5 Things I Learned By Watching Black Panther

5 Things I Learned By Watching Black Panther

“You get to decide what kind of king you are going to be.” Black Panther, 2018

Black Panther is a film of firsts. It’s a film that I am happy to support just for the fact that it’s a largely black cast, black director and embodies strong African culture. Imagine, a Marvel (Studios) film that has black leads….. A black superhero! I didn’t think that we would have a superhero film that we could look up to so that we could imagine us being the ones to save the day whenever trouble came along.

It’s a very important film to have come out just because people like me didn’t have a lot of these kind of influences or ‘role models’ as it were growing up and now we have strong black females who are equal to strong black men and both work together as a team to do what is right. If I don’t remember anything from that film, that is one thing I would like to remember as well as these 5 other things that I either noticed/realised or learned from this film:

1. Family Values

The first thing I learned was togetherness and the importance of family and the respect Chadwick Boseman’s character, Black Panther/T’Challa had to his father played by John Kani. This may seem quite silly but if any of you have watched at least one episode of Super Nanny then you would realise that this is an important element of the film.

There are kids that have no respect for anyone let alone their elders nowadays. Some of the things I see others getting away with I know I could never get away with. I wouldn’t even think to do/say half of the things they do; not because of fear but because of respect. Why on earth would I want to treat the people who have helped me every step of the way, who have provided for me and loved/love me any less than they deserve?

Another thing that I loved was the great relationship T’Challa had with his sister, Shuri who was played by Letitia Wright. It kind of reminded me of my brother and I. He’s older than me and we get along so well. It was so nice to see how he went from being King of Wakanda to seeing his sister and then becoming a Best Friend.

There are many different relationships that people have in their lives and each have to be cared for. There’s also a legacy that your parents leave behind and a name that your family leaves behind which I believe can be you. I like to think that I live the best life I live in order for others who know my family name to think, ah, that’s so and so’s daughter and have positivity attached to my family name and not negativity.

This is also important for me being a Christian too and believer of God. I don’t want to say I’m a Christian and that God is my Heavenly Father and then people judge God negatively because I haven’t been a good example of His Character and I haven’t worn His name right.

Black Panther knew that He had come from a line of Black Panthers. If he had chosen the wrong path or not lived up to his title and his duty, everything that his Dad died for or those prior to him would have died for nothing and I believe that’s the same for black people today. All our ancestors who worked hard and fought (in peace) to have the rights that we have today, to be able to sit anywhere on the bus, to be able to get an education, to be able to live our best lives and to be (almost) treated equally as everyone else makes me think that I and we should live our best lives in honour of the work they did for us. If we don’t make anything of our lives, did they sacrifice theirs for nothing?

2. Natural Hair Any Day!

That moment when Danai Gurira’s character, Okoye says “I want you to get this ridiculous thing off my head” and pulls of her wig to reveal her beautifully bald head so she can fight properly speaks volumes.

Yes, maybe it was easier for her to fight without wearing her wig but for someone else it could have shown that black hair, no matter how long or short is more beautiful than trying to hide it or trying to ‘fit in’.

Wigs are sometimes great if you want to have a break from doing your hair for a bit so I 100% understand that some people like to wear them – and for that reason, but I truly believe that if some people are wearing wigs because they can’t see the true beauty in their own hair then that film scene is for you.

I’ve always had natural and long hair but there came a point in my life where I just wanted to experiment. I had never experimented with my hair before so I guess it was more of a struggle for those around me who were used to seeing my hair a certain way for so long.

I got locs and after a year and a half shaved them right off to the surprise of many people around me.

When it started to grow certain family members started to say, ‘That’s the Nadine we know and love’ which kind of upset me because I thought I am not or shouldn’t be defined by my hair.

I decided to shave it till I was practically bald because I have never gone that short before which shocked everyone again and it started to be something that I thought I would keep doing because I just couldn’t stand my hair anymore. I hated being defined by it and to be spoken about almost like an imposter until it grew back to how other people liked it.

Eventually I learned to love my hair again for me and not for/or because of others and as much as I would like to disagree, your hair does have something to say about you. Your hair lets people know if you look after yourself, if you have self-respect, if you’re fun or qwirky, if you like to experiment, if you’re well put together, if you’re shy or if you’re confident etc. The same way people subconsciously judge us by the clothes we wear, just the same can be done by our hairstyles or hair condition.

