Oh Yes, Wakanda IS Real! Believe it!

 

As of right now, the hit Marvel Comic film Black Panther has made over $700,000,000 worldwide and still counting.  Contrary to what commentator Ben Shapiro and other obtuse threatened right-wingers believe, their negative opinions toward the movie and toward black people being excited about it have had no effect on people’s enthusiasm whatsoever.  Among other asinine claims made by Shapiro and others is that Wakanda isn’t real.  Well it’s a good thing he told us or we would never have known!  I hope we won’t hear the shocking news that Asgard, Gotham City, Metropolis and a galaxy far far away aren’t real either.  Oh but Wakanda is very much real.  Not the African nation of course but what it represents.

 

Wakanda, in the Marvel Comic Universe, is an African nation rich with the most precious metal in the world known as vibranium.  Over centuries it has developed into the most advanced nation in the world.  It symbolizes what Africa could have potentially been without the effects of colonization and that is a large part of Black Panther’s appeal.  However, throughout history, going back to the beginnings of civilization, we as black people have shown what we can really accomplish and what we can be when the physical and mental chains are broken.  We need to look no further than the US for examples throughout history.  Washington D.C., our nation’s capital’s, boundaries were surveyed by a black man named Benjamin Banneker.  Banneker, who had already built a clock at the age of 22, would go on to author an almanac.  We all know what an ugly and horrific thing that war can be but imagine the death toll from poison gas if not for an invention known as the gas mask.invented by a black man named Garrett Augustus Morgan and patented in 1912.  Morgan, probably the greatest unsung inventor in U.S. History, created many more inventions including a self-extinguishing cigarette, a polish for sewing machine needles which kept the needles from scorching fabric,  hair straightening cream and hair straightening dye.  His most significant invention, however, has to be the traffic signal which we see on the streets every day.  The next time you’re frustrated with being stuck in bad traffic, thank Garrett Morgan for it now being worse.

 

When recognizing pioneers in the field of medicine, it is almost criminal how some of the most significant contributions are rarely recognized due to not looking like Louis Pasteur or Jonas but Wakanda exists there too.  Dr. Charles Drew’s research in blood transfusions and blood preservation and development of large-scale blood banks saved thousands of allied lives during World War II and has saved many more since.Although Dr. Drew may not have received the accolades he may have deserved during his lifetime, his work speaks for itself.  Fast forward to the 1960’s.  We all know about John Glenn’s historic space flight in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Who knew, until the 2017 movie Hidden Figures, that it might now have been possible if not for the mathematical genius of this black woman here,  Katherine Johnson?  Her calculation of trajectories, launch windows and emergency back flight return paths were essential to Glenn’s mission and man others, including the monumental Apollo 11 mission resulting in the first landing on the moon.  You could suggest that her contribution to the space program was much like Shuri’s contribution to T’Challa’s effectiveness as the Black Panther.

Ever heard of the gamma electric cell?  If not, you’re likely not familiar with it’s inventor, engineer Henry Sampson.  Sampson, the first black person to receive a PhD in nuclesr engineering in 1971, is considered by many to be the inventor of the cellular phone which makes use of the technology he invented.  The gamma electric cell, according to Dr. Sampson, was interestingly enough created to produce stable high output voltage and current used to detect radiation in the ground.  Even he probably never thought that it would revolutionize communication throughout the world. And yes,we can thank a black man for that.

So while the nation of Wakanda may be a fictional place, the people and the potential it represents certainly are not. There are many other past, present and future examples 0f black genius, excellence and innovation who have advanced our nation and world tremendously in many ways and are continuing to do so.  So when we say “Wakanda forever” it isn’t a wish, it’s a proclamation.

 

A Full Moon Kind of Day

Yesterday was a full moon kind of day.  Where things go awry and people act crazy and you wonder, “Is there a full moon out tonight?”.  Well, it turns out there WAS a full moon yesterday.  I didn’t know it until late last night but the day sure presented itself as such:

#myvip elder forgot his bookbag.  Not a book or pencil, but a whole, entire book bag.  Sure, he could get a loaner laptop from school but everything that he needed for the day was left at home.  He asked me to pick him up right after school because he didn’t have practice while his brother would be at an away meet.  He also asked if his phone was ready; he had been having problems and the phone carrier recommended one of those cell phone repair places at the mall. I’d dropped it off the prior week and it should have been ready by then.  I called after I dropped the boys to school but no one answered, because the mall wasn’t open yet.  I filed it away in my mind to call back later.

Tax season is in full swing at the office.  I had several clients and between phone calls and entering data and checking and responding to emails, before I knew it the time was 5:17, when…

I get a phone call from an unfamiliar number and when I answer, completely preoccupied, I was surprised to hear my man-child’s voice. “Um, are you coming to pick me up?”  Uuggghhh, and AAAAAARRRRGGGHHH – I plum forgot to get him!  I always DESPISED being late to pick up my children from school or afterschool. I didn’t want them to wait a second longer than necessary and if traffic prevented me from getting them on time, my anxiety spiked, until I saw their sweet faces and realized that they were not bothered  In fact, on the few times I was late, they had occupied themselves in a game or book or video and usually looked at me like, “You’re here already?” Yesterday was NOT one of those moments.  I raced through Friday afternoon Atlanta traffic, and promised him anything he wanted for dinner, plus I waived his portion of his cell phone payment for the month.  If he has asked for that Nintendo Switch I probably would have figured out how to buy it for him too – I was just that upset with myself.  And he called on a weird phone because he didn’t have his own phone, and do you think I remembered to call the cell phone repair people??

So, what could have been a two hour trip to school and back turned into a 3.5 hour tour: traffic was horrible, I had to get gas, he asked for fries from Chick-Fil-A to tide him over until we could go to Steak-n-Shake, which was near the mall we needed to stop at to pick up his repaired cell phone.  When I called the repair place on my way to get my son, they checked and said “Yes, the phone is ready”.  And I replied, “Well, I thought you were going to call me about it”, to which they answered, “We were going to call you in another hour”.  Really?!?  So yes, it took 3 1/2 hours to get all of this done.

