Everyone is going crazy for the upcoming Black Panther movie – and for good reason. It has all the elements of a blockbuster – huge stars, amazing costumes, and great cinematography.
However, before most people heard of the movie, Marvel fans (like me) anticipated its release. In 2016, the ending of the previous Marvel film shook the audience. Before the conclusion, the camera panned through a landscape and settled on a majestic statue of a black panther, mid-pounce. The whole theater gasped. We all knew then that the next solo superhero movie would be – the Black Panther.
Two years later, we can finally feast our eyes on the film. However, this movie is bigger than the comic-book realm. The release of Black Panther is important for the culture. In fact,
Black Panther is more than a movie. Black Panther is a Message and a Moment.
Wakanda, the very technologically-advanced birthplace of the Black Panther, is, unfortunately, fictional. However, a Wakanda-like African nation is not out of the realm possibility. In terms of mineral wealth, Africa is the richest continent. And though rarely mentioned by historians, the continent birthed technologies and sciences. There have been great African kingdoms (ie the Ghana Empire) whose influences are felt today.
Black Panther shows Africans as advanced, powerful and intellectual. And through this, Black Panther pays homage to our roots and reminds us of Africa’s greatness – and potential. Also, the
Black Panther shares a message of female strength and empowerment,
most notably through the characters of Queen Ramona, Princess Shuri, Nakia and, Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje.
Let’s talk about the Dora Milaje, the bodyguards of the Black Panther. They are Warrior Queens, former royalty in their old tribes who gave up thrones to protect Wakanda. The inspiration for the Dora Milaje is said to have been the Dahomey warriors of Benin. However, there have been the many warrior queens of Africa to take inspiration from (i.e., Queen Yaa Asantewaa and Queen Nzinga).
In addition to the Dora Milaje, the other women of Wakanda also played integral roles in protecting and advising the king (The Black Panther). And, in honor of the royal women of Wakanda, I will countdown the top 5 African Queens this weekend on IG. Find out who will be number 1!
It is rare that a major movie would have a black director and a mostly black cast. Finally, audiences can see black people, specifically Africans, on the big screen in a dignified manner. Additionally, it’s meaningful to see an industrious African nation, albeit fictional one, with principled and intelligent leaders.
In fact, it’s been about 30 years since a positive block-buster (Coming to America) about African people came out. So, for many, seeing Black Panther will be as memorable as Coming to America. In fact, I still recall seeing Coming to America with my parents and remember that afterward, they were so happy, they even considered writing a thank you letter to Eddie Murphy for the positive depictions. Representation matters.
Furthermore, the Black Panther movie provides the opportunity to bridge the African-American and African cultural experiences.
You may have seen the funny memes. Nationwide, people of the Diaspora are going to the movie in kente cloth, ankara or dashiki. The societal influences of the Black Panther movie can’t be ignored.
However, most important of all, at long last, little black boys and girls will have a major superhero to admire – one who finally looks like them.
Occasions like these connect and inspire. And, though these moments are few and far between, when art like this happens we should celebrate it.
So here’s to the Black Panther movie. “Wakanda Forever!” See you at the movies! ~Maureen
If you’re a Warrior Queen like the Dore Milaje, rock out in this Warrior Queen T-shirt.
For more African-inspired creative works check out the women’s fiction novel “Tenth Year in the Sun”