I am a black panther. I have always had an affinity to this animal. I sensed its majesty ever since I was a child reading the discarded National Geographic magazines that my mother would bring home from her office cleaning job.
This is odd for me because I have never had a close acquaintance with domestic cats. I am now able to be in the same room as them without flinching as I did as a teenager. I’ve even held a cat or two for hours, but they are not my first choice of a favourite feline.
The black panther spoke to me from the first day I set eyes on it. If anyone asks what animal I align myself with most closely, it is always a big cat. Because of the time of my birth some assume I would choose a lion, but I always choose a black panther, always.
And now many people around the globe are choosing to identify with the Black Panther.
I knew this day would come. It was foretold by the spirits.
The spirits are never wrong.
The Black Panthers of American history were a foreshadow of the recently released film of a similar name. They resonated with the souls of black folks who, with single consciousness, saw themselves through their own eyes (W.E.B DuBois), so it is with this film, the Black Panther movie is a joy, a happiness, a homecoming.
I know this, and I haven’t even seen it yet.
I sense it, the way you sense that someone is looking at you. You know. You always know.
When you see the essence of yourself anywhere, you smile in recognition.
These past few years of cinematic offers have had me grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat, no, more like a black panther. The choice of films that see me, people like me, has risen. The stories, like life, are not always singing and dancing in the rain themes, there are real moments of the darkest sadness and contrasting beautiful times of sublime joy.
I won’t review all of my favourite films here, but I will list a few of the most memorable ones for me in the last five years:
Fruitvale Station (2013)
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Birth of a Nation (2016)
A United Kingdom (2016)
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Queen of Katwe (2016)
Get Out (2017)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017)
Girls Trip (2017)
Hidden Figures (2017)
Black Panther (2018)
I have seen myself, I have met myself and my family on the road as I watched these films. In the moments that have flashed across the screen I have recalled the whispered stories of relatives who have passed on, the proud chest-bursting tales of achievements that only a few will ever know about (until they are shared more widely), I have recalled the names and the lives of the others who were not othered by me. These stories have always been told, but not always in the public arena.
To this end I have watched most of the aforementioned films many times. I will watch Black Panther more than once. This much I already know. I will revel in it as if I was Queen Cleopatra bathing in milk and honey. Luxuriating in the blackness of it all, in the oneness of being continually visible to myself.
People who are ‘other’ than me may view these films as ‘other’ but to me they are normal, like me. My blackness is normal, and I do not need anyone’s permission to repeatedly view this normality or honour it.
“Wakanda. We are home. My son it is your time. You get to decide what kind of king you are going to be.” (Black Panther, 2018)
I’ve waited my whole life for this time. I knew it was coming, it had to.
The black panther has a keen sense of the right time to make a move.
The time is now.
Wakanda for ever.
N.B. To those who complain that there are no or few white people in these films I have mentioned, please tell me where your indignation was hiding when the people of colour were missing from the screens and stages of the world in the all too recent past.
This is the present and it is good. I am Not Your Negro (2016). I am a Black Panther (2018). The time of Hidden Figures (2017) must fade.