Social Commentary No. 9 “AFRICA IN THE SPOTLIGHT’…THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY”

Africa Is currently in the spotlight, and it seems, for all the right reasons. After years of exporting harmful depictions of Black men and women to the world, Hollywood has an export of which we can all be proud of. Marvel Studio’s Black Panther has now surpassed $1 billion in global sales, its fair to say, the has broken all known records. Let’s take a look at a few…

  • The film grossed the second-highest four-day opening in movie history
  • It is the biggest global debut for a predominantly black cast
  • It’s the biggest domestic opening in history for a black director, Ryan Coogler
  • The opening of Black Panther is the fifth-largest of all time
  • It snagged the honour of the second-highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
  • It set a new record for largest February opening weekend
  • The largest winter season opening weekend
  • The largest Presidents Day weekend opening
  • The largest Thursday preview gross in the month of February
  • It’s the highest Monday and second-highest-grossing Sunday opening in history
  • It also has the best Rotten Tomatoes score (97%) of any Marvel Cinematic Universe film or superhero movie in history

Research by The Opportunity Agenda in a 2011 study states that depictions of Black men and boys in television, film, video games and other entertainment, found that media persistently “over-represent Black males in depictions of violence, crime and poverty; fail to depict the systemic barriers facing members of this group; under-represent them as problem solvers and users of technology; and contribute to negative attitudes toward African-American males, which negatively impacts their own self-perceptions.”

Other research has additionally documented the distorted depictions of Black women, including ‘disproportionate hyper-sexuality, anger, greed and subservient roles’. Given those trends over many years, it is unsurprising that so many international consumers of American entertainment have internalized fear and disdain for Black people whom they do not know.

Enter Black Panther.

Marvel’s blockbuster superhero movie has a virtually all-black cast, a Black director, a Black soundtrack and a Black African storyline. The film depicts the beauty, genius, courage and compassion of Africans and their diaspora, as well as the trauma with which so many continue to grapple. It answers the question what would Africa look like if it had escaped the ravages of colonialism, the slave trade and the plundering of its resources. It provocatively asks what should be done to set things right. And notably, it exports a new narrative to the rest of the world.

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And just like that, an Islamist terrorist group are set to diminish the glorious light positively radiating from the Continent….as new reports emerge of more schoolgirls being kidnapped.

Armed fighters, believed to be Boko Haram militants, showed up with trucks in a small town in the north-eastern state of Yobe, in Nigeria last week, and specifically asked residents for directions to the local school which they attacked soon after and kidnapped 110 female students. It’s the first known large-scale schoolgirl abduction since Chibok in 2014, when 276 girls were taken.

It has been four years since the Chibok girls’ abduction and there is a very different administration running Nigeria under president Muhammadu Buhari, but the mistakes that were made then are playing out almost exactly the same.

Back then, there were a number of avoidable errors: from claiming the location of the girls was known, and yet not carrying out any rescue operation to attempts to shift blame for the abduction to the Borno state governor who was a member of the opposition. It was this poor, uncoordinated response to the abduction that necessitated the creation of the pressure group, Bring Back Our Girls and the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls which went viral on social media world over, used by the former US first lady Michelle Obama and celebrities to put pressure on the Nigerian government to act promptly to rescue the girls.

Despite the high-profile fallout from the Chibok Kidnapping and the relentless focus on young girls and women by Boko Haram, the Nigerian government has failed to properly secure secondary schools in the region and strengthen intelligence-gathering to forestall future attacks by Boko Haram.

The Nigerian government says it has beaten Boko Haram – is that true?

Major General Roger Nicholas, who leads operations in the north-east, declared the group had been “completely” defeated in January. This mass kidnapping suggests otherwise.

So, this begs the question, why are black and brown women so neglected, so unprotected and so at risk of exploitation or abuse?

Let me know your thoughts below.