You already know why I’m here!! This Black BeauTEA Talk is for my brothas and my sistahs, it’s for my babies to read at a later date, it’s for me and my soul!
So a weekend just passed that I believe was monumental for us as a people, it was the weekend that many of us ventured to Wakanda! I had so many plans of the alphet that I would be wearing, the makeup, the jewelry, all so intentional and well thought out. Well, Friday rolled around and none of that happened for me, I threw on my yoga pants, t-shirt, and tennis shoes because regardless of what the day had been I was going to see what I knew would be a utopia.
I was not wrong. I got exactly that and so much more that I didn’t bargain for. I saw Black Panther in 3D IMAX and the first thing I must acknowledge is that the visuals were amazing!!! I mean, from the scene where T’Challa is coming into view and I could see every single coil on his beautiful head to the costumes worn by every individual in Wakanda! That credit goes to an amazingly talented black woman named Ruth E. Carter. She is a legend and likely the costume designer for many of your favorite black movies! I first learned of her as a young teenager after watching B.A.P.S. I was completely in love with the styling of the women and decided to look up who created the costumes. It was Ruth E. Carter and at that moment I was like wow, she's nothing short of amazing! (If you’ve never seen B.A.P.S., go watch it as soon as you’re finished here.)
Can we talk about Shuri? I mean we have finally seen a Disney Princess that made me go “wow I wish that I was her.” She made my daughters jump for joy. Shuri is the Disney princess that little black girls need. She was the smartest person in a kingdom and country full of royalty and greatness. She had none of the awkwardness that people always say black kids have when they are smart. It reminded me of who I was as a young black girl. I was nowhere near as smart as Shuri, I can barely work my laptop, however, I graduated in the top 5 of my high school class and I wasn’t extremely awkward. I never had stories about not fitting in with other black children, I won prom queen, as well. It shows that being “smart” doesn’t automatically put you in a box. It showed that you can live in your genius, you can be appreciated for that genius, and you can also be lit AF.
Babayyyy Shuri was funny, charismatic, stylish, modern, and everything to me! The relationship dynamic between Shuri and King T’challa reminded me so much of the relationship I have with my older brother. My big brother is 10 years older than me (my only older sibling) and we are absolutely best friends. I go to him with all of my troubles and triumphs, as I always have. He does the same with me. We are connected by blood and obligation. I truly believe that our relationship is divine and a strong hold for the both of us, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing that in Black Panther. (Also, I literally just received a message from him as I was typing this.)
Now let’s talk about the representation of black women in this movie!! I’m a young black woman, I would say, but the narrative I’ve always received has been that women follow their men. Subconsciously, and very blatantly, I was told things like “let the man lead,” “The man is the head of the household,” “Women are the nurturers,” insert whatever else oddball Christian-based bullshit you can think of. Black Panther literally took every bit of that and said “fuck what you talmbout” and it made me cry. I’ll probably be crying weeks from now at the very thought of that! Okoye and Nakia are so different but also very much the same in the way that they knew who they were and they didn’t allow a single person or circumstance to shake their being.
I don’t want to give too many spoilers because there are many reviews like that but there was a scene when Okoye (my favorite role) was face to face in battle with her lover and he says “Would you really kill me?” Okoye replies to him “For Wakanda? Without a question.” and the tears poured. This came after Okoye who was played by Danai Gurira, says “I am loyal to that throne.” This made me think of all the sacrifices that black women are taught to make throughout our lives and the way that people literally expect it of us! Okoye and her actions to me said "Do not fold, go after what you value with no apologies and with conviction!" Okoye was wise, she was strong, she was skilled, she was beautiful, she was funny, she was sensual, and she was charming! Okoye was everything I think of when I hear the phrase “Strong black woman” and she had an army of black women that were the same!
Now let’s get heavy shall we?
My favorite part of the movie was the plot and the villain. You heard me. I. Said. What. I. Said. Leading up to the premiere of Black Panther there were countless think pieces on how Africans from the continent felt about Black Americans rejoicing over this movie and planning to wear African garb. They felt that we, Black Americans, were appropriating African culture. Oddly enough I get into the movie and the plot is about what has been the basis of my arguments on Facebook all week. The difference is that it wasn’t about black people in America calling Africans from the continent names, it was about the opposite of that dynamic. It was about how we as Black Americans are displaced and shunned due to being where we are and having the history that we do. At the root, it is about colonialism, white supremacy and what that does to people who are walking and breathing individuals living in that structure.
I have a Facebook friend, AJ Mims, who is an amazing black woman and she posted a status that said: “I’m too black for America and not African enough for Africa.” This quote from her status really summed up how I felt about this plot and the conversations I’ve been having the past week leading up to the movie premiere. While the movie was absolute perfection, and while watching I felt pride, joy, and amazement at what could have been, it was like seeing all of my wildest dreams in front of my eyes. All of the African art hanging on my walls and the African History books on my bookshelf couldn't prepare me for what I saw on that screen. It didn't prepare me for the emotions that I would experience. It was magical and I've already prepared to move to Wakanda permanently. I mean, it's obviously where I belong! However, as a Black American of African descent, it also brought to the forefront a certain pain in me that I wasn’t fully prepared to deal with.
This wasn’t about me or my people being kings and queens, it showed us being, well, exactly who and what many of us are on the surface. I am looking forward to the day that we get a film that shows us, here, the descendants of enslaved Africans glorious in our culture that we have so bravely created for ourselves. That culture is strong, partly because our African roots shine through and manifest themselves despite the fact that The Colonizer, as Shuri so eloquently put it, attempted to strip them from our ancestors. This is why I identified with Killmonger so much. He was pain, he was abandonment, he was PTSS, he was beauty, he was strength, he was displacement, and he was still royalty! He fought to be seen and acknowledged. He killed to survive and thrive. His bloodline provided no solace for him. Killmonger is me, he is my big brother that I talked about earlier, he is the children that I birthed into this world, and everyone that I have come to know and love in this lifetime. The spirit that Killmonger embodies is the spirit I carry with me. It is why I am who I am and, as he put it in my absolute favorite scene in the movie, "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage.”
So walking away from the movie I felt empowered in my blackness, and more importantly my black womanhood, but I sit in that in-between space that I was born into. With the spirit and experience of Killmonger I look forward — I strive and fight for the experience and pride of T’Challa, and that's Tea!
~Peace & Light~
I am a freelance makeup artist located in Cameron, North Carolina. I have been working in this area for three years doing event makeup, as well as print and some runway. This year I will be working to build a bridal artistry business that will be fully mobile. I studied makeup artistry at makeup artist studios in Richmond, Virginia, and from there developed my aesthetic. I spend a lot of time studying past artists, as well as trends today. I believe that everyone is beautiful, and my job is to enhance that!