Words by Nick Slay
Chadwick Boseman does an awesome job as T’Challa, however the women of Wakanda are the real stars.
Somewhere there’s a little boy texting his pops for the 15th time, asking when are they going to see Black Panther this weekend. A new American tradition has emerged, where a Father takes his son to see the characters he grew up on in comics and Saturday morning cartoons. However, if this movie is just perceived as a movie for young black boys to find the hero they so desperately need, a rare opportunity might be missed.
Director Ryan Coogler and and writer Joe Robert Cole, took so much time building the importance of black women in this film, our hero would be lost without them. For young girls of color, especially of richer darker melanin skin, unless you’re watching Viola Davis on How To Get Away With Murder, finding a black woman of deep chocolate tones to look up to is hard to find. However in Coogler’s Black Panther, there’s more powerful women of color than on all the shows on primetime combined, and none of them are famous for their snot cry (sorry Viola).
First off there is Danai Gurira‘s head of the Dora Milaje – Okoye. The bad a** head of the royal guard with a spear to takes no crap from anyone. The Dora Milaje are women gathered from the 4 tribes of Wakanda chosen to protect the king (Black Panther) who are superior in every way and have the potential to become queen. Her fights might have been more entertaining than Chadwick’s. From saving him when he’s caught off guard by women traffickers, or dropping male villains before they can get one word of screen time, she is strong, chocolate, beautiful, and convicted. Making a statement she would choose Wakanda over anyone.
Lupita Nyong’o’s – Nakia, plays T’Challa’s love interest, yet she is so much more. Functioning as a war dog or spy, her passion in the movie is saving women from trafficking and slavery. So much so she puts herself in harm’s way undercover to achieve her goals. More than just the sexy balancing act for Boseman’s Black Panther, she even insinuates that her mission to save African women supersedes her feelings for him or sitting on the throne.
Not to pass up T’Challa’s mother Ramonda played the never-aging Angela Bassett, who gave us full on Storm vibes with her grey locs, we need to focus on Letitia Wright’s character who plays the genius inventor and sister – Shuri. She is a woman who isn’t burdened by cultural norms, marches to the beat of a different drum, and provides the hi-tech toys that makes Black Panther, Batman level. Now in the comics it’s important to know much like the Dark Knight, T’Challa is a polymath. It means he excels at a high level in multiple disciplines, even creating his own version of physics based on the mystical metal that Wakanda is founded on, Vibranium called “Shadow Physics.” However in Coogler’s vision, his sister takes much of that heavy lifting. This is crucial for young black girls looking to get into STEM programs. Any nerd can tell you sci-fi novels and TV are what most inventors grew up on and fueled their curiosity to change the world. As young men grew up reading H.G. Wells went on to invent the Television, rocket ships, and so forth so can young black girls look at Shuri and say I can do too. She plays the Q the gadget woman who helps T’Challa win the day. Her most important function besides her comedic timing is to make young black girls say, “I can do that!”
If that isn’t enough reason to bring your daughters to this movie (decked out in Kente cloth), I don’t know what is.