When Stan Lee created the Black Panther in 1966, it was smack dab in the middle of the Civil Rights movement here in America. Black people were newly enjoying their right to vote, eat where they want, sit on public transportation where they want and have access to education at higher learning institutions.
Now, more than 50 years later, the Black Panther hits screens today where millions of people will be introduced to Wakanda, an African country that has the richest resources, the best technology and women who are not waiting for the superhero to be their almighty savior.
At a press junket hosted by Disney and moderated by Emmy Award-Winning Entertainment Tonight’s Nischelle Turner, the stars of Wakanda showed up and showed out. Danai Gurira in this film is un-apologetically strong, yet vulnerable as the head of the Wakandan army “Okoye”, which, by the way are ALL women.
Black women are all about our hair. It’s a source of pride, whether it’s natural or fried, died and laid to the side. When Danai learned that her character would have to have her head shaved, “…the pride started to grow, you know…This pride around it, this sort of symbol of power in these women. She (Okoye) doesn’t want to cover up. This is her joy, and her pride, is in walking in with that – with that bald head with that tattoo on it. It was so subversive, you know, in the right way, to say that’s not necessarily beauty. You don’t have to have hair to be beautiful.”
Letitia Wright (Shuri) steals every scene and is the brains behind Wakanda’s advance technology, “I think – what I love about it is that the men are always behind the women. So no one’s like undermined – like, the men are like, you know, ‘You shouldn’t be in technology, and you shouldn’t be in math.’ They’re like, ‘No, go ahead.’ Like, so T’Challa is like, ‘Go ahead, Sis. This is your department. This is your domain. Like – kill it.’ ” “I’m gonna work with you to finalize it,’ – cause he’s dope. But then it’s like, okay – Just do your thing. Stay in your lane.’ So everybody’s got their own lane. She’s cooler than him, but not smarter than him. ”
And on seeing black people on-screen as strong and powerful? Danai Gurira says. ” I’m Zimbabwean and being that, that’s something that you always kind of want to see the power and the potential of where you’re from, but you see how skewed it’s viewed by the world and how misrepresented it is and how distorted it is or received. It’s a birth of things that we’ve been seeing forever around the continent. We see beauty, we see power, we see potential, we see ability, we see resources, but they are never exhibited and then to put it on sort of a Marvel epic scale of exhibition it’s like, it really salves wounds in a really deep way.”
As a Howard University graduate, you know I was beaming with pride that the title role is inhabited by my fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman. So, when he was posed with the question about why he chose to have T’Challa speak in an African accent, my chest swelled as he exclaimed, “I went to Howard and we were taught to respect our writers and our classics and believe that it takes the same skill level, same technique and sometimes techniques that are a little bit different to pull that off. The intonations and melodies inside an African accent are just as classical as a British one or a European one and that all of the emotions and aspects of a character can be shown through that accent. If he (King T’Challa) had never been conquered, if his ancestors had never been conquered and Wakanda is what it is, he doesn’t have to go to Oxford, Cambridge or Yale to study. He actually got his education at home and he would not then assimilate a language that is the colonizer’s language in order to speak to his people. So he had to speak with an African accent.”
As a little girl growing up, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would live to see a day like today. A day in which little girls and boys now exist in a world where their normal consist of having a President of the United State who was African-America, seeing women and men portrayed elegantly and with pride and seeing the first black superhero shatter box office records. Marvel Studios Black Panther is in theaters now. Show your pride and slither into a theatre near you TODAY!