It's been a few weeks since Black Panther came through like a wrecking ball and completely shattered the notion that Black centered films did not have an audience and could not pull in top dollar when "we" are presented with quality work. If you have been on social media at all you will find a massive amount of differing conversations, think pieces and opinions on the film.
No doubt that the films overall message is going to be interpreted differently from person to person and while there is no "right" answer to the multitude of "lessons" that could possibly be learned by watching the film, from the interpretation of Killmonger's character which has sent the "hotep" and "conscious" community into a frenzy dubbing him the "hero" of the film to the chitter chatter of Princess Shuri being the true hero and break out star one can no one can doubt one thing :
The message(s) are strong and they needed to be heard.
Killmonger was probably the most discussed character from the film and I can understand why. Viewers, men and women alike, walked away conflicted about Michael B. Jordan's character play of Erik Killmonger and by viewers I am talking mostly men. Killmonger was indeed one of the more interesting characters in the film. His storyline left you conflicted. You wanted to hate him but you also wanted to love him.
I am not and was not surprised as all to see a large number of men claim to see themselves in Killmonger. I posted on Facebook that I could definitely see why men particularly identified with Killmonger. He was at the very least a spitting image of the Black American male (and you are free to interpret that any way you choose to). MBJ's character was wreckless. He was unreasonable. Heartless and selfish. He was led by his emotions and ego. His better judgement was clouded by the hate that he had grown from a young boy and he didn't care who was hurt in the process of him getting to where he needed to be, which in this case was "Wakanda". To be more specific:
He killed a Black woman he was involved with looking her dead in the eyeballs while telling her it was "going to be okay". Because there's always a causality in "their" war and "we" are always and forever the victims of it even when "we" are helping.
He was aggressive, violent and unwilling to listen to perspectives other than his own because he had all the answers even though he knew absolutely nothing about Wakanda outside of what he "read" in a journal somewhere.
He strangled another "elder" Black woman for simply trying to help and educate him on a tradition and the importance of why the "herbs" were necessary.
His narcissism was masked in this pseudo-concern for "others" when in reality he simply wanted "control" but lacked the resources to gain control on his own so he instead violently asserted his dominance in a way to force others to do his bidding
He blamed everyone else (not involved) for his anger, expecting everyone to sympathize with him (even though they had no idea what was going on), he refused to verbalize his emotions so that he could be understood and when no one obliged, he had a temper tantrum about it. I suggest therapy.
He thought he was "smarter" than he actually was and his "ego" and sense of entitlement got him killed.
I think one of the bigger messages in Killmonge's character was the constant reminder that all actions have consequences. You can not attempt to lead people out of force and you can not lead from a place of emotions. Anything driven by emotions will crumble and fall apart no matter HOW right you might be. Leadership requires a certain level of je ne sais quoi. You have to be a natural finesser to lead. To be a leader you literally have to gain the TRUST of the people who you want to follow them. You have to give them a reason to follow your lead (i.e. Trump/Trump Supporters).
Killmonger was the bully that forced you to defend yourself for the first time in grade school. Either fight back or keep letting him take your money. He was a threat to Wakanda the moment he come up on the village borders. NOONE was suppose to know where Wakanda was. His (Killmongers) father was sloppy and that's what got him killed. He was angry at his father being murdered but his father was a threat to Wakanda as well. He was a traitor to his own country and thereby put the entire country at risk. His father ONLY killed him to protect Zuri. While we can sympathize with WHY Killmonger was angry, we can't forget that his father made his own choices. His father needed to be held accountable.
Do I see where Killmonger was coming from? Of course. I identify a little Killmonger in myself at times. BUT, I am in no way surprised that his character is the new "face" of hoteptry. He is literally a manifestation of where "masculinity" is today. Angry, toxic, dangerous and deadly.
What I saw in Killmonger was what a lot of "women" see when we are looking for a mate. We see potential. Killmonger had potential and I personally believe that if he redirected his anger, got control of his emotions and learned how to listen and work as a unit, he could have possibly been a good King or at least an ally to Wakanda especially since he was "CIA". He could have been a valuable asset instead of a liability.
The lesson we learned from Killmonger:
Ego has no place in leadership. Ego will get you and everyone standing behind you killed.
T'Challa is bae, zaddy, chocolate thunder and all of that but we can't ignore that T'Challa failed his people initially. As honorable as T'Challa was/is, it shouldn't go without notice that T'Challa conflict was wanting to be a King for "everyone". He, much like many of us in real life, made the mistake of wanting to be for each and every person even after it was shown that not every person was "for him". T'Challa COULD have killed Killmonger honestly. I saw that during the challenge. He could have ended the terror before it began. He could have save Zuri's life. He could have saved the hundreds of soldiers who died in that last battle. He could have, if he had the "balls" (for a lack of better words) to do what was necessary. There were several windows of opportunity for him to kill him off. But he understood his anger and wanted to give him room to be angry and get it out. Even during the end he was willing to save him.
Sometimes you have to leave people behind no matter how bad you want to take them with you. It's a hard pill to swallow but it's a lesson best learned early. Not everyone is going to make it with you. In fact, you are going to find more W'Kabi's in your circle than you will find Nakia's. T'Challa wanted to be everyone's good King. But good King's make tough decisions and good King's protect their kingdom. T'Challa's softness and blind trust in his "friend" got him dethroned and nearly killed. Him desire to be "every brothers brother" even when that brother had murder in his eyes almost destroyed the very Kingdom he was trying to "redeem".
What would have happened if T'Challa's hesitation to do what needed to be done (kill Killmonger) resulted in an alternative ending where his mother, Shuri or Nakia were killed?
