Black Panther, My Boys & One Billion Dollars


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Around December of last year, my oldest son, RK, came home from daycare and asked for a Superman costume. We had never mentioned Superman to him and we hadn’t watched any Superman movies or cartoons with him, but for the next few days he consistently asked for a Superman costume. I shrugged it off as something that he had picked up at daycare. No big deal, right? Wrong.

The problem with RK’s request was that his father, Richard, was completely against it. Admittedly it is rare for my husband to go completely to the “no” stage so quickly with the boys so I pushed him on it. His answer was simple: “The only superhero the boys can wear is the ‘Black Panther’.”


I tried to push my husband a little bit. I told him that we could not force RK to like Black Panther. It should be a natural process. Richard didn’t budge. I suggested he purchase RK a Superman costume and purchase our younger son, Jimmy, a Black Panther costume so that we could have both representations in the home. Richard still didn’t budge. He just kept telling me, “once the movie comes out, you will see. He will like it.” This only led me to start another debate as to whether RK at the age of 3 should even watch the movie, “Black Panther.” Yet, my debates had no impact on Richard. His mind was made up. Our sons would be Black Panther fans whether they liked it or not.

Meanwhile, RK continued to ask every few days could we get him a Superman costume. Each time, I responded with the ancient parental response of “we’ll see” while Richard just pretended like he hadn’t even heard RK’s request. Talk about stubborn…

Finally, February arrived. By this time, RK had pretty much stopped requesting Superman paraphernalia. He would sometimes mention Superman but Spiderman, Batman, and the Paw Patrol were all now in heavy rotation. Personally, I didn’t think it was looking good for Black Panther. There were no Black Panther cartoon figures to associate my son with the character. None of the fast food restaurants that kids quickly learn to love had created toy versions of the Black Panther to give away with their kid’s meals. Disney Jr., Nick Jr., and PBS Kids carried no shows even remotely similar to a Black Panther hero. Yet, my husband was emphatic. Black Panther would trump any and every superhero figure that RK could possibly mention. Personally, I couldn’t see it, so I decided to do something that as a wife I have occasionally found difficult: Be quiet, let it go and trust Richard’s decision. And then the movie came out…

Richard and I dressed up in our best Wakanda-themed garb and along with my sisters and brother, caught the movie on its opening weekend. Needless to say, we were pumped.


Pumped is actually an understatement. We left the movie theater on this all-natural, organically Afrocentric, Black-centered, Africanistic high that could not be contained. Richard’s chest could have exploded. I think I floated out of the theater with visions of Black excellence swirling in my head. For two hours and 15 minutes, we had just been exposed to everything we knew we could be in all its glory and all its flaws. We watched the film channel our inner Killmongers as we grappled with a nation that never wanted us, systematically left us behind, and treats us often as a threat to its own security. We beamed at the beauty, strength, and brains of Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri as they demonstrated what Black women have long known…that at our best, Black men become their best…and when we shine, the whole Earth wins.

I kept trying to sum up my expressions and the only thing I can really think to write even in this blog is that, “I wish I would have had this movie when I was a kid.” I would have imagined myself as Shuri. As a kid, I was the one that asked for a chemistry set for Christmas. I am certain, Shuri would have been my shero. She was smart, pretty, confident, funny, and she could fight! I would have been obsessed with Shuri the way some girls obsess over Barbie or Elsa or whoever their favorite television or movie characters might be.


My musings hit me like a ton of bricks. Characters like Shuri and Okoye were not available to me when I grew up. There were no young, Black female cartoon/movie figures that spoke to my intellect and my body image. There were no Nakia’s to affirm dark skinned beauty and there were even fewer T’Challas who froze in the presence of that beauty.

To be concise, Richard was right. Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Bruce Wayne could wait. We have had decades and decades and decades of White male superheroes and their alter ego narratives being fed to us through television, movies, and clearly daycare centers across the nation. As parents, we wanted to introduce our sons to a new superhero-a superhero that reflected them. We wanted to, as Richard explained to me, “make sure our boys didn’t see themselves as an afterthought.”

This past Saturday, Richard took the boys to see “Black Panther” but not before buying both of them Black Panther masks and figurines.


I packed up a great big bag of snacks, diapers, wipes, sippie cups, cookies, extra clothes and underwear…all the things I could think of to help Richard keep them focused and prepared for the duration of the movie. I even offered a few times to keep Jimmy home with me, but he wanted to take both of them so I passed on the bag of goodies/potty items and sent them on their way.

