Nakia and Okoye flank T’Challa in Black Panther. Marvel/Disney
Recently, I went to view the movie Black Panther with friends after hearing so much about it, and the movie lived up to all the hype. Black Panther was amazing – thrilling, adventurous and engaging! Themes of rivalry, betrayal, leadership, and loyalty were all intertwined with pure technological and creative genius. It was also filled with good lessons about life and being true to what’s true for you.
The Black Panther, King T’Challa, takes the throne after his father’s death; settling into his role as king, he soon discovers a family secret that his father had kept from everyone except for his trusted aide. At the same time, young King T’Challa struggles to keep his country safe by both hoarding its most precious and valuable resource, Vibranium, which in the wrong hands could be disasterous. The Black Panther also was preventing immigrants from entering the country, exhausting its resources and negatively impacting their way of life, as he assumed would happen if he opened their borders.
We see the king becoming the man and leader that he needs to be for himself, his family and his country. Along the way, we can see how the secret problem that his father left behind at his death (a child born outside the country to T’Challa’s uncle) becomes both one of the Black Panther’s and his country’s worse nightmares, and serves as a catalyst for change that helps the Blank Panther and his staff identify the lines of demarcation within themselves and within others close to them. The tares within the kingdom become more identifiable and pits the king and his staff against people they care for and once trusted. This becomes a good thing because it brings clarity to all concerned about what they need to do and what is right for them and their country. A battle ensues that will help the country free itself from its arch-enemy – the abandoned, wicked son of T’Challa’s uncle – to become a greater and more socially responsible country.
Black Panther was a winner for me for several reasons. First, the movie in many ways was true to life in that it reveals the internal struggle we all face when confronted with conflicting choices concerning our values, beliefs and those we love. And more importantly, the movie showed how different characters faced such conflicts, and aligned head and heart with their truth and what was right for them.
These hard choices could be seen when the king’s lead bodyguard General Okoye had to (a) decide between her duty to protect and serve king and country, regardless of who the reigning king was, or abondon her duty to the throne based on her dislike for the wicked cousin who had overthrown the Black Panther, and (b) choose to fight for what’s right and true in her heart, even if it means losing the man she loves in the process, or holding on to him and against her own conscience rejecting her truth, when she comes face-to-face with her lover in a battle to reclaim the throne for T’Challa.
Then, there was a similar situation with Nakia, the ex-girlfriend that the Black Panther, King T’Challa, still loved. Nakia had to decide to go back to her life elsewhere so she could be true to her passion for helping the less fortunate or staying with King T’Challa and walking away from her ministry to the needy, since she and King T’Challa had differing opinions about allowing these immigrants into the country. And, King T’Challa himself struggled to let go of old ways and processes that did not add value to his personal life, his country or its international relations, and their ability to affect positive change.
Second, the movie shows that positive change is possible when we commit to truth and doing what is right and good for ourselves and others. Thus, the Black Panther was able to make right some wrongs in his thinking and in previous poor decisions made by his deceased father that had left the country in turmoil. Whereas before, he primarily focused on potential problems – the danger of the Vibranium in the hands of others, the negative impact of immigration and helping the needy, and separation from the woman he loved in order for her to fulfill her purpose. King T’Challa went no further than those negative thoughts, and concluded that things had to remain the same to avoid safety issues. Eventually, however, he began to focus on potential solutions more than problems, and found that allowing things to remain the same was not an option that would yield the results he wanted.
Thus, Black Panther shows us that at our point of need and/or pain, we have the greatest potential for positive change, if we’re willing to take one positive action at a time.
T’Challa/Black, Nakia and General Okoye on a mission to find a thief. (Photo: Marvel Studios)
Third, the movie was “real” as some would say, meaning it was an honest depiction of human behavior, especially in the Black community. In one particularly “real” scene, General Okoye went on a mission with the Black Panther, Nakia and Shuri, his technology savvy sister, to locate a thief who had stolen and planned to sell one of his country’s Vibranium artifacts. On this mission, they had to dress the part in order to fit into their surroundings. (Keep in mind that the General Okoye is strong, fearless, no-nonsense and bald!) So on this mission, General Okoye wore a red dress, high-heel shoes and a long, flowing wig – all of which was out of character for her and cramped her style. When the three of them located the thief they were looking for in a club, a fight ensued, and General Okoye, who was an excellent warrior, pulled the wig off her head and tossed it! I assume ditching the wig helped her to not only fight more effectively but feel more like the warrior that she was. How true that is to life. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve seem my mom pull off her wig in public, if she was tired and especially if she got hot! And, in church on Sunday, one of the female ministers at church, who shall remain nameless, got excited while speaking to the congregation and alluded to pulling off her wig if she got too much more excited about praising God! Of course laughter erupted all over the church.
Shuri, Nakia, General Okoye and Queen Ramonda
Lastly, the movie was great because it instilled a sense of pride in one’s self and your lineage, and that’s something that the Black community, especially needs. This pride is not so we can go out and try to take over anything or move to Africa, as some naysayers have suggested. Most Black people do not want to go back to Africa. We were never there! So, all we can do is go visit. I’m sure many of our ancestors from a time gone by were in Africa; but those of us here now, were never there so there’s nothing in Africa for us to go back to. The pride I’m referring to is soul affirming. Everyone needs a little affirmation and feel-good support sometimes, especially when you are a part of a population of people who have for generations been made to feel disempowered, less-than, useless for nothing more than hard labor, low-wage jobs, producing offspring, and making money to build wealth for others. It takes a different kind of person to understand and/or empathize with where Blacks and other populations who have experienced generations of such prejudice, abuse, inhumanity and other hardships imposed upon them by the society and/or country that literally was built on the backs of their suffering. This kind of empathy is not a skill that all people can lay claim to or grasp the genrational impact that lives on; nonetheless we all should aspire to cultivate it.
The Black Panther was an all-around great movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, I encourage you to do so.