As we’re driving back, we both spot the biggest, brightest full moon that we’ve ever seen.  It was sitting so low in the sky, it felt like we could reach up and touch it.  That moon was so round, so clear, and who bright, it looked like when you get a new shiny toy and take it out of the package.  It looked freshly scrubbed and clean.  We get back to the office (after some back and forth about office/home/office/home and who would get him), and he decided to stay until we all left for the night.  It was already after 8:00 and I knew we would leave by 10:00, so no more than 2 hours of waiting.  That man-child had his Steak-n-Shake meal, complete with a big ol’ chocolate peanut butter milkshake…and within 30 minutes he was knocked out.  He had his shoes off, his glasses on the table, and his head drooped all the over onto the chair; so instead of watching TV, the TV was watching him.   Of course that brought a smile to my face and I called my father over to look, and he also smiled.  It was a welcome bit of levity to the day.

Until

We got home and my husband relayed the story of an incident that happened when he picked up #myvip younger.  He got off the exit near home with the intention to stop at Wendy’s and give him a treat.  He said he had just passed a spot when he heard a loud crash and tires screeching.  As he exclaimed “Oh Wow”, he saw something fly across the street; he thought it was a smaller car.  Our son said he thought it was a person. They went through the drive-through and as they were leaving they saw the ambulance and police cars, and most unfortunately, a tarp draped over a body.  When they got home, he checked the news a little later, and they did report a pedestrian fatality, and minor injuries to the driver.  It’s believed that the pedestrian wasn’t visible until the moment of impact – it was dark and he or she was not wearing reflective clothing, plus this was in the middle of the street and not at a crosswalk.  How sad!  I was shocked, they were shook – because it could have been them, they just missed the accident by a few seconds – they could have been the ones to hit that person.  We are all upset at the loss of life, no matter how it happened.

So yeah, man…yesterday was a full moon kind of day.

 

Representation Matters – Wakanda Forever Represents

I can’t say enough about Black Panther.  The movie evoked so many emotions and thoughts that I have to write more than one blog post about it.  Today we’ll focus on representation, in the forms of: origin and heritage, costumes, hair and makeup, gender and age

A cast and crew of hundreds of people literally came from around the world to create the majesty that is Black Panther.  People from countries in Africa, North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia were all represented in the film.  Here are a few:

Angela Bassett (Queen Mother Ramonda) – St. Petersburg, FL (born in NYC and also raised in NC)

Isaach de Bankole (River Tribe Elder, w the lip plate) – C’ote d’Ivoire

Nabiyah Be (Linda) – Brazil & Jamaica

Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa) – Anderson, SC

Sterling K. Brown (Prince N’Jobu) – St Louis, MO

Connie Chiume (Mining Tribe Elder)-  South Africa

Ryan Coogler (Director), Oakland, CA

Winston Duke (M’Baku) – Tobago

Jason Elwood Hanna (stunts) – Nassau, Bahamas

Danai Gurira (Okoye) –  Zimbambwe (born in Grinnell, Iowa)

Michael B Jordan (Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens, N’Jadaka) – Santa Ana, CA

Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi) – England and Uganda

John Kani and Atwande Kani (Elder T’Chaka and Young T’Chaka, and real-life father-son acting duo) – South Africa

Florence Kasumba (Ayo)  – Uganda and Germany

Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) – Mexico and Kenya

Sydelle Noel (Dora Milaje) – Grenada

Danny Sapani (Border Tribe Elder) – Ghana and England

Rashad Smith (stunts) – Hattiesburg, MS

Dorothy Steel (Merchant Tribe Elder) – Atlanta, GA (side note: I heard a snippet just today on radio station V-103 as part of the morning news blurbs that Ms. Steel is 91 years old, and has been acting for only the past 3 years – it’s NEVER too late to pursue anything you want to do)

Denzel Whitaker (young Zuri) – Torrance, CA

Forest Whitaker (Zuri) – Longview, TX & Carson, CA

Shaunette Renee Wilson (Dora Milaje) – Georgetown, Guyana (SN: Guyana, STAND UP!)

Leitia Wright (Shuri) – Guyana and England  (SN: once again, Guyana, STAND UP! )

 

I am sure there were many more states and countries represented – but could you just take a minute and marvel (yes, marvel) at the representation of our black and brown brothers and sisters?

 

We also had representation in the attire, hair and makeup for the movie.  Can we take a moment to reflect on the 30+ year career or Ruth Carter, two-time Academy Award nominee (for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad)?  She also did the costumes for many other Spike Lee movies: School Daze, Mo’Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, and Chi-Raq, as well as The Five Heartbeats, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Love and Basketball (one of my favorite movies), Four Brothers and Sparkle (Ms. Whitney Houston’s last cinematic effort), the Butler, Selma and television’s Being Mary Jane.  So the lady has put in the work, for many years, and through many different genres and time periods; she has been recognized in the form of two Oscar nominations, but the ultimate cinematic recognition has not been bestowed up on her…yet.  Now have you seen Black Panther?  From the authentic attire in 1992, to the various tribes represented in Wakanda, Ms. Carter’s designs rang true to form.

The Atlantic did an extensive interview with Ms. Carter, which you can find here: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/why-fashion-is-key-to-understanding-the-world-of-black-panther/553157/

My two favorite paragraphs are:

Of course, Carter couldn’t rely on this familiarity for Black Panther. “We didn’t really have … a visual model of people living in Wakanda,” she told me. “So it was kind of a fantasy or an imagined place for me. It was very intimidating. Creating a world is no joke.” The comic books alone couldn’t explain everything Carter needed to know. So to pull Black Panther off the page, she and her team relied on the Wakanda “bible” created by the director Ryan Coogler and the production designer Hannah Beachler. Carter said she kept four words on her vision board as she designed: Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful. The costumes had to fit seamlessly into the film, telling a story of their own but not competing with or distracting from the plot. The result is a dramatic look that makes clear that Wakandans use clothing as an important form of self- and community expression, to honor their ancestors, and to maintain a progressive social order.

