pictured above l/r Wakanda Alliance Program founders DQ, Anthony Pierce, Da’Von McCune and John Washington (group photo on left by A. Dorcely)
story by Schondra Aytch
Black Panther’s conspicuous debut in Captain America: Civil War was an exciting confirmation for local socialite DQ Grant and community activist John Washington, that their favorite comic book superhero would finally get his story on the big screen. Before the cultural explosion that resulted from Marvel’s Black Panther film, both Grant and Washington were long-time comic book readers who took pride in pushing Black art and entertainment forward. Already spearheading Afrofuturist collective Panthfrica, DQ partnered with John and many other creatives in Buffalo to celebrate the premiere of Black Panther. Selling out theatres, hosting art exhibitions, and conducting multi-media workshops across the city, the duo recognized the unifying power of the film, especially among youth. Building an educational framework for children based on the Black Panther comic books, DQ and John created what would soon become The Wakanda Alliance Program.
We want to inspire the youth. We want kids to be able to be kids again,” mentioned DQ Grant.
The success of the duo’s initial Black Panther-centered events was in part by their significant connections. Working with influential, high profile artists like Edreys Wajed and Drea D’nur to community leaders like Geovaira Hernandez, they were able to bring different groups of people together. With that said, the early brainstorming stages of the Wakanda Alliance Program brought in eager, recurring participants like Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) staff member Da’Vone McCune and photographer/marketer Anthony Pierce, who quickly became staple supporters. With DQ, John, Da’Von, and Anthony solidifying themselves as core members, the Wakanda Alliance found its footing as an independent program centered around Afrofuturism.
“We have lives, we have different businesses, jobs and kids and family and so really we try to move together in a way where we try to fit each other’s weaknesses…and hopefully not only does it lead to the freedom of our community but also ourselves,” mentioned Da’Von McCune.
To many, Wakanda is the physical manifestation of Afrofuturism. It reimagines the African diaspora, history, and culture as a prime catalyst for developing bright, technological societies. Coined in the early ’90s, Afrofuturism was a movement that encouraged Black Americans to broaden their horizons and reimagine Black modernity. Considering that Black Panther comics were created and introduced in a Civil Rights-era America, Afrofuturism also challenges the socio-political tendencies of first-world countries and the often understated contributions of Black people.
How often as black people do we think unapologetically; And without the context of what’s happening right now-thinking about our future? What does the future look like for black people in 100 years? ” explained John Washington.
Using primarily, The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda as the foundation for their workshops, The Wakanda Alliance strives to provide an imaginative, yet holistic experience of Afrofuturism.
Working with professors, ecologists, and environmental justice leaders for the program, the group is not only focused on reimagining blackness but providing a progressive perspective to current issues in our world. Touching on topics of trauma, mental health, climate change, and equality, the Wakanda Alliance uses the trials of Black Panther to educate youth on solutions.
“Children are our present and our future, and I believe that wholeheartedly right now… Ever since the founding of our country, there have been teenagers who have fought up and offered their rights that we have no idea about. Every time they give our heroes, they give us the George Washingtons, Abraham Lincolns, and Martin Luther and Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman, which what do they all have in common? They’re all adults…That is the trick. That is the lie,” explained Da’Von McCune.
Since their first official workshop in May of last year, the Wakanda Alliance’s unique approach to sharing Afrofuturism has caught significant attention. From having leaders in the Afrofuturist movement like artist Stacey Robinson attend their workshop, to getting featured on Sirius XM’s
Sway In The Morning, the program has developed an impressive support system. Developing a strong virtual presence has contributed to their overall popularity and engagement online continues to thrive – even with the global impact of the Coronavirus. “Covid in a way kind of helped us, because we were able to reach audiences that are further out. Or across the state, or across the world,” mentioned Anthony Pierce.
Now utilizing Zoom and Facebook Live as an alternative to being physically present at their meetings, The Wakanda Alliance can maintain lively discussions with its members. Unafraid to explore urgent social issues like police brutality and poverty, the program also uses itself as an outlet to understand what it means to be Black in America’s social climate.
“Alfonso Jones is about a young black boy who is shot by the police and is trying to communicate with his ancestors. And his ancestors are telling him stories about when they were shot by the police. So these were all like heavy topics especially around the time that George Floyd and Breonna Taylor had happened…We planned to do the Alfonso Jones story (comic) before all that happened because it’s still relevant no matter what place and time you’re talking about for black people,” explained Anthony Pierce.
Given the sometimes painful reality of content they share, The Wakanda Alliance program masters balancing grief and healing. At one of the most recent workshops I attended, featured guest, and Holistic Life Coach, Nicolalita Rodriguez led a portion of the time teaching kids breathing exercises and dances that help ease anxiety. Using their workshops to ultimately “project positivity,” The Wakanda Alliance also uses education to celebrate lives lost.
With the recent death of Black Panther lead Chadwick Boseman, the program used the moment to uplift the actor’s legacy. Putting on a virtual tribute to Boseman last month, the Wakanda Alliance shared member-submitted fan art, words about his impact, and honored the celebrity for his work.
“We had plans to work with him at some point because he’s so close to Buffalo. He shot Thurgood here, he shot Marshall here…He had ties to Buffalo. If he didn’t catch wind of it (The Wakanda Alliance) already, he would have caught wind of it eventually. For a while, it felt like we took a really big loss and I think we did. But the way we do it is that we still flip that narrative. Now he’s an ancestor,” explained Anthony Pierce.
Along with honoring Chadwick Boseman’s legacy for the rest of this year, The Wakanda Alliance is also focused on growing its roster of artists, activists, and passionate people for the cause. As Afrofuturism becomes more mainstream and marketable, the group hopes people will contribute to and accept the movement here in the Queen City. “Buffalo is so special and unique because the city owns 15,000 properties. We live next to 33% of the freshwater in the world, and this is just fertile ground for us to be able to build an Afro Futuristic city,” concluded John Washington.
On Saturday November 14, (tap image to right) The Wakanda Alliance Program invites families and youth to a Hybrid workshop from 12-3pm at 945 Genesee for the live experience or log in for virtual stream via Zoom and Facebook This workshop includes group reading of Marvel Comic’s Shuri issue #1 followed by an explanation of women in the comic who helped lead the country and how they reflect the importance of female leadership in our current society. There will be guest appearances by long time futuristic graphic poster and cover artists Junior Tomlin and musical guest performance The Miserable Genius.