(AllHipHop Features) Young people, blerds and others will be bestowed with the opportunity to see Marvel’s Black Panther at Brooklyn’s famous Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.The event - presented by FanBros, Black Nerd Girls, Universal Fan Con, BLERDSMeet - kicks off #CrownWakanda. The screening, a glamous affair, that represents the entire African diaspora from traditional garments to Afrofuturism. Underneath it all,the BK NAACP will host a series of STEM events for youth. Expect to see cosplay, but also discussions around larger topics of community, technology, science and of course the themes within the Black Panther.
AllHipHop interviewed Tatiana King Jones (aka The Grand Duchess of Tech) of Fanbros to talk about Black Panther and the Crown Wakanda movement.
AllHipHop.com: Why is this movie so important, both as a pop culture event and within the MCU?
Tatiana King Jones: Black Panther, on the most basic level, is a continuation of the MCU story which started with Black Panther's introduction in Civil War. What you will learn in Black Panther will provide a direct lead in to May 2018's Infinity War. Infinity War is absolutely huge as it shows all the Marvel heroes we've met over the last 10+ years (and some surprises/new characters) heading up against one of the most ultimate villains, Thanos. Black Panther is the first time you'll see the character of the same name completely in his element of his country of Wakanda and for the first time get to see on-screen in live action what Wakanda looks like, how he gets his powers, all the important people that will have an impact on this story and future stories and how the world of Black Panther ties into the greater MCU
AllHipHop.com: Why is it important to Black people, particularly African Americans, in your view?
Tatiana King Jones: From a much more complex level, Black Panther goes beyond the figurative and literally represents a huge Marvel mainstream character on screen that is black and has the full financial, promotional, and technical weight and expertise of Marvel/Disney. With the exception of Spawn and Blade in the 90s/early 2000s, it's essentially unheard of to have a black-actor led superhero movie. And there's already a 1-2 generations beyond the aforementioned films that a great deal of people never even heard of--so Black Panther will be the first time they see powerful black male and female heroes on screen to this incredible magnitude. That's absolutely necessary as many times people don't believe they can be or achieve something until they see it--until they can see themselves.
Within the film industry we're already grossly underrepresented in just about all the different genres (fantasy, sci-fi, action, drama, etc.) so it really matters that this film has finally arrived. It's also a film that is helmed both in front of and behind the camera by majority black crew, cast, and production. It's inception in a way--the film is feature a self-sustaining, never colonized country of Wakanda and the production of the film reflects that (costume design, director, writers, actors, etc.). Black Panther represents one of the many heights that can be attained when black people are allowed to shine and reflect their full glory upon the world without interference. And quite simply Black Panther is bad ass, is smarter than Tony Stark (his sister Shuri is smarter than anyone on the planet in the MCU [confirmed by Marvel], Wakanda is richest and most technologically advanced, and on and on---there's nothing (in superhero/Marvel sense) that has been shown that feature black people, and really, the greater African diaspora, in this way. African Americans particularly have been deprived of this (in the mainstream) so its incredibly important to all of us on an emotional, social, mental, and entertainment level.
AllHipHop.com: What, if any, has been the back lash. I've heard the standard, "If there was a movie called White Panther..." comments recently.
Tatiana King Jones: The back lash seems to come from misguided people who don't understand business, social constructs of black people, and basic logic. The idea of "White Panther" or "White Entertainment Television" (to use another analogy) relies on false premise that properties that feature or target Black people are created to be exclusionary. To the contrary, these spaces were/are created to be inclusionary of a group of people that have systematically been ignored or oppressed despite their very existence.
Plus there is literally no need for "white entertainment television"--W.E.T. is every channel, every movie, etc. as the social "default" (in America) has been cis-het white males (which has spread across the world via a combination of white supremacy and patriarchy). They have *always* had these spaces. It's Black people and other people of color who lacked these spaces. As for Black Panther itself that's literally as he was created--an African man who's power story revolves around a panther god. So any comments like what you mentioned to me are ridiculous, unfounded, and hold no real weight. And it just sounds like a bunch of haters.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you feel this movie has sold so well, even though its not out?