Carter’s first step was to do a deep dive into the continent’s diverse history of dress. “My approach was the same as [it is] on a period film: I did a lot of research,” she said. The textile production, hand-dyeing, and beading techniques of the Tuareg, Zulu, Maasai, Himba, and Dinka peoples helped inspire an eclectic color palette: deep aubergine and crimson, effervescent chartreuse and tangerine, rich jade and silver.   

If you saw the movie, I know you would agree with me that Ms. Carter’s vision was “mission accomplished”.

Hair and makeup played an important part as well.  Makeup for dark skinned people often comes off as ashy, dry, monotone (because there are not enough shades available).  But in Black Panther, every single one of the sisters, from the lightest milk chocolate to the deepest dark chocolate hue, looked smooth, vibrant, moisturized, properly shaded, colorful, and flawless.  Regarding hair, checkout this interview excerpt from The Cut with Camille Friend, who headed up the hair department of Black Panther:

The movie’s hair wizard explained the month-long process of creating Angela Bassett’s wig, why Michael B. Jordan needed to wear extensions, and what it was like working on a film that celebrated natural black hair.

What was the overall creative direction for the hair in Black Panther?
There were three parts. For the “traditional” look, we used inspiration from the Zulu tribe, the Maasai tribe, and the Hima tribe. Then we looked at the modern styles in the natural-hair movement. Finally we looked at the Afropunk movement, which has a lot of natural and creative styling. Also, there are five tribes in the story, and we had to create different looks for each tribe.

All of the Best Products and Methods for Curly Hair

What was it like working on a movie where everyone was styled in natural hair?
There’s no press and comb in this movie. No relaxers, no nothing! That was one of the things that I really was firm about. I requested that people come with their natural hair. People were like, “Are you sure?” and I was like, “Yes, I am sure! We have a qualified staff of hair people who are phenomenal and who are well-versed in natural hair.”

A dark skinned, kinky haired little girl – who wore her hair in various cornrow styles for years, who braided her own hair and didn’t get a press till 10 and a perm till 14/15, who got ridiculed for hair texture and hair styles, and lack of long full, lush, flowing hair; who got ridiculed for her darker skin and broad nose; who didn’t see many stars or celebrities who looked like her growing up – swelled with immense pride at seeing the natural hairstyles, the flawless darker skin and makeup, the bold and colorful authentically African costumes, and the fully realized depictions of gorgeous dark skinned women.  Yes, people costumes, hair and makeup are important.  They set a tone and mood and look, just like cinematography, scenery and location.  And the tone, mood and look of Black Panther is one that completely embraces, celebrates and luxuriates in people of color who look like me.  What a powerful piece of artistry that is also affirming to Black womanhood everywhere!

 

Representation Matters – Wakanda Respresents

I cannot say enough about Black Panther.  It has evoked so many emotions and thoughts that I will be posting multiple times.  Today we’re focusing on representation, in the forms of: origin and heritage; hair and makeup, costumes, gender and age.

A cast and crew of hundreds of people literally came from all parts of the world to create the majesty that is Black Panther.  North and South America, the Caribbean, many countries in Africa, Europe and Asia were all represented.  Here is a partial list:

Isaach de Bankole (River Tribe Elder, w the lip plate) – C’ote d’Ivoire

Angela Bassett (Queen Mother Ramonda) – St. Petersburg, FL (born in NYC and also raised in NC)

Nabiyah Be (Linda) – Brazil & Jamaica

Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), Anderson, SC

Sterling K. Brown (Prince N’Jobu) – St Louis, MO

Connie Chiume (Mining Tribe Elder)-  South Africa

Ryan Coogler (Director), Oakland, CA

Winston Duke (M’Baku) – Tobago

 

Danai Gurira (Okoye) –  Zimbambwe (born in Grinnell, Iowa)

Jason Elwood Hanna (stunts) – Nassau, Bahamas

Michael B Jordan (Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens, N’Jadaka) , CA

Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi) – English and Uganda

Florence Kasumba (Ayo)  – Uganda and Germany

John Kani and Atwande Kani (Elder T’Chaka and Young T’Chaka, and real-life father – son acting duo) – South Africa

Sydelle Noel (Dora Milaje) – Grenada

Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) – Mexico and Kenya

Danny Sapani (Border Tribe Elder) – Ghana and England

Rashad Smith (stunts) – Hattiesburg, MS

Dorothy Steel (Merchant Tribe Elder) – Atlanta, GA (side note: I heard a snippet just today on radio station V-103 as part of the morning news blurbs that Ms. Steel is 91 years old, and has been acting for only the past 3 years – it’s NEVER too late to pursue anything you want to do)

Denzel Whitaker (young Zuri/James) – Torrance, CA (Denzel is no relation to Forest but they did favor each other in the movie)

Forest Whitaker (Zuri/James) – Longview, TX & Carson, CA

Shaunette Renee Wilson (Dora Milaje) – Georgetown, Guyana

Leitia Wright (Shuri) – Guyana and England

I am sure there were many more states and countries represented – but could you just take a minute and marvel (yes, marvel) at the representation of our black and brown brothers and sisters?

Let’s shift a bit and focus on the costumes, hair and makeup.  Can we take a moment to reflect on the 30+ year career or Ruth Carter, two-time Academy Award nominee (for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad)?  She also did the costumes for many other Spike Lee movies: School Daze, Mo’Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, and Chi-Raq, as well as, The Five Heartbeats, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Love and Basketball (one of my favorite movies), Four Brothers and Sparkle (Ms. Whitney Houston’s last cinematic effort), the Butler, Selma and television’s Being Mary Jane.  So the lady has put in the work, for many years, and through many different genres and time periods; she has been recognized in the form of two Oscar nominations, but the ultimate cinematic recognition has not been bestowed up on her…yet.  Now have you seen Black Panther?  From the authentic attire in 1992, to the various tribes represented in Wakanda, Ms. Carter’s designs rang true to form.

