The New Separate But Equal Academy Award Designed for “Black Panther.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced several changes this week including a new category; “Achievement in Popular Film.” If you think that sounds rather vague? A lot of people are agreeing with you. The Academy, along with ABC which is contracted to televise the Oscars through 2028, saw the worst ratings in the Oscar’s history last year, the first of the ABC contract. ABC apparently started discussions with the Academy the day after last year’s telecast. Among the changes the Academy agrees to was limiting the broadcast to three hours and moving the ceremony up in the calendar year. It is the new category which disregards quality, the base criteria for every existing Academy Award category, in lieu of box office receipts.

This comes at a time when the Academy Awards has received great criticism for it’s failure to honor a significant number of minority Actors/Directors which led to the #OscarsSoWhite movement beginning in 2016, which had considerable evidence for its claims. Also converging on the Oscar’s is the Black Panther film that is eligible for consideration next year and may well be the most influential film in many generations, featuring an almost all-black cast, writers and director.

Under the old rules, Black Panther might well have gotten nominations in categories like cinematography for its wonderful depiction of Wakanda and costuming for the Dora Milaje (female warriors) and other Wakandans. The rub comes when discussion comes of consideration of Black Panther for Best Picture, the top award of all.

ABC has it’s conflict of interest as it is part of the Disney companies that include Marvel Studios which made Black Panther. While wanting more popular films to be in the running for Academy Awards to hopefully improve ratings for the Oscar’s. It cannot have escaped their notice that some of the films that might benefit from the “Popularity” category in the future include Avengers 4, Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel and the next wave of superhero movies from their studios. But the existence of the category is all on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which is doing nothing to stave off another #OscarsStillSoWhite campaign.

The creation of a separate category based on popularity means that Academy members will decide which category a film may be nominated in with the near certainty that films will not qualify for both. Black Panther might be a shoo-in to win in the popular film category but also never have a chance to be recognized as the best film nor credited for being as good at the ultimate winner of the Best Picture Oscar. Many Academy voters were upset that, “Get Out” received a nomination last year for Best Picture though it had no chance of winning. Separate will no more mean equal now as it did for segregated schools in America’s recent history including some current Charter Schools under Betsy DeVos. While in future years the category could reward films with no racial considerations, it could just as easily become the Affirmative Action Oscar where films with minority casts and crews go to be considered, never having a shot at the real brass ring. The “Popularity Oscar” will be much like being named “Miss Congeniality” in the Miss America contest. No one will remember the winner, except the winner.

It is worth noting that Black Panther isn’t actually a “black movie” but it is one where a major studio financed a film with black themes, an almost all-black cast, and a black director, blowing up the concept that films with any of the above won’t be profitable, especially in foreign markets. For all of what it wasn’t, it did let us picture an African nation that was never colonized. We saw black leaders and a black militant who some saw as the hero of the film. It provided an opportunity for black patrons to amass in Wakandan and other African attire and was a huge source of pride. That pride should extend to the ability of seeing the film recognized as the Best Picture of 2018, not just one that sold lots of tickets. Let Black Panther compete against the best of the best, it will hold its own. Otherwise, it will become a Jeopardy question. Name the first film to win an Oscar for popularity? Should the film win in the new category, Disney will gladly accept it. I wonder what would happen if none of the black principals went to the stage to accept the back of the bus Oscar?

How Black Panther Got Roseanne Fired And Why Others Need To Be Careful

Roseanne Barr made a racist tweet and within hours, ABC canceled her show. Her show was leading in the ratings and making lots of money, and none of it mattered. And it’s all because of the Black Panther movie.

Although ABC made an announcement about Roseanne’s tweet being, “inconsistent with our values,” I don’t know how credible that is. Long before she tweeted about Valerie Jarrett being the offspring of an ape, she referred to Susan Rice an an ape in 2013. ABC knew who and what Roseanne Barr was when they green-lit her show. They simply decided that what they really valued was money.

Roseanne has made several statements in the past couple days saying, “I am not a racist,” and “I have never been a racist.” I don’t doubt that she believes that in her heart. She and many others have redefined racism in their own minds such that almost nothing qualifies. Even her apology was racist, she said she was only joking about Valerie Jarrett’s looks when calling her an ape. But back to Black Panther.

The Black Panther movie just dropped $1.3 Billion with a capital “B” in box office receipts in theaters worldwide, stepping on toes and snatching edges while doing so. With the sequel in the planning stages, ABC’s parent company, The Walt Disney Company, has to be concerned with its ability to renegotiate to bring back Director Ryan Coogler, and get it’s mostly black cast to return including Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong and Letitia Wright and to ignore Roseanne’s racism as they discuss their salaries and future relationships with the company. Black Panther may have made some of them stars, but their marketability will now travel. It might get a little harder to say, “Wakanda Forever” with the bitter taste of Roseanne’s tweets in their mouth.

I wish I could say it was the threat of an economic boycott of ABC. They probably had as little to fear from that as the NFL did over Colin Kaepernick. They do need the ability to get deals done and to at least appear to have some of those values they referred to. If Black America ever did wield its economic strength like a sledgehammer, it would be something to behold! Quite a few celebrities are building their brand on “not being politically correct” or “telling it like it is.” They would be well served to pay attention to what just happened to Roseanne Barr. Just because your President seems to be getting away with it on a regular basis, doesn’t mean that you can or that he won’t eventually get his.

Wakanda Forever: Black Panther’s Dora Milaje Get Their Own Comic Book!

After the box office dominance of the Black Panther movie. The magic continues, specifically Black Girl Magic with the announcement that the female warriors of Wakanda, the Dora Milaje, are getting their own comic book.

Marvel editor Wil Moss announced the Dora Milaje will be getting a series of one-shots with them teaming up with other Marvel superheroes, the first featuring Spider-Man. Writing the story will be Nnedi Okorafor with art by Alberto Alburquerque.

Okorafor said about the upcoming work, “The comic will be a chance to break the characters out and have them act on their own while ‘they’re not under the shadow of the throne,’ I’ll be focusing on the humanity of the characters, not just their strength in combat. You feel that you can relate to these characters, and feel they are real, not just iconic, but also human.”

The Dora Milaje will be seen next on film in Avengers: Infinity War alongside the Black Panther and all the Avengers. The film officially opens April 27, 2018 worldwide.

Why HBCUs Are Like Wakanda, And Why We Need To Fight For Them!

Even more important than the fictional Wakanda sitting on a mountain of Vibranium, and having technology surpassing the rest of the world. It was a safe haven, where colonialism had taken no toll. Blackness was considered a gift and not a curse. Education was valued and excellence the norm. I submit that in America, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have served that purpose when the fictional Wakanda would not do.

I came to Fisk University from Minneapolis, MN where the high school I attended and the neighborhood I lived in were about 15% black. I crossed back and forth, in and out of worlds between my black church, white school, black family, white and black friends, being taught European history with the exception of one week when Toussaint L’Ouverture was taught every year along with singing the first two verses of the Negro National Anthem.

When I went off to Fisk and my mother and I landed in Nashville, we ate at a restaurant where the white waitress greeted us with what seemed the most exaggerated Southern accent I’ve ever heard, “Can I help, y’all?” That waitress was the last white person I saw for a month save for two white students at Fisk (hey Shawn and Snow) and several professors.

While Fisk was in the heart of the black community. It was still only a few miles from downtown in one direction and the younger Vanderbilt University in another. A mile down a different road was Tennessee State University which even then was fighting to save its identity and being forced to merge with a predominantly white institution, another State school.

At Fisk, my experience was being duplicated at more than a hundred other institutions in the nation. I was able to discover my identity rather than constantly adapting to multiple environments. Black history was expanded to include the Harlem Renaissance and Reconstruction and more than one black hero was allowed. We learned not only the politics of Martin but of Malcolm as well, and about the Freedom Riders including Fiskites Diane Nash and John Lewis. I needed only walk a block to buy a bean pie from a Muslim restaurant.

Because I played basketball, I was able to visit dozens of other HBCU campuses; Morehouse, Clark, Morris Brown, Alabama State, Miles, FAMU, Knoxville College, Lane, Stillman, Talladega, and Savannah State among others. They were all magnificent in their own ways and even with rivals, there was a commonality we understood and acknowledged. Some of those schools are no longer with us and others barely surviving.

When I came to Fisk at age 17, still in search of who I was. Many around me had no such uncertainty. They came knowing they wanted to be doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, musical artists, and scientists. They and I were given the support and encouragement to achieve our dreams and the respite from having to deal with racial identity on a daily basis. A disproportionate number of our leaders come from HBCUs which is not by accident but by design

The other benefit of attending an HBCU is that when you leave, there is a community of elders throughout the country, still extending a helping hand because you have had that same tribal experience. In the movie, one Wakandan could recognize another by exposing the underside of their lip. Fellow HBCU members recognize each other through their common experiences and histories. A loyalty exists that if you never attended an HBCU, you just wouldn’t understand. I was saying, “Fisk Forever,” long before I heard, “Wakanda Forever,” in the Black Panther movie. Because of my HBCU experience, I could identify with its meaning.

