Category Archives: Black Film

Don’t Freeze: Love and Vulnerability in Black Panther

I remember in the trailer for Black Panther watching the scene over and over again where Okoye tells T’challa before he descends to from the ship, not to “freeze.” And of course he says, “I never freeze” before putting on his helmet falling through a hatch release into the night.

I kept wondering it meant. In what situation would a superhero freeze or let his guard down? I couldn’t imagine the scenario and I really wanted to know.

As a bonafide movie lover, I have a collection of moments in films that I love and adore and among them is the moment when a man looks at the woman he loves, the moment when he is just openly gazing at her and time stops no matter what is happening. I love to see his openness, his vulnerability, his total surrender. But then of course he needs to be equally capable of getting it together again and carrying on his duties. LOL!

When Black Panther descends on a van of girls captured by the Boko Haram in order to save Nakia who is embedded among them on an undercover rescue mission, the aforementioned freezing begins. But not before he and Nakia stealthily dispatch of the armed men.  Then, thinking they are no longer under threat he faces her and says…hi. His mask is on so you can’t see his eyes but you can tell that he’s no longer in Black Panther mode. Okoye then appears and kills a man that neither or aware of because they’re too busy sharing a moment. LOL!

To be immediately engaged with both the vulnerability and strength of Black Panther in this initial and pivotal scene was just one of hundreds of ways in which the movie has shattered previous notions about what it has meant to be a “superhero.”

There is also no Clark Kent/Superman identity crisis conflict to deal with here. Among his people, T’challa does not hide as the Black Panther. Black Panther is not his secret identity. It is who he is. So when he looks at Nakia and freezes as Black Panther in the midst of battle or as King T’challa walking leisurely through the marketplace with her, it’s all the same man.

With Nakia, T’Challa is able to safely express his doubts about being the kind of king he feels he should be and he entrusts all the women around him, his mother, sister, general with the responsibility to support, inform, guide, strategist, and help him protect and defend Wakanda. They are all uniquely necessary and equally committed to this mission.

T’Challa’s vulnerability is his strength and he never seems to be at odds with it. I have never seen that treated with such balance and normative reverence in a superhero movie before. To feel the burden of so many of the oppressive and conditioned narratives we’re used to in movies; Whiteness, the male gaze, hyper sexuality, and more,  lift away for just a few hours is indescribably liberating. When I first saw Black Panther, I froze as well. And after the third time, time still stopped for me. And each time I see it, I come back to the world slightly different.


Heavy is the Head… Black Panther and Questions of Leadership

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown…”


“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.


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.


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.

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!


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.



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.


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.”



Sean Carter Confessionals: Family Feud

The wretched of the earth do not decide to become extinct, they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply; life is their weapon against life, life is all that they have.

-James Baldwin

A man who don’t take care of his family can’t be rich. I watched Godfather, I missed that whole shit…



The year is 2444 The home is rich and lavish. The setting is coldness, anger and betrayal. Michael B. Jordan storms angrily into the bedroom of Thandie Newtown’s characteron a particularly “important day” loudly berating her capacity to be the head of a clearly powerful family only to find her in bed with a dude played by Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes. I notice immediately how pale Thandie, Michael B. Jordan and X are. The only colors you see are like pale blues and yellows. But the paleness of their skin tone makes me think of sickness, deficiency, greed heartlessness and death. Sure enough, before the scene is done, both men are killed, Mark by Trevante and then Trevante by Thandie’s character, Game of Thrones style, because she wants the family “Throne” for herself.


Both Anthony and Trevante are both wearing clothing at the waist inspired by garb worn by men in ancient Khemit. Thandie wears a scant bandage outfit nearly identical to the one Milla Jojovich wore in the “The Fifth Element” a film set in a future that opens in an Egyptian temple and where the planet is under threat of total destruction if an essential element, which is embodied by a woman is not recovered.

