There is vibranium-level energy around Black Panther as millions of melanated people flock to theaters. Of course, most bask in the black pride, love and community of the film, but some are taking advantage of crowd sizes to enact political action.
#WakandaTheVote, started by Electoral Justice Project founders Kayla Reed, Jessica Byrd and Rukia Lumumba, is trying to register as many voters as possible at the theaters.
“This weekend, we wanted to meet our people in Wakanda,” Byrd and Reed told Blavity. “We know that for some it’s a superhero world, but we know that the world we deserve is still waiting to be built—and we want to build it! This upcoming spring and November 2018 midterm elections are an important step in building that new world, and we want to take every opportunity to engage our communities in the conversation of electoral justice. We will be registering people to vote at movie theaters across the country so that we can #WakandaTheVote at the ballot box.”
In addition, many former members of the actual Black Panther Party (or their descendants) are using the recognition around the name to seek justice for those black political prisoners still behind bars.
Former Black Panther Sekou Odinga, who was locked up for 33 years (and famously name-dropped by Tupac Shakur on the Makaveli album), will also be out at New York City theaters this weekend to ring the alarm for his comrades still locked up.
“You always feel like you don’t want to leave nobody behind,” Odinga, 73, told The Guardian. “Many are in the worst prisons and the worst conditions, and a lot of them are getting older and suffer from health problems.”
Monifa Akinwole-Bandele, an activist whose father was a Black Panther Party member, said that incarcerated BPP members, like Herman Bell, are repeatedly denied parole in the face of pressure from police unions.
“Adults I looked up to had taken such a bold stance against racism in America,” Akinwole-Bandele said. “It had a huge impact on me and what I thought was possible.”
“This is an opportunity to remind people of the real heroes of the Black Panthers and the conditions they live in today,” Odinga said.