The Atlantic did an extensive interview with Ms. Carter, which you can find here: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/why-fashion-is-key-to-understanding-the-world-of-black-panther/553157/

The two paragraphs that, to me, crystallized the process are:

Of course, Carter couldn’t rely on this familiarity for Black Panther. “We didn’t really have … a visual model of people living in Wakanda,” she told me. “So it was kind of a fantasy or an imagined place for me. It was very intimidating. Creating a world is no joke.” The comic books alone couldn’t explain everything Carter needed to know. So to pull Black Panther off the page, she and her team relied on the Wakanda “bible” created by the director Ryan Coogler and the production designer Hannah Beachler. Carter said she kept four words on her vision board as she designed: Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful. The costumes had to fit seamlessly into the film, telling a story of their own but not competing with or distracting from the plot. The result is a dramatic look that makes clear that Wakandans use clothing as an important form of self- and community expression, to honor their ancestors, and to maintain a progressive social order.

Carter’s first step was to do a deep dive into the continent’s diverse history of dress. “My approach was the same as [it is] on a period film: I did a lot of research,” she said. The textile production, hand-dyeing, and beading techniques of the Tuareg, Zulu, Maasai, Himba, and Dinka peoples helped inspire an eclectic color palette: deep aubergine and crimson, effervescent chartreuse and tangerine, rich jade and silver.   

If you saw the movie, then you know it was “Mission Accomplished”; beautiful, positive, forward, colorful.  You only had to experience the pagentry and lush richness of the Warrior Falls scenes to know that the costumes hit on every part of Ms. Carter’s vision.  Give. This. Woman. The. Academy. Award. For. Costume. Design. For Black Panther.

And this excerpt from the Cut sums up the why the hairstyles played such an integral role:

Ahead of the movie’s premiere, the Cut talked to the head of Black Panther’s hair department, Camille Friend. The movie’s hair wizard explained the month-long process of creating Angela Bassett’s wig, why Michael B. Jordan needed to wear extensions, and what it was like working on a film that celebrated natural black hair.

What was the overall creative direction for the hair in Black Panther?
There were three parts. For the “traditional” look, we used inspiration from the Zulu tribe, the Maasai tribe, and the Hima tribe. Then we looked at the modern styles in the natural-hair movement. Finally we looked at the Afropunk movement, which has a lot of natural and creative styling. Also, there are five tribes in the story, and we had to create different looks for each tribe.

All of the Best Products and Methods for Curly Hair

What was it like working on a movie where everyone was styled in natural hair?
There’s no press and comb in this movie. No relaxers, no nothing! That was one of the things that I really was firm about. I requested that people come with their natural hair. People were like, “Are you sure?” and I was like, “Yes, I am sure! We have a qualified staff of hair people who are phenomenal and who are well-versed in natural hair.”

A dark skinned, kinky haired little girl – who wore her hair in various cornrow styles for years, who braided her own hair and didn’t get a press till 10 and a perm till 14/15, who got ridiculed for hair texture and hair styles, and lack of long full, lush, flowing hair; who got ridiculed for her darker skin and broad nose; who didn’t see many stars or celebrities who looked like her growing up – swelled with immense pride at seeing the natural hairstyles, the flawless darker skin and makeup, the bold and colorful authentically African costumes, and the fully realized depictions of gorgeous dark skinned women.  Yes, people costumes, hair and makeup are important.  They set a tone and mood and look, just like cinematography, scenery and location.  And the tone, mood and look of Black Panther is one that completely embraces, celebrates and luxuriates in people of color who look like me.  What a powerful piece of artistry that is also affirming to Black womanhood everywhere!

 

 

The Day the Snake (almost) Took Over

We are a three person operation; the founder/owner, the operations manager (me) and the front office person.  All three of us are deathly afraid of snakes.  I don’t know anyone who likes snakes, who wants one as a pet, who speaks of them in loving terms.  I know those people exist, it’s just that I don’t know any; those people are not in my circle and are not my friends.

Today, after I dropped the boys to school, I made a couple of stops before I went home to get Dad.  He in turn wanted to pick up a few items from the grocery store.  So we got to the office a little later than usual.  A was already there and I saw another car.  “Oh we have a client”, I said.  As we pulled up, Dad asked me to get the door leading into the kitchen as he took out the four bags of groceries that he bought.  I picked up my purse and saw A open said kitchen door.  She motioned from behind the screened door “go around” and I thought I heard her say “snake” but I wasn’t sure.  I just know she asked us not to come in from that direction.  We walked into the front door as usual and saw that the client was a family friend, so someone from Guyana.  As this was registering in my mind, I definitely heard A say “snake; there is a snake out there”.  WTH, WTF, and all the WWWWWWW’s that you or I can think of at a time like this.  She explained, “I was mopping, and I went to take out the garbage.  As soon as I opened the door, I saw something drop and it started to move and my whole insides just turned”.  Then she went on, “I was waiting for Dionne to come in”, to which I immediately replied, “FOR WHAT????  I do not do snakes; I will kill a roach before I look at a snake, and I don’t kill roaches, I call the boys or my husband when I see a ‘water bug’; nuh uhh, you were NOT looking for me”.  Dad doesn’t like snakes either; all three of us said that if we even see a snake on tv, we turn the channel.  In the meantime, the family friend who came a repeat client, was laughing at us.  She asked for a cutlass, which we didn’t have; she asked for a stick and I think A gave her a broom and dustpan.

She went out the kitchen door and the next thing I know, she said the snake was dead.  She was calling us to take a look and no one wanted to see it.  I told everyone that if she wasnt’ there, I would have gone back home.  And if we couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the snake then I would have shut down the office for the day.  I mean that too.  I. WILL. NOT. DEAL. WITH. SNAKES.

