Black green city in Black Panther.
Black green city in Black Panther.

Because I do not want to spoil the experience of this movie, I will not describe the path of the film's plot to its core problem, which concerns the unification of black Africa with black America. Out of a comic book, director Ryan Coogler crafted an important concept about how, from the unification, a post-pan-Africanist global Africanism can emerge. It comes down to this: black Africans and black Americans have to admit their respective failings. Once past that, a glorious future is in sight. This is a fantasy. But so is much of the wealth that makes Jeff Bezos the richest man on earth. (My feeling is that Coogler is much harder on black Americans than black Africans.)

Support The Stranger

As a whole, Black Panther is lots of fun and will excite a lot of discussion and strong opinions. It's a collage of African colors and cultures, and it seems the director was very aware of this. Wakanda, the fictional country in which the film is set, is really a melting pot of black Africa/America in reality and fiction, in the past and the future.

The country's language has the clicks of Ndebele, but the dress of Ghanaians and Nigerians. Cadwick Boseman as the superhero is pretty tight, and it's not an accident that his African accent approximates Nelson Mandela's. Madiba's ghost is currently the president of global Africanism, which is distinct from pan-Africanism because of its links to neoliberal cosmopolitanism. The music moves between post-boom bap hiphop, global hiphop, African hiphop, classical European, and classical African (jazz is not in this picture). Weirdly, the entertainment of this crazy mix of African sounds, skins, clothes, and English does not fall apart.

But the most revolutionary thing about Black Panther is its city. The capital of Wakanda has skyscrapers, a monorail, sidewalks of grass, green buildings, farmers markets, and no cars. The whole idea of private transportation is foreign to this fictional society. And this is what makes the city so unfamiliar. It's big but has no suburbs. There is only the city and the country. If you are not downtown, you are in the rural area. If you are not living in a hut, you are living in a downtown apartment. It's one or the other, and either is fine. This is a radical urbanism concept indeed. If this black African capital has anything to share with the world, it's its city planning.

Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.