Ta-Nehisi Coates draws excited crowd at special Oakland screening of 'Black Panther'

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The Grand Lake Theater in Oakland hosted a packed house on Tuesday night full of fans eager to see a special screening of “Black Panther.” But the bigger draw of the night was film’s opening act: an intimate conversation about race, politics, and Black identity with Atlantic journalist and “Black Panther” comic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The line of ticket holders stretched more than a block down Grand Avenue hours before the event. Lillian Samuel of El Sobrante said she was particularly excited to see “Black Panther” with her two teenage sons. She said the success of director and Oakland-native Ryan Coogler serves as an inspiration to her boys, one of which is going to college later this year. Her friend, Loren Taylor of Oakland, said that he was also eager to support the film and share the experience with his kids. 

“This is all about the imagery of seeing themselves reflected as powerful,” he said. “This movie is all about people who look like you. I want that to be the norm, not just a one-off.”

The event was hosted by Lincoln, an Oakland-based non-profit that supports families and children in need. According to acting CEO Allison Staulcup Becwar, the organization aims to “disrupt the cycle of poverty and trauma” that disproportionately impact families of color. She called Coates a “beacon” of hope to children and adults alike, who helps people of across the country to “understand what it’s like to be a Black man in the world today.”

In a discussion moderated by Lincoln Senior Director Dr. Macheo Payne, Coates emphasized that the experience of Black people is a central “thread of this country” that cannot be separated from the history of America. And, Coates said, that history is based on a foundation of theft from Black people, through slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, and systemic racism that continues to impact nearly every facet of life. 

“Movies produced in the United States of America very seldom reflected that,” Coates said. “This film is about dealing with that wound.”

Coates also discussed his newest book “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy,” which is comprised of articles he wrote for the Atlantic during the Obama administration.

“Black Panther” broke box office records in its first three days of release, earning nearly $242 million over its premiere holiday weekend. The movie is showing in standard and 3D at Grand Lake Theater, and on screens across the Bay Area.