Black Panther ASL Discussion
by Lenesha Hall | published Apr. 13th, 2018
Within the first few weeks after the release of Marvel’s "Black Panther" on Feb. 16, 2018, it had broken the advance ticket sales record. Shortly after it came out, the Deaf Black community began to discuss their reflections on the movie's various themes. They shared their ideas for signs for Black Panther and the fictional country Wakanda. By relating their common heritage of African American culture and their use of ASL, the Deaf Black community was able to have a healthy dialogue about the most fitting signs for the values displayed in this movie.
Nyle DiMarco, well-known America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars winner, went through the controversial issue with Black Panther signs. On Friday, Feb. 17, 2018, DiMarco tweeted a video of himself sitting with deaf actor Lauren Ridloff discussing what the sign for “Black Panther” should be. They ultimately chose “BLACK-TIGER.” Following the conversation, DiMarco tagged to Chadwick Boseman, who played the leading character T’Challa in the movie.
However, some members of the Deaf Black community felt uneasy about DiMarco coming up with the sign for "Black Panther." Instead, they thought the official sign should come from someone in the Deaf Black community. After all, the movie is about the representation of African culture and focuses on carving unique interpretations of Afrofuturism.
It is essential ... to have a healthy dialogue about creating a mythology for a black superhero.
RIT/NTID faculty Joseph Hill, comedian/actor Sheena Lyles, filmmaker Jade Bryan, dancer Shaheem and RIT/NTID lecturer Ritchie Bryant continued the conversation on Facebook, sharing various ideas of what the sign should be. They attempted to reach a consensus on whether the sign should be “BLACK-PROTECT” or “BLACK-PROTECT-CLAW." They believed that the sign for "Black Panther" had to portray Wakanda as a symbol of protection for Black communities in the country.
The conversation continued in various mediums online. While these discussions are lengthy, it is essential for the Black Deaf community to have a healthy dialogue about creating a mythology for a black superhero. "Black Panther" pays its own tribute to Black culture by being the first Black superhero movie, and many members of the Black Deaf community felt inspired to portray its messages in the right light.
The view of what means to be “black” is an identifiable culture or set of shared experiences that connect all black people from other countries. For this reason, there needs to be a discussion about marginalization in in arenas where hybridity and blackness are formed in different ways. The Afrofustristic concept provides the guiding map toward this bright Black future with varied possibilities and probabilities within the universe. Despite all that we've faced in the fight against inequality, we must strive for unification and take pride in our identities.