen can go a long way in promoting that sense of community and the value of the community to this and future generations, paving the way for a more peaceful, more technological world for all of us to share.
What community (or communities) are you proud to be a part of? What do you think will help pave the way for a better community? Please share in the comments below.
*Community, defined by Merriam-Webster.