Wakanda Women Are Black Panther’s Heroes

Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o),   Okoye (Danai Gurira),   Shuri (Letitia Wright),   Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) in Essence. Photo: Dennis Leupold

Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) in Essence. Photo: Dennis Leupold

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know BLACK PANTHER, opened with a bang (err, growl)!! If the lack of tickets weren’t an indication, the movie opened to a record-breaking success. The critically-acclaimed action-movie not only broke box office records, but also ethnic and gender stereotypes. There has never been a black comic superhero movie, plus black movies have always portrayed blacks in demeaning roles as either slaves or lawless criminals. In fact, black culture in mass media has always been under represented, and also not in a way that highlights positive attributes that we can be proud of. Maybe after seeing the success of Black Panther with it’s nearly all-black cast, Hollywood will get the message that viewers are not only interested in white protagonists.

Black Panther introduced the world to the Marvel fictional country of Wakanda. The main character T’Challa (Chadwrick Boseman) a.k.a Black Panther, sat on the throne. However, it is the fabulously fearless women of Wakanda, who ruled the kingdom. The film to me represents the very definition of FEMINIST, “women who are strong: demonstrate femininity, ferocity, know their own agency and power, while also knowing when to stand firm and when to stand down.” [*Side note--*did you see Chadwrick Boseman’s shirtless Rolling Stone cover?]

In the land of Wakanda, feminine power was on full display and is the force that propels the story, as King T'Challa looks to and depend on the support of the women around him. The kingdom is protected by T’Challa’s all-female royal army, led by his right-hand woman--General Okoye (Danai Gurira). Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), T'Challa's mother was also part of his advosiry counsel, The breakout star of the film Shuri (Letitia Wright), Wakanda’s chief technological innovator and T’Challa’s younger sister, uses her prowess to protect her brother. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), champion of the River Tribe [who could have challenged T’Challa in ritual combat for the throne] and T’Challa’s romantic interest, saved his life and ultimately the kingdom.

Okoye (Danai Gurira)     in Black Panther. Photo: Marvel (in-video screenshot).

Okoye (Danai Gurira) in Black Panther. Photo: Marvel (in-video screenshot).

Shuri (Letitia Wright)   in Black Panther. Photo: Marvel (in-video screenshot).

Shuri (Letitia Wright) in Black Panther. Photo: Marvel (in-video screenshot).

Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) in Black Panther. Photo: Marvel (in-video screenshot).

Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) in Black Panther. Photo: Marvel (in-video screenshot).

Here is my list of food for thought that Marvel’s futuristic Wakanda addressed, and we as a society should too.

  1. A woman can be secure and confident in her own space, while still empowering and supporting her sister. Seeing her sister as a collaborator rather than a competitor.

  2. A strong woman knows what she is worth, and won’t accept anything less.

  3. A woman with agency can display her femininity, ferocity and independence; knows when to stand firm in the strength of her prowess and when to balance it with the art of submission.

  4. A woman can be beautiful and sexy without being sexualized, yet still be aggressive and have brute strength.

  5. A forward-thinking and progressive society is one which allows women equal rights as men, to explore their full potential.

  6. A woman can be both a warrior and queen, proud and regal as she embraces her prowess while standing in the rightness of who she is.

  7. Don’t argue with those who say you can’t, just prove them wrong.

  8. Don’t let your accent or gender sway you from sharing your gifts, your voice, and shifting the landscape.

  9. Women are as strong as men and black men [and women] can be superheroes.

  10. We can balance the traditions of the past, while embracing modernization.

What were your takeaways?