We Needed Wakanda

By Savannah Howard
Web Content Contributor

(This article is spoiler free!)

The majority of the movies that have black actors in the leading roles are usually about slavery, the civil rights movement or some position of oppression and submission. Plus, the small minority of movies that depict black life with some form of accuracy and dignity are underfunded and not well known. How many more slave movies can be made? A new movie about black oppression seems to come out every couple of years and it’s tiring.

It’s tiring to be constantly reminded of a brutal and traumatizing history. We don’t need any more movies about slavery or oppression. Every black family in the United States has their own personal stories that are passed down through generations. We know these things happened and we won’t forget them. It’s time that movies start being made that make black people feel included instead of as an other.

Black Panther has filled a great void of the lacking representation that black people have in media. To finally have a movie that depicts black people in an uplifting light, is written and directed by black people, was given an amazing budget and was researched extensively to represent black African cultures accurately and fairly is a dream come true. To see a Western-made movie that doesn’t portray a country in Africa (even if it’s fake) as a poor slum, is something I never thought I would see. Wakanda is a paradise. Wakanda is Africa. It represents what African countries could have been if they had not been colonized and interfered with. And the beauty of it all is that the black community is excited!

People who aren’t even interested in comics or Marvel are flocking to the theaters because it’s a rarity for a movie to give us an opportunity to actually see us. It is so nice to watch black children’s faces light up with recognition when they see a superhero and powerful characters (mostly black women) that look like them. To see the leading roles and majority of the supporting roles (even most of the extras) all be darker skinned black people with kinky hair textures and hairstyles is of the utmost importance. Black people with darker skin are widely ignored in Hollywood films. Most black actors, especially black women, that are cast in roles are lighter skinned and have looser curl patterns. This movie got representation right.

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Many black people, like myself, are celebrating the film by going to showings in traditional black African wear or styles that have significance in the black community. Photo courtesy of Savannah Howard.

When watching Black Panther, I was able to recognize phrases, sentiments and ideals that are unique only to black people. Ryan Coogler and the researchers for this film managed to merge history with an advanced technological society and neither overshadow each other.

In my opinion, the most important concept from Black Panther is that black Africans and the diaspora (people not living in their homelands because they were born on other continents) have their differences, but are inherently one. Throughout the film the antagonist, Killmonger, struggles internally with self-realization and rejecting his roots, a problem that I’ve noticed in a lot of black Americans. Because our cultures were stripped from us or we white washed, we don’t always know who we are or where we exactly come from. This causes some black people to reject their African roots and distance themselves as much as possible. This results in people feeling lost and like they have something to prove.

Black Panther handles our differences by reminding us that we are all the same. It shows the rest of the world that black people are like everyone else, despite some cultural differences. Black people are complex, intelligent and contribute greatly to the world. Black people are human and deserving of equality.

We are here and we are not going away. Wakanda Forever.

Featured image by Savannah Howard.

 

 

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