I don’t care if it’s bad business to close up shop during the peak season.  I don’t care if we had clients who were there.  I don’t care if clients spread the word about the fraidy cat business owners who can’t stand snakes.  Unless they’re coming with cutlasses, or Snake-Be-Gone, then I don’t wanna hear it.   I. WILL. NOT. DEAL. WITH. SNAKES.

J, the client, said that in Guyana, her family lived just beyond a swamp, and that her mother didn’t like snake either, so it was up to the children to deal with them.  And apparently, there were lots of times when snakes would sidle up to their front steps, even though those steps were UP ONE LEVEL.  The ding-dang nerve.  My skin crawled as she told me and I knew, I just knew that God knew what He was doing by having me be born and raised in the streets of Brooklyn.  I am a city girl through and through.  Thank God J was at the office at just the right time.  If I was there by myself, it would be a wrap, and some exterminator would have to provide proof (to my husband, cause I won’t want to see it) that the snake was gone.  If it was just Dad and me, I would convince him to go home.  If it was just A and me, I would leave and she would probably follow.  And if it was the three of us, I would speak up about shutting down for the day (“Stop. Drop. Shut ‘Em Down, Don’t Open Up Shop. No-oh oh; No-oh oh, That’s how Ya Girl Dee Rolls”  Shout out to DMX and Ruff Ryders) Anyway, my vote forever and always will be for us to vacate the premises because I. WILL. NOT. DEAL. WITH. SNAKES.

Thankfully it didn’t come to that; God sent a snake Killmonger to our midst (yes, I will make a Black Panther reference very chance I get).  Now to continue the rest of our day, snake-free.

6 Ways That the Black Panther Movie Already Has People Trained

So Black Panther is a cultural phenomenon that is breaking records, capturing attention and creating a sense of pride all across the nation  It’s also causing people to change behavior or to tighten up their behavior, all in positive ways.  This is a strictly observational, unscientific poll conducted by moi, but I’ll bet if you peeped what I’ve been peeping, you’ll feel the same way.  Black Panther is causing people to: plan ahead, expect multiple viewings, dress accordingly, arrive on time, not talk during the movie, and not share spoilers.  Check the details:

  1. Plan Ahead: Pre-sale tickets broke all types of box office records; people have been anticipating this movie for days, weeks, months and years.  So yes, they already planned time off work, make arrangements with baybsitters and adults sitters and pet sitters – whatever it takes to make sure faces are in the place during opening weekend. Also, there is a commitment to see the show more than once, which can get pricey. But I know folks ate rice and beans, bought the basic necessities, gave up a few luxuries (Starbucks, lunch, dinner, drinks, shopping) – however you spend your disposable income, I  am sure it was curtailed so that you could get multiple tickets.

2) Multiple Viewings:  I mean this should go without saying, but Imma say it – you will want to see Black Panther at least twice.  AT. LEAST.  The storyline, the dialogue, the acting, the COSTUMES, the cinematography, the set design, the direction, the production value, the action scenes – you need at least two viewings to take it all in.  I mean, you don’t have to go five or six times like I plan to do, but you HAVE to go, and go more than once.  I think people expect that this is how they’re going to spend their weekend and or next few weeks – going to see Black Panther.  Trust me, this is what you want to do for February.

3) Dress Accordingly: The African themed ahn-sahm-blays (ensebles) that I have seen so far have been giving me So.MUCH.LIFE.  Dashikis, and kente, and anakara, and geles and other headwraps and makeup and colors and ladies and gentlemen – everyone has come through with the African HAUTENESS and it has been a visual feast for the eyes.  All the YASSSSS that can be mustered, just prepare yourself to say it every time you go to see the movie.  And you will want to see this more than once.  With different attire, cause that’s how we roll when we plan ahead.

4) Arrive on Time: We already know what happens with blockbuster movies, especially during opening weekend.  If you don’t have reserved seats then you choose your seats based on first come first serve.  Opening weekends of blockbusters pretty much mean that the theaters will be packed, so if you’re towards the back of the line to get in, then you’re sitting towards the front of the theater.  You know the seats, the ones so close to the screen that you have neck cramps just trying to look up.  So imagine a blockbuster on steroids, cause that’s the level of Black Panther’s opening weekend.  Every body is going to see it.  Which means if you arrive late, you know what, just don’t arrive late.  That’s it.  Get there ahead of time, take some pics of your crew in your attire, get your snacks and then get your seats.  Or you could be like one lady who walked in at 10:35 and the movie showtime was 10:15. So you’re already 20 minutes late, and I guess it didn’t matter to her because she correctly assumed there would be previews.  But did she anticipate that she’s going to the THE biggest movie release in months, and possibly the most anticipated movie for black people, ever?  I guess not, cause she walked in late, with 5 other people.  Listen, you already know where the seats were…in the front row.  But yes, sis still had the nerve to say “Let’s see where we’ll sit”.  Chica!!  Ma’am! Miss Girl! You’re going to be sitting in that front row, where the seats are waiting for you and your crew; don’t even waste time looking around.  I watched her scan the crowd for about five seconds, then the party of six slowly sunk to their awaiting seats…in the front row.  Neck cramps in full effect.  Get to the movie on time, people, get there on time.

5) No talking during the movie: I cannot recall the last time I attended a movie and no one talked.  I mean, you could hear other people breathing, that’s how quiet it was.  No one was on their cell phone, no one’s cell phone rang accidentally, no one shouted back at the screen, no one cracked jokes; when we laughed in all the right places, we did it quickly so we didn’t miss the next line or scene.  Everyone was transfixed.  Again, I’ve seen Black Panther twice so far, and this was the case both times.  There was one time, towards the end, when an audience member made a comment; it was funny and appropriate and the entire theater laughed.  We all laughed because we all heard the joke; I’m telling you everyone was staying quiet and soaking it all in during this epic event.

