On a cold February night, I proudly purchased my ticket to see Black Panther. I waited for the film with bated breath, excited about the representations of multiple, powerful black narratives. In the era of Trump, this movie is a call to arms, a possible bellwether for substantive change and a salve to the soul. This film is not your typical Marvel franchise film focusing solely on the technological coolness of Wakanda. It expressed the hope of a country not touched by the “West,” but also the frustrations of black people throughout the diaspora.
But how do we find the way forward between the message of T’Challa and Killmonger? In our community, we all know someone who represents both characters, some are our close friends or family. T’Challa voices the opinion of the academics among us on how we should move forward in our communities to restore the damage of colonization and slavery. But Killmonger’s anger at the fate of his people, and the continued repercussions of drugs, defunding of programs meant to even the playing field, violence in our communities and the school-to-prison pipeline is valid. When Killmonger wants to send the technology of Wakanda out to the war dogs to help his people, it resonates with me, and I’m sure it does with most black people in the diaspora. Since the advent of slavery, the narrative of revenge or reparations for the colonization of most of the African continent, and its impact on black people, is authentic within the community.
Wakanda is fictional, but our future is not, and we have the power to change the course that we currently find ourselves on throughout the diaspora. While we are not in control of the systems of structural power outside of Africa and the Caribbean, we do control our ability to have a unified purpose. The idea of Wakanda seems like a far-fetched fantasy to those not familiar with their history or the rich culture in Africa, or its immense wealth before being colonized. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most resource-rich countries in the world and should be one of the wealthiest, if not for the ghosts of slavery and colonization casting a long shadow on its past and present. Most countries on the African content are less than 65 years into their independence from their colonial oppressors. We needed the time to recover and formulate a plan towards what the African diaspora will look like in 50 years. Our time has come to showcase all the beauty, ingenuity and genius of our culture, and cultivate to a future that was once denied.
The community and camaraderie that I witnessed for the premiere week of Black Panther are inspirational. How do we continue the momentum provided by the movie? We need to galvanize under this moment of representation and come up with a tangible plan of action. Taking the initial guttural reaction of Killmonger and the statesmanship of T’Challa, we need to create the future we desire from a painful past that we will never forget. The number of African-Americans connecting with our brothers and sisters throughout the diaspora is an inspiring spark in a future that is bright.
Our future inspires me as an architect and urban planner, not just because of the movie, Black Panther, but because of the response from black people across the world. The film has united the diaspora towards one reference point, which is our possible future. After the dust settles and the final receipts are in for the global phenomenon of Black Panther our future is brighter. I am encouraged by the film's representation of a strong narrative of blackness. Our kids are inspired, some for the first time, about their future and the future of all black people around the world. We need to remember how unified we feel at this moment and translate it into tangible social and political action. My parents always made my sister and I believe we were like T’Challa and Shuri, and it is up to us to make sure every black child feels the same way. The hope is evident in everyone's eyes about the possibilities that might lie ahead for our people. I am ready for Wakanda, and Black Panther is a call to arms for our future. Will you answer?