'Black Panther' empowers students of color by highlighting Africa's centuries of greatness

Ron Clark

Ron Clark

"America's Educator", NYTimes Best Selling Author, Disney's American Teacher of the Year, and Founder of the Ron Clark Academy

Teachers have to create experiences to show that African ancestral heritage doesn't reflect only poverty and pain.

Recently, Ron Clark Academy (RCA) students went viral celebrating a trip to view Black Panther. Our students’ energy reflects culturally relevant teaching and learning about Africa and heritage.

Even though the film's story is based in the fictional city of Wakanda, elements of Africa’s glorious past are reflected in its plot by displaying what African beauty and power could be without colonialism. If teachers fail to create experiences that reveal the strength and cultural pride of Africa, students of color will continue to believe that their African ancestral heritage reflects only poverty and pain.

Wakanda exemplifies images of Langston Hughes' ideals when he writes, “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.” Lacking cultural awareness, students grapple with negative images of Africa and, thus, themselves. Students at RCA are eager to experience Black Panther as it fanaticizes elements of African geography, tradition and history on the big screen.

In reality, Africa boasts centuries of greatness, yet the popular notion is that nothing good came out of Africa. RCA teachers furiously combat this notion:

►Susan Arauz Barnes uses education to allow youth to see their possibilities, beginning with how they see themselves. She was affirmed by teachers who encouraged her exploration of innate talents and her Garifuna/Afro-Latina heritage. Her classes read contemporary works that explore experiences of blacks in America and abroad.

►Pamela Haskins contrasts Mississippi’s legacy of slavery with pre-colonial Africa as embodied by the Shakespearean quote: “I speak of Africa and its golden joys,” which nods to Europe’s fascination with ancient African cultures before colonization.

►Wade King, a product of an abusive home, thrived when teachers affirmed him, and now his lessons feature the effect that Africa had on Europeans who burned ancient libraries down to suppress the positive images of the continent.

As a result of these lessons, our students know why Shakespeare would equate Africa and golden joys in the same sentence. 

Taking pride in your heritage

Students learn that the city of Timbuktu boasted premier universities. They learn of Queen Nzinga of Angola and Shaka Zulu of South Africa, who both fought European imperialism to preserve native traditions.

The Africa reflected in Shakespeare’s quote is absent from American textbooks that American students, descendants from those societies, read.

Now that Black Panther illustrates examples of African greatness on the big screen, students can see how the words of Shakespeare and Hughes lean into reality and are not entirely fantasy. Affirmed by historical perspective, students can walk with their backs straighter and their heads held higher affirmed through education.

We've also learned that it is imperative for white teachers to understand the story of Africans in the diaspora, especially if they are teaching black children. Having cultivated an environment for cultural exploration, RCA students exuded an outward manifestation of inward pride. The Black Panther announcement created pure electricity and our students danced, bounced, jumped and hugged us in gratitude for promising them a trip to see the movie.

Seeing Black Panther empowers students to identify with a wide range of regal characters who are fully in charge of their destiny. Literature mirrors life, and Black Panther’s fictional setting and characters are rooted in the dream that has been deferred for centuries. 

'Black Panther' empowers students of color by highlighting Africa's centuries of greatness
Teachers have to create experiences to show that African ancestral heritage doesn't reflect only poverty and pain. Recently,Ron Clark Academy (RCA) students went viral celebrating a trip to viewBlack Panther. Our students' energy reflects culturally relevant teaching and learning about Africa and heritage. Even though the film's story is b...
Read More
Students erupt into dancing after finding out they're going to see 'Black Panther'
Tickets to see the highly anticipated film Black Panther are very hard to come by even star Lupita Nyong'o couldn't nab opening night tickets and she's starring in it. So when students at Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta found out they were going to see the film, they erupted into dancing to an instrumental from the "Black Panther" soundt...
Read More
Way To Go Ron Clark!
Congratulations to our very own Ron Clark! It was announced recently that he along with former Vice President Joe Biden, Akon, Women's March Organizers, and Van Jones will be celebrated at the Andrew J. Young International Leadership Awards on June 3rd. To learn more visit: http://ajylead.com/
Read More
Ron Clark | Global Teacher Prize Top 50 Finalist!
We are extremely pleased to announce world-renowned educator, Ron Clark's nomination and placement in the Top 50 Finalists for the Global Teacher Award! The Global Teacher Prize Academy had the task of selecting 50 finalists out of 5,000 nominations and applications from 127 countries with only eight teachers from the United States. The acad...
Read More
The Ron Clark Academy & Staples | 'Designed by Students' Collection
Source: Bernetta Style The Ron Clark Academy is no stranger to setting the standard for the most innovative techniques and developments in education. This exemplary institution has inspired educators all over the world to think outside of the box and see teaching in a refreshing, new and creative light. Ron Clark and Kim Bearden stress every...
Read More
The Ron Clark Academy | Where Are They Now?
There is so much to say about the amazing work Ron Clark, Kim Bearden and the whole team at theRon Clark Academyhas done and is continuing to do. Since its opening in 2007, the school has seen a double digit increase in test scores, and its first four graduating classes received over $5 million in scholarships to first-rate high schools and has ...
Read More
America's Educator Inspires SE Students and Educators
College students and educators gathered in the Bloomer Sullivan Arena on the Southeastern Oklahoma State University campus to be inspired by a man who is dubbed "America's Educator.";Ron Clark is the founder of the Ron Clark Academy, two-time New York Times bestselling-author and subject of a television movie.While Clark runs his academy during ...
Read More
Founder of Ron Clark Acadamy Accepts Ice Bucket Challenge [VIDEO]
The charitable cause that is sweeping across social media has found its way to Ron Clark, co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy. Clark took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge in support of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) in front of a mass audience, calling out Kenny Ray Adams, Joey Barr and Amanda Nixon to respond or donate to ALSA.org. ...
Read More
Educators Get Motivated for New School Year With Destination Graduation Event
Written Kristina Wilder Lines of teachers climbed out of Floyd County school buses at The Forum on Tuesday for "Destination Graduation ... For Every Child."; The school year kick-off event featured Ron Clark, a nationally known teacher, author and motivational speaker. Teachers, staff and administrators were all smiles as they greeted co-work...
Read More
Ron Clark Academy Students Compete in The "Amazing Shake"
Written by Donna Lowry Ron Clark Academy held its eighth-graduation ceremony Thursday evening at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. For the RCA 8th graders, the evening culminates four years of growing not only academically, but learning important lessons in manners and respect. One goal is to help them prepare for their future in the wo...
Read More