6) No spoilers: So far no one on social media has given anything away.  I’m not looking for it, so maybe it’s there but the people on my timeline on “the Twitters” and the “Book of Faces” have posted pics of the attire and the joy and excitement of being there.  No one has reviewed or rehashed the movie, no one has quoted lines from the movie beyond what was already in trailers, no one has given away plot points, and no one has shared details that you can only see…at the movies.  So YAY good people, way to keep it classy and contained.  Now, it’s only Friday; I can’t promise that this will still be the case on Tuesday or even Monday.  People have a lot to say about this cinematic marvel (see what I did there); and they’re not going to wait a week because some of you have dragged your feet.  So get up, get out, and go see Black Panther!

 

#WakandaForever

#BlackPanther

#KingsandQueens

My POTUS & FLOTUS make Black History, again, during Black Panther Month

So for this year, I’ve renamed Black History Month to Black Panther Month.  If you don’t know why, shame on you.  In the meantime though, Black History to continues to happen all around us and we should continue to applaud all of the #peakblackexcellence every time it happens.

For example, the only POTUS and Forever FLOTUS I acknowledge in these 20-teens are once again giving us reasons to stand tall, applaud, and cry happy tears of joy.

Per CNN.com “The former first couple’s official portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, a rite of passage for most former presidents, all of whom have their portraits hanging in the museum.”  The difference is that this is the first Black President (because there will be others, as well as women Presidents and other People of Color) to grace the Smithsonian, and the first Black First Lady of the Unites States to do the same.  As reported in several publications, the power couple interviewed and vetted the artists who were commissioned, with former President and First Lady Obama choosing Keyhinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, for the final portraits.  And the results still have people talking, four days later.

Keyhinde Wiley, known for utilizing floral patterns in his work, used flowers of significance for Mr. Obama: the African blue lilies represent Kenya, Barack’s father’s birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where he was born; and the chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met Michelle – according to the NY Times.  President Obama looks…presidential: wise and strong and competent and capable and charismatic – all the traits we knew and loved while he was in office.

 

Obama Portraits

Amy Sherald created the portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama and it appears to have the most debate.  While Ms. Sherald’s work is known for using greyscale to depict Black subjects, people have commented that this particular piece is too “grey”, not dark enough, not enough color, the blue background is too light, too flat, and the depiction of Aunty Shelly is not Shelly enough.  Oh my, it’s a portrait, meaning it’s the artists’ rendition, who said it had to be exact?  You can tell it’s Michelle Obama, her pose is regal and strong and polished and purposeful – again, traits that we came to know and appreciate about FLOTUS while she graced us with her presence in the White House.  And I love the dress, I wanna know where I can find a copy…after I get these arms in shape.

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So what’s all the rah-rah about Ms. Sherald’s rendition? Did she create a Picasso-when-he-was-crazy version?  It is what it is, and Mrs. O know what she was signing up for when she signed her up.  On the flip side, I don’t agree with the comments that people need to study the artists or go experience art before they comment.  That defeats the purpose of viewing art.  Art is everywhere and is subject to interpretation base on your personal views.  So this may not be an exact likeness in the exact colors that many were expecting, but I don’t agree that you need to study other portraits to have an opinion about this one.  Everyone should take a few deep breaths and keep it moving.  You know POTUS and FLOTUS did.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald attend their official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

How awesome is it though that two Black artists were asked to create indelible permanent portraits of two of the most important figures in our immediate history, the first Black President and First Lady of these United States?  Really, how amazing and special and excellent is all this blackness that just happened?  During Black History Black Panther Black Panther History Month?  C’mon now.  Let’s celebrate this peak blackness that just happened, during the reign of he-who-shall-not-be-named.  And couldn’t didn’t find time to make an appearance in support of – which is probably for the best; you just know he would have found a way to make it about him.  It would have just messed up a historic moment, and now that I’ve typed two sentences too many about B-I-C, let’s bring it back to the reason for this post.  The best POTUS and FLOTUS in my lifetime hired two Black artists to render their portraits for the Smithsonian and the results speak for themselves.

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Get into it!  Your thoughts?

Wakanda Forever – What Black Panther Means to Me

I STAN for Black Panther!  I was only supposed to see the movie twice but what ha’ happened was:

  1. I got my advance ticket for premiere night, Thursday Feb. 15.  It’s going to be a late night date night w/ hubby to celebrate Valentine’s Day (cause who wants to deal with crowds and overpriced everything on Feb 14), plus it’s a great way to bring our royal best as we see royalty on the screen.  Oh yeah, you know I have all my outfits ready!

 Me and the crew will be like this image from the Twitterverse: https://twitter.com/ronkelawal/status/873498246617993216/photo/1

2) My sorority – the BEST sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is hosting Red Carpet events across the country, our chapter is going on Saturday Feb. 17.  I had about 10 people who wanted to go and I tried to get group tickets but Sorors are quick and I barely got my one ticket.

3) So then our group  decided to go on Sunday Feb 18; we’re going to Studio Movie Grill so it’s another date night for those who are going with their boos/baes/significant others.

4) My oldest son can’t join us cause he will be out of town on a college tour (also with my Sorority, special shoutout to the ladies of Stone Mountain-Lithonia Alumnae Chapter and chaperones who will be with our children touring HBCU’s this weekend).  Anyway, I promised to take him to see the movie when he gets back.

5) After all of that, Fox Theatre sent out a request for ushers for the special private Atlanta screening on Feb 7, and I was NOT going to miss that.  So that’s how I am going to see Black Panther 5 (yes five) times in 10 days.  Ya think I mind?  See my first sentence – I STAN for Black Panther!

