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?

The Worst Thing About “Avengers: Infinity War” Was The Audience. Spoilers!

This is less a review of the movie, “Avengers: Infinity War,” than it is of the audience. While this may have been the most spoiled movie of all time, it’s apparent that some members of the audience should have been required to take a pre-course or something before being allowed to purchase a ticket.

First, this is not a movie for little kids, leave them at home! I know you took them to see Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and maybe even Avengers 1 and 2 and they were just fine. This is none of those movies, what’s different is that in all of those movies while the hero may seem defeated or even dead for a while. Before the lights come on, all will be restored more or less and all is right with the world. Not this movie.

The source material for Avengers: Infinity War, is over 25 years old. In the comics, the whole goal of Thanos is to wipe out half the universe. While his motivation may be changed in the film, it’s who Thanos is, it’s what he does. He succeeded in the comics and given that this movie as split up into two films. That he ends up wiping out half the universe is the one result you should have expected walking in the door. Half the universe dies, and you come back in a year to find out how they survive in Part Two. One of the reasons you don’t bring young kids, is that some of their personal favorites are among the dead, now you have to explain to them they should believe you and not their lying, crying eyes.

It shouldn’t have to be said at this point, but at the end of every Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie, there’s an after-credit scene that sets something up for the next movie or some related event affecting the MCU. When the credits started rolling, the percentage of people who jump out of their seats and head for the exits, continues to astound. Several of the movies have had two after-credit scenes and it’s maybe understandable to leave after the first one, there’s no excuse to leave before waiting for one, save those whose bladders couldn’t take any more after a 2.5 hour movie.

For those who stayed for the after-credit scene and watched Colonel Nick Fury send someone a page and a symbol appeared. I heard several people wondering, “what does that mean?” and “who was he contacting?” I passed a couple of those people and answered, “he paged Captain Marvel.” They were still confused. Hopefully, they’ll go watch the Captain Marvel movie when it comes out in March 2019, two months before the finale to Avengers: Infinity War.

I understand not wanting to be spoiled before watching the movie. There’s a huge difference between being spoiled and being totally ignorant. You have to know enough to be able to connect the dots or you won’t enjoy the movie. The motion picture was awesome by the way. Before the release of the yet to be named Avengers 4 movie, I’ll put out the basic information fans need to know before watching the film. Not knowing the difference between Asgard and Wakanda will be a problem. If you go in totally blind, at least show some pride and act like you know.

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.

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