Heavy Is The Head: The Decrowning of Black America & The Importance Of Black Panther
Black Americans have a significant responsibility in the perpetual progression of this country moving forward. From crowns to shackles to Crow laws and the deeply rooted systematic chains that blatantly erode people of color off the nation’s color palette. Children of color carry the burden — unbeknownst to them — that their pigment is either a sign of prestige or a live target during an ongoing open season. To this very day, this burden has evolved into a centuries long sermon, that has kept the spirit of the being black a sign of pride — a band of tightly knitted titans, unfamiliar to non-people of color. It is an unspoken, highly aware fellowship, that has been acutely disguised as adversity. Being Black is a widely recognizable sign of acknowledgement— similar to the badges of a solider. Often imitated, this spirit can not be bottled, reproduced nor duplicated but properly represented to respectively exhibit the continuous empowerment of Blacks in America. Even the speculation of racial affiliation — people gravitating towards each other in a wondrous tribal like fashion, is enough to believe that the rank of people of color lay amongst the royals. That power of influence is insurance to a generation — despite the unmeasurable odds coded in every Black American — we are an embodiment of an unphased legacy that has transcended beyond expectations, shackles and institutional obstructions.
Marvel’s “Black Panther” leaps forward into imagining a flourishing, preserved, nation of Africans, leading the way in advanced technology, all the while a lineage of undisputed African Kings, lead their people to the top tier of humanity. In 1966, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby — creators and page turning pioneers — would have never thought how the expanse of “Black Panther” could successfully express the idea of how black men could be King. Or in 1998, when comic book writer Christopher Priest created the Panther’s highly trained, royal bodyguards of powerful [African] women called the Dora Milaje, fictitiously translated as “The Adores Ones”. A clear homage to the unrelenting tenacity and strength black women exhibit — an ability that seems superhuman within itself. In 2016, Ta-Nehisi Coates broke down the infrastructure of Wakanda’s Monarchy government & how King T’Challa (Black Panther) deals with political backlash — ‘heavy is the head’, if you will. Now in 2018, the Nation of Wakanda has landed on the big screen, breaking pre-sale records, led by a predominantly black ensemble, co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler (“Creed” & “Fruitvale Station”) and music soundtrack curated by Kendrick Lamar. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed since Obama’s inauguration.
This adaptation of “Black Panther” is vital. Encapsulating the deeply rich and inspiring mythos proves to be of cinematic importance. In most cases, representation has been tarnished with “whitewashing” indigenous characters by casting non-indigenous talent with no tethers to any cultural background. Then there is the polarity jumping of black characters, the archetype which is….well stereotypical. Even with the rise of non-white creators carving out a lane for a generation, it seems the gradual steps taken are as precarious as flying too close to the sun, wax wings and all. Normalizing how deeply diverse our world is versus the “plain white canvas” we’ve been conditioned to tolerate on screen since the motion picture’s conception.