Wakanda Forever: Part 3 – The Tragedy of Disconnection
WARNING: there is a minor spoiler in this particular review.
Marvel Studios’ Black Panther movie is a treasure chest of a story. One gem in particular which is at the heart of this treasury is a cautionary tale about what can happen when a person is disconnected from their heritage and the relationships which help to define it.
TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
Both T’Challa (protagonist) and Erik Killmonger (antagonist) have been disconnected from their fathers (and by extension their heritage). However, T’Challa has a community and an entire nation which helps him reconnect to who he is and who he is destined to become. On the other hand, Erik Killmonger, who grew up in the ‘hood, has no one and nothing to fall back on but himself. He has a piece of his heritage, but he grows in isolation, warping what he does know into something else entirely.
Interestingly, we also see how Erik’s father, who is himself from Wakanda, becomes disconnected from his people, which leads to a sense of despair, disillusionment and desperation.
THE TRAGEDY OF DISCONNECTION
The disconnection from our heritage and community is a painful and violent act. The repercussions can often be felt by an individual for their entire lifetime. And the fallout from the sense of loss can be multiplied upon countless individuals as a result.
Erik, having no one but the memory of his dead father, uses the pain and loss for fuel to propel him forward in life. He masters his education, graduates from college and graduate school, joins the military, works his way up the ranks and becomes an extremely intelligent and lethal killing machine. All for one purpose: to destroy T’Challa and take over Wakanda in order to wreak vengeance on those who have oppressed him and Blacks all over the world.
You’ll have to go see the movie to find out what happens, but I will say that those who Erik has killed over the course of his singular pursuit (and they are countless) have died at the hands of a young man who has incredible internal pain. The movie raises the question of how things might have turned out different for Erik if only, at key moments, different choices had been made.
STARVED AND THIRSTING
Perhaps this movie resonates so much with me because I can see aspects of myself in both T’Challa and Erik: searching to understand my father, my people/heritage and my place in the larger world. Just this past October, my father and I had an opportunity to connect and talk on a level deeper than most conversations we’ve ever had. It brought tears to my eyes as I realized that the moment was God’s gift to us. And as a father myself, Black Panther reminds me about the responsibility to be present for my son while I can because there are times when he hungers and thirsts for my attention, love and guidance.
In a very real sense, African Americans are starved and thirsting for reconnection to a people and a land they have been separated from for hundreds of years. This people and land of our ancestors has been marginalized, minimized and misrepresented to us, by those who wish to keep us divided, distracted and despondent. As a result, many of us have been ashamed of Africa for the stereotypical perception of weakness and poverty which has been fed to us. But Africa is so much more!
What Black Panther does, through the lens of fiction, is shine a very real light on the incredible spirit, creativity, love, honor, innovation, strength and character that is Africa and her people all across the globe. It ignites a hunger in many of us we didn’t necessarily know was present.
This hunger and thirst has been known to some of us and unknown to others. It was unknown to me, until I stepped foot on the African continent in 2003. And the 11 trips I made to 7 African countries over the course of 7 years, helped to heal a sense of loss and pain that I didn’t truly know existed at the core of who I am.
A SERIES OF QUESTIONS
So, here I sit reflecting on Wakanda. A fictional African nation that is built on the very real dynamics, strength and structure of numerous African nations which actually exist. And I raise a series of questions which I have sought to examine through my own writings over the past 9 years (through my Speedsuit Powers Trilogy).
*How many people today, are acting in the world out of a sense of loss and pain? (From everyday run-of-the-mill people who are going about their lives trying to handle their responsibilities… to those who have chosen to pursue self-destructive behavior or a life of crime and violence because they see no way out.)
*What can be done to change that path before they reach the point of no return?
*How can we reconnect them (and ourselves) to a larger community which can speak to who they truly are and help to heal their broken hearts?
*How can we help those who have experienced the pain of disconnection to become better and not bitter?
*How can we help our sons and daughters to use the strength of their heritage as fuel to press forward to a brighter tomorrow?
IF WE DO NOTHING
Black Panther also demonstrates what happens if we do nothing. The problems not only continue, but they grow increasingly worse with multiplied adverse effects. We can’t close ourselves off and leave others in the world to fend for themselves. We also can’t give of ourselves to the point that we lose our own identity and resources and are exploited by those who only want to see our demise. We have to find a way to help make a difference for those we don’t know, while building up our life and the lives of our loved ones.
THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
The movie also demonstrates the power of community. It is very difficult for a person to grow in isolation. However, growing in a community with a wealth of experience and rich tradition can make a world of difference for the person as well as the community. As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is also true… “It takes a child to help draw a village together.”
Let me know what you think. #WakandaForever
-Allen Paul Weaver III-