Black Panther: A Celebration of Black Excellence
Originally posted on LoveJasPR.com February 25, 2018. Edited and republished for LoveJasMedia.com.
I’m not a comic book fan. I can’t speak on the storyline weaving into the Marvel Comic Universe and I can’t speak on the accuracy of the characters, but I’m a movie fan and an African American woman that can speak on the themes of love, identity, and the much needed call for a celebration of black excellence.
First, let’s shout out the black community for our internal marketing efforts. I’m convinced black people invested more in the promotion of Black Panther than both Marvel and Disney - from the talk about what to wear to the viewing, memes, dance videos at theaters, we did our THANG promoting and encouraging others to celebrate this moment of blackness. Black Panther made $212 million in North America in the four day opening weekend, the highest-grossing film by a black director in history. Congrats, Coogler! Black Pantherhas been deemed one of the most important Marvel movies and a Marvel Masterpiece. But black films don’t make money? Psshh.
Let’s get into it by reflecting on the internal battles of two black men, T’Challa/ Black Panther and Erik Killmonger. T’Challa/ Black Panther, full of pride and love must learn how to lead a country and set his emotions aside to lead a country after he learns his father has betrayed his own brother and abandoned his nephew. It must be noted that T’Challa’s father, T'Chaka, told him that it’s hard being a king when you’re a good person, which is sure to have been an internal conflict when he killed his own brother for the safety and love of his country. His conflict with the love and commitment to brotherhood shines throughout the film, choosing not to kill his cousin, Erik Killmonger, after his threats of exploiting Wakanda.
Erik Killmonger faces an identity issue that often reflects the reality of African Americans lacking connection to the motherland. In the film, Killmonger battled with the Wakadian ecosystem of resources and its internal love and loyalty versus what minorities across the world have access to, a sad reality of black Americans and people of color across the world. Killmonger’s approach caused conflict instead of creating a bridge between Africans and African Americans, similar to that of some of our civil rights leaders. It challenged Africans and African Americans to take a deeper look at self and our approach to building a community inclusive of all in the diaspora.
The complexity of love reigns supreme throughout the film. The love of country, the love of tribe, a mother’s love, and black love are all sub-points to the overarching theme of love that a lot of African Americans struggle with (a topic for another day). It was beautiful to see black love throughout the film, love of natural hair, representation of darker skin tones, and love of each other.
“Show them who you are!” exclaims Angela Bassett’s character of Queen Ramonda. A mother’s love always shines bright and throughout the film, Queen Ramonda exemplified the importance of motherhood in the black community. Black women, whether a mother by birth or by duty, is the rock and soul of a society.
We can’t forget the commitment to country. Even though M'Baku was from a tribe who historically chose to separate itself, his commitment to his country brother, saving T’Challa’s life for the love of mankind speaks volumes showing that it’s not always about what is best for the individual but the community as a whole.
The overwhelming love in this film segways naturally into the loyalty, love, and femininity of Okoye, who is by far my favorite example black womanhood. Her powerful introduction as the General of the Dora Milaje and the head of Wakandas all female armed forces juxtaposition against her softness during war, fighting against her love shows the complexity of black women. In our complexity, we are committed to our purpose and work, but have a tender spot for what matters and speaks to our heart.
Lastly, can we talk about the diversity amongst black folk in this film? The critics and naysayers say there is no diversity. It is an all black cast and that rejects the call for diversity within the entertainment industry, they say. Besides the three white characters, we have black people represented across the entire Pan-African diaspora. Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Sterling K Brown are American, Danai Gurira is American with roots from Zimbabwe, Winston Duke is from Trinidad and Tobago, Lupita Nyong'o is Kenyan-Mexican, Daniel Kaluuya is from London, and Letitia Wright is Guyanese to name a few ways this cast is diverse in all of its perfect blackness. The black cast in itself has different histories, experiences, and stories to tell that reflect their own black identity. We are not a monolithic race.
All in all, audiences want representation and look for content that mirror their diverse identities and stories. Black Panther was one of the first’s to see success with representation, let’s see what’s next!