The Black Panther Movie, one of the most anticipated cinematic premiers in recent history, has taken the world by storm. The box office receipts are in the billions and continue to climb. But what has been significantly different about this blockbuster is the impact it has had upon the African American community. It is clear that Black Panther has tapped into a deeply hidden and dormant longing that no other movie has found. It is a sense of ancestral greatness connected with the continent of Africa that has never been known. For African Americans to see a portrayal of an African nation that is not primitive, backward and left several generations behind the rest of society but instead is technologically advanced, socially sophisticated, minerally rich and financially wealthy; portrays African people in a manner that has never been depicted, seen or known before. This portrayal of Wakanda, it’s mineral resource of vibranium and its entire kingdom of advanced science and technology hidden from humanity in plain sight serves as a metaphor about the real position of the modern African American community.
There is no community that has more hidden talent, genius and wealth, hidden in plain sight from the general public that the African American community whose excellence has never been encouraged, sort after or celebrated in the country where they hold citizenship. Even the African American, who was able to ascend to the highest office in the nation, let alone the world, was more revered outside of America than in his homeland. He was never fully embraced, as being a citizen by the entire populous during his tenure as president and only after his terms have ended is his true service to the country appreciated. His service was hidden in plain sight.
But I would like to suggest an even greater reason for the tremendous triumph Black Panther has had in the African American community. It is how fantasy has tapped into a hidden reality that too few of us in America have searched for. A history, that much like Wakanda, has been hidden in plain sight.
My personal awareness of it began in the early 90’s while living on the “left coast.” It was there that I was introduced to a wealth of African history written about voluminously, that I had never been taught by anyone nor ever known. The extent of the writing of this history was so prolific that it seemed almost beyond belief. Not even during my years attending a historically black college were these facts about the continent of Africa ever discussed.
For centuries historians have told the story that Africa was the “dark continent,” and that African people were the only race who contributed nothing to the forward progress and advance of human civilization. This rhetorical story had been reinforced by historians and scholars from several disciplines to solidify the notion that African people were the race who were nobodies, with nothing to contribute to the social uplift of humanity. Our lot was to serve as slaves to humanity, lesser human beings than others. The designation in the US Constitution as 3/5th human seemed to fit the story that was told.
But how insidiously wrong and erroneous this story was. As I read and studied, the true history unfolded that opposite was the case about the African. Africa was not the “dark continent” but rather the “light” that ignited all of human civilization.
The one problem with the concept that Africans had made no contribution to the advancement of the human race was Egypt. Egypt located in Northern Africa had produced the greatest treasurers of scientific, technological, engineering, mathematical, agricultural and astronomical discoveries that predated all modern European civilizations by centuries.
The pyramids, the sphinx, the vast pillar temples, and a host of other discoveries unearthed by archeologists had only begun to explain the advanced culture that the Egyptians created and sustained over many centuries before antiquity.
If Africa was a dark continent and Africans contributed nothing to the advancement and uplift of humanity, then how did this explain Egypt and its vast and extensive contributions? The explanation was that the Egyptians were not Africans. They were people from outside of the continent who migrated to Northern Africa, developed this advanced culture and then after hundreds of years returned to their places of origin. Some would suggest they were dark skinned Europeans who migrated into Northern Africa, others suggested Asiatic people, but by no means were they Africans from the continent of Africa. An interesting explanation that defied all human logic, since no traces of the advances that were produced in Egypt could be found anywhere in these other places where the benefactors had supposedly come from. Why would someone migrate to another part of the world, expend all of their time, energy and human capital advancing another part of the planet while leaving their own place of origin primitive and destitute. However, these illogical and poorly conceived conclusions were never challenged, until scholars of African origin began to surmise differently.
It was George G. M. James in his book titled “Stolen Legacy,” and then Chancellor Williams in his book “The Destruction of African Civilization,” that chronicled the many achievements, advancements and discoveries of African origin that began to paint a dissimilar picture. They began to develop a different narrative placing Africans at the center of the story and giving evidence that explained who the true progenitors of the Egyptian civilization were. They were not White Europeans or Asians but Black Africans from the Nile valley. To be more specific Ethiopians, the descendents of Cush, the Biblical son of Ham. It was Herodotus, the father of Greek history from the 5th century BC, when describing the resemblance between the Colchians (Modern Georgia in the Mediterranean) and the Egyptians who wrote, “For my part I believe the Colchi to be a colony of Egyptians, because like them they have black skins and frizzled hair.”[i] It is clear from the description of Herodotus that the Egyptians were neither white, European nor Asian.
The greatest, most extensive and scholarly work done to refute the claims that the Egyptians were white Europeans was done by Cheikh Anta Diop. He proved conclusively that the Egyptians were Black Africans who originated from the Southern Cradle of the continent. Diop, a native of Senegal, presented a lengthy dissertation showing that Egypt was the center of a vast web linking Africa’s main cultures and languages. He concluded that the creators of classical Egyptian civilization were not brown Mediterranean Caucasoids invented by Sergi, nor Asiatic nomads and invaders but indigenous black-skinned, wooly-haired Africans. He further concluded that Greece, the mother of European civilization, was once a child of Egypt, which was in turn a child of Ethiopia and that Ethiopia evolved from the complex interior womb of the African motherland.[ii]
Because of the controversial nature and unprecedented proposition that Diop’s dissertation advanced his thesis was initially rejected and labeled as unfounded. It would take Diop ten years and two additional writings before his dissertation was eventually accepted and his doctoral degree conferred.[iii] But Diop was not only a historian, he was also a physicist and linguist. As a physicist, Diop developed a chemical process for testing the level of melanin in the skin of Egyptian mummies. Through this process he was able to establish the Black African ancestry of the mummies he studied in the Museum of Man. He was also able to prove that the iron artifacts found in ancient Egypt were not brought from other parts of the world but were in fact the by products of an iron-smelting process developed in Egypt by the Egyptians.[iv]
But Diop’s greatest contribution was in the area of linguistics. As a native from Senegal, Diop was able to prove that the Egyptian language was a proto-semitic language belonging to the family of languages of Africa. Diop, along with a colleague, Theophile Obenga called a meeting of all of the worlds most renowned Egyptologist to UNESCO to present their position, and allowed those who had for decades postulated the non-African origins of Egyptian culture and civilization the opportunity to defend their positions to the contrary. In their final report UNESCO had to admit that no one “had prepared communications comparable with the painstaking researched contributions of Professors Cheikh Anta Diop and Obenga.”[v] Diop’s scholarship had won the day and established a new narrative about the origins of the Egyptians. The preponderance of evidence conclusively pointed to the Egyptians being Black Africans.
Since Diop’s ground-breaking scholarship, the tide has shifted and many other academicians from several disciplines have joined the chorus of voices who now agree that the Egyptians were indeed Black Africans. White Scholars and historians such as Martin Bernal, Basel Davidson, and Richard Poe have all written books affirming and supporting the work of Diop and have written that much of what has been attributed to the Greeks as discoveries were instead usurped from the Egyptians who were in fact the true pioneers.
So what does all of this mean and how does this relate to the “Black Panther” movie, Wakanda, Vibranium, T’Challa and the powerful impact this fictitious movie has had upon the African American community. Could it be that the craze about Wakanda is filling a void for the real Wakanda, Egypt, originally known by its African name Kemet; a civilization that produced the greatest wonders and discoveries the world has ever known. Not only is Kemet known for architectural and engineering achievements that are still unexplained, but royal dynasties that had enormous riches of vast mineral and natural resources. Some of the vast treasures of those dynasties have been unearthed with the sarcophaguses of their mummified emperors.
When we see the depictions of the scientific advancements of Wakanda, we should be reminded of the world’s first universal genius Imhotep, who was not only a statesman and the architect that designed and built the world’s first step-pyramid of Saqqara but was also a leading physician. His medical fetes predate Hippocrates by centuries.[vii] Instead of drooling over the fictitious T’Challa, consider a real heroic figure Ramses II, the Pharaoh of the 19th dynasty a master military tactician, who brought Egypt to its golden age in constructing buildings, statutes and monuments that still stand to this day.[viii]
Not only are there great men of note but also outstanding women, such as Queen Hatshepsut the warrior queen, known for her masculine characteristics, who successfully fought off opposition from within, when her leadership was not accepted.[ix] Or Queen Tiya, who unlike Hatshepsut was a combination of beauty and majesty, known for her wisdom. She reigned as queen consort and queen mother for half a century.[x]
Egypt and its centuries of history, its dynasties of pharaohs, statesmen and women of exceptional achievement; is a treasure-trove of real features and adventures for the African American community to learn about, connect with and find a true sense of identity and purpose from. While I appreciate and celebrate what the “Black Panther” movie has ignited, it only has real power if it serves to point the African American community from the fantasy of Wakanda to the reality of Egypt and the AUTHENTIC history it allows us to rediscover, celebrate and build upon. EGYPT…KEMET…The REAL Wakanda…
[i] John G. Jackson, Ethiopian and the Origin of Civilization, Baltimore, MD., Black Classic Press 1985, 2013. p. 7.
[ii] Ivan Van Sertima, Great African Thinkers, New Brunswick, NJ. Transaction Books 1992. p. 8.
[iii] Ibid p. 8
[iv] Ibid p. 9
[v] Ibid p. 10
[vi] Ibid p. 19.
[vii] Ivan Van Sertima, Great Black Leaders: Ancient and Modern, Journal of African Civilizations Ltd. p. 15.
[viii] Ibid pp. 15-16
[ix] Ibid p. 13
[x] Ibid p. 14.