‘Talk Back’ on new ‘Black Panther’ movie empowers Black community

By Julia Train

Almost five years after the release of the first “Black Panther” movie, 150 students from Rider, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Mercer County Community College (MCCC) attended a private screening of the sequel. Three buses were loaded with students and filled two screening rooms of a Princeton theater. 

Barbara Lawrence, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, said she received a call from a TCNJ connection about partnering up for an event. So, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) collaborated with the diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) officers from TCNJ and MCCC to send their students to see the movie. 

“One of the things that I talked about was that the film really accentuated women’s leadership in running a nation. They also had an elite army military that was all women. So that’s something that we don’t often see,” said Lawrence. “We still have a long way to go. But we are seeing an increase so it’s always good to see that on the big screen.” Part of her job is to oversee CDI.

When Rider Assistant Professor of History Nicholas McLeod saw an announcement asking for chaperones for the trip, he immediately volunteered. 

A week prior, McLeod wrote and published his thoughts on the original film for a friend’s history website, historifans.org. Although he had an abundance of thoughts about the movie when it first came out, he was in the middle of graduate school and never got around to writing about it until now. 

“She kind of tricked me into it, actually. She asked me my thoughts about a scene and what I thought about the movie and we’re just texting back and forth, and she’s like, ‘OK, great. So write that into an article for me. All right, bye,’” said McLeod. “That was it. I was like, ‘Alright, you know what, you’re my friend. I’ll do it.’”

After seeing the film, Dr. Pamela Pruitt, executive director of CDI, had the idea to host a talk back event about the film and get McLeod to tie in his article’s analysis on the first film during Black History Month.

“When I wrote this article last fall, these were my final thoughts on the first “Black Panther” after the movie coming out in 2017 and I sat with it for a while,” said McLeod.“I had a lot of thoughts to process. The cultural impact of this film was earth shaking.”

The “Talk Back” event was held on Zoom with a panel of DEI officers from TCNJ and MCCC. Each speaker talked about a theme from both films that resonated with them. 

Lawrence talked about women empowerment.  

Marvin Carter, the inaugural director of diversity, equity and inclusion at MCC talked about dealing with Black grief. 

McLeod focused on “pan-Africanism,” a term he wrote about in his article and said is used to describe the movement to create a sense of collaboration between all people of African descent. 

“This was the first time that we brought three schools together to see a movie, particularly one that focuses on African history,” said Lawrence. “This is the beginning of such partnerships and we want to see more collaborations with our students and the three schools particularly around justice, diversity, equity and inclusion, so we’re going to have more cross-educational events.”

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