The students, Mr. Burrowes (with folded arms and cap) at the TM Mall last Tuesday
Students in unanimous agreement that Liberia can benefit by using strategies that united the fictional African nation of Wakanda
The echoes of the Atlantic Ocean hummed in the background. Few people sat here and there at strategic locations on the 5th Floor of the TM Mall. Sitting alone with two additional chairs before him was Mr. Patrick Burrowes, a man who has spent considerable years in academia in the United States, and who has returned home, to reawaken Liberians' awareness of the changing trends in the world and how the country's future leaders can be encouraged to look at their own contributions and their expectations to build a nation that they can be proud of.
Mr. Burrows was waiting to meet at least 100 students drawn from several community schools in Monrovia. At the time expected on Tuesday, March 6, students from Cathedral High School, Spiritan Academy, Muslim Congress, B.W. Harris, George E. Simmonds, Apostolic Foundation, among others and were assembled to watch the blockbuster movie: BLACK PANTHER which is set in the near-futuristic fictional African nation of Wakanda, a secretive African country that is never colonized and is the most advanced nation in the world booming with monorails, flying cars and medical marvels -- all made possible by the discovery of vibranium, a superpower metal.
At the appropriate time, the students filled the Silverbird Cinemas on the 3rd Floor as the credits rolled by and the real action began. The film owes its vision to Afrofuturism, a 20th-century cultural aesthetic that subverted sci-fi -- a white-dominated genre -- by placing black people front and center in futuristic worlds. It also has its roots in African-American art and music, which is experiencing a renaissance. And that renaissance at the end of the movie was brought out clearly by Mr. Burrowes when he enumerated some themes to bring the message home to the students.
T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Kilmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in 'Black Panther'
As scenes in the movie reached a climax, the students excited showed their appreciation with cheers, particularly when the females in the movie who were very much active seemed to have authority to determine major decisions in Wakanda with the men playing supportive roles.
"One theme in the movie is the suffering inflicted on Africa by outsiders in the past," Burrowes said. "Two aspects were colonialism and the trade in enslaved Africans, which took 11 million people from the continent to work on plantations in the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean. In your view, are we still affected by colonialism and the slave trade?" Since it was an interactive discussion, the students were asked to play what they thought about his question. And interestingly several hands went up and many of the kids explained while colonialism and the slave trade were long gone, Liberians, in particular, could use the experience or the history of colonialism and the slave trade to be determined to work for the common good of the country.
He raised themes on the relationship of men and women; the fact that Wakanda was depicted as a nation with many ethnic groups or tribes and how their diversity served as a yardstick to co-exist and Liberia, as the students agreed, could be the measure for the country's unity. The students also agreed that equitable use of natural resources, is one measure to get Liberia forward.
Burrowes also drew attention to the styles of hair and clothes worn by the people of Wakanda and reminded them that the women did not have wigs or false hair and also everyone in Wakanda had African attire.
A technologically advanced nation, Wakanda was self-reliant and produced all that it needed for its people and the students agreed Liberia could imitate or that was what Liberia needed. Another was the conflict between T'Challa, the leader of Wakanda and the bad guy Erik Kilmonger, whose father was killed and as a result chose to declare war on the people of Wakanda.
During the interactive exchanges, the students said while Kilmonger's father's death was unfortunate, he had no right to declare war on the people and said the death of his father caused him to be traumatized but that was in no way necessary for him to have taken vengeance on his people.
There were interesting African historical objects or artifacts on display and the fact that Wakanda's technology was far advanced than what Liberia and even the world has today caused Mr. Burrowes to ask "What is keeping us in Liberia from advancing in technology?"
Shockingly, he told the students "In three weeks, Black Panther, the movie, has earned U$900 million and that's twice what the Liberian government earns in one year. One neighbor, Nigeria earns U$900 million from Nollywood movies annually."
As the students sat amaze, he asked: "What stops Liberian movies and music from having similar success?" Several students offered suggestions and noted, among others that Liberian actors should develop a great passion for their avocation and the government and the Liberian should offer them support.
"The kids have a good time," an observer said, "we need this very often." Finally, Mr. Burrowes commended his sponsors, being friends in the United States, whose contributions made the kids to have lunch, and the support of a group identified as MONROVIA READS.