Protect your family or your village.
I can say with all honesty that had I been in a similar situation I am not sure that I would have acted any differently than T'Challa. You have to literally choose between saving your family and saving your "community". A community that has already proven to be a direct threat to you and your loved ones. As a Black woman, I struggle with this a lot. As much as I would love to stand for each and every one of my brothers and sisters, I simply can not. I won't. It isn't possible.
The lesson we learned from T'Challa:
You can't save everyone. Some people you have to just leave on "read".
Some of us have a W'Kabi in our circles right now. Some of us grew up with W'Kabi. We call W'Kabi our "Day 1". He/she is our "ace", our "main man/chick". Some of us trust W'Kabi with our lives and our deepest secrets. Some of us have spent late nights and early mornings crying on the shoulder of W'Kabi. We ride for W'Kabi. But W'Kabi has a secret too...
W'Kabi only wants to be around for the benefit of being "close to you". If you notice, W'Kabi only stands tall and proud next to you when praises are being sung in your honor. W'Kabi's ego feeds off being attached to the "person of the moment". W'Kabi plays the loyalty card well and without flaw so you never really saw all the times W'Kabi played with you, set you up, sabotaged your dreams, lied to you, manipulated you to get you to do their bidding, stole from you, betrayed you...
W'Kabi will ride for you for as long as there is something in it for him/her/them.
W'Kabi will be standing right beside you while sending signals to your enemy with their eyes. W'Kabi will conspire with your enemy to get you killed and then pretend they knew nothing about it.W'Kabi will create a problem for YOU to solve (as he did in the movie when he made T'Challa solely responsible for getting HIS revenge in Klaw) and when you can not deliver or fall short of their expectations, they will turn on you and make YOU the villain as if you wronged them in some way. Even though you just risked your life to help.
W'Kabi is the reason why I refuse to be friends with or associate with people/persons who are friends with or comfortable enough around people who I do not like or do not like me. You can not be my friend and be loyal to what we have while sharing laughs with my enemy. A friend of my enemy is my enemy as well.
As I continue to reflect on the layers of messages that lie within the story line of #blackpanther and continue to analyze characters to see how they may relate to real world situations I can't help but laugh at how many of us have a W'Kabi sitting right next to us and "we" never see them for their works. There's a message to watch the company you keep and remember that just because YOU are someone's friend doesn't mean that they are YOUR friend. There are a lot of people in "one sided" friendships. There are a lot of people who seem to have a never-ending cycle of what seems like bad luck and misfortune.
Lesson we learned from W'Kabi:
All i'm saying is...
Watch your W'Kabi.
Nakia, in my opinion, had one of the most important roles in the film's story. She was the voice of reason from the very beginning. Before we even knew what a Killmonger was, Nakia was already putting in the work. Much like Black women in real life, Nakia was out there putting her money where her mouth was by using her own resources and privilege to assist and aid where Wakanda would not. Our very first visual of Nakia was of her undercover assisting a group of stolen girls being trafficked. A mission that was almost destroyed and sabotaged thanks to T'Challa (go figure). It was her who first presented the idea of extending aid to other parts of the world who were in need and since art imitates life, Nakia's advice was discarded and treated as trash.
For me it was like looking into a mirror and seeing my own reflection. I began to think about the many times I tried to be the voice of reason, give my thoughts or provide incite in the midst of men and was promptly dismissed and told to "stay in my lane". Of course, it never took long for the apologies to begin to pour in because I turned out to be "right" after all. This is a tune that woman all over can sing.
Even in the heavy debates surrounding the film, Nakia's character is still under discussed and heavily dismissed. Same with Okoye. No one, outside of Black women, are discussing the significance behind Okoye.
Why would Okoye choose to stay behind and serve a "King" unfit to rule? I won't lie, she almost lost me when she made the decision to stay behind and serve the throne after Killmonger's take over but then I started to think and it all made sense. That particular scene was probably one of the most critical points of the movie. Pay attention of I might lose you...
Okoye didn't stay behind to protect the King. She stayed behind to protect Wakanda. Let me say that again. She did not stay behind to protect the King. She stayed behind to protect Wakanda. Wakanda was something worth defending even if that meant she had to serve under a tyrant. If you build it and you build it well.
Lesson we learned from Nakia and Okoye:
Simply put: LISTEN TO BLACK WOMEN
Our new fun loving, high spirited, tech savvy beautiful brown skin Disney Princess. She is so important for SO many reasons. This is the first time in HISTORY there has been a Princess, specifically a BLACK Princess who was completely independent of men. A Princess who was a key contributing member to the story line and not just some damsel who needs saving. A Princess who not a maid, poor, abused, under the influence of "something". There was no rags to riches story here. Shuri is smart, witty, funny, beautiful and she kicks ass.
Shuri was important because a lot of times, as adults, we underestimate the contributions of children/teenagers in our fight for liberation. We forget that our children will be here long after us (in most cases). Much like in the movie, we tend to bench our youth and exclude them for having a say in our fight forgetting that after all is said and done, they will be the ones left to deal with whatever it is that we leave in their care. Why should we leave them to cleanup and fix the mess we leave? Aren't we always complaining about the "mess" the generations before us left that we are now paying the price for?
Shuri reminded me that the children ARE our future. We need them. We can not win this battle on our own. Just as the torches were passed down to us by our ancestors, eventually we will have to do the same. Tradition has to be broken if you want change.
Lesson we learned from Shuri:
Stop disregarding the voice of the youth and start to listen. It just might be a Shuri that keeps Killmonger from shooting you in the back.
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