I managed to see Captain America: Civil War twice within 24 hours. This is the quintessential comic book movie. It’s a living, breathing representation of this genre – moreso than any other film before it. But what was most important was the little black boys that sat beside me at the theater. Their excitement for the movie was remarkable and infectious. When Black Panther arrived on screen…their audible gasps and cheers wafted to the theatre ceiling, contagiously grabbing the crowd and culminating in a massive appreciation for the new King of Wakanda.
His power…his strength…his tenacity. These kids saw themselves on the screen last night. I attended my second showing with my sister and her friends. They were all very impressed with T’challa, leaving the moving chanting #TeamBlackPanther. Although we had a
friendly conversation about whether we still sided with Captain America or Iron Man once the film was over, the true hero to all of us was Black Panther.
This is why he is so important – especially now.
Representation on screen is a hot topic nowadays. As Marvel comes under fire for whitewashing Doctor Strange (out later this year) and many non-black POCs try to minimize our struggle for diversity, I think it was time for such a powerful character to come on screen. Sure, War Machine and Falcon have been around a fair enough time and Luke Cage dominated the Netflix series Jessica Jones, but Black Panther is the first black superhero. He is a king. He is powerful, rich, and can go toe to toe with some of the more established characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe all ready (Did you see how he man handled EVERY character that he fought in the movie!? Talk about impressive!).
Race relations in America are…not so great. Leading up to 2016, unarmed black men were being shot so often that it became expectant. Black women were dying mysterious deaths in jail. The Confederate flag was still flying on government grounds – including in my state. Blacks were not even allowed to say ‘hey, our lives matter too’ without people arguing that we did not care about all lives or police lives. Our movements were met with opposition. Our concerns for our children’s futures were met with dispassionate attitudes. Our cries for representation in the media continue to fall on death ears. Black Panther could change everything.
I’m not trying to say that a fictional king from a fictional, African country is going to make some momentous change to politics and racial injustices, but I have already seen the power he has on the black youth. I will never forget the electric vibes of being next to those young, black boys that will grow to be black men. I will never forget how it made me feel to see Black Panther on screen for the first time…and how this wait until his solo movie comes out will be difficult. If you are looking for more Black Panther in the meantime, I highly suggest checking out the BET animated series from 2010 (it is short, but flawless) or heading to your local comic book store to pick up the Black Panther #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Chadwick Boseman. Andrew Mackie. Don Cheadle. Mike Colter. Alexandra Shipp. It is the era of the strong, black superhero and I am here for it.