Talking to Black Nerds About What This 'Black Panther' Film Means to Them
"These are African people who haven’t had their identity tarnished by colonisation. This is a movie that we need."
'Black Panther' fans Sherice Piece and Guens Delius | Images courtesy of Facebook.
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada and has been slightly edited to suit a UK audience
Black Panther is smashing box-office records. Black Panther is spurring black folks to celebrate in numbers. Black Panther is a 97 percent certified fresh film – and some folks, mostly of the non-black variety, still don’t get it.
As a black nerd, I’m frankly tired of the explanation. Despite hundreds journalist pushing out explainers about the importance of a film like this, we still get people dismissing it as "not a big deal".
Well, I did my part to help there, and will continue to do my part. But I want to give those who still don't get it the opportunity to hear from the folks who do. So I reached out to a few black nerds – some of which came from one of Facebook’s largest group of black nerds, PLANETEJOBN, founded by Jemal Baraka – to ask the simple question, "What does it mean to you to have this Black Panther film released?"
The film premiered in the UK yesterday, and I'm sure plenty more will have been said by the end of this week. In the meantime, I can only hope that a few people will be able to understand what a big deal this is for the black community – but I won’t hold my breath.
It means everything. - Daria Dee
I'm expecting a lot from this movie. It's the movie that comes out on my birthday weekend. My older brother, RIP, introduced the character to me when I was a kid because it was his favourite character, [by saying], "I know how much you love Batman; he's like Batman... and he rules an entire nation." The cast is amazing and this could be the movie that crosses racial gaps (I'm actually ashamed to have the need to type that last and the next sentence...) This movie could also be a day for ignorance to run rampant. It is a prime excuse for racists to protest for asinine reasons (attention). - Dre M. Evans.
This will be an opportunity to see us through our own lens, even if it’s through a fantasy. - Pernell V. Williams
Simply put, it’s incredible. As a dude that struggled with identity growing up, it’s nice seeing representation in such a major way in a huge big budget movie. I love it. I’m going to see it like five times [over] opening weekend. - Numayr O. El-Amin
This film really means a lot. My five-year-old son asked me why he couldn't be like his white classmates, because all of the characters that he liked looked like them. Then the Black Panther trailer dropped, and now my sons want the toys, costumes and the clothes. I love hearing my son say, "I never freeze" while playing with his T’Challa action figure. It’s a powerful heroic figure that my sons can be proud of, and one that looks like them. We need this. - Jamil Asim Muhammad
It means my kids, my nieces and nephews can see characters that look like them, representative in a positive, powerful light. It means, for me, to [be able to] see black heroes done correctly as leads, and the potential for more black characters that comes with that. - Jennifer Coe
It’s good for the culture, and I never even cared for Black Panther. These moments sometimes feel forced, like you have to like him, but I can’t deny how great it is for future black superhero movies. - Oh Melley
The keyword here is calibre. Black Panther is a movie that should set the tone for what we should expect out of black films. It shows us that, while we should support films with black majority casting as a rule, we should also not expect such films to settle for low quality, repetitious or stereotypical content. Majority black-casted films can not only be excellent, but avant garde. - Earl Grey Summers
It means the 20-year anticipation is over. The debates about who would make a Black Panther, about who should direct it, and all those thoughts that have now been answered. The movie should have come out years ago, but of course got pushed back because Spiderman came on board. Even then, I was so ready to see a Black Panther film. After the director was made official, the actor and then [Black Panther's appearance] in Captain America: Civil War, all I needed was a good trailer, and they gave us that. Loved them, and I didn’t hesitate to pick up them pre-show tickets. Now bring on the damn movie. - Jairus Davis
I’m really glad to see representation like this. And it couldn’t come at a better time given the current political environment. - Andre Schrock
Having a Black Panther movie is the first major victory on the path of having black heroes hit the mainstream. It’s bigger for me because most of my favourite heroes are black; Static Shock, Luke Cage, Anansi, Falcon, Black Lightning and plenty more. - Guens Delius
Aside from being one of my favourite Marvel characters, it shows Hollywood and the world that an all-black cast can fill theatres and make millions just as an all-white cast can. Black power matters, and it’s time that everyone realises that. - Edward Walker
As a Marvel fan, it’s great to see Black Panther get his shine. He was handled really well in Captain America: Civil War. My kids are going to get to see Africa painted in a really cool light. And it also means that black film-makers can do sci-fi and fantasy as well. We ain’t just gangstas, rappers and garbage-ass Madea comedies. Maybe we could explore African mythology or some black space opera type shit. - Charles Walker
I’m happy that my niece will have some strong black female characters to emulate and look up to. Oh, and to cosplay as! - Sherice Piece
My father was the one who introduced me to comics. When I was little, he would read them to me as bedtime stories. He’d change his voice with each character and I’d be enthralled with these super heroes with flaws like me. When Spider-Man came out, my dad didn’t care for theatres, so we waited to watch it in the comfort of our living room, away from those "bad ass kids". He told me that the movie was just like the comics. He had this wonder and excitement about him. He then lifted one finger and said, "Tiff, if they can do that with Black Panther..." he never finished the statement. He passed away in November, 2011.
When I heard about the film, I froze. It wasn’t like hearing about Thor or Captain America... this was deep. Something my dad couldn't even fathom. He went through segregation, he was called a "nigger", and I’m sure there were times when he had to swallow his pride. It’s not about the calibre of the film, it’s about the struggle. The plight and strength that stands within those beautiful dark skin tones. The hair, and familiar people with textures like mine. To me, this is about little girls and boys seeing representation come to light without the stereotypes that make us out just as thugs, video hoes, athletes or rappers. They can see Dora Milaje and Black Panther and say, "Hey, I can be a hero too." - Okamiko Nyothoun
It means I can be the hero. I have a good guy that I can cheer for that looks like me. Too many times, I had to see eye to eye with the villain or the comic relief with a black face. Now I can identify with the star, the leader and the hero. - Gabriel Cannon
We as people need a movie of this calibre for such a time as this. This will be not only one of the greatest black comic book movies, but it will be a cult classic with tons of one-liners that will be etched in our memories. We will not be bootlegging this movie. This is too important to the culture. Folks are already ordering their T-shirts online that reveal about Wakanda and everything. We’ve been ready for this movie to come out [for] decades. - Duane Foster
This film means that I and the black children and teens of this present generation have a figure to look up to that reminds us of the power and majesty that lies inside of each one of us. We are strong, wise, beautiful, cunning, benevolent, resilient, intrepid and glorious. We are capable of so many great things, if only we believe in ourselves, and not just take the opportunity but make the opportunity. We are Marvel-lous. - Nicholas Taylor
It means proper representation for young kids of colour. We are kings and heroes too. - Brandon Smith
It means the world to me for so many reasons. One is that I’m excited for a fictional African nation to be portrayed as the future as opposed to being portrayed as poor and in need of America’s help. Another reason is that I live in a country that only looks to demean people like me and our places or origin, and seeing a movie like this will give us all a sense of empowerment that black people truly need and deserve. These are African people who haven’t had their identity tarnished by colonisation. This is a movie that we need. - Stephanie LaShaun Hardy
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This article originally appeared on VICE CA.