Early January this year, following all the hype surrounding the movie Black Panther and quite in love with the lessons and insight it would surely offer, I came up with the idea to take my Junior High School students to see Marvel’s latest masterpiece. I’m a Peace Corps volunteer serving in a rural community in Northern Volta where there is no cinema. It was a noble idea, and one that would take money and some helping hands for our troupe to journey to the capital city. It was not possible to make the trip to Accra and back up in one day, so I decided to expand the outing into a weekend excursion.
Where to start? The Ahasphora network was my first point of action and I was blown away by the response to help make this Black Panther experience happen. Quickly things started to fall into place as donations rolled in from Ghana and abroad. I reached out to old college friends who were more than happy to contribute to the cause, as well. Next stop was Facebook to ask for support from my family and friends and that’s how the trip was funded. Before long we had more than we needed to travel roundtrip, 2 night’s stay, movie tickets with popcorn and drinks for all.
I’d been waiting to see the celebrated almost all-Black casted movie for a really long time so my excitement was skyrocketing; to not only be able to see Black Panther myself, but to also share the meaningful experience with some very deserving youth. I remembered my own childhood and the types of superheroes I saw on the big screen. More often than not, I saw an all-White cast – not one that really looked or somewhat resembled me. Growing up in Kenya, then immigrating to the US really opened my eyes to the racial disparities not only in my daily life, but also in the media that we chose to engage in because it was dominant. Today, there are so many great discussions about the themes that make up this movie.
Taking my kids to this movie was extremely important to me, because I wanted to expose them to something I never had as a child. I wanted them to see people of color, especially Black people, portrayed in a way that was positive. I wanted them to see strong female characters that led armies and girls who are extremely influential when invested in, especially in the STEM fields. As an African woman, this movie meant everything to me. The portrayal of strong female characters was so powerful and moving to me. It’s also the type of woman I try to be for the young people in my community, especially the young girls. I often try to champion that women are capable of doing everything men can do and still be respected.
The initial planning process was stressful but I had a great team behind me that made everything possible. It was an amazing and activity-laden weekend to say the least. Aside from going to see Black Panther, the idea was to also expose them to other sites that aligned with African and Black history, as February is Black History month. On the Friday we left our village, we were able to visit the W.E.B. Dubois Museum where they learned about his contributions to the Black struggle in America, as well as his contributions upon his immigration to Ghana. The following day, we visited Black Star / Independence Square, before we headed to the Accra Mall to watch the movie. The rest of the day consisted of a visit to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, a swim at the University of Ghana pool, and to finish off the day, we had pizza at Papa’s Pizza in East Legon. Before we headed back to Volta on that Sunday, we stopped at Sakumono Beach where the students helped the fishermen bring in their catch of the day as well as the Adomi Bridge which the students were very eager to cross.
The kids still talk about the trip to this day. Most of the students have lived their entire lives in the village, never even escaping to the closest market town or surrounding villages. Their excitement really lit a fire under me to make the weekend a memorable one and I believe I did that. My girls got to see influential and successful women in the “big city” of Accra in their power suits and driving cars. The boys also witnessed the same thing which I was really thrilled for, but they also got to witness men in other professions other than teachers or farmers. In about 120 minutes, #2 highest grossing movie in the world ‘Black Panther’ that sparked a movement in popular culture, gave my students the reassurance of their value – the beauty in being Black, the innovation and freshness they can contribute as youth and the power female hold to lead and rule.
I’ve had parents come up to me describing the trip in detail as if they’d be with us, and it truly warms my heart. I just want them to have actionable ways of being the best version of themselves possible. The kids have already started spreading rumors that I’m taking them on a trip to Kumasi. For now – 1 weekend. 65 students.4 chaperones. 14 hours of travel. 1 flat tire. 7 locations of interest. Countless memories and lessons.
Written by Winnie Wakaba