The phenomenon which is Black Panther has caused all types of discussion in the Black community since its release. I have not been immune to those conversations. The intelligent and insightful dialogue and central idea of the movie conjure very raw feelings when I think of the African Diaspora, slavery, and colonization. The question comes to mind, why was it done to us and how can we do better right now?
One of the most intriguing parts of Black Panther is the concept of the War Dog. Wakanda War Dogs are spies/soldiers sent to the world to protect the interest of the kingdom and to report on global activities. This concept of the War Dog got me to think about my positionality in my country and the current context of African Americans in the United States of America.
With this thought in mind I had the opportunity to go home on February 24, 2018 and reflect. Even though I was born, raised and currently reside in Philadelphia, Morgan State University is what I call home. I was asked to come to Morgan to participate in an event called the Brothers Brunch, “I am a Morgan Man.” The event was sponsored by the Morgan M.I.L.E, which is the Male Initiative on Leadership and Excellence. The purpose of the brunch was to bring male students and alumni together for fellowship. I have to admit I was not sure what to expect. The African American Millennial generation, has me worried when it comes to their sense of urgency concerning current issues that are hampering African Americans. I have spent the last 23 years in the K - 12 public school system educating the Millennial generation. At times I have encountered a since of entitlement and indifference for the greater good amongst my students which is a cause for concern.
But on this day I was given hope by the young men of Morgan who attended the brunch. It has been 23 years since I have graduated from Morgan. Those four years at Morgan where for the first time I was among the majority, and it was a transformative point in my life. Stepping on the campus that morning I felt like T’Chaka be told by Okoye “We are home.”
A staple of a Brothers Brunch event is a lively discussion amongst the attendees. On this day two of the topic was the impact of the Black Panther movie and HBCU tradition. As the conversation moved along, I was struck by one thought, that my HBCU and all HBCU’s are a real-life representation of Wakanda and as an Alumni, we are War Dogs.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) February 25, 2018
Most of the questioning by the young men centered around my experience at Morgan and how that experience has to help me in subsequent life. In this space, we were able to have an open and very frank discussion of what it means to work within and against the system. So as a War Dog I came home to report to my people how we can thrive in this world, but as T’Chaka found out, we do have a responsibility to make the lives of our people in our community, country and world better using our gifts.
In recent years it seems like the question of HBCU relevance is more pervasive. I would assert that HBCU’s are just as important now as when they were founded. I believe that Billie Holiday said it best:
“Them that's got shall have
Them that's not shall lose
So the Bible says and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own, that's got his own”
When the questioning of HBCU relevance is asked you should dig-in deeper and question the motives of the person(s) asking the questions. Why can’t we have our own? Wakanda’s struggle of isolation and sharing their gifts with the world, was a dominant theme through out the movie. HBCU’s are ahead of Wakanda and have been sharing their gifts for well over a century. As a Morgan War Dog, I question myself how well am I protecting this gift? How am I connecting to the generation behind me teaching the traditions that bind us as a community?
It’s great that Black Panther has sparked conversation and our children have seen a positive representation in a genre on a global scale that usually ignores us. But the time of conversation is over and time for War Dogs to take ACTION!