Monthly Archives: February 2018

Heavy is the Head… Black Panther and Questions of Leadership

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown…”

-Shakespeare

“You are a good man and it’s hard for a good man to be a King.”

-Black Panther

When any leader shows their weaknesses to their people, there is always the possibility that people will take advantage, take for granted, incite mutiny, unrest, upheaval.  These chances are equally possible when a leader presents themselves as infallible, mysterious, Godlike, using fear and intimidation, but not as much. Because people are ruled so effectively by their own internal fears that external demonstrations from a ruling force usually keep a majority of us in check for life. Take a look around you.

So what to do then if you are a “good” person to earn the respect of people you love and for whom you earn the right to not only rule over but the responsibility to protect, provide for, inspire, motivate and so much more? These are also in many ways the questions of a new parent, a boss, or a person striving to master themselves effectively in order to navigate the world and all it’s obstacles in a balanced and optimally positive way towards a goal which will ultimately serve others.

It’s never easy, because hell can really seem to be other people, starting first and foremost with the hell inside yourself, which you may not even be aware of. Or which you try to avoid while trying to manage a staff, a community, a business, a family, a nation or all of the above at once.

marvel-black-panther-against-erik

I really love that during the challenges to earn the right to be King, T’Challa ritually has the power of the Black Panther taken away from him, so that he is not unfairly matched against his opponents, who are not, I believe presented as enemies, but as worthy challengers, those whom his people would serve just as loyally as they would T’Challa should he ever be defeated. There was a fairness there that moved me each time I saw it. He was humbled in front of his people, but still more than formidable against his opponents. His power as a Black Panther was granted by his lineage but as a King it was granted by his physical, mental and psychological strength. But i admit, there was that small part in me whenever he drank from the essence that takes away his power that made me scared of what might happen to him at that point.

On the ancestral plane, when he speaks to his father, his father tells him, “You are a good man and it’s hard for a good man to be a King.” In these words lay truths, problems, complexities and secrets, that his father had hoped would never come back to haunt T’Challa. Nakia tells him, “You get to chose the kind of king you want to be.” And because of the ways in which T’Challa’s father had chosen to rule when he was king, because of violent and negligent choices he made, T’Challa and his people are confronted by great violence and pain in the form of their own abandoned son, Killmonger.

Djala

I’ve always shied away from leadership, thinking myself  unworthy of the challenge but the truth is, I have never wanted to take on what I felt were the limits and rigidity of responsibility, discipline, order, and a giving up of freedom. But freedom, as I’ve been learning, is not free at all.

As humans in this world, our innate tendencies are motivated at the core by love, and we fluctuate between using control or being overwhelmed with pleasing people and over identifying with what others think to get it. This is why I believe self love and self trust, which I struggle with often, are integral to the ability to lead effectively.

In this Drumpf administration, tyranny, insanity, an inability to get beyond one’s crippling insecurities and a preoccupation with self interest over humanity are the order of each day in our government and sadly, but not surprisingly, the man, though deeply unstable, remains firmly fixed in the position of leader of America because fear is an effective tool in keeping a majority of people under control.

The surprising thing I’m learning lately though, is that sometimes people have to learn from a direct and decisive institution of sternness and discipline and order before they can understand that they might actually have a good leader, a good parent, a good boss. And when you are resistant to leading yourself, leadership from others is always going to feel like a kind of penalty. But there is a difference between loving discipline and abusive control. And sometimes it takes an insane man in power for people to rise up and define what kind of leadership they require. That’s not easy either. We have only our past as a reference to build towards the future and our tendency as humans to repeat the worst parts of  history is great. But when I look at Black Panther, I see that that we as Black people have just as much inclination to reach back into our past and manifest greatness today. And it moves me beyond words.

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The Ancestral Plane: Black Panther Spoiler Alert

It’s hard for me to pick favorite parts of this movie. Everything was done so well that as my husband said, there was never one moment where my mind wandered or my eyes strayed. I could do nothing but watch this movie. From the first frame to the last, I was hooked. Pre-packed snacks made their way into my mouth somehow and I would lean forward occasionally but other than to laugh, clap or wipe away tears, I didn’t move much.

BP Gif

The Ancestral plane scenes touched me very deeply. I didn’t know what to expect when T’Challa was ceremonially buried in the ritual to make him king of Wakanda. And so I was completely transported. Where T’Challa went, I went too. The line of kings appearing as midnight Black Panthers writhing silently on branches in a tree representing royal lineage just burned through me. My God, can Coogler tell a story!

Kilmonger

And then when Killmonger went there. My heart just broke. I cried for Killmonger. I could not see him fully as a villain. I wanted redemption for him. But I understood his choice because I knew more about where he was coming from and what he refused to go back to in any world.

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Wakanda Needs You…

We just came home. My husband has already turned the television on in the living room. But I can’t let the world in just yet.

