We Went to Opening Night of Black Panther and Now We Want to Live in Wakanda Forever
When tickets for Black Panther went on sale late last month, we here at The Root just knew it was our duty, as the…
This article sums up how it felt to be immersed in Black Panther, and in Wakanda (FOREVER!). For us, by us. The first film I’ve ever seen where the “white gaze” was absent. Or at least unnoticed by me. This is the first mainstream film I’ve EVER seen that felt like “this is how WE see us, this is the past, present, and potential WE SEE in and for us.” Rather than some rehashed slave narrative, or a re-mining of New Jack City. Or . . . something in the Tyler Perry oeuvre. . . .
This is US in our facets, flaws, and fantasticality (YES, it’s a word. Go DUCK yourself, spellcheck!)
I SO need to see this movie again, FORTHWITH. I tend to go to matinees because I don’t like crowds and people making noise — shut the fuck up, I didn’t pay for your convos, your loud-ass phone ringing, or your damned toddlers — but there was MAGIC in seeing this first with MY PEOPLE.
And that, too, was a first. I rarely feel “my people” about anyone, skin color, POV, philosophical views aside. I don’t “people” well or often or with any real zeal. I’m usually alone and happy to be so. That’s how I roll — increasingly, as I get older.
But, also increasingly as I get older, I sometimes feel a need for community. For the presence — even if we don’t talk to each other or make eye-contact — of people who know where I’m from and who I am. Who know what it is to be the Other. Who’ve been followed around stores. Who grew up listening to old school funk with grammas. Who’re more likely to get stopped-and-frisked, shot, denied a home loan, underestimated and underserved. WHO GET TOLD HOW ARTICULATE WE ARE AND HOW WELL WE FUCKING SPEAK, when we don’t sound like . . . whatever they expect. When life has taught us to code-switch out of necessity and for survival. Sometimes literally.
In other words, people who’re LIKE ME in ways that matter because the world won’t let those ways NOT matter.
No matter where we’re from — Oakland, Brooklyn, Harlem, Chicago, the Caribbean (TRINIDAD and BARBADOS, REPRESENT!) Ghana, Nigeria, or WAKANDA, we wear the same skin. And even when we transcend the boxes, labels, and stereotypes the world stuff us in, slaps on us, and hoists upon our strong-by-necessity shoulders . . . often, WE are the only ones who see that transcendence. That strength. That uniqueness and realness.
The people most likely to see beyond and below our skin, are the ones who share it and have lived in it. LIVED IT.
“Black identity extremists” is a term I’ve heard bantered about in suspiciously COINTELPRO-flavored memos and reports. And to that, I say: FUCK, YEAH. If you’ve ever experienced Life While Black, then you know it’s EXTREME. There’s no middle-ground of blackness. If you’re black, you’re in the thick of it, and you don’t get a manual, a preamble, or any do-overs. You’re born in the deep-end, and if you don’t figure out how to dog-paddle REAL FAST, you drown.
And if you learn to do an even half-way decent backstroke through the sludge-ass pool that is human society, the world SEES you as “extreme.” In ways that are both good and bad (usually bad). EXTREMITY is your identity.
No matter who you really are, the “Black Identity” is YOUR identity. And if you aren’t grinnin’ and coonin’ — steppin’ and fetchin’ — YOU ARE EXTREME.
And if you’re EXTREME ENOUGH, they MIGHT kill you for it.
That is what it is. How it’s always been and how it might be for a while, yet. Extremity is our identity. And it really is. But not just in that way. Not just in the way most non-blacks are used to thinking. Suffering, injustice, and lack of appreciation by the world-at-large may or may not be our lot (there’s a reason why the term is “black” sheep. Black is a shade that stands out and is considered undesirable in a field of mostly paler sheep. I wouldn’t say “white,” because I’ve seen sheep and on average, they’re not. They’re usually a barfy sort of light-grey/light-tan/off-yellowish. But DEFINITELY paler than the relatively rare all-black ones). But excellence, endurance, adaptability, and vibrance are our inheritance. Because of US and the way the world sees us, we stand out and we ARE OTHER. And we must no longer hide, “blend,” and make ourselves quiet and small. Like Wakanda and its tech, we must must show ourselves to the world, not let our wonders be hidden by a scapegoating society or “majority.”
This is our time, at last, to shine bright and be BIG in ways the world doesn’t yet know or even suspect. The world is watching us, as always, but perhaps its eyes are starting to open, just a little. Our brilliance and intensity needs to melt some eyelids off some faces.
Wakanda forever. Not because MARVEL/MCU DID A GOOD FOR POOR-SAD-UNDERSERVED BLACK PEOPLE. But because “Wakanda” is where we were FROM, once upon a time. And if we push this bright, glorious future for OUR PEOPLE, and don’t let US settle for less anymore, it’ll BE where we’re from, once again. All of us. From here, on out. We are motherfucking WAKANDA: radiant, complex, and ready to grow and shine. No more settling for less. No more hiding or being obscured. No more being told who we are by not-US. We KNOW who we are. We are Wakanda. And everyone — especially US— needs to know it.