The actor, who plays Erik Killmonger in Marvel’s upcoming “Black Panther” movie, believes it’s important to offer uplifting representations of blackness on and off screen.
“I feel like I never had that many actors to look at and inspire me growing up,” he told British GQ. “Black actors that I could identify with, that look like me on screen. … And I’m just thinking about what this movie is going to do to the kids growing up … specifically black kids who don’t have that many positive examples to look at on TV and film.”
And with this cover, Jordan ― wearing the traditional Black Panther Party dress of black turtleneck, leather jacket and beret ― makes the link between an inspiring fictional universe and the historical activism of the Black Panthers.
The party was founded in Oakland, California, in 1966 as a way to protect and uplift the black community. Like the Marvel movie, the Black Panthers strove to represent blackness as it had not been seen before. Party members initiated breakfast programs for schools, promoted black beauty and monitored police behavior to protect their neighborhoods.
Government officials, however, responded to the very idea of armed and organized black people as a threat to national security. The Black Panthers was targeted by the FBI’s secret counterintelligence program ― COINTELPRO ― aimed at discrediting black activist and other dissident groups.
Now, artistic representations like Jordan’s cover celebrate the movement’s positive impact. Images in a mainstream magazine work to normalize its history and its narrative.
This Black Panther-inspired cover isn’t a first for the GQ franchise. Last year, the U.S. version of the magazine named Colin Kaepernick its “Citizen of the Year” and featured him on the cover dressed in Black Panther Party attire.
A year and another Black Panther cover later, Jordan told GQ that he looks at the present moment as one of progress and hope.
“We’re giving black people power, royalty ― we don’t gotta be crackheads or gangbangers, selling drugs or robbing people. We don’t have to be comic relief,” he said. “We can be superheroes. Imagine what that’s going to do to the imagination and ambition of kids watching these movies. That’s the real impact of this film.”