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My brother got me interested in comic books years ago and I easily identified my favorites – Storm from the X-Men and Black Panther.  Besides Storm’s long white hair, she was like me – brown skinned, of African descent, navigating her way with her powers and her new group of people.  Ok, so maybe just the brown skinned part applied to me, but that was more than enough.  Black Panther was a mythical warrior king whose county was totally amazing, and a symbol of what we were and could be again – independent, spiritual, familial, brilliant, strong, advanced, and united.  I wanted to visit Wakanda.  Heck, I want to visit it now.   So yes, as a comic book fan who has been faithfully attending the Marvel movies (Iron Man, Avengers, Thor, etc.), I was ecstatic to hear that T’Challa would make an appearance in Avengers Civil War, in advance of starring in his own movie.  The buildup has been exhilarating – I mean, have you SEEEN those previews??  This movie speaks to me, the little girl who was told often about her hair, her nose, and her skin color; and the woman who still hears the comments – but now I have the tools and the sass to answer back smartly; it speaks to my children who see that young Black men are and can be an infinite number of things that have nothing to do with the traditional stereotypes assigned to Black Men – it is the movie we need to experience regularly to know that we were, are, and will be #KingsandQueens.

On Wednesday Feb. 7, I was lucky enough to snag a spot as an usher at the Fox Theatre for the Atlanta premiere of the movie.  This was for ATLiens who worked on the movie in some capacity – actor, stuntperson, crew, publicity – you name it, if they worked on it then they and their family members were invited.  So ushers have usher uniforms but you know I asked if we could wear African-themed attire (“or if we have to stick with the uniforms, what about a headwrap or scarf?”), to which I was told “That’s a lovely idea, but we have to stick with the uniforms”.  But ya girl was determined to rep Wakanda somehow, someway.  I wore earrings and a necklace that looks like it could be from the Motherland (I think); and my jacket as a I walked into the theater was definitely African themed.  Luckily, I was able to snag a couple of pics before we had to lock our phones away.

It’s too bad that they wouldn’t allow us to take pictures – which I am sure was an attempt to block bootleggers.  Lemme tell you, the FASHIONS I saw that night; whoo, I got my entire African ancestral life!  The ladies AND the gentlemen came in their colors and patterns and swag, swag, swag.  The tops, and shirts, and pants and skirts, and dresses, and hats, and headwraps, and kufis, and geles, and coats, and canes – maaan, I tell you, it was a feast for my eyes. kind of like the World Premier pictures:

Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, arrives at the premiere.  Lupita Nyong’o stole the show at the “Black Panther” premiere. Danai Gurira hit the carpet in style. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ actress Tessa Thompson shares a moment with ‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler on the purple carpet.

 

 

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I was almost good with just the visuals of the people arriving for the event.  Almost…

You know the movie was the main attraction.  But first we had to hear from the big whigs associated with the movie- from those who helped to bring parts of the filming to GA, to a couple of Marvel executives, and juuust when we started to fidget (I mean, turn on the projector already amirite?)… Samuel Jackson came out and talked about his connection with Atlanta and his first foray into acting.  And he said that Black Panther, at the time, had a 100% score on Rotten Apples.  Mr. Jackson might have had little sleep or too much sippy sippy, cause even my parents know about Rotten Tomatoes.  And at long last, the movie.

What can I say?   It was amazing, and exciting, and action packed, and funny, and breathtaking.  The costumes and hair were to-die-for, I mean if nothing else this movie needs to win the Oscar for costumers alone.  The vibrant colors, and pieces, and symbolism as it related to each tribe; I could watch the movie two more times and still find more to say just about the costumes. The story line stuck closely to the origin of Black Panther, but under the pen of Ryan Coogler the characters were fleshed out more fully than other superhero movies.  You got a deep sense of the history, familial relationships, moral obligations, and conflict over sharing technology and making global contributions while keeping the insularity of the country.

The men in the movie are principled, conflicted, complex, fierce, protective warriors.   T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman is a king who cares deeply for his people, yet he is the moral center who recognizes that the country must adapt somewhat and change with the times.  Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, is driven by his strong sense of “fairness” and vengeance; he is the best superhero/comic book villain since Heath Ledger’s rendition of the Joker.  Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke and Sterling K. Brown round out the cast of Black Men who did the most with their roles.

I can’t say enough about the women in this movie!  Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurriri, and Leitita Wright are well cast, playing roles that are strong, fierce, feminine, brilliant, funny, complex, loving and supportive – as sisterhood that is rarely seen in cinema with our women of color.  They all had natural hairstyles throughout the moves and I LOVED it, especially the Wakanda Knots, which I want to become the next hair trend.  The characters of Ramonda, Nakia, Okoye and Shuri are relatable and recognizable; we have all been each of them at some point.  I want my superhero name to be Shurakiakoye.  I think Shuri is my favorite, and not just because Leitita Wright is from my parental country of Guyana.  She lights up the screen in every scene and I hope all of these women have their own spinoff set of movies (multiple, plural) very soon.

And to have these stars grace so many magazine covers at once?  Slow Clap, people, slow clap:

  <p>Black Panther Cover (Clone) - Chadwick, Daniel, Forest, Michael</p> Black Panther Cover (Clone) - Danai, Lupita, Angela, LetitiaLupita Nyong’o covers Allure’s March issue 309014

Yes, I know this is a movie.  Yes, I know the character was created by two white men.  Yes, I know that Marvel and Disney are owned and run by white people.  Yet, I will support the juggernaut that is Black Panther because of the script that was written by a Black Man, the cast that is mostly Black, the costumes, hair and makeup that were created, managed and implemented by Black Women, and the movie itself which was directed by a Black Man.  Extra props to Ryan Coogler, who is the Black Man of which I speak who co-wrote the script and directed the movie.  He continues to shine with his directorial choices, from Fruitvale Station to Creed and now Black Panther.  He and Taika Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok), show that Marvel can entrust the franchise to diverse hands, in front of and behind the camera.  I know we still have a long way to go; I know that we need more Black producers and Executive Producers and Distributors, and Studio Movie Heads, and of the roles and positions that will greenlight movies from script to screen.  I also noted a few seconds in the movie where I gave it a major side eye as it felt as if, once again, we needed the help of a white savior to make it through – but it was very brief and, in the grand scheme of things, inconsequential.  But it does speak to the larger point of Wakanda, we can create, implement, greenlight, cast, direct and star in movies that are empowering and powerful and thought provoking, all on our own.  Black Panther is one giant step in that direction.  Next up, I am looking forward to seeing one of my childhood favorite books come to life in the theater, A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava Duvernay.  It comes out March 9 and I am ready!  But in the meantime… Black Panther…Step into the Spotlight!

