It is 1939, and we find a committee of African-American leaders seeking a solution for the “Negro problem.” The group agrees that blacks seem permanently relegated to second-class status because of lynchings, Jim Crow segregation and racial discrimination.
After dismissing such solutions as emigrating to Europe or going back to Africa, they are pitched on a plan by Dr. Warrington Avery (Kevin Willmott). He suggests that African-Americans attempt to colonize Mars, and turn the red planet into a virtual utopia where they will be entirely free from white oppression.
And wouldn’t you know, a spaceship has already been built and George Washington Carver (George Forbes) has developed an atomic rocket fuel made from peanuts and sweet potatoes. The crew volunteering for the maiden voyage consists of Dr. Avery, his daughter Beneatha (Danielle Cooper) and their pilot, Captain Race Johnson (Tosin Morohunfola).
The three astronauts blastoff, travel through space and eventually crash on the surface of what they believe to be a distant star. However, only after christening it “Planet Negro,” do they gradually come to realize that they’ve time-traveled to the future and landed back on Earth in present-day Kansas City.
There, the trio is in for quite an awakening, between discovering that the United States has an African-American president and that blacks now use the “N-word” as a term of endearment. “Where we come from, that’s what they call you right before they kill you,” Dr. Avery explains to B-12 (Trai Byers), a rapper ostensibly oblivious of the slur’s ugly legacy.
Written and directed by and starring Kevin Willmott, “Destination Planet Negro” is a goofy spoof of the B-movie genre that’s basically played for laughs. Yet, it simultaneously serves as a sophisticated satire that makes some thought-provoking observations about American culture along the way.
In that regard, it is reminiscent of Willmott’s own C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, a brilliant, alternate-reality comedy which speculated about what the country would be like today if the South had won the Civil War. As for “Destination Planet Negro,” it’s also highly recommended, provided you’re in the mood for a campy, low-budget sci-fi whose cheesy special effects are more than offset by a profusion of insightful social statements.