Wednesday, February 21, 2018

9 Reaches To Decode Black Panther


   After seeing the Black Panther film I knew I had to pen a think piece to share what I saw. Not to debate the pros or cons of seeing it but to share with those who did see it some deeper insight into the symbolism, folklore and science throughout the film. Even though Black Panther is a 1966 comic developed by a couple of Jewish guys, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, when Christopher Priest, a black man, began writing the Black Panther comic in 1998, this character served as the inspiration behind the Marvel Studios film Black Panther. The story is about T'Challa, heir to a mythical NE African throne in the land of Wakanda; an isolated society comprised of 18 tribes who for centuries has possessed an alien element called vibranium that they acquired from a fallen meteor. Nearly indestructible and one of the most powerful substances on the planet, vibranium is used to create wealth and the highest technological advances known to humans. It is also the element that was used to forge Captain America's shield. Wisely hidden away from the outside world, the Black Panther and his council of tribal of elders known as the Taifa Ngao, have primarily kept Wakanda safe and free from outside influence for the majority of their existence. Like the Five Percent as in Wakandan culture, education or knowledge is viewed as a fundamental building block of its nation. As all things change, Wakandan culture is eventually discovered and the 10% [world’s powers] plot to pillage their vibranium. T’Challa’s father T'Chaka, the current Black Panther and King of Wakanda, is assassinated at the UN thus forcing T’Challa to step up and lead his people as the next Black Panther. The film covers his transition into that role and the challenges, literally, that come along with it. 

Before I get into the symbolism, folklore and science throughout the film, I think I need to give some context into why Black Panther Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit. First and foremost he is wealthier than any superhero in the DC or Marvel Universes. In other words, he's got more paper than Bruce Wayne, Tony Starks and Floyd Mayweather combined, and he has actual superpowers. Black Panther has super strength, psychic abilities, invisibility, super stamina, clairvoyance, healing factors, necromancy, he's a master acrobat and he has other powers. If you, and especially the youth around you, have never really checked out the Black Panther comic I would encourage you to. If it's not you, what other fictional or nonfictional images of power are youth exposed to? If you cannot think of any, don't complain; either create them or support those who are creating them.

Alright, here are some things I peeped in the Black Panther film that I think are worthy of sharing with you:

1. For my Yonians, central to the Wakandan culture was the worship of the Neteru Bast. Bast, in her ancient Kemetic zoomorphic form, is the symbol of the cat; what some people, particularly men, call a p*ssy. Partly symbolizing a protectress, Bast is the reasoning behind the powerful woman-led Dora Milaje warriors. This is also why present day f*ckboys seek to shack up with Bast women and take advantage of her Okoye loyalty. The heart-shaped sacred herb, a symbol of Bast's transferred power that enhances a person's strength, mobility, stamina, endurance and instincts, resembled a yoni and was cultivated in the subterranean regions of Wakanda... 

2. A 'Monger' is a dealer or trader. 'Erik' is a Norse or Proto-Germanic name which means eternal ruler. Thus Erik Killmonger means "an eternal ruler who deals death." As a sexual innuendo of his toxic masculinity, his notches  for "bodies" [body counts] went well beyond his belt and covered his entire upper body. He clearly had no love for women as shown by the non-relationship with his mother, shooting his Bonnie & Clyde companion in the head, choking out a elder caretaker of the heart-shaped herb and demanding that she burn its sacred garden, slitting the throat of one of the Dora Milaje, slicing Nakia across her leg and almost murdering Shuri. This is what he did, yet many women have still shown sympathy for Killmonger's actions. "I understand what he was trying to do" I've heard many women say, "to fight for oppressed people" -even though there was no tangible evidence of him working with oppressed people, which includes women. This helped me better understand why some women, not all women, rationalize staying in abusive relationships, keep dudes around because the sex is Killmonger and follow conscious community miscreants; Stockholm syndrome. Some of us love words and potential yet fail to acknowledge what folks are actually doing. I've seen the argument that Killmonger is the result of being left in America, disconnected from his people, and it's not his fault. I agree that abandonment was not his fault and Killmonger's feelings about that family dysfunction were understandable; many black people in the wilderness of North America can relate and feel the same way. Yet his resolve with those feelings, as an eternal ruler who deals death, was not wise nor did it make him a hero. From his own mouth he prided himself on his assimilation into "the white man's" society, via his military experience, and he brought those colonialist ways to Wakanda. King T'Chaka was wrong for abandoning Killmonger as a child in America and Killmonger was wrong for how he handled that disappointment, as an adult, with his family and people. We need warriors with the aggression and passion of a Killmonger, especially as a Border tribesman, but not sitting on no throne. His inconsideration for other men and insensitivity to women, children and the society at large were qualities of a self appointed tyrant who rules by fear, not the qualities of a just and true King. Killmonger's "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage" quote and other revolutionary words were noble but I didn't see one act that demonstrated his capacity to be a loving Husband [King], a Father raising children [successors to the throne] with integrity and a Man of his people wisely working with his counsel of elders.

