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Voter Registration Drive at Black Panther Screenings is the Purest American Activism


Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is a beautiful and gripping movie that has as its central question, “what does a fortunate nation owe the rest of the world?” It is entertaining and provocative, exciting and sensitive, and is about Blacks without being about racism.  And it’s killing at the box office.

Last October, three women, Kayla Reed, Jessica Byrd, and Rukia Lumumba launched the Electoral Justice Project (EJP). Working under the umbrella of activist group Movement for Black Lives, the trio of changemakers recognized a valuable opportunity. Coincident with the opening of Black Panther, they started #WakandaTheVote and turned Black Panther screenings into giant voter registration drives.

According to the EJP’s website, its mission is as follows:

We recognize that electoral work alone will not change the conditions plaguing Black communities, but we believe that Black people deserve a loving and strategic political home to seek transformational political change.

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.

Wakanda, the setting of much of Coogler’s movie, is a fictional East African nation that has appeared in the Marvel Comics universe since the mid-1960s.  Also going on since well before the mid-60s (even before Russia had a hand in such things) have been wide scale voter suppression efforts aimed at minimizing the impact of the Black vote in American politics.  Given the history, the work of Reed, Byrd, and Lumumba seems worthy of unfettered support.  Of course, though, there was bound to be some backlash, particularly from the “keep politics out of my entertainment” set:

It strikes me, though, that efforts like #WakandaTheVote are truly the purest and most American political activism out there. When the focus is encouraging Americans to participate in our own democracy, there can be no downside, regardless of how any particular person votes. Even in the idyllic society of Wakanda itself, individuals have fierce differences of opinion; neither divergence nor diversity is dangerous to a successful society – but silence is.

[Image via Sam Santos/Getty Images for Disney]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos