Black People On 'Black Panther': A Win For Us All

Black People On 'Black Panther': A Win For Us All

The reason why Wakanda matters.

I'm sure if you've been on any form of social media in the past couple of weeks you couldn't help but notice dashiki-clad movie-goers emitting black boy joy and black girl magic all down your news feed ever since the premiere of Marvel's "Black Panther" hit theaters.

Okay, let me start by saying that I was the first one to purchase my ticket to the movie on Thursday, February 15th, 2018, at 10:55 pm (after I got out of work). I proudly wore my “Beautiful MeIanin” sweater and natural fro. I sat with my roommates in the fourth row of Regal Cinemas 16.

I hooted and hollered and squealed and Milly-rocked as I saw that the majority of the cast were some of my favorite black actors on screen creating a narrative for the black community that is not done often enough in Hollywood.

I traveled to the breathtaking fictional African nation of Wakanda and back again, (my edges were snatched multiple times people). And I have to include that I ogled over the fine milk chocolate man that is Michael B. Jordan (can we take a moment and appreciate that boy... sheesh).

My point is that I was just as excited for this movie as anyone else. And rightfully so, the film exceeded all expectations and it was so awesome to see such an immediate and passionate response from people all over.

In case you're wondering what all the hype is about, there is a reason this groundbreaking film boasts the second-best sophomore weekend in U.S. box office history, generated more than 200 million dollars on its opening weekend, and almost 400 million in the first ten days it was released, as well as shattering a ton of other records.

Aside from that, it was such an important film for the black community, and all communities, to see dark-skinned individuals as such powerful, wealthy, and intelligent beings. (Shuri was everything, amirite?)

The Marvel film doesn't hold back, making many satirical observations. The viewer gets the chance to witness what African nations might have had the potential to become had they not been colonized by Europeans. It takes a deep look at America's history as well as its present-day socioeconomic racial disparities.

Throughout the movie elements of science fiction, magic, and actual American realities combine to explore the present state of the African diaspora as well as its place in the future.

It is a statement that our race, the black race, is capable of being very advanced people, and just as strong as any other race, even stronger in some aspect. And Ryan Coogler does an incredible job wrapping all of that into a superhero movie. (The action scenes were pretty amazing as well)

Pride swells in my heart at the reaction to the film. I will admit that at first, I was a bit uneasy about everyone wearing African tribal wear that wasn't directly a costume from the movie. In my eyes, it became borderline appropriation seeing as to how a lot of black Americans today know nothing about African customs but parade around in their cultural dress anyway. But after mulling it over a bit more, I realized this is a means of celebration.

We're not appropriating, we're appreciating.

We're celebrating this film and everything it represents by dressing up in the garments of our predecessors. We're celebrating our ancestry, even if we are so far removed from it. We're celebrating ourselves and our fellowship. We're celebrating the fact that a film with a majority black cast is able to break box office records the way it has. It's our way of saying: "We are proud to be descendants of Africa. This film is a win for us all."

Cover Image Credit: MDNiftyTV / YouTube

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A Letter To My Dancers

Everything your dance teacher wants you to know.

When anyone (especially a child) chooses to invest their time, talent, and passion into dancing, it's nothing to take lightly. These kids spend more time with me at the studio than they do at home with their parents. Before long, they're my "kids," too. When I only have an hour to lead a warm-up, teach choreography, and rehearse a number, there isn't much time to express the thoughts and feelings I'd necessarily like to. Being a dance teacher is the most spectacular and rewarding job - and I want my students to know that. Between the great rehearsals and the frustrating ones, the competitions and recitals, and the endless hours we spend together each week, there are just a few reminders I need to share with them.

Dear Dancers,

Please love yourself and love what you do with every ounce of your being. Do it with so much passion that your heart wants to burst. Dance is the most special thing; it's something we are privileged and lucky to have, so don't take it for granted.

Please believe in yourself. You are worthy. You are talented. You are strong and capable of everything you set your mind to. Strive to be the best version of yourself every day, not the reflection of the girl next to you. Dance like you. Move like you. Experiment and find what makes you, you. Be an individual. Trust me when I say I don't want 20 carbon-copied robots. I want you.

Trust that I have your best interest in mind. Sometimes my choices and decisions won't make sense, you might be confused, hurt or frustrated, but keep the faith that I'm on your side. I don't want to see you fail, and I'll do everything in my power to help you find the success you're looking for.