Tatiana King Jones: This movie actually already has thousands of sold out viewings in theaters across the country and in some areas overseas. Literally the day the tickets went on sale to the general public, Lupita Nyong'o tweeted that she couldn't get a ticket--and she's in the movie. So when you say "sold out" I'm not 100% what that means...there's always going to be a showing or two where people may still be able to get in (maybe midday matinee where most people are still at work), but essentially all the premiere and primetime weekend stuff is a done deal. Plus the movie already broke records as the highest selling Marvel film ever in presales. And as far as sales tracking, as of Jan 31st its expected to make $100-$120M opening weekend. That was 2 weeks ago with tickets still being sold at an exponential rate; so that range is higher.
I feel the movie has sold so well based on what I said previously--that you have a huge contingent of straight up movie go-ers that thing the film looks cool and wants to see what its all about; you have the comic book and Marvel/MCU contingent of fans that are hype to see the next installment in this Phase of MCU films and are fans of the Black Panther characters; black people, especially children, who have never seen any form of black hero (regardless of gender expression) on screen in a live action film, let alone something on this scale. So basically--everyone across ethnicities, age, gender, and interests want to see this movie.
AllHipHop.com: Talk to me about Crown Wakanda and why it is so important.
Tatiana King Jones: Crown Wakanda seeks to use the Black Panther film as a catalyst to further education and empowerment. We're having a big private screening of the film with red carpet entrance and VIP treatment for our guests. That expanded to hosting a free screening for youth on Feb 16th where they can also enjoy a premium screening experience but with free popcorn and soda. The Brooklyn NAACP provides the opportunity for kids through their youth council program. The "Crown Wakanda Curriculum" as we call it involves a visit to Weeksville Heritage Center to learn about one of the first free-Black communities in America located in what is now modern day Crown Heights, Brooklyn to learn what came before them. They then screen the film and get an opportunity to participate in STEM workshops to "Build Your Own Wakanda".
They will work with city planners, engineers, and architects to create real city models based on concepts they are taught and the details they've learned from their Weeksville tour. We then seek to couple this with a greater understanding of Afrofuturism and how it ties in to the greater African Diaspora--with Black Panther as the inspiration. Our first tour was on Feb 10th. Brooklyn NAACP will host the workshops through March, so we're using Crown Wakanda as the vehicle to raise money to extend it beyond that time and provide more screening opportunities for more youth. GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/crown-wakanda-curriculum/ .
The whole point is to build a self-sustaining vehicle both in Crown Wakanda and the youth we're looking to influence and inspire. We are completely convinced that once they see Black Panther (we saw it back in January) that their world-view and self-view will change dramatically. So we want to supply them the tools to take their experience beyond a movie watching event and enrich them further.
AllHipHop.com: What made you pick the Weeksville Heritage Center as the location for this event?
Tatiana King Jones: Through discussion and collaboration with Brooklyn NAACP. They identified and expressed the ties Weeksville had to the "Build Your Own Wakanda" initiative so we're tying in the entertainment aspect. Not enough people (including ourselves) even knew Weeksville existed let alone is right in the middle of Brooklyn--so its important to raise the profile of that space, support it, and teach our youth of what was there before and what is possible now and in the future. Weeksville could have been considered the Wakanda of Brooklyn.
AllHipHop.com: Any early feedback from the kids?
Tatiana King Jones: The kids that attended the tour on the 10th were very into visiting Weeksville and asked tons of questions about the community and what it represented. They were also incredibly excited that they get to go to see Black Panther for free. They're super appreciative of everything and we just want to make a tangible impact in their lives.
AllHipHop.com: Any last words or things you want to add?
Tatiana King Jones: We are appreciative of the overwhelming love and support we've already received as well as the partnerships between Brooklyn NAACP, Black Girl Nerds, Universal FanCon, Blerdsmeet and more. We've even partnered with several groups in St. Kitts and Nevins ( Market Street Community Development Group) to help them also send youth to see the movie for free, as well as help them develop curriculum. Crown Wakanda started as a response to jokes about people "dressing up like they're in Coming to America" and evolved into spreading upliftment and empowerment within the black community by the black community. We seek to introduce and reconnect African Americans to the greater African Diaspora.