‘Black Panther’ inspires Suriname NGO to push education, youth development

Suriname maroon communities signed treaties with Dutch authorities (Photo via Caribbean News Now)
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The Black Panther movie has inspired a group of concerned people in Suriname to sponsor more than 1, 000 local students to see the blockbuster, news outlet Caribbean News Now has reported.

Caribbean people, from The Bahamas to Guyana, are among the actors in the  highly acclaimed, superhero movie. Produced by Marvel Studios, the movie features actors who were born in Guyana – Letitia Wright and Shaunette Renee Wilson; Grenada – Sydelle Noel;  The Bahamas – Jason Elwood Hanna; and Trinidad and Tobago – Winston Duke; and a Brazilian of Jamaican heritage – Nabiyah Be. They appear alongside stars such as Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Lupita Nyong’o.

On 21 March, Caribbean News Now quoted former ambassador of Suriname to the United Nations (UN), Henry MacDonald, as saying that “The movie is inspiring, especially that it celebrates high tech education. Children are interested in education.” The former ambassador said that the movie would be an inspiration to all young people in Suriname.

Sponsorship took off after a Facebook post that pointed out that it would be great if people could sponsor children in Suriname to watch Black Panther. Companies, organisations and individuals from the United States, Holland and Suriname contributed, the news outlet reported.

Last Saturday, Caibbean News Now said, the first batch of 250 children saw the movie in Paramaribo. They came from as far as Para and Brokopondo districts, and transportation was provided by the National Army of Suriname. The event will be repeated three additional times to cover about 1,000 students across Suriname. The age criterion is 13-17 and students must come from a disadvantaged household. School leaders were asked to identify these students.

MacDonald said he was honoured to inspire the first group with a short motivational address. The first female commercial jet pilot of Suriname, Astrid Deira, will speak with the second group, according to Caribbean News Now.

Similarities between the mystical ‘Wakanda’, a country that did not experience the tragedy of colonialism and Suriname existed, the news outlet said and, as an example, pointed out that many militant enslaved Africans staged uprisings across Suriname and eventually prevailed into independent self- governing villages after the Boni wars of liberation from the 1760s.

“Many Africans sold into slavery in Suriname escaped. They were never colonised. They lived 300 to 400 years of freedom,” MacDonald noted, according to Caribbean News Now.

The news outlet added that cultural elements of the Maroons had been well preserved in Suriname, and noted that after wars of liberations, the Saramaka (Saamaka), Aukaners (Ndjuka or Okanisi), Matuwari (Matawai), Paramaka (Paamaka), Aluku or Boni were able to preserve their culture, and their languages were still spoken. They have also named a village Dahome(y) as a memorial to their ancestors.

“The movie Black Panther is bringing more publicity to these African communities of Suriname. Village heads, social activists and artists are more emboldened to preserve Suriname’s unique maroon communities,” Caribbean News Now reported.

In the Caribbean, descendants of the early Maroons have formed semi-independent  communities such as in Suriname, Jamaica, Belize and French Guiana.

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