That is the cry that goes out across Black America as we take in the magnificence of Marvel’s Black Panther.
It was truly a phenomenal movie. Not simply because it was Black and screamed of Black Power. But also because it was a damned good movie. Period.
The special effects. The action. The storyline. All made Black Panther an exceptional movie. So exceptional that most of the theatre remained packed until the screen faded to black.
And it was beautiful to see so many people in pro-Black attire: Black power t-shirts proclaiming Black pride, dashikis and other African garb reclaiming connection to a legacy we – generally speaking – tend to deny. And even if we go back to denying Africa, or thinking ourselves better than Africans, for right now…
Truly, we all are Wakanda
And that’s a great thing to remember. It’s also more true a statement than you would think at first glance.
As I sit and reflect on the movie, I was struck by the metaphor presented by Black Panther and Wakanda fever.
Here you have an exceptional Black nation…so exceptional that it is far more advanced than any other nation in the world. Yet, it hides its power under a basket – trying to protect itself from being discovered. Wakanda masquerades as a third-world country of farmers with nothing to offer the world, while it is really the richest – most advanced – nation on the planet.
And Wakanda has gone to great lengths to protect the myth of its inferiority.
Don’t get me wrong: the Republic of Wakanda has done a great job at protecting it’s own and providing them with a strong way of life. It is taking care of its people. And that’s what a nation is to do.
Yet as the world falls to violence and degradation all around, the Black Panther and the people of Wakanda pretend to be powerless to help. Those of Wakanda who want to help – who believe Wakanda has a responsibility to help those who struggle, are ostracized.
Yes – we all are Wakanda.
Like the Black Panther, many of us have unimaginable power and resources that we work hard to protect. We know how the colonizers will steal at any opportunity and so we pretend to be less than we are…we hide our power and deny our influence. We see the violence and degradation all around us and we have the tools and resources to make a difference, but we have come to believe that protecting our home and liberating others are mutually exclusive. We can’t do both, so we choose the one that’s closest to home.
But occasionally we come face to face with a Killmonger
Every now and again we are confronted by one of our own who knows what could be done with all the power we possess. We encounter one who is willing to challenge our authority and standing, in order to use the power we’ve been denying. Having suffered immense pain and oppression…having seen first hand the effects of oppression, they have grown to covet power and will wield it with as much oppressive intent as their oppressors.
Yea they need to be stopped. The Killmongers around us are reckless. They will scorch the earth in order prove a point. But if we pay attention, we can grow and be transformed in unexpected ways.
You see: the Black Panther realized how wrong it was to cut-off and abandon his own. Yes, his uncle had betrayed Wakanda but the king knew that killing him and abandoning the young Killmonger was not the right thing to do.
So while he knew he had to defeat Killmonger, he acknowledged how the apathy of his ancestors had contributed to creating the monster he needed to defeat. And once he had defeated the threat the lesson had stuck: Wakanda could not afford to be selfish. Wakanda needed to use its Black Power to transform the world.
As I sat and watched King T’Challa speak to the United Nations about how Wakanda would engage the world moving forward, I couldn’t help but think: “this is exactly the point of my book Black Power!” (Read more about this shameless plug, here.)
After battling Killmonger, King T’Challa realized that the power of Wakanda was no good if it wasn’t used to improve the world around them. Tradition had taught Wakanda to stay out of world affairs: that if they engaged, they would become a target.
The reality is the world encroaches upon us all – whether we like it or not
No matter how hard we try to stay to ourselves…to keep our heads down and grind, we will eventually have to confront the manure that’s been piling up all around. So, we must determine how we will engage: standing tall, as people created in the image of God, or cowering, as the inferior beings White society has proclaimed us to be.
The Black Panther had realized that the way of Wakanda was a better way than the ways of the other powerful nations. There’s was a powerful civilization that wasn’t hell-bent on destroying everything around it. So, King T’Challa came to see that the world will destroy itself if Wakanda didn’t take a leadership role in reshaping the ways of the world.
I believe we must learn a similar lesson, as Blacks in America…especially those of us in the Talented Tenth.
We must learn that we too – like Wakanda – have immense power and resources…more power and more resources than we let on. Like Wakanda, we are more comfortable pretending to be peons and peasants, rather that righteous rulers. So, we must learn that while we try to protect what we have and keep our own families safe, society is crumbling around us – such that it will bring the threat of violence and degradation to our doors no matter what.
As we see the efforts to “make America great again,” and watch the resurgence of xenophobia in Europe, it should become clear that white supremacy will destroy the world – and us, ourselves, if we keep our heads down to protect ourselves. The ways of the world since the dawning of Western Civilization have proven themselves to be destructive and lead the world to destruction. Rather than protecting our resources and using their power for scientific advances that enhance life, ours is a society that depletes resources in a nuclear arms race to destroy humanity.
And so like the Black Panther and Wakanda, we should embrace the power we’ve been given and use it to reshape the world.
I believe we’ve been given the power to reshape the world. I believe God has placed us in position to reshape the world. And, I have biblical support for that position. Checkout my book Black Power for a deeper understanding of the calling God has place on blacks in America to Make America Great Again; so we can more fully embrace our inner Wakanda.
If #WakandaForever is going to mean anything after Black Panther fades from theaters, then it must live on in the way Black Power engages the world.