I still feel that feeling of the world of Wakanda surrounding me. I’m still. I’m mesmerized but I’m also focused and sure about something.

It doesn’t matter that the Magic Johnson Staff showed up late to open up the theater for the 9am showing of Black Panther. My husband was upset and I was irritated myself but we got there at 8:27am, got on line at 8:30am and whenever I looked behind me as we waited, I saw the line get longer and longer. And that’s what mattered to me. I was like, we’re gonna get it together, it’s gonna be fine. Nothing is going to get me to hate on my people.

And it didn’t matter that there was a little boy next to me with his mom next to him and his brother on the other side of her who hardly stopped moving for more than a few minutes because didn’t I just say to my husband as we were walking up to the theater how cool it would be if we were taking our kids (we have none yet) along with us and how we would take them even if they were as young as five? I’m pretty sure the little boy next to me was around that age. Kids squirm and can’t sit still in theaters for a myriad of reasons. I think he was having a hard time understanding what was happening because he kept leaning over to mom on his right to ask questions and she answered every one. She also clapped, laughed, had a good time and was physically affectionate with him as she gently tried to get him to sit as still. .

It didn’t matter that at a very pinnacle and violent point in the film, one of the audience members popped up and let rip a stream of angry curses. I was upset and startled but mostly because he was disturbing the movie. My instinct made me get up, go outside and let staff know what was happening so they could regain order. I learned later on from my husband that a few other sistas had done the same at that time.

It certainly didn’t matter that I was the only movie goer I saw with my face painted like Shuri, T’Challa’s sister and one of the three iconic women that carried the film impeccably along with all the other stellar cast members into history. I’m no stranger to being in the minority with what I will wear on my body and face in public. I get that from my mom.

Up until now, I had been so caught up with a lot of the façade, the imagery, the fantastic visuals that the Black Panther film has inspired all over the country, all exploding with pride, imagination, social impact and love on social media. These are all so very important. Human beings take into our minds what we take in with our eyes. And hearts often remember what minds forget.

In this way, Black Panther is so much more than just a movie. It gets everything right in that it shows the flaws and complexities of Wakanda as much as it does the ideals of what it means to be a great nation. The pros and cons of nationhood vs globalization from a centralized African perspective is among one of its greatest strengths.

But a five-year old child may not see those themes right away. They just want to see a fun movie. They want to identify a good guy and a bad guy, a great hero, and a great foe. And if you’re a Black child and you see all of these things plus a great nation, a proud, beautiful and diverse Black people who are the wielders and developers of a futuristic, highly advanced technology, warriors, ritual, tradition a reverence to nature as a well as an inextricable tie in to Black life and culture in America and much more from a completely decolonized lens, you are seeing something which will have the potential to shape your self identity in ways we can only begin to imagine at this present time. It shouldn’t be a privilege or a special thing for a Black child to see these things in a movie. But it is. Because we are a powerful people. And we live in a world where that power is systematically ground out.

Shuri

No, I understand that tribal face paint or markings whether we understand their true meaning or not are about much more than what you or I can see. If I was apart of a tribe on the continent that participated in ritual face scarring what would matter is how the symbols identified me to others, both to those in my tribe and to outsiders. Colonizers turn all of that into commodity. And because of that, our minds often consume only the surface of our own origins.

No, what matters is that we as Black people all over the world see the ways in which we can exchange, share, maintain, reinterpret, support, inform and build with one another by utilizing the ways in which Diasporic people have always connected to what is most powerful about our Blackness.

I will be seeing this movie as many times as I can with as many Black people I love as I can. But that’s just a drop in the bucket, something that I can do with great joy and enthusiasm. It is the obstacles we struggle with and transcend in our evolution as human beings, which will help to get us farther in our minds and in our spirits as Black people. The actual work of dismantling colonized thinking starts there with that work. And a film like Black Panther is a watershed moment that grinds forward like a surgical strike with an idea for the future of Blackness which conceives a Black nation never touched by evil White ideologies yet still struggles with it’s own growing pains as ruler ships and traditions are questioned, challenged and overthrown.

Wakanda is no utopia. Where does the idea of utopia come from anyway? If we were in one, we certainly wouldn’t need the idea. And so it is with Wakanda. No Black person could have ever imagined such a place could exist nor need it to if not for nature of our grossly understated predicament in this country since being stolen from the continent in which all of humanity was conceived. Wakanda reaches out to us because we conceived of it and we conceive at our highest frequencies only that from which we emerge. Wakanda needs us as much we need Wakanda. We are all family and “nobody wins when the family feuds.”

#wakandaforever

Dinner is Served

Confession time: I have not been cooking dinner for quite some time now. My husband cooks dinner for us like 99.9 percent of the time. And that would be fine except that he does most of everything else too while all I really do is work at my day job and then part time in my creative job.

