There is no point telling black people to simply get over or to forget their past. It does matter. The way that an entire theatre of people roars when a black woman gives orders to a white colonizer in an otherwise black cast of movie stars tells me that it does matter.
It tells me that efforts such as the Black Panther are important in terms of changing the perceptions about black people, our abilities and more importantly our views of ourselves.
Being able to see a movie where black people are in control of their own destiny and can make informed decisions allows us to question our international relations positions. We can feel validation in the right of our governments to make decisions about our resources and how these will be allocated.
We get to take pause on the issue of where the artefacts of African civilization are currently vested, and why and if they should be vested as they are. If we complain that the clothing and traits of our children are becoming overly Americanized, then a movie which questions the American privilege and how it is expressed can only be a good and healthy thing.
Black Panther has made Africa and African worldviews and customs a part of mainstream culture in exactly the time it has taken to press play. I notice young people proudly now wearing African prints, natural hair and other embraces of their heritage. While it would be a gross overgeneralization to suggest that the movie began this movement, it is no stretch of the truth to assert that Black Panther has added a necessary stamp of approval to the movement.
I have seen a plethora of reviews and perspectives about the movie. Indeed I was surprised that not a single one picked up on what I consider to be the ‘real takeaway’ from the movie. The black family has been hindered from its fullest potential for years due to the promiscuity and ramifications of promiscuity wreaking havoc on us.
While the movie highlights what is possible when black women and men work together, there is also a significant and overarching address of how the unhealthy family patterns in the black community impact on the community as a whole. At the death of parents some children not only have to negotiate their loss but also the confusion, betrayal and ambiguity of finding out that they have other siblings or about other decisions made by adults.
There can be severe resentment ensuing from many angles. The children who had the benefit of their father’s attention may feel the need to defend the parent or justify his actions. They may also feel a strong sense of anger about the new siblings causing perceived blotches on the memory of the deceased. The siblings who were on the outside of the father’s attention always wonder what mechanism he would have used to choose one set of children over the other. They are left with deep seated feelings of inferiority and anger. These are strong enough to result in adults who are maladjusted in their personal lives and sometimes in the decisions they make about community and bigger issues.
We also get to interrogate the theme of the loyal woman who gives her all to her partner then to be put in the position to defend her values or her professional agency against his own disloyalty. It portrays black men as inherently juvenile and selfish in their thought patterns. Again the movie is powerful for interrogating the intersections between family life and professional decisions and intimate relationships between black women and men.
When faced with the choice of either their men or their professional agency, the women of Wakanda boldly and unapologetically chose their own needs above those of their men. The women of Wakanda had value and agency outside of their men. Their men were then left to figure out their own places next to these strong and self-assured women.
Further, the women of Wakanda were not responsible for nursing ‘half-man, half-child’ men. The men were responsible for finding their own answers and having their own revelations.
It is significantly unfortunate that the Film Censorship Board of Barbados has rated the movie PG 13. This means that children under 13 cannot have the experience of watching the movie on the big screen. How can we say on the one hand we support and embrace African culture in schools and then end up with decisions like these? When are we going to stop paying lip service to allowing our children to embrace their culture?
Can we bask in the glory that is blackness? Can we take the rule which seeks to hinder our young boys from wearing Afros and facial hair out of our Education Act? Are we there yet? Please say we are! Can we relook the movie’s rating in Barbados? Can we interrogate the challenges in how the black man internalizes his masculinity? Can we address how the black woman feels about her sisters? Are we there? Please say we are!
Black Panther is an awesome, awesome theatre experience! Wakanda forIver! Africa forIver! Selah.