I didn’t know that I needed to see a Black superhero. No, not T’Challa the Black Panther, but Nakia, Okoye and the the women warriors of Wakanda.
I’ve never watched a Marvel production, or a superhero movie. None of them ever spoke to me and my existence as a Black woman. Not Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, The Avengers, X-Men, none of them.
At least for Black men, there can be a connection found in manhood, masculinity and patriarchy, but as Black women, in the average superhero release, there is no one for us to see ourselves in.
I didn’t expect much different from “Black Panther” — in fact, I had no expectations, because this was not my world. Action-packed movies, superheroes and fight-centric films were not made for me — until now.
The women of Wakanda, specifically Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o, and Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, absolutely stole the show. Their fierceness, beauty and intelligence outshines everyone, including T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman.
From the very beginning of the film, it was clear who was in control.
In many ways T’Challa, the king, would have been nothing without his little sister Shuri, the technological mastermind of Wakanda, Okoye, the chief warrior who protects him, and Nakia, his love interest and trusted confidant.
Without them, T’Challa is a nice guy in a Black Panther suit made of vibranium, navigating how to ascend from a prince to a king with the untimely death of his father.
Without them, T’Challa doesn’t survive death. Without them, T’Challa simply doesn’t have an identity, but what he does have is the fictional, most technologically advanced nation in the world, Wakanda, in the heart of Africa.
Wakanda is a place that modern society views as a country of farmers, but beneath the forest lies a place that has gone untouched by White supremacy and colonization.
Aiding their self-sufficiency and peaceful climate is their natural resource of vibranium, a powerful plant that can be used to help the world — or completely destroy it.
Only a select few on the globe — including a Black American on a mission to get to Wakanda — know about vibranium and they will stop at nothing to acquire it.
Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan) has a score to settle with T’Challa, one that the new king doesn’t see coming.
Killmonger’s character explores what can happen when one is stripped of their identity and the adverse effects of not belonging anywhere. Much like Americans who descend from Africa, the reality exists of knowing where we are from, but knowing that we aren’t exactly wanted there, either.
What does one do with that sort of rejection, abandonment and pain?
With Killmonger’s resources and knowledge, he’s able to confront the leaders of Wakanda, questioning why they won’t use their bevy of resources to help Blacks being oppressed all around the world.
It’s a question that T’Challa, the son of a king who is obviously privileged, hasn’t pondered.
The new king is forced to deal with the idea that Wakanda cannot ignore Black people suffering while they hoard their resources.
I can’t help but wonder: could there possibly be a Wakanda right under our nose in real life? Could it be Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda or any of the 50-plus countries on the African continent?
Could any of them be more technologically advanced than any other nation, but portraying the opposite?
As Black people, countries, nations, islands, how much longer must we “play dumb” so that the White power structure doesn’t destroy or conquer our God-given gifts, resources or interrupt our way of life?
“Black Panther” doesn’t provide an answer for that, but it does show how high a African nation can rise when women are equal to men, and when Black people rule themselves.