3. The burial ritual to connect with Wakandan ancestors and inherit the Bastian power of the Black Panther is similar to the Recapitulation technique some warriors in indigenous tribes use to also connect with their ancestral past and gain clarity of their life purpose. In Freemasonic lore it's also symbolic to the shallow grave the Master Architect Hiram Abiff was buried in before he was raised with a lion's paw grip. After you select an appropriate burial spot, usually among trees and in an isolated area beyond human disruption, a shallow grave is dug East [head] to West [feet] about 2 feet deep that's a little longer and wider than ones body. Next layer the bottom with a blanket. After that search the area for sticks and large leaves to cover the tomb that stops the soil from filtering through. You start covering the grave from the bottom to the top and once it's almost complete you climb in and finish covering it as you lay inside leaving a small hole for air. Fasting is important before you do it and the length of time you remain varies. I've done it for 24 hours and the best time to leave the grave is sunrise or sunset. The whole idea is to meditate on our demise as a form of detachment from the world. An earthen self-deprivation chamber, this is literally a place to reflect upon the past and present life and what they can do in the future. 

4. M'Baku, King of the Jabari Tribe, in the comic he is the leader of the White Gorilla Cult because he gained his superhuman powers by killing a white gorilla, bathing in its blood, eating its flesh, and then he took on the name Man-Ape. The M'Baku line, "If you say one more word, I'll feed you to my children! I'm kidding. We're vegetarians" in the film was a play on that comic book backstory. Although the mountain ranges M'Baku and his tribe inhabit is nowhere near the Caucasus Mountains, I found it interesting that pre-Farrakhanian Nation of Islam members under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad [THEM] openly taught that white people [devils] that were exiled from our homeland and living in the caves tried to graft themselves back into the original black man. In the process some became [white] gorillas. In fact, he taught that the entire monkey family are from the 2,000 year history of the white race living in the Caucasus Mountains. Although M'Baku carried a shillelagh, THEM also taught that the guards of these mountain boarders kept weapons [flaming swords] to stop these humanoids from coming back among the original people. The above image is from the first page of the 1998 Black Panther comic by Christopher Priest where Agent Ross remarks that, "ZURI was into his THIRD re-telling of how the great god T’Chaka ran the evil white devils out from their ancient homeland." Naw I don't think Stan Lee, Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole drew these parallels and wrote that. Christopher Priest obviously had knowledge of this and I could see the parallels.

5. After Get Out Chris Washington got WOKE, changed his gubment name to W'Kabi and started a rhinoceros farm on the fringes of Wakanda as leader of the Boarder tribe. After Rose 'Beckyed' him it's obvious he ain't been right since.   

6. Tobias Whale is Killmonger's uncle; Killmonger's mother's brother. Whale developed a hatred for Black Lightning because N'Jobu reminded him of the Wakandans and the metahuman Black Panther who exiled albinos to the lands where they were hunted, killed and their bones ground up as a power potion, as Lady Eve reminded him. Green Light is a synthetic form of vibranium and when Quentin caught wind of what Killmonger was doing he came back to the Chi to re-stake his claim as a Frank Lucas-like vibranium plug for the 100. Lastly, Kevin was around at the end of the film asking T'Challa questions about his ship because he was with his family in Cali who happened to stay in the hood Killmonger grew up in. Kevin was out there laying low after shooting Ronnie. 

7. When it comes to even just conceptualizing a Wakandian society, one of the downfalls of many men is trying to f*ck the Nakia's, Okoye's, Ayo's, Shuri's and Xoliswa's on their team instead of working with them. One of the downfalls of many women is allowing them to. 

8. I loved seeing all of the Wakanda inspired regalia at the Black Panther movie premieres around the country. I haven't seen it since Kwanzaa and I look forward to seeing it again during Juneteenth.

9. Black Panther had the fifth biggest opening of all time and broke box office records during its opening weekend. It's the largest opening for a black Director, the second biggest opening for a Marvel Studios film and currently the #1 RATED FILM OF ALL TIME via Rotten Tomatoes. Not only does this demonstrate the earning potential of films told from our perspective but this, along with Get Out, is reshaping the false narrative that black themed films not doing box office numbers domestically and internationally. While some may see this as production houses and film companies becoming more open to our pitched ideas and potential larger pay dates, I see it as a watershed moment of self reliance and cooperative economics. Many of us already know our buying power as a black community, but willfully this galvanizes us to do more, culturally and artistically. Some felt as though nothing could top the response of Get Out, but here we have it, and this film won't be the last. 


Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright and Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis. 

The film is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay.
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