Jay Z Family Feud screen grab Credit: Tidal

In the year 2148 an indigenous woman, Bird and Jacob played by Irene Bedard and Omari Hardwick are joint world leaders hailing from two great families. They respond to questions from a citizenry council about violent events that have lead to Jacob’s rise in power. Jacob recounts the legacy of his family and their struggle to uphold and maintain law and justice throughout generations. He talks about how one of his ancestors who played a major role as one of the founding mothers.

Founding Mothers

She was the primary architect of something called “The Confessional Papers” in 2050 and revised the constitution with a group of amazing women, played by Janet Mock, Neicy Nash, Mindy Khaling, Rosario Dawson and Rashida Jones just to name a few.

His ancestor, played by Susan Kelechi Watson in the year 2050 by is none other than Blue Ivy Carter.

Now we’re in Blue Ivy’s  narrational 2050 memory as she recalls her father’s words, “Nobody wins when the family feuds.”


Cut to 2018 which is basically now, where there the musical narrative of the video for Jay Z’s “Family Feud” begins. Jay-Z walks a present day Blue Ivy to sit in a church pew and then walks the front to start rapping before Beyonce who Amens at him from the pulpit in royal Blue, looking like a sanctified and sexy ass Popestress. She also appears in a black mini dress and billowy white sleeves behind the screen of a confessional as Jay speaks to her from the other side. The metaphor is plain to see now. And there is still so much left to unpack. I want this to be movie or a television series!

Blu ivy FF

I’m still on the floor!

I don’t know about you but I’ve already watched this video about five times now. I know I will lose count of how many times I watch it again and of how many other pieces of symbolism I pick out of this brilliant work of art and revolution made explicitly for the culture. I also know that 4:44 is a fierce, proud and unapologetically Black call to action to each of us who are about that life if there ever was one and I couldn’t have asked for anything better to arrive as 2017 comes to an end and 2018 kicks the door and our asses in.

Here’s to a Black Ass, Woke Ass 2018!









Rock’s “Top Five”

Top Five Subway

I don’t want to give away any spoilers for Chris Rocks new film, “Top Five.” It’s not due for release until December 11th. But I saw a screening of it last Friday night with a friend of mine and I really liked it.

From the trailer I’d only just recently started to see last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m glad I saw it before reading or even hearing anything else about it because I would never have expected what I saw. I’ve already been let down by “Dear White People” and “Interstellar” so I tried to keep my expectations at an even keel.

“Top Five” is a film I know I have to see again because I was sort of thrown off by what is clearly being promoted as a haha funny comedy, but which has some surprisingly sober and contemplative moments. I was hooked immediately, not just by the story and the performances but also the editing, the score, the pace, the choice of New York City locations. As a native New Yorker, I love good New York movies. I’ve been to absolutely every location in New York that “Top Five” was shot in and some of those places hold very fond memories for me so already, I’m engaged on an emotional level. Even the courtyard of my old High School in Spanish Harlem had a quick split second cameo.

Ever since SNL, I’ve always really liked Chris Rock so I’m always rooting for him even if I don’t always love everything he does. The last movie he did “Good Hair,” which was a documentary, fell short for me. I appreciated the attempt but I think he could have cast his net a little broader with regard to testimonials, research and approach. But he’s Chris Rock and he does things the way he does. His interests and experiences as a man with regard to the issue of “Good Hair” and women of color were slightly different from mine.

Watching “Top Five” though, I can tell that Rock has begun to selectively incorporate into his writing and direction much of what he has learned from other films he has worked on and loved and finally made them his own. It’s clear how determined he is to break out of a one dimensional shell of projections, and depict himself as a man with a deep undying passion for the craft of comedy and the truth that it reveals about life, celebrity, social issues, racial politics, music and more.

He basically plays a character loosely based on his own celebrity and though this may sound like Rock was just turning the camera on himself I think it’s actually very challenging for an actor to elevate a self-referential character study beyond a reality television framework for the sake of sensationalism alone. And he nails it. I think that playing a famous Black comic allowed Rock to bring himself to the character in a way that stripped him of the need to hide behind a performance and reveal complex parts of himself instead. I didn’t feel him acting. I just felt him period. He called on his best resources, his life experiences, his talent and created something memorable, sentimental, raw, hilarious, and even sweet.