Wakanda, the homeland of Black Panther/T’Challa may be a fictional place, but it’s “power” is very real.
Yes, to some ‘Black Panther’ is just another superhero movie. But it is way more than that. The preliminary notes to its importance are the obvious:
- First Major Superhero of Color
- Predominantly Black Cast
- Highest Budget for a Black Male Director ($200 Million production cost)
- Biggest Opening Weekend in February, Ever
- Fifth Highest Opening Weekend Overall ($235 Million in the US and Canada)
While these are amazing feats, there is so much more that scratches the surface – Black people creating, innovating and advancing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), a sight unseen on the big screen before ‘Hidden Figures’. But once again, ‘Black Panther’ is different.
While ‘Hidden Figures’ is documented in a real Jim Crow world, the “fictional” Wakanda in ‘Black Panther’ is a wealthy, uncolonized, technically and scientifically advanced world filled with kings and queens. This sets the depiction of greatness as opposed to the visual presence of Africa that we see in the media today. The representation of a successful black world is something that elderly, baby boomers, Gen Y & Z and millennials have not seen…until now.
Within all the themes that lie in ‘Black Panther’, one remains constant: Black women in technology. Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa/Black Panther’s sister, spearheads the all the innovation in the Wakanda world. From creating Black Panther’s suit to defeating villains with virtual cars, Shuri is the only person that that can provide T’Challa the tools he needs to be the Black Panther superhero that he is. Think of her as the Q in Bond movies; in case you are one of the few people in the US who has not seen the movie yet.
This representation matters. As hard as it is to find a woman or man of color acting as a member of the STEM field in the media, it’s even harder to find in real life. According to the United States Department of Commerce, 7 out of 10 STEM positions in the US are held by white, non-Latinx. Black, Native American, and Latinx (any race) workers are half as likely to hold STEM positions compared to the overall workforce, while Asian workers are nearly three times as likely.
STEM diversity is an issue that TCGi CEO Avis Yates Rivers is extremely passionate about. Not only has she received a White House Champion of Change in STEM awarded by President Barack Obama, her book, ‘Necessary Inclusion: Embracing the Changing Faces of Technology’, addresses the need for more women and people of color in the STEM field and proposes solutions.
(Serena Williams Surprises Black Girls Code Participants at ‘Black Panther’ screening)
There are many STEM based organizations that are currently involved with minority communities. We support everyone to get involved, as STEM is the way of the future! Here are some organizations below: