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The Cultural Relevance of ‘Black Panther’

By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times

Like many people across the country, Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell can’t wait for the opening of Marvel’s “Black Panther” film on Thursday at midnight.

Blackwell, CEO of Bold Favor Media Group, a magazine publishing and event planning company, will host a private screening of Black Panther on Thursday night at Patton Creek.

For Blackwell, the movie is more than entertainment. It is also culturally relevant, she said.

“We have a lot of divisive language being perpetuated by our country’s leadership, which is damning itself,” she said. “I see Black Panther showing what we as people of color – black people specifically – can do if we block the noise and focus our attention on excellence. I think that’s a lesson for our children as well.”

The creativity of Wakanda, the fictional East African country Black Panther is from, shows what Africa could be if it had not been invaded, Blackwell said.

“This isn’t just European invaders,” she said. “Africa has been poached for centuries by people from all over the world.”

The private screening will feature a panel discussion with Nettie Carson Mullins, a social sciences educator with the Alabama Department of Education; Miles College professors Shaun Stokes and Charles Stallsworth and comedian Tommy an hour before the film opens. Proceeds will go to the Daniel Payne Community Plaza Job Training Program.

“The purpose of the program is to help mostly mothers come off public assistance and rejoin the workforce,” Blackwell said. “A lot of times many of the people who are in those situations are people of color . . . this is an organization that can lead our people to become economically sufficiently and one day independent. That’s huge for me.”

Blackwell said she is happy to see more embrace African “culture.”

“Here in America, we pull out the Kente cloth and think we’re doing it right,” said Blackwell. “But Africa is so much more than that. To see more people embrace the more elegant looks with headwraps and statement jewelry from African lines is important. They’re learning more about the culture.”

The movie has taken a life of its own. Advance ticket sales are outpacing all previous superhero movies and Birmingham is no different. Most area theaters are already sold out for the midnight screening.

The online ticket service reported that “Black Panther” is currently outselling its previous record-holder for presale, 2016′s “Batman v Superman.” Following early reaction from Monday night’s premiere, Ryan Coogler’s film is the top daily ticket-seller on Fandango.

“If they want tickets they should get them now,” Blackwell said.

“Black Panther”, which doesn’t open officially until Feb. 16, is the first superhero movie in years starring a black lead character. The premiere in Los Angeles was attended by the film’s cast decked in regal African-themed attire.

Analysts are forecasting a President’s Day weekend debut for “Black Panther” of more than $100 million in North America.

For tickets to Blackwell’s private screening visit BPBHAM.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.