Black Panther is back.
The sequel to the Marvel movie dripped in Black culture, nasty fight scenes and the celebrated “Wakanda Forever!” chant hits theaters Friday, but if you’re looking for an out-of-theater Wakanda experience, head to Five Points for Wakanda on Welton.
The weekend-long community event kicks off today and is set to fill the corridor up with a celebration of all things “Black Panther,” including music classes, panel discussions and hopefully a lot of folks in Wakandan fashion.
Melody Market, Five Points’ new small grocer, is spearheading the event in partnership with the Five Points Business Improvement District and with funding from Denver Economic Development and Opportunity.
“We’ve been looking for ways to support the businesses along the corridor and invite people to Five Points,” said Market owner LaSheita Sayer. “A lot of people love ‘Black Panther’…and the uplifting and positive message that it gave to African Americans and it felt like a popular enough theme to attract people to the corridor… to support these mom and pop small businesses.”
When “Black Panther” hit the screens, it became the first major comic book movie to have a predominantly Black cast and the first superhero movie to feature a well-known and mainstream Black hero. The hit film differed from movies that starred Black anti-heroes like Blade, Spawn and Hancock or Blaxploitation films such as “Shaft” and “Foxy Brown,” though they were heroes in their own right.
“Black Panther” filled a void for Black audiences seeking a clean-cut hero that looked like them by being a Black film filled with Black faces and feature a culture that didn’t surround slavery or hood classics.
The film’s theme, Sayer said, aligns with Five Points, a once thriving oasis of Black residents and Black-owned businesses that ultimately became one of the first areas in Denver to rapidly gentrify and displace residents and entrepreneurs.
The once-bustling strip and center of the “Harlem of the West” has changed.
But Black-owned business, like Melody Market and Franklin Stiger AfroStyline Barber Shop, still exist in Five Points, as entrepreneurs push forward in the face of a changing city where they are underrepresented in the larger business community.
“Black Panther is a positive representation for other African Americans and the sense of empowerment it gave was great,” Sayer said. “We’re looking to make fans smile and motivate them to visit the corridor.”
And there’s plenty going on at Wakanda on Welton.
All weekend, at the center of Five Points, several small businesses will participate in a Wakandan Marketplace including, Anna Luna Crystals, Anima’s African Marketplace and Ajabu Accessories.
A Wakanda throne replica will also be available for folks to take photos.
Melody Market will be hosting a pop-up art gallery featuring the works of Christopher Clark and Dominic Glover, two artists who have worked with Marvel to create fine art pieces and prints. Clark will be debuting a new Black Panther piece on Friday.
Urban Sanctuary will host an African dance class and a hand drumming for beginners class. For the Dora Milaje fans, the female warriors in Black Panther, Perseverance will be hosting a woman’s self defense class.
Spangalang Brewery will be debuting their Vibranium Brew and hosting events all weekend, starting with Black Panther trivia on Friday. They’ll also be hosting a Sisters in SciFi Panel and a Afrofuturism Panel both moderated by R. Alan Brooks a graphic novelist.
Families can head to Scratch Family Bakery to decorate Wakanda-theme sugar cookies or head to Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessens to create and paint Kimoyo bracelets.
Massamba Diop, a master of the tama, a talking drum from Senegal and the sound you hear most in Black Panther, will perform at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on Sunday.
Dressing up isn’t required, but Sayer is encouraging it. Seeing mini-Black Panthers and Denverites dressed in African garb or all white in memory of Chadwick Boseman will just add more fun to the event.
She said all of these events are separate throughout the weekend and the corridor so folks can take their time exploring the area. The goal is for attendees to pop their heads into every business along the way, exploring the pop-up Wakanda and really everything Welton Street has to offer.
“We just want people to see what kind of fun they can have in Five Points,” Sayer said. “We’re giving you an excuse to walk into a store you may not have walked into before because now they have Vibranium beer. Come explore. Take photos… Once people come, they won’t want to leave.”