What Black Panther Means to Me

Today in Black History, I would be remise without acknowledging the release of Black Panther.

When I saw the photos from the Black Panther premiere, I knew right then and there that the cast and crew of Black Panther was readying themselves to take aim at our necks.

Everyone looked stunning. Just regal. Black excellence.

I overheard a coworker gripping the other day over the fact that all these people were going to see Black Panther who weren’t true fans of the Marvel universe. I rolled my eyes. He’s a white, if you couldn’t tell already… He’s one of those “you can’t wear the shirt if you’re not a fan of the band” type bitches.

To my coworker and anyone else harboring a similar sentiment, this is bigger than your little childish fandom, bitch. Get over yourself or go choke.

I realize that some folks might not grasp the immensity of the occasion, so let me break it down.

First of all, for all the white supremacists talking about how this is some nigger shit and how the Black Panther is some black power propaganda: the character of the Black Panther was introduced in the Marvel comics before the Black Panther Party was formed. With this in mind, we can then conclude that Stan Lee simply thought the Black Panther would be a cool character to add to his comic universe.

While it is a revolutionary thought that an entire African country could exist completely outside of the reality of European colonization and that because of this, they are more technologically and socially advanced, but at the end of the day, Wakanda is fictional. (But oh, can’t we dream?)

Second, the fact that this movie is directed by a black man and features an all black cast is monumental when you consider the discussion about diversity in Hollywood.

Side note on the director, Ryan Coogler

Mr. Coogler’s been working for a long time. His first film, Fruitvale Station, made him an indie darling, taking home the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance as well as international acclaim, winning the Avenir Prize at Cannes. He also directed Creed as well as a few other short films.

The #oscarssowhite thing brought the issue of diversity to public consciousness a few years ago, but just because it’s not trending anymore doesn’t mean the work has stop nor that the problem has been solved. Ryan Coogler, along with other filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, have been out here championing the cause to make Hollywood a not-so-white place.

In theory, this movie should’ve been made. However, I doubt it would’ve been carried out on such a grand scale. There was no Ryan Coogler to direct it (or an Ava DuVernay, who was approached for the project first) and up until recently only a handful of black actors were even getting booked for roles. And the ones who were damn sure weren’t getting booked for Marvel movies. Don’t make me break out the receipts.

As the release date draws near, the girls are readying their hearts and minds to receive something that is way past due.

White people can honestly get over themselves and shut the fuck up.

This movie is not inherently political, but the conditions that even make this movie a possibility are. The fact that the thought of “Maybe somebody black should direct this” actually went through someone’s head is revolutionary. The fact that Marvel didn’t just cast some random white people and white wash this story is revolutionary because we know its been done in the past with no after thought.

If you really wanna know why black folks are going all the way up for this movie, it’s because this is a celebration of us. This beautiful cast is all shades, shapes, and sizes of black. This movie will affirm for so many young black kids that they too can be extraordinary and that they too have the potential to be a superhero.

Not to mention, the soundtrack is produced, at least in part by Top Dawg Entertainment, which…

Honestly, I’ve been burnt out on Marvel movies for a while now. After the Avengers 12 and Iron Man 23, I started to wonder how much more shit these hoes could blow up and smash and destroy with reckless abandon. And for what? (Yeah, yeah, to save the world or whatever)

But best believe,I will be present and accounted for for Black Panther.

 

 

 

 

I Used To Be a Purist, but I’ve Seen the Light

Today in Black History, I want to give thanks for Audible.

I sit here typing this, listening to Jenifer Lewis’ memoire The Mother of Black Hollywood on Audible wondering why I hadn’t adopted Audible earlier.

I was one of those kids who was hated on for reading and didn’t really talk much. And because I was black, that just took it way too far.

“That’s so white.”

*wy prsn*: You never heard [insert popular hip hop/rap song]. I’m more black than you are.”

“You such an oreo.”

So, this is an ode to Audible. I stanned down for shit like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl and the like. (I just never saw it for Lord of the Rings. sorrynotsorry.) And though I remember trying to imagine some of the characters as people of color, later movie adaptations later showed me that I was clearly wrong. lol.

Now, as of late, it’s really been a gaggle of undoubtedly and unapologetically black people writing books, and I’ve been lit for them, but since I’ve been in college, I haven’t had time to read them.

Over time, I’ve rationalized my double consciousness by associating a sense of pride with my reading because… embracing your insecurities and all that. And I really felt like if I couldn’t sit down and read a book, I was lacking in some way, which then contributed to feelings of anxiety and depression and blah blah blah.

Eventually I realized I had to get off of my high horse. And yeah, it was a high horse that I had mounted to distance myself from the illiterates.

But today in Black History, I’ve come to my senses.

When Issa Rae came on the radar with her memoire, Awkward Black Girl, I made plans to buy the book. However, I was deep into my major at the time and had to buy a lot of other books for class readings. So, I never got around to buying it. And I was still team fuck audio books.

But growing up, getting older, and trying to live out here has made me realize that, no one with two part time occupations just trying to pay rent (i.e. a regular bitch) has time to sit down and read. One thing I’m realizing is that time is truly a luxury – and an expensive one, at that.

