Reflections

The Women of #BlackPanther and the Gospel of Doing It Yo’ Damn Self

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There’s a spirituality to black femme-dom. A current in the room when a group of black femmes get together. It is the lifeblood that courses through several nations–even ones we had no intention of traveling to to begin with. It is the reason I would go to church when it was hard to get out of bed. It is the feeling of home in the friends I’ve met from across the United States in a country none of us are from. It is the feeling of manicured fingers combing through 4C hair. It is the smell of oils in bottles labeled black woman and black love. It is laughing at cultural inside jokes expressed with just a glance between you and someone you barely know. It is the fierceness of revolutions and the sound of disembodied voices fighting in movements that refuse to represent us. And as always, it is the power and bravery of knowing when you’ve exhausted all other options and when you need to do it your damn self.

I, like the rest of my kinfolk, headed to the movies this past weekend to see Marvel’s Black Panther. I won’t spoil anything here, except to say: #WakandaForever. This film means so much black people who’ve felt, that for the past 10 years, we’re being pulled backwards in history. We never expected our 40 acres and a mule, but we also thought better of the world around us. Anyway, not the time for that now.

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Revolutionary about this film is its depiction of black women. The actors and directors expertly navigate between the dichotomies of strength and vulnerability, ferocity and softness. These women are the women I grew up knowing: nuanced and full of personality–not the one dimensional characters who are meant to remind us of our pain. The black women also reinforced a truth passed down from generation to generation while rarely being spoken: if you want something done, you’re going to have to do it yo damn self. Despite all the hashtags and memes of saucy black women surrounded by text with that sentiment, this is a lesson black women have passed along to one another through actions and very little talk. Black women take the helm of movements with little fuss (and often little thanks from others) from Coretta Scott to Tarana Burke–everyone before and after, everyone forgotten and in between.

I celebrate the women in the film and it didn’t ruin or alter my experience knowing I wasn’t wholly represented as a black disabled woman. I am used to cobbling together the representation and inspiration I need from far ranging sources–piecing together the heroes I need. I can still love this film while hoping for the day to come when I can see myself in films and television. But, as the gospel of black women reads: It is not enough to hope for something, you must build it. No one else is going to. (Coupled with the Crip Gospel of demanding the right to represent and advocate for one’s self, and it’s a near certainty)

So, I look up to these black women on screen not hoping to be the next Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o or Danai Gurira, but the only Imani Barbarin.

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Disabled Femme in Black leather jacket and African print maxi skirt, grinning with one crutch in the air and one on the ground.

*All gifs are from giphy.com.

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3 comments

  1. Beautiful sentiments. I have yet to see the film, but I know there’s been an outpouring of enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to it! Your post also reminded me of what Uzoamaka Aduba said in a speech about her name and its meaning- that we should all be proud of what we are given by our ancestors. Like you, my ancestral legacies give me meaning and power in life. My willingness to embrace all of these legacies has sometimes brought me into conflict with my own family members, who want to present a carefully edited “image” of themselves to the world, not the truth. But real life is about embracing real truth and being the best we can be of ourselves. Bravo.

    Liked by 1 person

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