By Malaika Salaam
(Me at 1st viewing for Black Panther)
This is NOT a think piece. I don’t want you to know what I think about the movie. I want you to experience it for yourself.
This is NOT a think piece, I will not unpack my thoughts for you on Marvel, Disney, the Marvel Universe and how this lines up with the comic.
This is NOT a think piece about messages, missed points, or whatever else a think piece might be.
This does NOT contain any spoiler alerts. I will not spoil this for you.
What IS this?
This is an unabashed, unapologetic, teary-eyed, deep-soul appreciation for the celebration of this moment.
I haven’t been waiting a year or two or ten for a movie, I have been waiting and wading through this lifetime for the recollection, remembering.
We are not is costumes. We are not playing. WE DRESSED UP for the Celebration that we created around the occasion.
IT IS AN OCCASION!
THIS IS THE TIME!
THIS IS A TIME!
Are we on TEN yet?
WE LIVE ON TEN!
My children and I prepped for this. We spent hours getting ready. We were thoughtful and deliberate about how we would show up and show out.
We went and got fitted out. We bought black (Queens Vision African Apparel Tampa).
(l to r : New Family we Reunited with at Black Panther Movie, yellow dress The Chöclát Girl Wûnda (my youngest daughter), Me, Son.shine (my eldest son) Courtney Alexander)
Show up in your Kente, Mudcloth, Ankara, and Dashikis.
DO NOT be deterred by the folks who say you are “Doing The Most!” The folks who would have you to believe that your intuition and intrinsic draw toward opulence are somehow wrong. This one is for us. For all of the times that you thought you were being extra and dialed it back, shrank it down, dimmed the light.
This is a special occasion and you deserve to honor it in ALL of the ways and with all of the colors, prints, fabrics, gems, jewels, and precious metals that resonate with your soul.
On Thursday, #WakandaDay my family and friend Courtney got together to go see the Black Panther Movie. We dressed and adorned and beat our faces!
We showed up emollient rich and ready! In the parking lot we ran into another crew (unknown/reunited family) and linked up in the lobby when strangers stopped us in our tracks to ask for pictures. The one dressed as Blank Panther led us in a round of Family Reunion! yes, yes y’all we were singing in the lobby!
An elder (Luewella) beaming with pride asked to pose with us for a picture. Literal strangers (tourists, theater employees, etc.) stopped in their tracks and came over and complimented us. The whole scene was surreal. It was humbling to have people show us so much love and appreciation for showing up as our best/ideal selves.
(all of us pictured wit Luewella center)
In the theater we were a captive audience. We took in the sights, sounds, meanings. We laughed, we cried, we stared in wide-eyed wondered. We saw us in so many ways. (Even though they deleted a scene that was meaningful to me, I knew WE were there too).
And we were there, in every scene, in every line, in all the in-between places.
@ronclarkacademy students celebrating a surprise trip to see #blackpanther There will be two weeks of African studies before making the trip thanks to @arauzed and @_wadeking @blackpanther@blackpanthermovie @michaelbjordan@chadwickboseman @lupitanyongo
I wish I had been this lit at that age!
This movie allowed me to go back and connect with the little girl in me.
I wasn’t always lit about my Blackness or the importance of representation. That is one of the reasons why this was my moment. This was a time for me to share with my children, all of my children, including my inner-child; to integrate and reinforce the positive messages I had received, was proud of, forgot, and shied away from.
My family is Black, in all of the ways. Ethnically, politically, culturally. In all of our diversity and with all of the ethnicities represented, I was always first and foremost reminded of my Blackness. That was not always easy growing up in predominantly White spaces. My family was Black as hell! One of my Aunts was one of the Blackest people I knew and made it a point to always be teaching us about us. She has been our family Historian, Ethnographer, and Genealogist. In her home and at home in general Blackness was sacred. It was a nurturing and nourishing environment. In the world, however I often vacillated between pride and shame.
I was mostly proud to be Black and I was sure that being Black was lit (after all we are the Cream of the Crop, or so I am told). Yet, in so many ways, when I stepped into the world I was unsure of that fact. My peers (outside of my very insular family) often did not look like me. More often than not they were the archetypal WASPs, Cis-gendered White Males, privileged, little girls with perms, curls, and/or pigtails/ponytails of some sort. Until the 5th grade (mid-80s) I was rocking cornrows and braids. Intricate African patterns bestowed on me by my cousins, sisters, and mothers.
Those labyrinthine patterns were delicate, complex, and beautiful… I am just now coming into a full appreciation of what they were doing, what it meant, and how I got these hands…
Then, I was not so filled with pride and appreciation for being so damned different. The White kids asked me the same series of never-ending questions about “How do you get your hair like that?”. They made the typical “I don’t meant to offend you” comments. And they enjoyed the privilege of owning the space in which they could make the “offensive jokes, with no real repercussions. Because it was never a race thing or I was being too sensitive to the “jokes.”
The patterns drew “African Booty Scratcher” from the mouths of the Black kids… “Why you do your hair like that?” “Where are your from?” “Where are your people from?” “This ain’t the 70′s!” “You so old-fashioned.”
In my family, in my home, I was safe… In the world, I just wanted to blend in, be a part, integrate, assimilate.
I was proud at the Black History Bees, Plays, Poetry Readings, Performances and Parades, when and where Blackness was celebrated in a vacuum. I was proud in the spaces that I occupied with other “knowing Blacks” before everybody got woke. Outside of those spaces I often had no idea who, what or how to be. I was ashamed of that.
This moment is important because as an adult I have lived, learned, taught, and proclaimed that I love all of me. I have instilled this in my children, knowing that they go out into a world that will ask them not to. That would appropriate their Blackness and then shame them for it. A world that would consume them, chew them up, spit them out, as some unrecognizable version of themselves. A world that would kill them. Knowing that there is a time that I felt like I couldn’t do it and wouldn’t do it, meant that I HAD to do it.
(Thank GOD for my family and the beauty,fulled Chocolate Cities of D.C. and Memphis, were I was able to cut my adult teeth, grow into being and show up as my most authentic to myself).
This flash in time is important because this is the time to live in the outer world as my ideal self, not the mule of the world. A Queen, A Warrior, A Proud Citizen of The Kingdom of Wakanda. While Wakanda is fictitious, it represents the hopes, dreams, and idealistic view of what were were, are, and can be. Representation matters because it means that I can be real Black for ME/US wherever I go. Movie Theater, restaurant, school, work. I can choose not to be performative. Choose to not to conform. Choose not to normalize myself to to fit into a way to small box. It means that in the face of antagonism, outright violence, micro-aggression I/WE can choose showing up fully!
I am joy-filled at being able to go back and tell my younger self, that not only is it okay to rock those braids, those braids contain a rich history that you must hold on to and pass down. I am blessed to be in place to go back and thank her for holding that space and not forgetting. I am ecstatic to be able to give her space in the now, in my life, to be her best self.
Credits: bellanaija.com; Photography:@asiko_artist; Stylist: @basmakhalifa; Talent:@lookslikemeuk; Face Art: @nygloriousfacearts; Creative Consultant: @vinecreatives
While every day may not be an occasion that requires the full regalia of our stature, I absolutely could not imagine us showing up any other way. I hope that you experience the movie and this time in the most celebratory and audacious ways possible! Live on 10!