With Wakanda and its valuable resources now exposed to the world, it will come under attack from other nations and other forces in its fictional universe. HBCUs are under a real attack from a President and administration that wishes them ill, developers who want their land, and people who fail to understand the importance and relevance of HBCUs. We must fight for their continued existence in the same manner as Wakandans would fight for their nation. We need HBCUs now, more than ever before. Whatever your weapon be whether giving financially, volunteering, votes, or making your voice heard when the time comes. Fight for your HBCUs as if your children’s future depends on it. Their future just might.

Black Panther Movie Review: The Biggest, Bestest, Baddest, and Blackest Movie Ever!

My son saw the Black Panther movie at a special showing his organization put on, the night before the nationwide opening on February 16th which is when I went. I babysat his two children while he and his wife attended, garbed in African attire as was everyone else at the sold out showing. When he returned, he refused to tell me anything about the film, knowing I’d be seeing it the next morning. He described the spectacle and experience of the event. The only word he used to describe the movie itself was, “awesome!”

Now my son knows his superheroes and the entire Marvel Universe. He grew up reading the comics, watching the cartoons, discussing them with his father who had read the comics in his youth. He doesn’t throw out the phrase “awesome” lightly. He could and has dissected a movie, describing how it strayed from the original characterizations and where the filmmaker sold out for a joke or took a short cut to achieve an end. We’ve disagreed on movies before but not this time, other than “awesome” vastly understates the magnificence of this film and its potential for transforming the way people look at films forever. The film was all that I hoped for, more in fact. It was more than I ever imagined it could be. This was the best movie I’ve ever seen and had the later shows not already been sold out, I’d have watched it again on the spot.

Let me start by saying what the movie is not. It isn’t a film whose primary purpose is to advance the overall agenda of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which has been building towards the Avengers: Infinity War for the last ten years. The movie is completely stand alone and while it references the death of Wakanda’s King T’Chaka which took place in Captain America: Civil War. It was only referred to in the context of this film and wasn’t promoting an outside agenda.

It was not apologetic for Africa, for blackness, and in no way suggested that Wakanda was inferior to any nation in the world. It highlighted the greatness of Wakanda, and while the moral struggles were a huge theme in the film. There were heroes throughout the film, black heroes not imbued with super powers who did the right thing when required, willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater cause. And it gave as much credit to #BlackGirlMagic as anything I’ve ever seen. None of the women had super powers yet they risked all for what they believed in. Your daughters will leave the theatre wanting to be like them!

The film was as African a thing as can be found outside of Africa itself. While a few scenes were set in London, South Korea, and Oakland, CA. Even those scenes were about Africa. Of the two major white characters, one disappeared in the middle of the film and the other was introduced as a “colonizer.” The settings were amazing, I’ve never seen a superhero film that I thought of in terms of Academy Awards other than those related to technology, and yet I can see this nominated for Best Picture, Best Soundtrack, Best and Supporting Actors, and more. There were a couple times I found tears rolling down my face because the majesty of a continent and its people were being portrayed as never before.

I had some fears before seeing the film that we were being set up for watching the brilliance of Wakanda and all it represents to those who have never heard Africa spoken of in other than negative terms; demolished in the next Marvel movie in less than three months. The Avengers: Infinity War film comes out May 4th and may well destroy the very nation which took my entire lifetime to come to fruition. Maybe it’s just too much for the existing power structure to allow for the greatest country in the world to be a small nation in Africa instead of the United States? For the next 76 days, Wakanda represents the best of what Earth has to offer. Let’s hope it survives. Now it’s time to have a conversation with my son that’s been a lifetime in coming.

Black Panther: Are We Being Set Up For The Destruction Of Wakanda? (Spoilers)

As the opening of the Black Panther movie arrives amidst special showings with red carpets, elaborate African attire, and massive ticket sales. I issue a warning; what Disney and Marvel Studios giveth, they can take away.

As essential as the allure of the character the Black Panther is, the Kingdom of Wakanda, the fictional African city from which he hails, is just as meaningful to many of those attending. Wakanda is a hidden African city, never conquered by Europeans, with the world’s only source of Vibranium and more technologically advanced that the rest of the world. It is alleged the source of the Vibranium is a meteor strike and that the meteor contained the Soul Gem, one of the Infinity Stones integral to the plot of Avengers: Infinity War coming out in May 4, 2018.

While we are basking in the glory of Wakanda in the Black Panther film, imagining what could have been had it not been for the raping of the continent by those desiring its resources. The future of Wakanda may be bleak when Avengers: Infinity War villain Thanos, come to collect the Soul Gem, despite all the heroes assembled to stop him.

