Black Panther Is The Film I Always Needed
Black Panther is nine years too late.
Growing up, I was never a socially awkward kid. I had friends (I like to think that I was popular). And even though I was never bullied or I never had any problems at home, I always felt out of place, like I just didn’t belong. Whether it was my skin or hair, I knew I was different and I tried everything to “fit in”.
I would beg my mother to relax my hair and when she would ask “Is it burning yet?” even if it was I would say no. I thought if I kept the relaxer in longer my hair would magically change texture and I would have hair just like the girls on the TV.
To my mum she never thought anything was wrong, I was healthy normal 9-year-old girl. To my African mother cutting my hair wasn’t a cry for help. I was just being a kid.
I don’t blame my mother, she is from a different generation; she grew up knowing who she was and where she comes from. I didn’t. If I wasn’t British, then what was I? The only black people I grew up seeing were my family and the other black girl in my class. It wasn’t until I was 11 years old, I had returned to the place my mother called “home”, unaware that I was basically homeless.
Every person has a moment. That moment that completely changes everything you ever thought about yourself. That defining moment that shapes the rest of your life. This was my moment, standing there in the centre of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, my tiny world opened and I was in pure wonder and awe. Never in my whole life seen so many people who looked just like me. In all my 11 years of life I knew exactly what it felt to be the only black girl in the room and what sometimes felt like the world. I wasn’t alone anymore. For the longest time I thought it was just me. I was home and I belonged.
In the car driving to somewhere I saw billboard after billboard of beautiful black women selling everything from car insurance to cocoa butter, I heard my voice on the radio, I saw myself on the tv. I laughed, I ate, I chased chickens barefoot and helped my Guka (grandfather) milk cows. I visited restaurants, I climbed waterfalls, I ate ice cream, I hugged giraffes, I watched stars fall from the sky and was kissed repeatedly by the sun. I was free.
I learnt my history and realised that my history is also their history, and I became angry, the kind of anger that last 9 years. I learnt the history of my country and learnt the history of my family, that the blood flowing through my veins is the blood of warriors, freedom fighters, teachers, survivors and farmers.
The Africa that is sold to us is not my Africa, the dry and desolate place filled with starving people and war lords is not my Africa. My Africa is filled with trees that are a heavenly green and the soil bleeds red. My Africa is beautiful so therefore, I am beautiful.
Thus, began the love affair with my beautiful country and continent, in finding where I come from I found myself. I found strength in my identity.
Flash forward 9 years to a 20-year-old me sat in the movie theatre,with her mother by her side, waiting to watch the movie of the decade. As the camera panned across green landscapes I was transported back to my Cucu’s (grandmother) farm. When Wakanda’s skyline revealed herself, I couldn’t help but feel that awe like wonder of my younger self. I was 9 again, standing in the centre of Nairobi surrounded by the pride of Kenya, staring up at the skyscrapers against the unfamiliar blue sky. I was transported back. I spent the rest of movie with tears in my eyes in pure amazement, thinking “how did they do it?” How did they capture the authenticity of traditional Africa with modern Africa?
This movie is more than a movie it is an experience, fictional it may be, but it is the realist depiction of Africa I have seen.
Black Panther is doing what going home did for me. Millions of little black boys and girls will see this movie and see themselves and have a sense of identity because of this movie. To see black people portrayed so heroically, and not as slaves chained to the past but a future that they can be a part of.
From amazing imagery of traditional Africa, the abundance of strong female characters, the amazing battle of ideologies that echoes the current climate of the world is perfectly executed through dialogue. Little kids have something to look up to and aspire to be smart and brave like Shuri or be emotionally and physically strong like T’Challa. So much can be said about this movie from costumes to dialogue, this is a movie that may have been 9 years too late for me but is right on time for what needs to happen for the rest of the world.
Frida is a 20-year-old University student from the U.K. with an unhealthy obsession with movies, books and writing. She is a future poet/writer in the making with a dream of being a voice of positivity and encouragement amongst a new generation of writers. Here's a link to her website, Only Frida, and a link to her Instagram, @frida.james.