Black Panther: A Pivotal Moment for Black Empowerment

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By Aklil Molosi

This article is exclusive to the online Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper. 

Image by Sipho Mpongo.

For the past few years, an intersectional emphasis on empowerment, in every shape and form, has been at an all-time high. The focus on self-love and inclusivity, particularly among the younger generation, is something everybody must get excited about. The recent release of Black Panther, however, steered the conversation to a major theme of the age: Black excellence, Black excellence, Black excellence.

What has this movie done for emphasis on Black excellence? Black Panther has been around since 1966, making an appearance in Fantastic Four #52’ and making Marvel Comics the first popular comic to go above the mainstream perception that Black people can’t be superheroes. As a fledgling follower of the comic world, I wanted to see how comics would stimulate my activism. Wonder Woman was cool, but I needed a bit more. I needed something without that much emphasis on the hourglass figure, I needed something a few shades darker, I needed something that did not fetishize people who weren’t white.

Black Panther did all of that for me. The accents were a bit forced, and the isiXhosa could have been a bit better (hiring South African actors would’ve cleared that up real quick, just saying). But the gqom (style of house music) was a pleasant surprise, Angela Basset should always have dreads and I might just start watching The Walking Dead just to see Danai Gurira in her element once more.

Black Panther poster. Image from impawards.com

It was powerful within the context of South Africa. As a femme raised in Botswana, a place looked over during the bloody conquest of the Scramble for Africa, lucky to have received its independence in peace, I am unable to speak for what this movie means for a young South African audience. I can only appreciate its significance within this reality. When parts of the movie made me emotional, I shed tears of empathy and joy, for what it means to me as an African femme to finally be represented in a powerful way. As a collective, we know that we will only come second best in a lot of our engagements. We know that our resources will continue to be forced out of us in a world economy that would be run into the ground if it wasn’t for our land and our limbs. We know that we still have no seat at the table. We would’ve been better off in splendid isolation, as we saw in the movie.

We also see the spirit of Ubuntu in Black Panther. With so many different cultures of the Continent being displayed in the film, there is a profound truth being told: that we are who we are because of other people, and that each person is a mirror of someone else. That being said, I see myself in the little Black children who will watch this film and know their power.

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