I absolutely loved black panther. The thoughtful and beautiful showcase of black people, black beauty, black strength, black ingenuity, unity, and power were real things that few writers and directors prioritized showcasing before. I applaud Marvel, director Ryan Coogler, and all those involved to bring such a project together. This movie made history, but more importantly, it allowed black people, black children to see their image exalted on a major platform. They saw their image reflected back at them in a way that highlighted black people and black culture — african culture — in a positive light.
With that said, I would absolutely love it if Wakanda were a real place, even more so, I would love it if I were ACTUALLY from this amazing country. But here’s the truth —
I am not from Wakanda.
I don’t know what’s been going on, but lately men — black men — have been making comments jokingly suggesting that I am from Wakanda.
It’s story time.
Story#1: About a week ago, My girlfriend and I decided to go out to this club/lounge in downtown L.A. The lounge was real cool and the crowd there was very diverse. There were latino people, asian people, black people, white people — it was cool. We were all there to get our groove on to some 90’s R&B/Hip-Hop. So there we were — me and my friend — getting our lives on the dance floor, when suddenly I was approached by this white guy who wanted to dance with me — let’s call him Eric. Eric had a really positive vibe about him and he was interested in just having fun and dancing. I welcomed Eric as my dance partner and we had a good time, we danced to, like, five songs which is unusual for me.
Then Eric’s black friend comes up to us and starts dancing with us — let’s call him Michael. After introducing himself, Michael begins to brag about Eric, “Yea my boy here is about to graduate from UCLA Medical School!” I respond, “Wow, that’s awesome, Eric, Congratulations.” Then another R&B jam comes on and Eric and I start dancing again —with Michael standing by. Michael keeps urging me to dance with Eric. However, keep in mind that I’ve been dancing with Eric for the past FIVE SONGS. What Michael really wanted me to do was “back my ass up”. He wanted me to twerk, to break it down on Eric. But I was not about to do that.
Then, gesturing with his arms, Michael says to me, “Come on Wakanda! Come on Wakanda!”
I stopped in disbelief.
Did he … did he just say, “Come on Wakanda!” to me??!! As if that were the motivation I needed to back my ass up on his friend?! Oh, hell naw!
Meanwhile, Eric was so busy getting his life on the dance floor that he didn’t even hear what Michael said. I had two options at this point. 1st option: I could set Michael straight and give him ALL the words he had coming to him. 2nd Option: Ignore Michael and dance with Eric like I had been doing all along. I chose the latter. First of all, it was way too loud in there, and If I were going to read Michael and set him straight, then I needed for him to hear EVERY SINGLE word. Second of all, addressing Michael meant that I would have to disengage with Eric who I was having a good time with, and I didn’t want to kill my own vibe.
But I have time today. So I will address Michael and all the other “Michaels” out there:
1). I would expect that comment to come from an ignorant white person, but not by a black man — someone from my community who shares the same culture, history, and plight as I do in this country. Someone who I would assume would not make a statement like that because they know how dumb that would be.
2). The Black Panther is an awesome project , and the women in the movie are bad asses. So DO NOT associate me with Wakanda unless you are referring to the intelligence, beauty, and strength of black women, which the movie showcased. Do Not associate me with Wakanda in a mocking tone as to suggest that I am some type of caricature from the movie. I am not a caricature. I am not an exaggeration, nor were the women in the film.
3). As a man — especially a black man — don’t you EVER push me up onto your white friend as if I am some type of black exotic that he should sample or partake of. I am not a sample. I am not some black fetish to promote. I am not here to fulfill some type of black stereotype that would have me twerk or gyrate for your buddy. I am not here to perform or dance for you. I am not on some auction block to be examined. I am no Hottentot Venus. You have me all the way twisted!
4). As my black brother, the hope and the expectation is that you would protect me and stand up for me the way black women have always done for black men. Instead, you subject me to being nothing more than a piece of ass, a body that has less value in the eyes of society and, therefore, gets no respect, no protection, and no love.
5). You are an embarrassment.
Now I don’t want to make it sound like there are no black men out there who wouldn’t protect and value me and other black women. However, there are also men like Michael who simply don’t value us and this read is for them.
This was not the first time a black man used a Wakanda reference with me. Prior to the first story I just mentioned, I had another encounter.
Story #2: It was All-Star weekend here in Los Angeles and I decided to attend a day party that had an Afro-beat theme. I was excited because I really enjoy dancing to Afro-beat music and I knew the DJ well enough to know that the music would be good. Given the theme of the party, there was a large African attendance — Nigerians, Ghanaians, Cameroon, Senegalese, etc. I was walking towards the bar and I was stopped by a Nigerian guy named Uche. Uche stops me and with a pretty thick Nigerian accent he says, “Excuse me, excuse me … but are you from … Wakanda? Me and my friends have been wondering.”
His question caught me off guard and I chuckled a little bit. I told him that I was not from Wakanda and then Uche says, “Me and my friends, we are intimidated, I don’t know why.” I kindly tell Uche that I didn’t know why he was intimidated either, and that it appeared to be a personal problem that he had to reconcile. Uche seemed pleasantly surprised by my answer. He then proceeded to ask for my number. I kindly told him no. He persisted. So I told him I would take his number. We chatted for a bit, he told me he was a doctor, I told him what I did and then after a few minutes of idle talk, I excused myself.
Now the interaction I had with Uche was different than my interaction with Michael. The interaction was different because the energy and the implication behind their comments were different. Michael’s comment associated me with a black female stereotype which prompted that I dance and back my ass up on his friend. Uche’s comment associated me with black womanhood which had to do with beauty and strength. They both connected me to Wakanda, but the consciousness by which they did it was different.
I need my black men to remain conscious of how they interact with black women and to understand that their actions and their words actually MEAN SOMETHING to us. We need their support and love. We need them to have our back. We need them to see us for who we really are: Black Queens.
Stay woke my brothas.