19 Feb Why Black Panther Hurts
This weekend I went to see Black Panther along with thousands of other excited viewers. I went to see it twice. I was excited to be in a movie theater where my people came adorned in Afrocentric attire or all Black gear. As trailers rolled, the energy and rising anticipation for the movie was intoxicating. The joy in the room felt good.
The movie began and I was mesmerized by the power of the fierce Wakandan people. The flip-flop of power and majority in the land of Wakanda compared to the world I live in, captured me, but so did the movie mechanics. From the all-black cast, to the fact that there wasn’t a light-skinned, straight-haired sistah in sight, to the merger of advanced technology with ancient worldviews and ways, to the beautiful, bald warriors, I found myself longing to be a native in Wakanda. I was saddened to leave the theatre and return to America. Why the melancholy after-effect? Well, first let me say that my blog reader is the Black woman entrepreneur, so I’ll likely preach to the choir here a bit. Wakanda is, in many ways, our wildest, untapped dream in the Sistahpreneurs Village. Let me break it down for you just in case you’re an outsider reading this. Note: If you haven’t seen the movie, this is a total spoiler. You’ve been warned.
When people you work with take credit for your ideas and innovations, it is chicken soup for your soul to see a young, dark and beautiful genius-princess leading the most advanced tech-innovation lab in the universe.
When you’re in a daily battle to fight invisibility and the disregard of your knowledge and value in the workplace, it feels like the ultimate justice to see that the King of Wakanda is surrounded by fierce, strategic, wise female advisors, warriors, spies and elders.
When the savior, genius, and king is white in every storyline – real and fictional – in your society, and the black guy always dies first or serves as a sidekick, you delight in the Wakandan reality where white characters are barely present, killed first, silenced, have no answers, and serve in an ancillary capacity.
When they tell you to cut your locs in order to close a deal or get a promotion, you exhale seeing the fierce Wakandan warrior and head of the King’s guard call the wig she wears on an undercover mission a disgrace. It validates your pain and the daily assault on your identity that you experience. Locs, braids, afros and bald beauties are the definition of beauty in Wakanda.
When you are asked to be softer and gentler and accused of being abrasive and stubborn, you catch the spirit watching the Wakandan warrior Okuye stand over her defeated and misguided husband as he stands down, calls off his army and surrenders humbly (and prudently) to his wife.
When American movie love interests have been white, light and straight-haired your whole life, and when Black women struggle to get lead movie roles so much so that it’s a special girls’ outing to go see one lead in a major production, it brings tears to your eyes to see the Black Panther cast flooded with powerful women. Your heart is warmed to see the lead love interest in Black Panther is a brilliant, headstrong, dark beauty in Bantu Knots. Furthermore, the men in the movie are defended, guided and advised repeatedly by their Black queens.
When your grandmother was called broad and gal, your soul heals a little seeing how deeply Wakandan women are respected, revered, valued and called Queen, princess, warrior.
For my sisters, maybe you’re uninvited to meetings, paid less than your white or male counterparts, or perhaps you only get offered jobs to fix shit someone else broke because they didn’t trust you to do it the first time around. So watching Wakandan women stand tall at the head of the room in the United Nations and lead global peace initiatives was glorious. They were present at the right side of the throne with equal voice to decide the fate of the kingdom. These movie scenes say “Sis, you are not crazy or wrong”.
When your people have been oppressed for hundreds of years at the hands of European colonizers, and when you live in a world where our ancient traditions and spiritual roots are demonized, the kingdom of Wakanda honors our ancestors, our land and its precious resources. Our tribal rituals and worldviews are our strength and Wakandans return to acknowledge, save and join forces with their brothers and sisters stolen from our motherland and enslaved. You feel connected. You feel like you belong. You feel acknowledged by your long-lost family. You feel loved.
Ase’ to the visionaries who brought us Black Panther. Sure there will be critiques, many of which may be sound and valid. But it brought tears to my eyes to leave the world of Wakanda after just 2 hours and 25 minutes. I left slightly hopeful that this extraordinary vision for the restoration of global peace, equality and black power might actually inspire the action we need more than ever in an unprecedented time of discord, disharmony and injustice.