I hear a lot of parallels in the aspirations of Mother Lewis and myself. Her move to the big city from a small town. Her drive to hit the ground running and storming the cabaret and Broadway theater scene like she had always dreamed.

And to think I could’ve robbed myself of all this inspiration and revelation.

There’s an influx of black women, and black people, in general, writing and I live for it. Jenifer Lewis, Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes, Tiffany Haddish. These are the stories I needed as a youth.

But better late than never, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

Rumble in the Jungle

Today in Black History, I want to look at some documentary films.

All of these can be found on Hulu, Netflix, and/or YouTube and all of them focus on stories centering on people of color and their cultural influences. I love documentary films. In recent years, the ways in which a non fictional narrative can be portrayed on screen can make the subject seem larger than life and I think that can be said for all of these films. For all of these films, I can say that I am always left with the weight of their respective subjects and the ways that the narratives relate to my life and my own path.

I’ve numbered this sequence because in many ways, you can view these films chronologically and see the ways the spirit of a time trickled its way into the lives of real black and brown folks who were the unwitting scapegoats of bureaucratic miscondunct.

Rubble Kings

Made in 2015, this documentary is about the youth gang culture that exploded through the Bronx, most notably, and subsequently the rest of the boroughs of New York City.

This is the picture of New York City that my mom has when she thinks of the Big Apple. I told her I was planning on moving there after undergrad and she didn’t seem sold on the idea.

Of course, there’s always a small chance that shit can pop off, but that’s true anywhere. Even here in Mississippi, there are some places you just don’t go to. But there’s enough wy ppl there gentrifying the city that getting mugged at any given moment is significantly less likely.

Anyhoo… this film puts a lens on the crime ridden borough of the Bronx and the political plays that were made that resulted in the high crime rates and rise in youth gang activity.

In a nutshell, we can trace the causes of these social conditions back to the start of Ronal Reagan’s War on Drugs. Nixon took the presidency and breathed new life into Reagan’s crusade and the rest is history. The rise of “the rubble kings,” these adolescent gang boppers, begin organizing themselves between their neighborhoods and policing the streets with violence and vigilantism as a result of various new laws put in place that accelerated the rise of urban decay and neglect in which these kids were innocently born in to.

Fresh Dressed

Fresh Dressed, produced by Pharrell, picks up where Rubble Kings leaves off. After the turbulance of the the 70s and the onslaught of the War on Drugs, after the hundreds of resulting deaths, and after one reckoning moment, the tide of the times changes as hip hop forges on to the scene in the late 70s.

Fresh Dressed, as the title alludes, is about fashion. The film archives the change in fashion trends beginning in the late 70s as the prevailing gang culture subsides and from its ashes, hip hop culture arises.

Fresh Dressed is a culture study through the lens of fashion.

The Radiant Child

The Radiant Child is a personal favorite. Taking the bigger picture that Rubble Kings and Fresh Dressed painted and seeing how the issues discussed in those films ended up affecting a singular narrative.

Though Jean Michel Basquiat was one guy, his work has touched millions and he was a product of a very specific environment.

These three films overlap in the time periods that they cover, especially as it pertains to the late 70s and 80s in New York City. In fact, when watching, you might notice that some of the references and even the talking heads themselves are featured in two of the films, if not all three.

When I think about Black History, that is the history of Black people in America, I think it’s important to know just how we got to where we are at this moment in history. Existentially speaking, history has been building on itself, expressing itself through the stories in these films, and reaping itself accordingly.

Today in Black History, we must honor the process.

The turbulent 60s gave rise to the violent 70s which gave rise to the electric 80s, the iconic 90s, and so on and so forth. If we are to look to the future, we really have to come to terms with the now and realize that nothing happens in a vacuum.

If we wish to change the future, change has to begin now.

 

Give Em LaHelle

On this day in Black History, I’m honoring Patti LaHelle.

It’s impossible to talk about comedy without talking about black women. I’ll forgo waxing on the idea of the plight of the black woman and comedy sometimes coming from situations that aren’t funny at all and  and all that and just say black women are funny as shit. They have been from jump.

If you haven’t seen the masterpiece that is the Got 2B Real series, stop what you’re doing.

 

Comedy gold. The style. The wit. The reads. Patti LaHelle truly created something for the culture when she created Got 2B Real.

G2bR, also known as the Diva Variety Show, is a spoof of a reality show that features some of the most legendary names in pop, soul, and r&b of our time. Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce are some of the cast members featured on the show. The women are all invited to Patti LaBelle’s house for dinner and the personalities that find their way to the dinner table make for two seasons (and a short film!!!) of piping hot tea.

Together they deliver some the shadiest reads, quickest comebacks, and most potent quotables ever caught on tape.

The brain child of Patti LaHelle has been a mainstay in my life since I discovered it sophomore year of college. I consider Ms. LaHelle a visionary for what she created. Though her Got 2B Real journey is over (allegedly), Patti LaHelle has proven herself to be a force on the internet and a lot of folks, including myself, want to see her create even more content. The day is on its way, I’m sure of it.

