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Learning From Black Panther

So, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Black Panther hit theaters this past weekend. The Ryan Coogler directed film has been making financial as well as sociocultural waves, and for good reason. The internet has been full of reports about Black Panther breaking box office records and serving as a beacon of diversity. While its heroes are beloved by not just African American consumers but those of all races, one of the most powerful point of views came from the villain: Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan.

The film is set in Wakanda, the richest and most technologically advanced nation on Earth. They’re thousands of years ahead with their technology, yet they hide in plain sight to the rest of the world, posing as a third world country. They prosper as the world around them descends into genocide, war and meritocracy. Yet, even though they could eradicate all of these problems with their technology, they stick their head in the sand and do nothing. They only take care of themselves with their resources. Leads us to wonder how different this is from modern abuses of power.

Without revealing too much, Killmonger saw that outside of their ivory tower, people were in need. There was death, systemic violence, governments waging war on minorities with drugs and a corrupt judicial system. He wanted to use Wakandan resources to fight this oppression, yet tradition stopped him from doing so. He’s a little violent in his ambition, but spot on in his thinking. We simply must be compassionate with our resources. The film has indeed inspired philanthropy but it also begs the question: how can we best leverage our resources for local and global good?

In Black Panther, it is a mineral called Vibranium that makes Wakanda so rich. In real life that mineral is freedom, healthcare and education. What are we doing with our “Vibranium?” Girls Who Code is doing a phenomenal job of imparting knowledge to help empower women, and Y Combinator is fighting for equal pay for those same women. Unfortunately, there are still underserved urban and rural communities starving for technology. The partners at Harlem Capital are doing a great job attacking the issue in urban areas. While guys like Jared Smith in Louisiana are stepping up answering the rural demand for technological instruction. The truth is, we all must play our part.

Years ago Tupac Shakur wrote a poem titled “The Rose That Grew From Concrete.”   The poem depicts a rose growing from a crack in the concrete, a metaphor for beauty arising from unconventional places. Not only beauty but brilliance lies in these same cracks. We have been given so much, so no matter your industry, think about using your innovation and resource to help others. To quote another classic from the Marvel universe, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

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