It wasn’t like that when we first started living together. Before we got married, I cooked all the time. I used to grocery shop on a regular basis and get really excited about making new things. I would get obsessed with making something like pesto, or roasted red potatoes with rosemary and then after a few too many times I would get tired of it. But I never stopped cold. And it never ever felt forced or obligatory. I never had to remind myself to cook that night. I just knew it was time to cook dinner. I think it was because it was my first time ever living on my own and  this free and liberating feeling was so nice.  Getting to share meals with my husband and spend time with him and get to know what he liked helped us to bond more deeply and that was a very liberating feeling for me.

I used to make fun of him on occasions when he cooked because he would just heat things up in a pouch or defrost and heat something and I didn’t consider that cooking. But it was dinner.

Now, many years later, we’re married and in our second apartment together and he has become like a master chef. No lie. He loves to cook. Naturally, he doesn’t like doing it every single day! But he really has a knack for it. And I have a knack for eating sooo…. LOL!

A few night ago, for a change, I cooked us a meal. Nothing big, just pasta and salad. I cooked a pasta that was a shape I’d never used before. Gemmeli. It’s cute. Aesthetics in food matter to me.

“I feel like this takes longer to cook than spaghetti. Is this as big as it’s supposed to get? Is this cooked enough yet? Here try it.”

“Did you time it?

“No, I never time it. I just try it.”

“This is good. One more minute and some more salt and stir it a little so…”

“Did you want cheese? Cheese and pepper?”

“Pepper?”

Pepper, You know like ground pepper.”

“Oh, just a little. More cheese please”

“Of course”

“You know there’s ground pepper right?’

“I know but I just like to grind it myself. I like the whole peppercorn. I also like the way it feels to grind it. I like the grinding feeling.”

“Oh I need more dressing”

“So the secret to your salad last night was that you drowned it?”

“Hahaha. No! I didn’t drown them. I just drizzled on a few coats…and then one more

“LOL!!”

I made an IG Stories Boomerang post of me pouring the drained pasta from the colander into the pot and showed it to him. He nodded in authentic approval, which felt really nice and then he directed me to one of his favorite shows that he watches every week about tree house building. There was an animated portion showing the layout of a tree house being built for a couple.

“All I see is a really bad storm coming along”

“But you wouldn’t live there.”

You mean it it would be like a vacation from your house house”

“Yeah”

“When I think about I that way I really like it”

“Yeah!”

“You could have parties there…”

Yup!”

“Retreats”

“Mhhmm…”

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have Black People’s Bed and Breakfast Treehouse”

“Yes!

“They could just be pampered and chill in nature, go for walks on the trails and a few would lead to like a lake or some body of water…

“Exactly!

“Have some guided meditation…”

This lead me google random images of Black people in nature which lead me to the discovery of Outdoor Afro “Where Black People and nature meet…”  It also made me think about how nature walks and just being in nature, which I have loved since a baby have always been framed and appropriated as being a “white people thing.” The same with bed and breakfasts. And we know for a fact that during segregation, there were not only Black bed and breakfasts but entire hotels and inns that provided lodging for Black people travelling from state to state because there was literally no place else they could go! And that made me come to the realization that segregation had to be better for Black Businesses.

If you’re looking surprised right now, remember that a while back I also said it took me years to realize that integration didn’t work for Black people.

So I realized that making dinner for my husband is not just about food or being fed in the most practical sense, which is of course really important. Sometimes it’s also about the inspiration and revelation that can only arrive through that level of safe and open connection that happens when you’re breaking bread together. I need to start cooking dinner again more often. LOL!

You’re never too grown to need your mommy

Society will have us thinking that after a certain age (IDK 18?) that to still need some mothering every once in a while is a sign of weakness. I have a GF who recently experienced a bad breakup and just spent the night at her mother’s so she could get away from her apartment and triggering reminders. Her mom packed her lunch for her that morning and I could see the light back in her eyes when she got to work.

I called my own mom last night because of some triggering emotions I was having and although I felt that awful stupid feeling of weakness doing it, I knew it was the best choice I could have ever made. I just needed to hear her voice and get the kind of wisdom from her that I can’t get anywhere else. Due to circumstances, she doesn’t live in the same state with me anymore so I try to keep up with calling her as much as I can until that changes. Our relationship has gone through it’s share if hurdles and storms but I love my mom so much and I know she loves me and knows a part of me that only a mother who loves her daughter can. There are times when I really need to reconnect and reaffirm that part. And there’s nothing wrong with that

As grown women, we may not need our mothers the way we needed them as children but there’s no shame in needing to be taken care of and mothered every once in a while. It’s not weakness or a sign of regression. It’s human. In this society, which portrays the putting out of children at a certain age as a way of proving independence and identity,  as well as shipping off of elders after a certain age as normalcy, the efforts of mothers and daughters to maintain a loving and understanding relationship with healthy boundaries potentially helps to ensure a better future for generations.