That scene in the film really helped me to see just how beautiful natural hair is on so many different types of black females and how they wore their hair with pride.

That’s all I want every women/girl to do… wear their hair with pride.

3. Identity

Going almost hand in hand from that last point is identity.

This film is so perfect especially for the kids of today. It’s crazy to think that when my Parents were growing up, you didn’t really see people of colour in any kind of media. If there was a black person on a TV show, they would usually be the cook or cleaner/housekeeper and be dressed poorly and simply and just say yes to whatever their Master wanted.

I like to put myself in their shoes a bit and just think to myself, if I didn’t have YouTube, Instagram or any kind of social media, the only way I could learn about my identity was the little bits we learned at school (which was literally just about the slave trade and how my ancestors travelled in ships and the conditions of that, and the one lesson we would spend looking at a picture of Martin Luther King and the title of his famous speech and how he died. Yes, when I was in school, that is all I learned.) and the things my Parents, Aunts and Uncles would tell me.

Nowadays there’s people of colour in more places than before but in my opinion it’s still not enough but… I’m proud of so many accomplishments that black people have made and I’m constantly on the look out for new artists or actors/actresses, designers and other people of influence that I can learn something from or support. I love it when we work together and celebrate together and respect each other. It is so great to see films with black people who have strong characters or are the lead roles in modern films coming out today, so you can imagine just how this Black Panther film was the cherry on top!

Strong leads, strong characters who were unafraid, confident, knew who they were, knew where they came from, knew where they should be going, knew what they stood for. That’s something that I can say I know is still an issue especially for those younger than me. They’re trying to work out where they fit in in the world. Sometime’s I even find myself doing the same thing.

How great is it to watch a film where the majority of people in it look like you but have unlocked the gates to some of the unasked and asked questions you have been asking yourself for so long and give you the clues to figure it out without saying? This film just gives you the confidence to be yourself unapologetically and embrace every bit of your personality.

4. Culture

We saw the way the people of Wakanda live. We saw many different tribes and their leaders and saw a little glimpse of how each do things differently. We saw traditions, we saw and heard different greetings, war cries, dances etc.

There was a strong culture that was displayed throughout this film which I think is an important element. It’s interesting to see who thick the culture and traditions were in Wakanda compared to the way I think some black people live where I’m from. My ancestors are from Jamaica and my close family and I were born British. The culture that I learn and see from Jamaica are probably through the stories that I hear my Grandparents tell me when they share the things they used to do when they were ‘back home’ but since they now live in England, they’ve kind of lost a part of themselves and have taken on new traditions.

Yes, England is a very diverse place and their are many people from all over the world that have found a home here but for me who has never seen or been to many Caribbean countries or African continents it was so special to see the togetherness displayed throughout Black Panther, and it reminds me of the slave trade where we had that split between those that worked in the fields and those that worked in the house. It caused a division between the black community which sadly is still something that we deal with today. Yes, things are not as bad as they used to be but I can’t turn a blind eye on things. Yes, there is more togetherness and we have events like Afropunk to thank for that which is a safe gathering of all kinds of people to come together and celebrate their lives and their culture and identity; but is there more work to be done? I have to say yes.

Also, be proud of your heritage. Be proud of where you come from.

5. The Slave Trade Was Never Supposed To Happen

I know it sounds crazy that I should ever think that something like the slave trade was supposed to happen but I have never explored the idea of what would have happened or where I would be now had I not watched this film.

Obviously I truly wish that the slave trade never happened but unfortunately it is a part of my history; a part of the worlds history but a really beautiful part of the whole Black Panther (films’) story was the righting of wrongs from past Elders and Leaders of Wakanda to put Black people back where they should have been; in positions of leadership, great education etc.

I didn’t really notice or understand the depth of certain scenes such as the Ancestors scene toward the beginning of the huge battle scene or just how important the final scene of the film was until my Dad shared his ideas with me of what he thought it meant.

It’s quite beautiful to see just how far forward the people of Wakanda were and how they went to the rough areas of California to ‘right those wrongs’ and help black people get ahead and up to speed with the technology and information that Shuri had.

I’m sure there’s so much more that I could write about this film and probably so much that I missed but these were just a few things that I noticed and meant a lot to me.

If there’s anything you found that you would like to share, please leave it in the comments and let’s all share together!

(Click on the images to go to their links)


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