What Black Panther Means To Me
Kayla Marie of Black Girl Nerds recently started the viral hashtag #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe, inspired by a question she asked her 8-year-old son.
My 8-Year-Old Afro-Latino Son Inspired the Viral #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe Hashtag https://t.co/PxOb0u3QLJ via @remezcla
— Kayla Marie, Wakanda Social Media Manager (@Maria_Giesela) February 8, 2018
The responses have been wonderful, heartfelt, inspiring, and full of hope.
I cried when it was announced. I cried at the visuals. I cried at the #SDCC Marvel booth.
I cried in joy. Their blackness is mine. My blackness is theirs.
Black Panther is a love letter, a celebration, and a victory march for the diaspora
— Chelsea of the Dora Milaje. WAKANDA FOREVER! (@IfIWereMagneto) February 6, 2018
Finally watching all black cast being centered in blackness without being a victim to it.
— JassyJeanette (@JassyPrinciple) February 6, 2018
Finally seeing Africa depicted in a powerful and positive light, free from the effects of colonialism, with characters that look like me having motivations beyond the portrayal of “black pain” on screen.#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe pic.twitter.com/nTEFHQM279
— Andrien Gbinigie (@EscoBlades) February 6, 2018
The possibility for young black kids to see themselves represented as powerful, intelligent, and dynamic characters capable of anything. For something I love to finally represent people who look like me.
— DMaser (@lesserknownhero) February 6, 2018
When I saw the cast of women, all my complexion or darker, none sexualized or demonized because of it, and it wasn’t a film about slavery or drug addiction, I cried.
— MSOSullivan #WakandaForever (@BlyssfulStorm) February 6, 2018
When I was younger, people didn’t believe I was a nerd because I am a black woman. It was hard to find people like me on tv or in movies. I got really tired of people comparing me to Madea, but now this movie gives kids a chance to have their heroes! #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe pic.twitter.com/VrDL2YXTyT
— MD (@manika0098) February 6, 2018
#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe Breaking free of the “comfortable” tropes of sidekicks and sacrifices, soaring into our technological future while honoring history & tradition. Seeing myself and my children’s destiny reflected in the empowering mirror of #Afrofuturism. pic.twitter.com/pIqNYJl4KJ
— Tananarive Due (@TananariveDue) February 6, 2018
The opportunity to see Black women characters with beauty, brains & biceps. #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe pic.twitter.com/bvJ90vas2U
— B L A C A D E M I C (@profjalewis) February 6, 2018
For me, Black Panther is something I feel like I have waited for my entire life. I started reading when I was very young, around 3 years old. Aside from the usual Dr. Seuss and Little Golden Books, my mom’s girlfriend gave me Garfield and Casper the Friendly Ghost. I would read the funnies in the Sunday paper and eventually moved up to Richie Rich and Hot Stuff, the Little Devil. When I got older I would devour the Archie universe digests. In maybe about fifth grade is when I started reading the X-Men and that is when I encountered Storm.
Storm looked like me.
Well, I mean, Storm was a badass goddess with a stark white mohawk and I was a twiggy, ashy, Afro-Asian kid, but still—we were both brown and I was mesmerized. I was starved for characters that looked like me. I found Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats and then Shana from Jem and the Holograms.
But they were always the one. The token Black woman. Like me in the Asian & white side of my family. Like me among my friends. And this tokenism haunted me throughout my life. Barbie got to be a veterinarian or a lawyer or a doctor or a scuba diver or Black. Black was a single option along with the occupations. In films, television, and books I was allowed to see myself as the sassy Black friend, or the magical negro, or the wise old Black lady. I was never the love interest. I was never the hero.
Needless to say, when I saw the first Black Panther trailer, I cried. I read the Ta-Nehisi Coates issues and Roxane Gay’s World of Wakanda but they did not prepare me for all that Black excellence on the screen all at once. Yes, I know representation matters, but I always felt that the entire phrase is “representation matters for children.” But no. Representation matters for me, an adult who may have given up hope on ever seeing anything like this in my lifetime. What does Black Panther mean to me? It means that I can believe this is just the beginning. That the success of a major comic book–based film with a cast that is almost completely Black as well as Black creators behind the scenes means that maybe, just maybe, we are at the beginning of something wonderful in media for Black nerds like me. Black Panther gives me hope.