One constant in the Avengers movies to date is that the cities in which they’v done battle do not fare well. New York City was greatly damaged, and Sokovia was destroyed when dropped from the sky. In the most recent Thor movie, Asgard, home of the Norse gods was obliterated at a whim of the director or a writer’s plot twist. We must remember that the fate of Wakanda is being determined by Disney and Marvel Studios and not by the people lining up to celebrate Wakanda and its majesty. It will be profits and not pride that determine the fate of Wakanda.

Surely, the character will survive and go on to star in Infinity Wars part II, and the Black Panther sequels. But what of Wakanda? Will it suffer the fate of Asgard and Sokovia? Will it’s legacy have lasted from February 16th to May 4th, to see Thanos destroy what took generations to produce. In Avengers: Infinity War, the fate of the universe is at stake. There will be casualties. Pray Wakanda won’t be among them.

Haters Gonna Hate! Facebook Group Tries To Drag Down “Black Panther” Reviews!

By all measures, the “Black Panther” film scheduled for release February 16th is a roaring success. It has outdistanced all previous superhero films in pre-sales by a wide margin. Early screenings have gotten fantastic reviews. Even the soundtrack featuring artists like Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Vince Staples, The Weekend, and Travis Scott is highly anticipated. Yet, someone is out there trying to spread the hate.

A Facebook group has sprung up, trying to organize people to flood Rotten Tomatoes with bad reviews of the film and hurt its success. Their stated reasoning was their “frustration with Disney for its treatment of franchises and fan boys.” They used hashtags like, #DCOverMarvel, and #BringDownDisney. They never suggested publicly that it was a resistance to a black superhero and a mostly black cast with themes of race and cultural heritage. Yet the inference is clear.

Facebook removed the groups events page saying, “People often use Facebook to challenge ideas, institutions, and practices.” Rotten Tomatoes said, “Such discussion can promote a diversity of perspectives and greater understanding. However, we’re opposed to hate speech and bullying, and don’t allow either on our platform.”

It will be hard to judge the success of the group’s efforts until more reviews come out. Rotten Tomatoes has posted their summary of the first 55 reviews with an average perfect score of 100, equaling the early scores of Wonder Woman and Captain America: Civil War.

There appears to be little that can derail this movie with an outstanding cast, director, soundtrack, cinematography, well… pretty much everything. It didn’t keep some people from trying. Haters gonna hate!

Six Things I Learned About Writing from Comic Books


The first things I started reading on my own were comic books. Much of how I write now stems directly from the lessons I learned reading Thor, Superman, The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Black Panther and others. I pass these along because someone else might benefit from these lessons.

  1. Don’t be afraid to use big words – By this I mean don’t dumb down your vocabulary for the readers. If you make them stretch and come up to you, they’ll reward you with loyalty. “Omnipotent Odin”, “Imperious Rex”, the “Ultimate Nullifier!” When I was ten and reading these words I didn’t know, I got my dictionary and figured it out, and appreciated the words more.

a omnipotence2. It’s the Character stupid – If you don’t have strong, well-developed characters. Your audience will soon grow disinterested and stop reading. They have to have a motivation. Whether it be avenging the death of Uncle Ben or the death of their parents, everybody needs a motivation. Any character deserving of a name deserves a reason for being.

a bruce wayne

3.There must be conflict – As Samuel L. Jackson reminded us in Unbreakable, “In a comic, you know how you can tell who the archvillain’s going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero. And most time’s they’re friends.” Dr. Doom and Reed Richards began as friends, before taking their intelligence in different directions. The challenge for Superman and Thor and the mightiest of heroes is that we have to be able to believe they can be defeated. Put your characters in a position where they could lose.

a reed richards

4.Provide a hint of what’s to come – In a fiction book, think about a possible sequel. Lay the foundation for possible plot lines that may or may not be developed in the next book. You don’t have to wrap-up every subplot, leave a couple to fester. This will bring your readers back.

a thanos infinity gauntlet5. Give yourself a timeframe – Schedule your writing and stick to it. Comics came out every 30 days without an excuse. If you outline your novel, also establish projected timeframes for completion. Give yourself goals… and meet them.

a writer at work

6.Use your imagination – You have it in you to create whole universes. You are the writer and you can do anything. You can have fictional or real characters meet that never could/did in reality. Travel thru time or change history. Establish fictional countries in an otherwise real world. You are only limited by what you can conceive.

a thor vs odin

Comics were once limited to 32 pages with a few panels each to present a chapter or perhaps tell an entire story. You have the ability to use as few or as many words as you need. Remember these lessons and you will go far as a writer.

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