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Part Two of Two

*Read Part One Here

By Bonz Malone

I study every aspect of film carefully. Its starts with the cinematography. If you were planning a bank robbery, the cinematographer is the getaway driver and there’s none better right now, than Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station, Cake, Dope, Mudbound). The next step is how in sync they are with the Director, Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station and Creed). Do the scenes complement the script (Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole)? And, yes, it does.  It does that for Costume Design, Hair and Makeup, and The Score, but nothing as closely scrutinized, as the performances themselves. When it came to that…I almost couldn’t believe my eyes! Not only was I impressed with what I saw, I was amazed by what I didn’t see. There are no examples of racism of any kind, not even the stereotypical reminder that’s injected into every black film like the flu shot you’re sick of taking. There were no slaves; what’s more, there wasn’t any mention of the word itself. No one was put into a condition of slavery either. Those who were, were freed, which is depicted at the beginning of this smart script, when The Black Panther saves a group of “schoolgirls” from being abducted. The real life incident made famous by the Boko Haram in 2014 is one of several socio-political issues addressed with unexpected subtlety. In between the well placed punchlines and above the ad libs is a sense of pride and community that is unmatched by anything else, except love of country. That is even challenged though. Every protagonist has an antagonist and the antagonist is always prepared to do what the good guy won’t. Whether it’s a moral issue or a misguided sense of loyalty, something always stands in his way and it’s usually himself. T’Challa’s a good guy, with a good heart who wants to be a great king for his people but his ancient views on immigration (held by his father, the former Black Panther) prevents him from making personal and political advancement.

Erik Killmonger, his cousin (Michael B. Jordan) doesn’t see it that way, thus the conflict. He’s prepared to do whatever necessary to be a king, but not to become one. There’s a scripture found at Matthew 10:26, which states, “Indeed a man’s enemies will be those of his household.” Whether you believe that or not, we’ve all seen evidence of it in our community. No one loves you and at the same time, disrespects you like your own family. No doubt some of you are saying to yourself, “I know that’s right.” I saw myself inside this story. I’ve seen that look in Erik’s eye many times before from dudes that I grew up with that were just like family. Like T’Challa, I was raised with an ideal that was too old for me to understand. Principles shrouded in antiquity. Laws that govern daily conduct and the courage to set the right example and be different. I was too young to know the responsibility of just being a good man. So many had failed and died. They weren’t prepared to do what the bad guy always does – win at all costs.

If the man is the head of his tribe, then his woman is undoubtedly, the heart of it. The exotic distaff that was cast, who showed that love is both conditional and unconditional, depending on the type of relationship, was nothing short of magnificent. Again, I’ve never watched a film that dignified a woman, any woman as a general of any king’s army, let alone an African woman. No nanny, no mammy, no raping, no whippings, no cotton-picking? Nothing but strong sistas like Okoye, ready to ride and even kill the man she loves, to preserve the place she lives.  a bad ass like and Killmonger cause strength is very sexy, when it’s in pure physical form. When it’s in found in his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), it’s in the shape of a brilliant CTO, whose wit and wisdom improves her brother’s ability. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) his girl, helps him see the need to become his own man, before he becomes Wakanda’s King.

The sexy, educated and liberated black woman loves her because she’s such a powerful character: courageous enough to go undercover on various missions, but not insisting on coming along. She gives no impression that her presence is essential, except in the graceful way she wields her influence. But the Hood loves her too because she deeply respects his authority. She doesn’t argue her point. She listens, and then tactfully addresses his flawed ideology. Nakia remains uncommitted to anything except her country, which forces him to appreciate her autonomy. “I’ve seen to many people in need to turn a blind eye” she says. “I can’t be happy here knowing there are people out there who have nothing” (Disagreeing with the nation’s political agenda). Nakia even helps Okoye understand that there’s a difference between serving the country and saving it. For any guy who thought: a woman like this did not exist, a chick that’s respected by black women, as well as feminists, someone with their own money, who’s famous in her own right and is not in competition with you, someone who loves you, but will not let either your commitment or your contentment, undermine her ambition? Pay the admission to see these queens represent. They’re “Third Eye Candy” for those who still hope for this level of quality.

As the former days of the resistance wove ideologies together, so does the modern version of Black Panther and it’s done in a humanistic theme that anyone can embrace. The action is in how we rise and face our challenges, but the deep rooted resentments and prejudice that are in our community and even our family, must be challenged as well. We must right these wrongs if we can or eliminate the possibility of them rising up again. This is the new direction, not of the Panthers, but of a “movement” that started where “Get on the Bus” let people off. For Chadwick Boseman, Letita Wright, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown and Daniel Kaluuya, I see a “Hollywood Heist” happening involving a well-trained, super tight crew of professional people of color, who are making films about the accomplishments made and the injustices done, by and to Black and colorful people. I noticed this renaissance after Fruitvale Station with Selma and Hidden Figures (Directed by Ava Duvernay) and confirmed this belief with Marshall (Directed by Reginald Hudlin, starring Chadwick Boseman). Just don’t tell ‘em, I said it.

By Bonz Malone

Bonz Malone is a celebrated graffiti, music and culture writer, journalist, researcher, hip hop anthropologist and actor from New York.  His work has been featured in SPIN, Vibe, and The Source


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