 

#BlackPanther

#KingsandQueens

#WakandaForever

#StepintotheSpotlight

A Question of Faith

Faith is still a fairly new concept for me.  For 21 years now I have considered myself a Christian.  Unlike most black Americans I did not grow up in the church or follow any particular faith at all.  There were many reasons for that, not the least of which is I simply did not believe what I couldn’t see.  Part of what led me to finally accept the Lord was looking back at my life and realizing how blessed I was when things could have gone awry.  While I have been dutiful in praying, going to church and trying to live a life that the Lord would approve of, I have fallen short many times and have had my faith tested in many ways.  The latest example being the last two weeks.

My wife had a health scare which could have shaken us to the core.  She had a condition which, when she read up on it, was very symptomatic of cancer.  We prayed on it every day and reminded ourselves that it could be any number of things but one can’t help but fear the worst.  As much as I tell myself, and have been told by others, that God doesn’t make mistakes, we shouldn’t question him and that he knows what he’s doing, you can’t help what you feel.  I found myself angry at God, questioning the fairness of it all, trying to be as supportive as I could of my wife while trying to hold it together myself.  Like many others we claimed that 2018 would be a year of prosperity and breakthroughs but how could that be if the worst case scenario were true?  Our sons are still teenagers and they need their mother.  My wife should not spend the best years of her life undergoing surgeries and treatments which are not even guaranteed 100% success.  Yet we’re still supposed to be thankful and full of praise.

In spite of my feelings I did the only thing I could do, stay in prayer.  After all, we didn’t know what the condition was for a fact and even if worst came to worst it was early enough to treat it and beat it.  I spent more time praying in the spirit not just for my wife’s health but for emotional and spiritual health for us all.  There would be no reason for the Lord to help us if we curse and reject him now, especially for something that hadn’t even been confirmed.  Perhaps this was just a test, perhaps it was Satan messing with us, and Satan certainly will.  Perhaps we were merely being impatient and overly anxious.  Whatever it was, could anyone really blame us?

Then we got the news.  It wasn’t cancer!  It was a viral condition which, over time, will run it’s course, not ideal but way better than having cancer.  Instead of fear, anxiety and uncertainty we now feel relief and absolute gratitude.  If anyone asks, “Won’t He do it?” the answer is an absolute yes!

What is the takeaway from this?  Number one, prayer works!  You have to not just say the words but to believe that they are at least being heard.  Number two, you can’t lose faith or disconnect ourselves from our problem solver.  I’ve also come to accept that fear, uncertainty and even occasional anger at God are sometimes okay.  We are still human and we are still entitled to our emotions.  The key is channeling those emotions the right way.  Instead of lashing out at God, I simply prayed harder not just for healing for my wife but for emotional and spiritual strength for both of us.  When Job had everything taken from him, his family, his wealth and his health, he was bitter against God for allowing his life to fall apart but when his wife told him to curse God and die, he would do no such thing.  He knew that God was the one who gave him everything that he lost in the first place.  His reward for his faith was being blessed with everything he lost in greater abundance.  What the Lord eventually has in store for us remains to be seen but we already claim the good things he has to offer.  As long as Satan exists we know that there will likely be temptations, trials and tribulations but that’s why we continue to pray for understanding how to deal with it.  What proof do we need that what we pray for and claim will come to fruition?  We need nothing more than the numerous blessings we’ve been bestowed with over the last several decades.  The question will no longer be “Won’t he do it?” but to merely state “He did it!”

 

Another New Year’s Resolution? Not exactly the same thing

It’s another NewYear, usually the time we reflect on everything that happened the previous year and do these things called resolutions.  We know the usual, I”m going to lose weight, I’m going to save more money and this and that.  The thing is that very few of us see them through or give a serious effort in the first place.  My wife and I taught the lesson in children’s church at our church this past Sunday and while we hope the kids learned a valuable lesson, we certainly did.  Part of the reason why I stopped doing resolutions many years ago is that I wouldn’t see the results I wanted, or they weren’t happening fast enough.  Much of it was impatience, much was simply laziness but there’s one thing me or my wife, who I’m sure would agree, have been failing to do and that is putting God first.

 

One of the lessons we taught in children’s church used a poster and Pop Tarts as a metaphor.  We asked the little Biblical scholars what had to be done to produce a warm Pop Tart.  Some answered unwrap the Pop Tarts, others said to put them in the toaster, others said to pull the handle down, and all were right.  the correct answer though was to plug the toaster in.  Even when you do everything else, unless there is a power source, nothing will happen.  We came to understand that it’s the same thing in life.  Resolving to lose weight, to save money, to accomplish a certain goal or whatever else you can think of to improve yourself, you have to believe in something bigger than yourself to really see it through and this year, we intend to do just that.  Before going to work today, I said my prayers as I usually do but I also made it a point to spend time with God before starting my day and work and it certainly set the right tone for my day.  It’s only January 2nd but I am more than confident that progress is coming for all of 2018.

2017 was a trying year for all of us but especially for me.  I lost my beloved Grandma in January of last year (I blogged about it) and I lost my uncle who was the patriarch of our family just last month. The year as a whole has been a roller coaster ride and as blessed and thankful that I am, I’d rather not go through another year like that.While it would not have prevented my grandmother and uncle’s passings, putting God first in every other aspect of my life would have made it much more tolerable overall.  It certainly would have made a difference in my finances and my relationships with my wife and sons.  many do not believe in the power of prayer but I can honestly say that it has worked for me when I’ve exercised it consistently and faithfully.

So I only have one resolution for 2018 and that is to stay plugged in with God and his word. I’m looking forward to the next 11 months already! Happy New Year family, Let’s all enjoy the ride!