THE BLOG
23/02/2018 16:50 GMT | Updated 23/02/2018 16:53 GMT

Black Panther, Representation And Me

For this woman, who still sometimes has moments of insecurities, Wakanda is a reminder of the creation I am

Marvel Studios

As I sat down in the Leicester cinema and took my singular seat, as the adverts and trailers began to roll, and as I took a deep breath, I found myself looking around discreetly and clocking all the other people attending this 2:40pm showing of Black Panther. It was half term in the UK so of course there were children with their parents, many of the families of colour, some of not, there were teens, students, some couples, some friends and some people alone like myself.

As I squinted and craned my neck to see all those around me I wondered if they had the same feelings that I had in my bones, I wondered if they knew that the moment coming was about to be so sacred, so special, clothed with such divinity that really we had to be careful to respect the space we were in, the art we were about to see and have open hearts and minds.

I wondered if the little ones knew that we were about to get something that generations before them, most likely even their parents or guardians, did not have when they were their age.

Did the older couple to my left be uncomfortable to watch something that just would not have existed in their youth; would they shift in their seats and fidget at the suggestion that there is any world, fictional or otherwise, where we are nuanced, progressed and civilized nation of people?

The lads I heard whispering just behind me, would they be respectful of everything we would see on that screen, would they try and emulate with ignorance or the option that brought even more anxiety into my mind, mock it all from lack of understanding.

As my mind twisted and turned trying to preempt every other persons reaction, the film began and my attention was snapped away from my own self. I felt myself shudder and convulse and the tears begin falling before I could even properly allow my mind to articulate what I was feeling.

You see in my faith, and in my job, within a story will be subtext, a sub plot, greater meaning and sometimes even a life lesson. My mind and my spirit has trained me to instantly open up a small portion of my heart to scan for those things at all times, and whenever my scanner hits on something of substance there is nearly always a very emotional and visceral reaction.

My whole being felt, in those first 30 seconds of the film rolling, something more. Something historical and not just because of whatever records would be broken because of sales, not just because of the conversations it will continue to allow us to have, but because of the impact it was going to have in my life and the lives of countless others.

All of these different people surrounding me and experiencing this at the exact same time would all be having this tiny little explosions of consciousness that some may have never even had before.

You see the conversation of representation for me, and many others, is an old one now. Our ancestors fought for freedom, basic human rights, basic civil rights, equality and now we also fight for representation. We fight to see ourselves as relevant and to thrive as much as any other while living through the gift that is life.

However many people have not been there for that. They had no connection to it. So suddenly representation is a conversation they are being included in, just by seeing a film about a superhero. They are seeing every colour of brown, hearing accents they may only hear and associate with negativity or being lesser than. They are looking into a culmination of very African and nuanced traditions and culture.

You see representation to me is just as much about guiding people into understanding what it is like for a person of colour as well as the progression of life for people of colour.

If you are a person of colour in a predominantly white space, and you have grown up as such, you won’t have to push hard to understand the varying degrees and complexities that come with being white, you have watched them your whole life. You have adjusted yourself by degrees and perhaps even shrunk yourself greatly in order to accommodate a world that is in fact already very accommodating of western standards. Your friends, friends and parents and grandparents have invited you to their homes and you have witnessed, you have watched enough tv and films and read enough books and listened to enough music and to be exposed to a world that is westerncentric.

At the same time you would have grown up with whatever your life as a person of colour contained, as blackness is no one way. Your household, your family, extended or not, your friends and all their cultures and backgrounds and descents and traditions and proverbs were the main part of your life that you could not share outside with the main part of the world because they had no interest in knowing.

You have in fact, just like any of the best superheros, lived a double life. One where there are parts of yourself you cannot share with the people who do not understand and do not take the time to understand, and then the other where you can be at peace with who you are without fear of rejection and mocking.

This film is a love letter to every child that listened to stories from the people in their lives about the majestic people that they descend from and then had to go to school and pretend as if none of it mattered at all more than whatever was being celebrated as western and European majesty.

This film is a love letter to the child in me. The little girl who would dance and sing in front of the tv, lost in a moment, but sometimes sharply thrown out when catching a reflection that did not match whatever was sold as good in front of her.

Anyone watching closely will see that there are groups, whole groups of wonderfully eccentric, individual, empowered people of colour in mass filing into movie houses to watch Black Panther, some even several times, and its only just been a week since the film was released. They are dressing up and honouring the part of them which is just as much a reflection of godliness and nature as anyone else on this earth.

The drumbeat, the pulse, of the movement is reaching across the planet and actually uniting regardless of class, sexual orientation, gender, religion and that is incredible.

It is strengthening bonds, identities, ties and quite frankly anything that can be such a positive influence in a world that seems to get filled with more and more brokenness by the minute, is something to be celebrated and cherished.

Now I know I can only speak for my experience. I cannot speak for every person of colour that will see this film. Every non person of colour. I cannot speak for the interpretations. Perhaps its the most marvellous thing you have ever seen and perhaps it is not.

All I know is that for this woman, who still sometimes has moments of insecurities, moments of doubt and defeat and still wonders if it is in fact more right to be white, Wakanda is a reminder, a light, a living, breathing movement and representation of the creation that I am.

That we are.

A reflection of strength, unity, love and a future as bright as the sun.