wakanda: today, tomorrow, & forever
I packed my bags to Wakanda on the Friday after it was released and woke up Saturday, feeling like every wild dream and aspiration I have ever conjured up is valuable and attainable. Semi-lucid, my 26 year old self fell victim to my imagination as I allowed the magic of Wakanda to take me to a place where the plague of the system of racism and colonialism does not exist and where every ounce of my fine brown skin is within every normal limit. A place where every tight coil on my head is adorned and adored; a place where I can bask in my blackness with all its ancient and holy tradition yet move intentionally whilst gracefully merging culture and technology.
With moments to spare, the sibling and I jump into the car and zoom to the theater determined to experience this magic first hand in IMAX 3D. Knowing that the seats are almost sold out, we scurry in a few minutes late into a theater that is mostly empty. A few moments later, a flurry of people begin to descend; filling almost every row. In my deepest sigh, I realize, we are CULTURE. In the most intimate situation, the sibling to the right, and a few brothers and some sisters to the left along with the overtly tantalizing scent of McDonald's fries in the air, enter into a world foreign to everyone in the room. Some may even describe it as phenomenally shocking, unrealistically realistic, spiritually challenging, courageously empowering, and mentally captivating. In this moment, we, well, I as a black African woman with a bicultural identity am in a safe haven or some sort of refuge. We are SAFETY. This is a movie I will make my future children, grand children, and great grand children watch. This movie is history in the making not only because of ratings (97% on Rotten Tomatoes) and how much its grossed (over $850 million worldwide so far), but because a movie with this type of cast, telling this perspective of Africa and blackness, has never been done before. We are HISTORY!
LEVELS TO WOKENESS
Understanding the full scope of this movie requires a certain level of woke. There are levels to being woke. Even I am still climbing the woke ladder everyday. If you leave unimpacted, it’s not for you. There is no reason to even spend time attempting to awake understanding within you because you have to have a basic level of woke to see the implications of this film on a grand scale.
Now, what is woke? Woke simply means being aware or having an understanding of what is happening in the community. To fully comprehend Black Panther in totality, you have to be a certain level of woke. For the individual whose eyes and ears are open AF, you leave shooketh (can't believe what you are seeing) after seeing this movie. Black Panther challenges and possibly shatters ideas of what people believe in regards to Pan-Africa and reinvents Pan-Africanism in a way that has not been done before.
Africa to the western world is the symbol of poverty, war, economic instability, and barbarism. Here comes Black Panther, celebrating African traditions and merging them with advancement and technology. An image that sticks out is that of the council leader with the lip plate. For years, the lip plate has been described as primitive and barbaric. Now here is the council man; the member who is of highest esteem and sophistication and most notable, style (go on with your bad self). This man (arguably every character) is presented as one who honors ancient traditions but is present and active in the age of advanced technology. Come thru Ryan Coogler with showing us in the light we actually are in!
THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Killmonger is the cry of my heart. He tells the story of the African American soul with such clarity, position, and passion. When Killmonger journeys to the ancestral place after being made king, unlike T’Challa, he journeys to his father’s office and to his father. That little piece is a sermon for the church on its own but I need time to formulate the gravity of what that means. The conversation they have identifies were Killmonger is emotionally and where African Americans are culturally; carrying the burden of being unable to grieve (can not grieve the inability to economic access due to systemic racism, disadvantaged neighborhoods, disadvantaged schools, mass incarceration, knowing home as America but rejected as not American due to their skin color).
My heart weeps. As a black African, I am at a position of privilege because I know home. I have a direct link to my ancestors. I know their stories. I know where I come from. My level of trauma is without feeling robbed of who I am. Although we were ravaged by apartheid in Zimbabwe and I am first generation post Apartheid, but I still know home. When Killmonger asks to be buried in the sea with his ancestors, OH MY GOODNESS, the tears! And then, he says, "They (the slaves en route to the Americas and beyond) knew death was better than bondage!" My heart shatters.
Up until this point, I may seem separatist. That somehow I believe there is a distinction between black Africans and black Americans. Ummm, no bro! I was not raised that way. My mother has always been a champion for, "We are all black" and we have the same culture. Learning about slavery hurt to the core. I couldn't understand why my people have been raped and pillaged of every ounce of their existence; resources, culture (which continues today; yes I did), and people. Somehow, the resilience is so real. African culture has manifested still even under the most impossible situations.
An honorable mention: Killmonger kills his girlfriend without flinching (church, I'll let ya'll tackle this one otherwise we will be here forever).
Why is black love important to us? Love in the black community has been crippled and fractured. Within the African American community, the structure of slavery was so that love would not develop. We won't go into the gruesome, disgusting, assaultive, highly barbaric, incredibly disturbing, and horrifying details of the implications of making sure love did not develop, but if you don't know, this post is certainly for and not for you. The love T'Challa had for Nakia as shown in the opening scene when he "rescues" her from the bandits who are kidnapping Muslim women and girls (which is real life btw), is a testament of how deep the vessel is for her.
Lest we talk about the magical scene, were Okoye stands in front of Mbaku to save him from W'Kabi and the rhino in the final fight scene. The rhino which is charging furiously at Mbaku stops suddenly when she steps in front of it, licks her face (in that, I know you and love you way), and magic happens. In this moment, I'm clenching my MF teeth because I don't know what is about to happen sweet Lord. W'kabi dismounts his rhino, and Okoye draws her spear to him and tells W'Kabi to stop this. He in his smuck way as he has been since Killmonger has arrived in Wakanda, asks his love (because they are lovers), if she would kill him. The moment that comes next, has me shooketh. "For Wakanda...no question" says Okoye. YOOOOOHHHH!!! (Insert African accent) Okoye is integrity and a pillar of strength. She symbolizes pure honor and sacrifice. In that moment, it is like love awakens who W'Kabi truly is. He looks around and sees brothers and sisters fighting each other and all of a sudden, he realizes the gravity of what he has done or what is happening. In that moment, he draws his weapon and Okoye looks shaken, and he drops it in front of her and takes a knee. LISTEN, can I just die and be born again? What level of love is this? And African love for that matter, won't the good Lord do it honey! This man, perverted by the ill intent of Killmonger and fostering the anger of his dead parents, has been on a rampage for hours.
There are several scenes leading up to this were Okoye side eyes her bae like, is this what we are doing? Really? But in this scene, she is like what we are not going to do is...and he honors her and realizes the error of his ways. Church, I can barely process this. Love is 1 Corinthians 13 and love is righteous. Steer your boyfriends/fiances/husbands/baes into righteousness and not tomfoolery.
NEXT: PART II
There is so much meat in this movie it can not go into one post. Part II goes into black feminism, African patriarchy, reinventing Pan-Africanism, and black women in technology. Stay tuned for that. This is my first think piece and I am so proud of it. I am proud to have the courage to divulge another side of me; the outspoken thinker. Currently its 3am, I have to be up in 3 hours but this is how important this is to me. Photo credit: Semaj Campbell Photography. Thank you loves for all your support and let me know what you think. If you have anything to add to this piece, I would love to hear it! Until next time, big bisous!