The last time I watched a film that stirred so much emotion in me was Still Alice. Julianne Moore is excellent and the loss of control over our mind is not a reality any of us wish for. It will leave anyone who sees it somber and reflective – just go and watch it. Then came Black Panther this past weekend. Differently from Still Alice, Black Panther made me want to find the closest cylinder-like object, stomp it into the streets and praise the ancestors.
There are no prerequisites to the power you create from uncovering and having possession of your own identity. The nature of being a person that has equally close ties to their Nigerian ancestry and their Britishness has and continues to define how I view the world. And how I view the world effects how I view politics.
So when people discuss the importance of Black Panther, a film where the titular character’s primary concern is sustaining his family legacy and upholding his country’s honour, we should not let the connection this bares to non-fictional, literal, and in-your-face politics be lost on us.
In the UK and across the world there have always been successful black people in all industries. In today’s world the fields of sports, entertainment and fashion most notably are densely populated with black people, black aesthetics and black culture. Yet outside of the strife and dedication of the individuals involved, it is of interest to me why I and so many others are more inspired about how the world could be from a reimagined realm created by Marvel and brought to life by Ryan Coogler, than in real life.
Okoye, played excellently by Danai Gurira, is the highest-ranking military figure in Wakanda. Having a black female character such as Okoye indirectly disparages and punctures a lot of what black women are told their capabilities can and cannot be, igniting change towards a time where we will no longer be speaking of the’ first black’ woman, or man to do anything.
Similarly Letitia Wright’s character Shuri is the mastermind behind the technological advancements that help her brother Black Panther/T’Challa to carry out his missions. It is my belief that this has all been designed deliberately for black people after 2018 years of modern history to recognize their individual role in constituting an identity built on afrofuturism that is unapologetically creative, powerful and addresses our economic, social and political development, in cooperation with other races.
Representation of this sort and on this level is a first of its kind. Black Panther is much more than the latest blockbuster, but a monumental shift in how the East and Western world view African culture. This film demands that its viewer witnesses the excellence, intrinsic value and stability of Wakanda that whilst fictional, is inspired directly from a collection of cultures across a herculean continent. The impact this could have on the identities on those who have ties to this culture, or a mixed culture should they be British for example, is again considered and poignant.
The creation, distribution and watching of Black Panther is one of the most positive approaches I have witnessed to date in further affirming my identity as an African, as a Briton, as a Londoner, as a black man, as a feminist, and so much more. Some may say the film and the commentary that’s followed are all too radical and unnecessary. It is my belief that this racially-inclusive piece of cinema, if we support it and allow it to continue to flourish has the potential to lead further into a multicultural world that is both solvent and concerned with the centering of all kinds of people.