It’s been a whole week since the release of Marvel Studios Black Panther. I wanted to allow for some time to pass as many are no doubt still trying to make their way to theaters to see it. At the very least, I can make an attempt to share some personal lessons of significance that I gleaned from this movie. Some are obvious, while others may not be so obvious. You may have found more and are welcome to add your own thoughts in the comment section below. However, here are the ones that stuck out to me.
Heritage Matters: The way of life for those of Wakanda was of a rich heritage. As a nation of tribes given he unique responsibility to protect and make use of the other-worldly resource known as vibranium, without allowing it to slip into the hands of outsiders. For T’Challa, and his family, things such as honor, tradition, responsibility, and other virtues are a great part of the rich heritage that matter in the Wakandan way of life.
So it is, that even now, we must recognize that where we come from and the virtues and character traits that go from generation to generation must be held in great esteem. Heritage matters because in losing it, you lose your way. We know that it mattered to Killmonger, because after all of the stories his father told him, he spent his whole life in search of the way back to his ancestral home.
Legacy Matters: While heritage and legacy can often be interchanged as meaning the same thing, I specifically separated them because I want to speak to the fact that in legacy, it’s often something specific that is passed down. For T’Challa, it was leadership qualities that sought to care for all of the Wakandan nation. While Killmonger was raised with the stories of the greatness of Wakandan life, Killmonger’s bitterness in knowing how his birthright was stolen only blinded him to honoring Wakandan tradition, but to seek rulership at any expense.
Sins Of The Fathers: There can be no doubt that much of the mess that came out of thi whole event was a result of a shameful decision made by T’Challa’s father. It would have been so easy for T’Challa to simply brush the whole thing under the rug and act like nothing was wrong. We all know that this never works and lies always have a way of making their way to the surface; and usually it is more gruesome than when it first was created. T’Challa’s ability to face this, and even his determination to make right, this wrong shows good leadership and character. It also shows a heart that is willing to reconcile and make reparations, as he determined to not forget the children in California where Killmonger grew up.
Some Just Want To Ride The Winner’s Train: For whatever it’s worth, you can’t expect everyone to remain loyal. W’Kabi was one of T’Challa’s closest tribal allies. Yet, when Killmonger rose to power as the new Black Panther, he was willing to do whatever Killmonger. We could debate the why’s about that decision. However, I boil it down to riding the wave of the winner, because he never even dared to challenge T’Challa earlier, he was okay with being close to the epicenter of power; regardless the scruples of whomever was ruling.
You Can’t Save Everyone: There is a two-fold issue at hand in this. At the very beginning of the movie, we see T’Challa’s ex, on a secret mission to rescue women who are being trafficked. Upon returning to Wakanda for the ritual ceremony where T’Challa must accept anyone’s challenge for the right to be Black Panther, she tells him that more must be done for the people outside of the Wakandan borders. T’Challa, at first could not see a way to bring this about without compromising what was already established protocol. Killmonger’s solution was to essentially level the playing field and give everyone access, which actually put more people at risk.
With Killmongers dying breath, T’Challa sought to figure a way that he could achieve being a good neighbor to the suffering neighbor countries as well as the nations around the globe. He also sought to see a way for Killmonger to have a place as a true Wakandan. Killmonger saw no life apart from the one he imagined and preferred death than to compromise, seeing it as a form of slavery or imprisonment.
A Woman of Vision Does Not Detract: Initially, T’Challa’s former fiancé felt her place was among the underprivileged people that did not reap the benefits of Wakanda because they were outside to borders of the nation. She did not see how returning to Wakanda to be queen would fulfill her. However, as queen, she was empowered to still reach out as a diplomat to the less fortunate. Her vision did was not divisive. It was merely a different arm of the grander mission and legacy of Wakanda.
Women Have Their Own Strength: Did you notice that the entire royal guard consisted of women? You couldn’t miss it. This wasn’t to the exclusion of men, but in recognition that they have their own power. They’ve been tested and tried. They are the elite of the elite. Even in a patriarchal society, many of the key roles were filled by women. T’Challa’s sister Shuri is the head of the science and technology department. Nakia, who was T’Challa’s former girlfriend, is an elite spy. Don’t knock any of the women in Wakanda. They are not to be messed with. Their strength did not undermine anyone. It only served to enhance it.
Everyone Has Their Own Role To Play: When Killmonger initially defeated T’Challa for the right to be Black Panther, a dilemma was created. As T’Challa’s mother and sister realized that they needed to go underground in order to find a way to overthrow him, Okoye, the leader of the royal guard remained behind. Her reasoning was that in spite of the fact that she did not like the reality that Killmonger muscled his way in, despite the fact that he is an outsider, her loyalties were inextricably tied to the throne, regardless who was sitting upon it. She had to find a way to serve from where she was. Most people won’t understand that degree of devotion to the job, especially in light of current American political climate, but how awesome for it to be shown that someone can honor and serve the office or the throne apart from personal feelings?
Some People Are Full Of Surprises: M’Baku, is the unsung hero in this epic film. While he himself felt T’Challa was a weak and unfit leader, he respected him enough to preserve his body when it was found by the shores, after the defeat by Kilmonger. He just as easily could have let him die and remained happy to stay in the mountains. Preserving hi body, and then returning to aid T’Challa in the restoration of his rightful rule changed the game. It’s often those who we don’t see being for us who deep down will defend us when push comes to shove.
You probably found more or different lessons from this movie, and I encourage you to share them here. Yet, I believe that overall, this movie will be speaking its truths for generations to come and I hope the lessons it teaches also inspire people to think and do greater.
QUESTION: What were the lessons you discerned from Marvel Studios Black Panther?