The prize—a one-time, no-strings payment of $250,000, awarded individually to all ten scholars—has been presented to renowned intellects such as Robin D.G. Kelly and many others since the Marguerite Casey Foundation created the Freedom Scholars award in 2020. Scholars are anonymously chosen by former recipients.
“It is a surreal contradiction,” Dr. Ball commented exclusively to BWMN via email after the award announcement. “But to be reminded or made aware of the value my work has to particular peers for whom I have tremendous respect is humbling, something I cherish, and am honored by. Most of us in academia are not disconnected, ivory tower scholars. We are just marginalized, unappreciated, and under-resourced. So this award is very much appreciated on several levels.”
According to Ball’s website, imixwhatilike.org, “Ball’s research interests include the interaction between colonialism, mass media theory and history, as well as the development of underground journalism and cultural expression as mechanisms of social movements and political organization.” As an activist and advocacy journalist, he has been a longtime public champion of radical, independent media and political prisoners such as writer Mumia Abu-Jamal and Dr. Mutulu Shakur, the alternative-medicine specialist and godfather of slain hiphop superstar Tupac Shakur.
Freedom Scholars “conduct research in cutting-edge areas of scholarship as varied as feminist prison abolition, global urbanism, alternatives to movement capture, Indigenous erasure and militarized policing—critical fields of research that are often underfunded,” according to the Casey Foundation’s website.
Dr. Ball’s award is “proof that principled radicalism and constant work—his 20 years of scholarship, activism and free, intelligent community broadcasting—always wins,” posted BWMN staffer Todd Steven Burroughs on social media after the announcement. He is co-editor with Dr. Ball of the anthology A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X.
The Old Man was once quite young–almost permanently so. And vibrant, always ready for socialist revolution. But not for the overthrow of European civilization and culture. In a new biography, John L. Williams pulls back the curtain just enough to show why intellectuals, particularly culturally complex ones, need platforms and bases. What results is a non-judgemental tale about a 20th-century charismatic Caribbean intellectual destined for the classroom, the typewriter, the lecture hall and the cricket field. His cultlike, harem-based sexism will rile 21st-century readers but his stamina and constant optimism never fail to impress. Most of all, James–whose long speaking and writing life spans the birth, revolutionary work, danger and martyrdom of fellow Caribbean Leftist world travelers such as Walter Rodney and Maurice Bishop–shows that revolution requires a lot of work.
It’s unfortunate that the tension between 1990s superhero-film cheesiness and 2022 superhero-film coolness makes this effort implode. A post-COP27 viewing allowed more sensitivity to how Egyptians oppress themselves with the West’s help. Too bad the film quickly traded in that theme for a third-act battle with a Hellboy knockoff and some fake AMC Walkers. God bless his soul, Pierce Brosnan, 30 years distant from the start of his ’90s James Bond, elevated Black Adam when he could (with fine assists from Aldis Hodge) but couldn’t save it. It’s not hard to see why few wanted a piece of this Rock.
Reginald Hudlin’s writing style remains blatant and strident by half. But as a former full-set Icon/Static/HardwareMilestone Comics collector (sadly, lost them in a move 😦 ), I must admit I much prefer his style to the comparatively accommodationist Milestone founder Dwayne McDuffie!
Six issues in and you win, Mr. Hudlin: the 19th-century enslaved Arnus as a Nat Turner (!) character and present-day free Augustus with a fine-ass sista amazon at his side and an assassin to hunt is much more appealing. And he had the assassin, an alien hired by the U.S. government to kill other aliens, kill a certain white infant recently adopted in 1939 by a white Kansas farm couple!
A memorial interrupted by a war film. Whether this is an epic will depend on how it fades into (Marvel) film history. If it’s not, it’s not because of a lack of trying by writer-director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole. Marvel’s ability to acknowledge fans and critics simultaneously is quite extraordinary and remarkable. #BlackPantherWakandaForever
1) In your opinion, what is the importance of continuing the legacy of Black Panther in cinema, as it was one of the rare positive representations in Hollywood of a Black king, seen here at the head of an African nation among the most powerful countries in the world?
I struggle over “importance” being the right word. The comicbook geek and the Africana scholar forever warring inside me go back and forth on it. This is a white corporate product starring characters originally created by white Americans with some later help from African-Americans, and now it’s a film produced by a white conglomerate, one written and directed by African-Americans starring both African-Americans and the children of continental Africans. This is not an authentic, organic African cultural product–which shows our powerlessness to do one ourselves. Remember: America was comfortable having a Black president serve two terms but there is still no Black American that can greenlight a Hollywood film. The great writer Haki Madhubuti has called the first film “dangerous.” And if you are committed to African liberation, how can you not call it that? The first Black Panther is an exciting and powerful movie, one that made me tear up with joy, but it’s also a film whose climax shows a white male CIA agent shooting down African revolutionaries. I have known about T’Challa since I began reading Marvel Comics as a pre-teen, but I have only loved him since I first read, while in grad school in the late 1990s, a groundbreaking, satirical Black Panther comic series written by Christopher Priest, its first Black writer. Reginald Hudlin, its second Black writer, did his best to make T’Challa a decolonized character fighting European imperialism. But what about real, decolonized African heroes and Black/African films? Black Panther only shows that the billion-dollar Disney/Marvel Cinematic Universe can make popular any kind of story starring anyone, that it can make anybody in the world into a popular superhero, but it is not an advance for Black, African and African Diasporic filmmaking. I’m excited as any fantasy-loving Marvel Zombie about this sequel–I got my ticket for the November 10 Thursday afternoon sneak preview weeks ago–but the African reality always is in the back of my mind. At the same time, I quietly agonize, I do acknowledge what this franchise means: African children–and some adults–around the world get to see themselves as the most powerful people on Earth. I think that’s where any importance really lies. So it’s complicated for me, internally and externally, intellectually and emotionally.
2) How much do you think the success of the original film is due to the ferocity and brilliance with which Chadwick Boseman embraced the role of King? Can a sequel be as successful without him? He was the heart of the movie, in a way, right?
3) Since we have now some distance from the first film, do you see any positive impact of Black Panther on the way Hollywood mainstream films portray Black people these days?
Well, here’s what I wrote one year in. I don’t think it’s changed Hollywood at all, with one obvious exception: it’s clear that without Marvel’s Black Panther, there would not exist The Woman King. (Look at the chronology of the greenlighting of that film here.) And I definitely don’t think The Woman King‘s familiar-feeling vibes, non-sophisticated story and Hollywood filmmaking style, along with a wide release date right in front of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is in any way coincidental. As I wrote, The Woman King is Black Panther 1.5. 🙂
It’s clear that if the great writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is right in that the first Panther was Black people’s Star Wars,Wakanda Forever is positioning to be the trying-to-be-bigger, trying-to-be-even-better sequel, a Black Empire Strikes Back.
But here’s what I’m most fascinated with as 2023 approaches: will Angela Bassett, an Academy Award nominee, be nominated and win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her anchoring Wakanda Forever and Oscar winner Viola Davis be nominated for and win Best Actress for her film, too? Can Black American women sweep the female Oscar contests for portraying African royalty? As they say in the comics that inspired all this Panthermania, to be continued!