This black woman is a comedic genius.

If ever there is a dull moment in your day, take a moment, pull out your phone, and watch a couple episodes. That always makes me feel better.

Thank you, Ms. LaHelle for your contribution to the culture.

 

 

 

 

Caped Crusaders

Today in Black History, I’m honoring Black Twitter. We’re not yet two solid months into 2018 and they’re at it again.

Who are they?

I argue that no one truly knows who they are or where they come from. They descend on the internet in droves, waiting, searching for the punchline in the day to day. They crunch hours generating memes, recording others, and spreading the gospel of a well-timed GIF.

We know them only as Black Twitter.

They work fast and they’re always working.

I personally don’t know where the inspiration for the tweetlikethe1600s hashtag came from but, they kept this up all day. Barring the historical inaccuracy of it, I could suspend my disbelief long enough for a hardy laugh.

 

The Grammy’s happened and the internet had a field day with what came of the night.

Regardless of who was snubbed of what, it was a great night for the internet.

I don’t know if there has ever been a time in history where there was such a sense of community forged over what used to be, and one might argue still is, the hollow cultural artifact known as the Grammy’s. Hell, I didn’t even have to watch the Grammy’s to know what happened at the Grammy’s.

Today in Black History, I’m honoring Black Twitter. These more or less anonymous caped crusaders have managed to stay culturally relevant since I’ve been in college and have provided me with much needed laughs in my darkest moments. Sometimes, you just need someone to point to the punch line in all the bullshit. Through the good times and the bad, Black Twitter has been there.

 

Today in Black History

Today in Black History, I honor us.

Yes, yes, y’all. It’s Black History month.

If you’re like me, you got the same vanilla ass explanation of black history that most public schools have locked and loaded for the month of February.

Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, (maybe) Malcolm X, the usual suspects. All of these people were remarkable in their own way, of course. This is not to downplay the people who made their name fighting for Civil Rights.

But Google is well and alive and if you search anyone of those names you’ll probably get a million or so hits with their biographies and activism and speeches and such. So, we won’t rehash that here.

This month, it’s about the beautiful black people that are making history in the here and now. We’ll take a look at what’s happening in film, music, and popular culture. The looks, the lessons, the living examples of black excellence that are making the world a better place a little bit at a time.

Today in Black History we’re blind to the bullshit. This series is for us. Agent Orange and his goons have no place here for the next 28 days.

The goal is to post for all 28 days this month. Every day, we’ll look at the newest latest in black culture. Film, television, music, media, literature, activism – it’s all fair game. Black history is everyday so let’s celebrate.

Grab your tea and a spare moment and join me in a month-long homage to the culture.

 

Can’t Stop Our Blackness

I don’t think I’ve ever been more invested in an awards season. I have to say with the past two years of Oscars-so-white frenzy, I was beginning to think things would never change. And maybe all the blackness on display, this year, is a fluke, but if I’m being honest. They can’t continue to ignore us. And last year, black folks put in that work on the silver and small screen and gave us some of the most gripping television and movies that I’ve seen in a long time.

I already gave my spiel on the Golden Globes. Check it out here.

Hidden Figures and Moonlight continue to snatch these trophies. The SAG awards happened and it was magical. Taraji said what she said and all was well in the land. Indeed, Catherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn are hidden figures no more.

taraji_p_henson_they_are_hidden_figures_no_more_sagawards

Without question, 2016 was an unprecedented year in music. I mean…

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And we can quibble over who had the best album, but personally, Coloring Book, was my personal favorite, hands down. The come-up for this young man has been astounding and I’m proud of him like he was my own brother. And this just in…

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But I’m projecting this year’s Grammy ceremony to be a veritable smorgasbord of black excellence.

And we can’t forget about the coup de gras. The Oscars.

(Check out my post about my feelings on the noms here).

I don’t want to speculate, but I have a hunch – and its just a hunch – that Moonlight is taking Best Picture.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

 

One Time for the Culture

Let it be known that on the 1st of February in the year of our lord, 2017, the Queen herself announced the coming of not one but two heirs to the throne of Carter. Congratulations to the Carter family. I can rest assured that the seeds of generational wealth will be sown deep into the three Carter children, and maybe, just maybe, one of them will show themselves to be the avatar and save the world from Donald Trump. Lord knows his kind don’t die easy and even if he isn’t reelected, evil is like weeds, just can’t seem to get rid of it.

But enough about that flamin’ cheetoh, this is about us and our melanin and our greatness.

This month I want to do something different. There are endless resources on black history. Emphasis on history. Every year, black history is presented in retrospect – the “magical negroes” of yesteryear. Martin, Malcolm, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks – the usual suspects.

I’m of the opinion that history is made on the daily. Look at the past few days. And black folks. Well, we been here. And barring all the fucked up shit going on in the world, still we manage to produce megastars, moguls, and influencers that continue to shape the culture.

So this is going to be a 28 day look at Black History NOW. Because we’re changing the world one Carter baby, one Ava DuVernay, one Migos at a time.

Happy Black History Month, y’all.