I have waited my entire life to see a movie created by Black people, directed by Black people, organized by Black people, celebrating a cast which is almost entirely Black and yet they are celebrating a futuristic ideal, an ideal which postulates the Black Excellence I know is in my heart and my life and yet refuted or resisted whenever I show up for work.
As amazing as the Black Panther is, T’challa has already been a role model my entire life. He is part of the reason I learned martial arts and studied mysticism. His example as one of the premiere scientists of Wakanda, made me love science and keeps me constantly improving myself, physically and mentally. His appearance in this movie is close to me and I am happy to know he will get another chance on the silver screen.
But what I hoped to see is Wakanda. As a child, before the Internet (and keeping things real, even after the Internet became popular) I sought pictures of Wakanda. I hoped artists would draw more of it because what they described was something growing up in the Bronx in the 1970s may as well be another planet and I wanted to have as many pictures of it as I could, keeping its image and its excellence in my mind.
Wakanda, mythical Wakanda is why I am at this movie.
Wakanda is a place in my heart, a place where when I get up in the morning, I have no fear of the future. When I walk out my door, I have no fear of the police, or the political climate, or the White man who lives next door who listens to FOX News and Infowars all day, and stares out his window at me every time I leave my house.
Wakanda is seeing Black children, growing up strong, without fear, with teachers who look like them, who see them, who value them and want for them the very best life has to offer. With families intact, with dreams, with a history that does not include abuse, rape, imprisonment, fractured families, disenfranchisement, redlining, segregation, assassination, or lifetime imprisonment.
Wakanda is the capacity to believe in powers greater than ourselves, the guiding hands of our ancestors, dead gods, live gods, cat gods or no gods at all if that be our choosing. We are free to make our choices of our spirituality without fear of censure or murder for our choice.’
In my heart, I can hear T’challa speaking to all the people who fear Black Excellence and have done everything in their power to stop it, whenever and wherever they could.
“Change is radical. Change is also inevitable. Don’t like it? I don’t care.”
I am certain there will be cries about Black Panther being “too Black,” or “too exclusionary,” or “too radical.” Too bad. People of color no longer have any reason to sit on the sidelines.
And You know it. You know who you are. That’s why your hacking computers to discredit the numbers, rallying your tribes in social media slinging disheartening words like weapons. Except where you’re actually arming yourselves, creating militias, changing the laws, stacking the decks, whitening your companies, Making America White Again and all those very special slogans.
But you know what? I am not the only person seeking Wakanda.
After this movie debuts, the floodgates will open and a singular vision of a future we can want to have. Not a long dead city of mythical splendor that each of us sees individually in our minds and can’t confirm existed except as a distant echo in time, hoary, almost forgotten: Mesopotamia, Babylon, Kemet, Nubia, Zulu.
And we don’t have to have the modern tragedies where we stood on our own two feet and had it snatched away from us. No strange fruit peppering the landscape in every direction, no Greenwoods; where fire, fury, murder and madness took everything from someone forgotten except in a history note, no suburb in Philadelphia bombed into submission for resisting abuses heaped upon them.
No quiet assassinations of our leaders, the lights which blaze in the darkness showing us the way before being extinguished by the hegemony of hatred we steep in daily.
What this movie offers us, for a singular moment, a unified inspiration, a fire blazing in the hearts of every little boy and girl who finds themselves inspired like I was with the fragmented images I cobbled together of a place where they can be everything they imagine themselves to be. Together.
Wakanda says we exist in a future which is wonderfully, beautifully, intelligently, optimistically Black.
Yes, this is what Wakanda means to me.
That it will inspire children to imagine a world so different from the one we live in that they will go out and make it.
No matter who gets between them and their dreams. They will fight for their dreams. They will believe they can win. They will create the weapons of their liberation. They will create their paradise and believe themselves worthy of it.
That’s what this movie means. Kindling dreams and fires as yet unknown. Each, now driven by a singular feeling, a memory of a thing which may change them and their relationship to people like them; a cultural epigenetic event. A transformation. There was the time before Black Panther and then the time after.
I am as convinced this may be just a movie for a lot of people, but I believe for some, it will be water to the parched, food to the starved, a caress for the leper.
The Black Panther is important. A symbol of excellence. Of science. Of belief.
But it’s Wakanda that matters.
This essay with slight variations first appeared on Quora. All rights reserved.
The King of Wakanda has an open letter for viewers:
Black Panther, White Avengers
Movie hasn’t debuted and fan boys have already lost their damn minds
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. Thaddeus writes about comics, superheroes, and comic history on Quora.com, KryptonRadio.com and Panel & Frame.
“This is the Black Age of Comics. We don’t fear the future. We transcend it.”