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.”