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The Viral ‘Black Panther’ Middle School Curriculum Provides Parents Real Insight

The curriculum finds ways to engage with the most beautiful aspects of the movie while asking vital questions that are central to its critique.

Marvel’s (well, Ryan Coogler’s) afro-futurist opus Black Panther has obliterating box-office predictions, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars and millions of cheerful moviegoers. The “Wakanda Curriculum” an in-depth movie companion designed to help students “engage more critically and thoughtfully with the film” is now make rounds on the internet as parents grapple with how to talk to kids about the film, which touches on issues related to the African and African-American experiences. 

Broken up into two sections, pre and post-viewing, the curriculum opens with two lessons vital to understanding the films undertones — “The Legacy of Colonialism in the African Continent” and “The Legacy of Slavery in the United States.” After learning about the definition of colonialism, students dive into the Transatlantic slave trade, “Colonialism’s long-lasting effects,” and “Slavery’s legacy today.” These are just building blocks meant to get  students to understand how slavery and colonialism facilitated “Global Anti-Blackness,” before they start discussing “African Cultural Representation in Black Panther.” The curriculum comes equipped with various classroom activities meant to illustrate the wiles of colonialism on “a very basic and less violent level”

Tess Raser, the curriculum’s author, says that it’s meant for kids in grades five through eight, but can be taught to high schooler’s as well.  While the curriculum presumes that students have had some experience studying the African continent and colonialism, it does well to lay the groundwork for those concepts.

The second, post-viewing, section covers character attributes and nterpretations of three of the films main characters T’challa (Black Panther and the King of Wakanda), Killmonger (the not-so-villainous villain), and Suri (the princess and genius behind Wakanda’s technological advancements). After exploring the characters, the lesson plan dives into subjects like “the role of Black women in Wakanda” in order to get students to compare it to the role of black women in our own society. The final question posed to students by the Wakanda Curriculum aims to tackle the most divisive aspect of the film, is Wakanda a pillar of poisonous “Black elitism” or an “Afrofuturistic Possibility” that can be built on global black solidarity.

At the end of the curriculum, students (well, kids) are presented with the question that kids all over the country have been subconsciously grappling with since the film came out last week: “What Would You Look Like in Wakanda?”