For the 29 young people from Lagos informal communities, Black Panther was more than just a movie. 29 of them participated in the March 28, 2018 private viewing session at Ozone Cinema, coordinated by SPACES FOR CHANGE’S | S4C’s Youth Development Team. Communities where these young people live, often called slums, is characterized by decades of governmental neglect, overcrowded housing, squalid living conditions and limited access to social and economic opportunities. Many of them grew up, experiencing repeated evictions and disruptions to their education. As a result, many lack requisite educational qualifications and self-esteem, just as their hope of a better future has long been dashed.
Beyond the regular human rights training, civic education and sensitization campaigns that they have routinely benefited from in their communities, the aim of the movie-viewing session was to create an unusual relaxed, recreational space for the youth to learn and embrace new forms of thinking and goal-setting. The choice of the movie, Black Panther, was deliberate. S4C believes that a combination of higher self-esteem, more flexible thinking and higher self-confidence is necessary to catalyze social change. Therefore, through the movie, S4C wanted to improve their self-confidence and broaden their perception of themselves as people who are able to control important social, economic, political and moral outcomes in their lives.
The movie, centered on a fictional African nation, Wakanda, depicts an ideal African country as one with sublime technological prowess, great military strength, economic stability and a competent leadership structure. By sitting together, asking questions, and the S4C team explaining when necessary, the young people learned that it is possible to shift the cycles of negative thoughts, emotions and behaviours about themselves. A better future is indeed, possible.
An interactive session at the end of the movie afforded another no-holds-barred opporunity for the youth to share their experiences and the lessons they learnt. Some said they learned a lot about African heritage and culture. Others said they learnt to take pride in the African fashion, philosophies and accents, rather than emulating that of the Westerners. For some others, the movie taught them to be open-minded, expressive, bold and diplomatic.
S4C team encouraged the youth to apply the lessons they learnt from the movie in their daily struggles whether as youth activists or as slum dwellers, in order to change the negative narratives and stereotypes the society has about them. The women were particularly charged to be politically active and heighten their involvement in decision-making processes in their communities- just like the Wakanda women. Through the movie, they were all reminded that young people irrespective of gender can provide innovation needed to make their settlements a better and safer place to live in.