Written by Mwabi Kaira
I had the pleasure of seeing the excellent and very moving Black Panther, three days before it was released in theaters last week and I couldn’t wait to talk about it. I then went out of town so I couldn’t see it with my kids but loved seeing everyone all over the world post about it. I came back to town and jumped back into all my responsibilities, so I haven’t been back to see it, but I’m itching to see it at least twice more by the weekend. More than anything, my heart swelled with pride seeing all of us melanin folks represented in such a way that brought tears to our eyes.
Wearing African print if you’re not Hotep has only become fashionable these past few years. It used to be the fastest way to be the laughing stock. Seeing black folks wear African print garb to the theatre was so beautiful and empowering. Hearing T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye roll off of black tongues without people overthinking it is nothing short of amazing. My waiting-on-a-table- at-restaurants-and-Starbucks name is AJ because you all wore me thin, swearing you couldn’t pronounce my name. I have tried giving lessons; Muah (like a kiss) - Bee, I’ve spelled it out letter by letter but you all keep going back to Yambi, Wawee, and whatever variation of my five letter name you feel like calling me that day and I just quit. Because of Wakanda all of you are about say my name three times just like Destiny’s Child if you ask me for it. I have no time if you won’t commit to saying it right.
Being transported to Wakanda is so crucial because we are represented in the film. No one’s skin was lit differently to fit in with co-stars, we got every hue of melanin. One wig made an appearance on the screen; it was a nuisance. We didn’t have to imagine ourselves on the screen like we have to do 95% of the time because it was a reality. Being from Africa, I typically watch scenes shot in Africa under a microscope because they are rarely accurate to real experiences. It’s usually apparent that the production takes place on a soundstage, and they’re either overdone or underdone. Black Panther got it so right and didn’t just focus on one region of Africa. With T’Chaka, I felt like I was in the room with my Grandfather and missed him. Ramonda said things that my mother still says to me. Nakia and Oluye were like my sister-gurls and Shuri my little niece. What I know for sure is that had M’Baku walked by me and said, “Gurl, let me holla at ya,” no one would ever see or hear from me again. I'd be with him, enjoying my life.
The video of the two little black boys outside the theater saying which one in the poster they were, followed up with the video of the little girls and their spears performing like Oluye and her Army was heartwarming. This theme reveals why representation is so important. Before November 2008, I could tell my sons that they could grow up to be President, and I’m sure they believed it but seeing someone that looked like them become the President solidified the dream that much more. Everyone involved in Black Panther made history and have started a movement that I pray continues forever. For this moment, we’ll eternally be grateful.