Utopia is African. You Will Want Us to Sit At Your Table.

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I just wanted to start off with…in a little over three weeks Black Panther has made over $1,000,000,000 and counting in the global box office. I’m weary of celebrating, but I’ll do my best… 

I am just sitting here thinking about how magnificent Black people are. I just read an article about a package explosion that killed two black people in Austin, Texas. And I’m just like, “Man we’ve got vigilantes killing us again?” Just like George Zimmerman, just like the Charleston mass shooter, and now we’re being bombed again? Again. Black people have been lynched, bombed, shot – on a state and federal level – imprisoned, drugged, just anything to get rid of us.

This country has done everything it could. And it astonishes me how we have not folded. We only keep rising. That is why I can’t believe Black Panther right now. It might be the only film that has made a billion dollars in under a month. That’s an authentically black film with black themes set in a black Utopia, also known as Wakanda. This dream undeferred. A dream I have been taught would never happen. We’re living in the impossible right now. What they said was impossible is happening. Even as this juggernaut is upon us and we live in this moment, we are still being kept down. We rise and we suffer simultaneously. 

That’s why this cultural moment is so important. Really think of each and every factor and obstacle that was put in place from the moment we stepped out of that slave ship until right now. Think about each and every obstacle that was put in place to ensure that Black Panther could never fucking happen. Whole fraudulent ideologies were forced onto black folks so we would accept our treacherous human condition as deserved. We were made to believe that we were naturally inferior. Now consider that in contrast to T’Chaka demanding that T’Challa rise from kneeling before him and to take his rightful place as king. 

Think about the fact that even the idea itself of Black Panther was once an impossibility. To even think about being that free was once illegal. Consider the racist obstacles in Hollywood that are still in place today and the years-long strategies that was created and re-created to maneuver around that. Now factor in just being Black in America in general and how many of us don’t even get the chance to be in the room. We were never supposed to be successful in this place. They didn’t want us to have a good education. They didn’t want us to be able to nourish ourselves. They didn’t want us to be in a good neighborhood. They didn’t want us in their neighborhood. They tried to take every resource from us even after we were “freed.”

Black Panther gently reminded me that we are a people that at one point, was truly free. As fuck. I was so revitalized when I first saw Wakanda and its citizens. For too long I’ve been desiring more stories of hope for the future of my people. A lot of the white stories, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, Divergent… are so dystopian. And to tell the truth, white people know that is where this society is heading. White people know that if they carry on like this there’s a good chance these stories will become reality and they’ll end up right next to black folks in the Dystopia we’ve been in for years. Those stories made me feel so hopeless for the future, so I was truly thankful to go from all of those dystopian blockbusters to visions of an uncolonized society.

Black Panther made me see that the future is African and the future is Black – and we will be glorious. It posed the question, “What could Africa have been without colonialism?” I’ve asked myself that question as I’m sure other black people have had this similar thought in passing, but it wasn’t a topic that we really gave the appropriate time and energy to actually discuss.

Where would we be if colonialism never happened?

What kind of technological advances did they ruin and interfere with?

How many geniuses and healers and traditionalists and inventors and storytellers and strategists perished in the middle passage? During slavery? In America? 

And I’m offended that the narrative they fed us was that they did us a favor with slavery and colonialism. We’ve heard it before, the white man’s burden. If he didn’t “rescue” us we’d all be throwing spears at each other and living primitively.  We have also survived centuries of psychological warfare. And although it worked we still had the fortitude to get this far… 

In the wake of Black Panther I can’t help but feel regal. We don’t stop, period. Even when the world convinced us of our inferiority, we still dominated the culture. It is an honor to be Black but what we face today is a human tragedy; don’t expect history to be kind. Look at how beautiful we are and how much the world loves our things. You think that you can keep stealing, you think that you can keep copying, you think you can keep hiding the truth but it is just not going to work forever. We will pull up like Killmonger in the museum and take back our things. With Black Panther we took back our narrative and image & was unapologetically Black as we showcased our spending power. 

I am thankful to be in a time where we’re witnessing a cultural shift, but I also know that in my lifetime I am not going to see racism end. I’m not going to see Wakanda. Yet seeing Wakanda on the silver screen was the first time that I’ve been jealous of my descendants.  They will look back at me with pity and awe. Because I know 400 years from now we are not going to be where we are today. We’re gunna own all this shit. This is going to be ours (again) in a matter of time. What if Wakanda is a prototype? 

Clearly white supremacy is downfalling and Trump is an American-as-apple-pie reaction to the changing tides. Imagine, the best the racists could give us was Donald Trump. White supremacy is dying and Trump is the epitome of this false belief and its final moments. He represents everything that is wrong with America’s unsustainable system. 

Unlike Okoye’s fierce loyalty and patriotism, conservatives aren’t loyal to their country or their countrymen. Conservatives wanna be M’Baku so badly. But M’Baku is a traditionalist due to his devotion to the Jabari tribe he leads and Wakanda overall. Unlike America, Wakanda has an indigenous culture whose values M’Baku wants to keep intact, but not at the expense of his nation or brethren. Conservatives don’t know nothing about that.

Their only loyalty is to the idea of the over-importance of white-maleness and limitless wealth. I don’t know if any other civilization in history has ever had a philosophy like this before, but hundreds of years from now this will be considered extremely primitive. Hell it is now. But I’m glad I was here to witness The Change. I’m elated to experience Black Panther in real time because this film was an impossibility. And yet here I am, bearing witness to the impossible.

In film school I’d always get, “You can’t just write for black people, what? That’s not an audience. You wanna make sure that what you write is marketed towards a wider general audience.” Fuck all that. Ooo I wish I could write Temple a letter. All of my black ideas that they said was not going to be marketable or profitable or popular but look! Look at where are. Look at Insecure. It’s more than the Black Panther, this has been happening for years in TV and on the big screen. We have been lit. All the things they told us we couldn’t do we have done.

Once, I believed that I would never see a black president in my lifetime. And here I am living in the aftermath of Obama. And in that aftermath I’m now re-experiencing the impossible. The impossibility of the lucrative black juggernaut that is Black Panther. I believe in every single one of my ideas now and I know that they are profitable. You can’t tell me there is not a demand.

Black Panther is – and I don’t think anybody wants to admit this – the only film in history to earn a billion dollars within a month of its release. I don’t think anybody’s put that together yet, but I’m going to do some more research to confirm this. I compared it to Avatar and Avatar is the highest-grossing film of all time and it didn’t pull a billi in under a month. Also, Black Panther beat Avatar’s lifetime domestic gross sales in just two weeks. 

At this point in the game, anybody in Hollywood that doesn’t green light black content because it’s a “risk” is officially out of touch and I don’t want to be affiliated with 20th century minds. Our stories matter. As we navigate this Dystopian present, Black Panther is the vision of hope black folks across the diaspora craved. We should no longer desire to have a seat at their table. Is the food even good? Hell we built their table, and white folks have left money on it now for far too long. Sooner than we think they will finally want us to be seated with them but by then we will have built our own.

 

– WAKANDA FOREVER

 

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