The bigger picture of ‘Black Panther’
JAURY MENDELA JEAN-ENARD | 3/8/2018, 3:12 p.m.
Finally, and back to my point “going back to tradition is the first step forward.” Black people all over the world need to understand that our roots in some way, shape or form lie in Africa. Therefore, it is critically important to learn as much as we possibly can from the continent from which we are separated and scattered throughout the world. The dance tradition, the various tribes and certain rites of passage are all seeds from the movie that if properly watered can grow into the next real life Suri, M’baku or even Black Panther/King T’Challa.
“Black Panther” is purely a Black and African film in so many regards. From the African prints and adinkra symbols to the accents, the African names, the fictional—but not so fictional— Wakanda, to traditional healers and respect for women and the traditional dances and rituals. Even Erik “Killmonger” Stevens depicts the African-Americans’ justifiable anguish when he “discovers that the flag to which [they] have pledged allegiance…has not pledged allegiance to [them],” as James Baldwin puts it. “Black Panther” is second to none in the Marvel cinematic universe and in the motion pictures world altogether.
The “Black Panther” film isn’t just an opportunity to wear African attire for a day. It’s for every day. It’s not just talking about African royalty, history and tradition for a night, but rather a conscious decision to embark on a lifelong journey to learn and reclaim as much as possible of what has been taken from us as a result of slavery.
Black is beautiful, and the film and so much more prove it time and time again. But in the words of Lewis H. Michaux, “Black is beautiful. Black isn’t power. Knowledge is power. You can be Black as a crow or white as snow, but if you don’t know and you ain’t got no dough, you can’t go and that’s for sho’.”
So Black people all over the world who are thrilled about seeing “Black Panther” should be equally thrilled about learning how to take over and continue a Black family owned business or learn more about African history and tradition. They should be equally enthused about finding out the root and significances of all the African themes in the movie. How beautiful that we live in the information/digital age and that information is readily available with a few simple clicks. Or we can take it old school and go to a library to read books on our history.
As someone said on Facebook, “Selma” didn’t bring us closer to MLK, “Malcolm X” didn’t bring us closer to Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. So let’s hope that the “Black Panther” brings us closer to re-discovering Africa.
Jaury Jean-Enard is the creative director and founder of the African Wardrobe Festival. He holds a Master of Science in mass communication with a concentration in global strategic communication from Florida International University. He is a frequent contributor to various newspapers on the topics of arts and culture, religion, marketing and communication.