Already reeling from the multiple blows of racial injustice, today the Black community worldwide mourns the untimely loss of Chadwick Boseman, an actor who personified persistence, grace, talent, and social conscience.
Aside from the loss of the man himself, which is crushing, we are also devastated by the loss of what Chadwick represented: the only chance many Black people have ever had to see a Black man on screen as a powerful hero and warrior king, untainted by racism, colonialism and white saviorism.
Photo courtesy of Shanfield Moyo (used with permission)
His excellent work will continue to inspire us and our children, standing as a beacon in a world where, largely, Black people aren't viewed as being in charge of their own narrative.
I want to share this piece that I wrote just before seeing Black Panther for the first time.
The Promise of Black Panther
#Wakanda. As I wait to see the Black Panther movie (even on the small Caribbean island where I live, you have to buy tickets three days in advance to be sure of getting a seat), I am already blown away by its promise.
I'm neither a Marvel fan nor a superhero fan. In fact, I tend to shy away from comics brought to the big screen. This is a happy exception. I don't even care if the movie is good, though I'm reliably informed, by those who've already scored tickets, that it's not just good, it's great.
So, why the excitement about this movie? In trying to explain it to some friends recently, I thought back to the many movies and TV shows I've seen in 50+ years of existence.
In the vast majority of them, there are very few people who look like me.
Where there ARE people who look like me, there's an overwhelming number of actors playing to stereotypes: slaves, servants, menial workers, prostitutes, drug dealers, criminals, miscellaneous thugs, and people destined to die in the first 10 minutes of the movie.
There are exceptions, played by some fine actors. But even in the 21st century, roles like the ones listed above seem more common than juicy, well-rounded parts.
For me, and for many others, I suspect, the world of Black Panther offers a tantalizing glimpse of a what-if world. What would black people be like if they hadn't been enslaved, transplanted, and brutalized systematically across centuries?
A movie full of strong, proud, powerful people who look like me? If you're white, you probably take that sort of representation for granted. After all, it's the norm.
As a Black woman, I never will.
And be honest, if there were a gaping wound in your cultural psyche, wouldn't you want to see something that healed it, even a little bit?
I know I do.
As a Black woman, seeing that film was a balm to my soul, which is why I have seen it four times, and will likely see it again. I know I'm not alone in that.
Rest in power, Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for the leadership and the inspiration. #wakandaforever
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© Sharon Hurley Hall, August 2020.
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