The smash-hit box office blowout Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler depicts the fictional African nation of Wakanda, where highly advanced technology and traditional culture create a society kept secret from the rest of the world. A part of the Marvel universe, Black Panther enjoyed unprecedented box office success with ticket sales exceeding $920 million and cultural relevance heretofore unsurpassed. Attendees to the opening dressed in traditional African clothing, and artists have drawn inspiration from the well-researched design, writing, and character development. On top of all the fun the movie itself was, the film also marked some important social success that will benefit fans both in the US and around the world.
A STEM Program for Compton Kids | The little sister of T’Challa, the main character, is Shuri, a teenage tech genius who is responsible for developing the super suits, communication devices, weapons, and medical equipment that makes Wakanda so powerful. Countless thinkpieces, op-eds, and studies have demonstrated that pitifully few women and non-white people are employed in STEM, particularly in computer programming, so Disney took some of its box office treasure and invested it back into cities so that students who were inspired by Shuri to study technology had the opportunity to do so. Disney gave the Boys and Girls Club of America a million dollars to start a fund for black students in STEM.
A Boom in African Goods Sold | Thanks in great part to social media, African creatives have found themselves a huge market for their goods in the US. Websites like Etsy, eBay, and even Instagram and Pinterest with their new “Buy Now” buttons have renewed public interest in purchasing traditional African clothing, jewelry, soap, hair products, and more directly from African craftspeople and tradespeople. Prior to the internet, African goods had to go through brokers and large distributors, but today, the internet has decentralized much of the process. The UNITY Phase from the mid-90s is back in full force, but this time with better trade practices and authenticity.
Increased Tourism to Africa | Already, genetic testing services like 23&Me and Ancestry have encouraged multi-ethnic people to learn where their ancestors came from by testing their DNA and rediscovering parts of their lives they never knew. Many of the African-Americans who went to see Black Panther were newly inspired to explore the great continent and have purchased tickets and tours from where their DNA tests say their ancestors came from. From Ghana to Kenya and from Egypt to South Africa, increased tourism benefits everyone, from the tourists who enjoy an enthralling trip to the vendors and tour guides who make good money.