I want you to succeed, but for me to do that, you need to tell me what you need. Do you need the counts again? Do you need me to review the transition to floor one more time? If you understand, tell me. If you don't, tell me that, too. Be vocal, be present, be smart, and be prepared. Practice on the sides. Pay attention to the small details. Ask questions. Don't be late, and definitely don't forget your choreography. Take responsibility for your responsibilities and lead by example. Do you have any remote idea how many children look up to you? Who want to be just like you someday? Dance just like you? Kids watch, listen, and copy. Make sure the behaviors you're teaching them are behaviors you're proud of.

Make memories with your dance family while you still can. Cherish every 9 a.m. Saturday morning rehearsal, every competition you attend, every fundraising event, and every team sleepover. It'll be gone so fast. You're going to miss these days. Please, enjoy them.

Don't compare yourself to other dancers. You are you, and nobody can do "you" better than yourself. Don't wish away your abilities by secretly wishing you had Suzie's feet, Betsy's port de bras, or Charlie's center. The only thing you need to worry about is being a better version of yourself than you were the day before. You are your only competition, so don't be too hard on yourself. Be kind to your mind and body. You work day in and day out to perfect your craft and artistry. You work to mold and create yourself. You'll be rewarded with time if you keep fighting and don't give up. Usually when you want to throw in the towel, it's after you don't get the part you wanted or you don't make the team you hoped to. What you need to understand is the answer isn't "No," the answer is "Not yet." You know you're trying and working hard, and those efforts don't go unnoticed -- even if it seems they are.

Please, remember that it's not going to always be fair. You're going to be let down, and you're going to feel disappointed from time to time. You're not always going to win the trophy. You're not always going to get the featured solo part, and not everyone can be the front row and center dancer. This doesn't mean you're "bad" and this doesn't mean you're not "meant" to dance either.

Quite frankly, it's just how it works, you guys. It doesn't mean I don't like you, and it doesn't mean the dancer who does have the solo is my favorite. The dancer just might be more talented. Yeah, I said it. They might have better lines, straighter knees, or stronger stage presence, and that is entirely okay. You're going to run into this for the rest of your adult life. Someone is going to be smarter, more qualified, more desirable for a particular job or position. So instead of despising and resenting these dancers (and especially me), try to learn from them instead. You'll learn more from each other than you could imagine. But if you take away one thing from this, know that you are still worthy of my best training, my best analogies, my best choreography -- whether you are featured, in the third row, or even off-stage for the turn section.

As your teacher, it's my job to teach. Learning (and learning correctly) requires close attention to detail, incredible focus, and a plethora of corrections on my part. Yes, I will go out of my way to critique you, and I will continually tell you what needs fixing until it's fixed. I might have to tell you over and over and over again. And you know, I might even get frustrated with you once in awhile because of it, but here's what you need to understand: This doesn't make me mean or a bad teacher. This doesn't mean I hate you. What it does mean is that I see potential in you and I want to help. I just have to ask, do you see what I see in you? Do you see the talent and abilities I see?

Corrections are good. Success is an incredibly long and never ending process that takes time, but the corrections I give you are helping you get one step closer. So next time you catch yourself getting upset about receiving the same critique week after week or you want to complain about how mean I am, please remember that my intent is not malicious. I'm doing my job.

It's also my job to instill perseverance, dedication, discipline, trust, humility, confidence, creativity, bravery, and strong work ethic into you. I want to push your limits. Test you. Challenge you. I want to mold you into the person you want to be. Even though you probably don't even know who that person is, I do.

There are so many possibilities, opportunities, and challenges that are out there once you enter the world of adulthood. The dance world is so much bigger than your studio, competition routines, and conventions. At the end of the day, no one remembers or cares (especially your future employers) if you won a quadruple diamond platinum plus on your lyrical solo in 2016. They don't care about your first place overall at Showbiz. They don't care if you're Teen Miss Winner of the World. They don't care. What people do care about is your character, your heart, and how you made them feel.

Dancers, I will always support you. Whether you want to pursue a professional dance career in Los Angeles or New York City, in a company overseas, on your college dance team, I will support you. Whether you want to teach dance or choreograph locally in town, I will support you. Whether you don't want to dance at all and maybe be an engineer or a cosmetologist, I will support you. I will always fuel your dreams, goals, and desires, no matter where they'll take you.

I love you and I'm proud of you.


Your Dance Teacher

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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