Black Panther has earned a place in history with the second-biggest-four-day opening of all time. The superpowers of black people did that. Not only was the film brought to life by a black director and largely black cast but 37 percent of the patrons that made it an all time hit were black — we are only 12.6 percent of the nation’s population. As a minority group we showed that we have the power to determine cinematic history. Black Panther is an amazingly entertaining film with empowering images of black superheroes but to truly create our own Wakanda we have to first recognize that we as a people have possessed superpowers all along. That is part 2.
We have the power to determine what sells in America and beyond. Stone Island was the 41st hottest brand in the world in quarter 2 of 2017, then catapulted to number 8 in quarter 3 after Drake made the clothing brand his unofficial outfitter for his tour. With her 83 million Instagram followers Nicki Minaj has created more than $14 million in earned media value for brands including Chanel, Gucci and Versace, according to Tribe Dynamics. Cardi B had created an estimated $4.5 million media value as of November 2017, along with a 217 percent spike in searches for Christian Louboutin shoes since releasing her song, “Bodak Yellow” (the song mentions red bottoms). P. Diddy helped Ciroc grow from annual sales of about 40,000 cases a year to millions, simply because he attached his image to the smalltime brand. Superpowers.
Those superpowers go beyond consumerism. We have shown the ability to change the political landscape, also. Doug Jones is a United States Senator because black people — particularly black women — decided that he would be. In Alabama’s special election this past December blacks in Alabama made up a larger percentage of voters than their actual population percentage. Barack Obama was elected in 2008 because young black people turned out in higher proportions than whites for the first time in history. I could go on. We can literally reshape the world around us. Superpowers.
Black Panther was a little known comic book character to most until we showed up and created Wakanda in theaters nationwide. Ciroc was an unknown until we came. Doug Jones had no shot until we came. No one thought a black man could become President but then we came. Unfortunately, far too often we only use these superpowers for the benefit of white institutions or platforms. We failed to show up when Stephon Marbury wanted to create an affordable shoe line for black kids. When Wendell Pierce tried to bring grocery stores to our community, we didn’t show up. Some of our black colleges are struggling to stay open. We followed Nicki Minaj on Gucci but left her in the cold when she tried to launch her own line, which was scrapped last year. Many of our black owned banks have or are on the verge of closing their doors and yet we sit on superpowers.
There is a petition asking Marvel’s parent company, Walt Disney, to invest 25 percent of Black Panther’s worldwide profits into black communities. That won’t happen and there is no reason to think it should. Marvel and Walt Disney produce entertainment and people decide whether or not to consume it. The end. Meanwhile we have the power to see that 100% of the profits from our purchases are invested in black communities. We have the power to make sure all of our dollars support education in the black community. We have superpowers and if we used them to make an unknown Ciroc a global leader we can use them to build brands brought to us by black entrepreneurs. We can use those superpowers to charge our HBCUs and banks. If we can swing national elections and rearrange the fashion industry then certainly we can do anything else. Wakanda can be built and we have the power to do it — that’s part 2.