On the way home from the movies, Richard called me on speakerphone. I could barely hear him because the boys kept yelling, “Mommy, Mommy, Black Panther!” RK tried to tell me the entire movie in 2 sentences…”he fighted and hitted him and the bad guy was sad, Mommy…and, and, and, and, and Shuri was fighting… and the Black Panther is not bad, Mommy.” Jimmy who is not yet in command of full sentences happily tried to repeat some of the phrases of RK: “Mommy, fighted..Black Pantha…”


When they got home, you would have thought it was Christmas. Richard was as proud as a peacock as the boys clinched their Black Panther figurines like we had given them the world. Richard told me during the movie RK stared at the screen like he was in a trance while Jimmy grew restless after the first 45 minutes.

That night, both boys slept with their Black Panther figurines. They held them while they ate breakfast the next morning. They took them to church which almost became a disaster when RK left his in the children’s classroom. Also, the figurines have become my new go-to disciplinary action. If you get out of bed, no Black Panther. Don’t eat your veggies, no Black Panther. Who knows how long this Black Panther phase will last, but for us, Black Panther has accomplished exactly what my husband knew it would accomplish. The boys at very young ages have been able to see a version of themselves on the big screen. For them Chadwick Boseman becomes the new Christopher Reeve and in their minds he will always be the Black Panther. Will he be their only superhero? I doubt it. Will RK ask for Superman and Spiderman paraphernalia? Probably. The point was never to control our son’s taste or preferences. The point was to control his exposure.

This is why no one in the Black community is surprised that “Black Panther” has grossed over one billion dollars in movie sales. Representation matters and representation sales. Children soak up images like sponges. Those images send them messages about life, relationships, gender, power dynamics and cultures. Black Panther, the figure, and “Black Panther” the movie, provide new images and create new messages. Clearly, Richard got the message before I did, and that’s okay. It is coming through loud and clear as I write this blog. Besides, I have my own message that I want to send the boys. With or without Black Panther, there is one superhero that is a necessary fixture in their lives-their father. He’s the real life hero that the boys need more than anything. They may be clutching their Black Panther figurines today, but in the future it will be Richard’s words and actions that they will hold most dear. So, while Richard keeps his eyes on the bigger picture, I will stay focused on the tangible picture right in front of me, a dad and his two sons. And we can both keep building our legacy, one image at a time.



Black History Moments: The Finale

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum..

On the last day of #BlackHistoryMonth, I want to reconsider Black History along two lines: 1) the era of slavery and Jim Crow-an era that lasted over 300 years

and 2) the post-Civil Rights era-an era that is roughly 55 years old.

Let that sink in…300 years of separation and segregation compared to 55 years to try out liberty and integration. What other group of people in the history of people have had to endure such major contradictions in a country that isolated them completely from their native home, native languages, religions and customs?

Any historian could tell you that the odds of success would be slim to none. And yet, Black History illustrates over and over again that Black folks beat the odds over and over and over again. Of course with these highs there have been stubbornly persistent lows. There have been achievements and setbacks…

activism and new visions…

and Change and Hope presided over a nation for 8 straight years.

Black History is an incredible journey and the best thing about it is the fact that it is just getting started!
Cheers to you as you carve out your own piece of Black History. There are plenty of great chapters still left to write!


Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

When Marian Anderson applied to a school of music in Philadelphia, she was rejected solely based on the color of her skin. Yet, her talent could not be contained by skin color or racism. Anderson’s voice was considered the greatest musical voice of her generation and in spite of not being accepted to formal music schools, Anderson became the Queen of opera and arias. In 1939, Anderson was invited to sing in Washington, DC before dignitaries and elites, but the Daughters of the Revolution who owned Constitutional Hall refused to allow Anderson to sing there because the hall was for “Whites Only.” The organizers than tried to rent a public high school but it too refused based on its “Whites Only” policy. Accustomed to rejection, Anderson collaborated with Eleanor Roosevelt and several Black activists including Charles Houston and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and they arranged a public concert for Anderson on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln monument on Easter Sunday, 1939. Over 75,000 people of all colors gathered to hear the great Anderson sing, and over 2 million people listened over the radio. Anderson, essentially laid the foundation for the March on Washington that occurred in 1963 and she was asked to sing at the event demonstrating that her actions 24 years ago had not gone unnoticed. Anderson chose a very fitting song to sing that day, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” confirming to the audience of over 250,000 that rejection by man is no match for acceptance by God.


Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

This film director, producer, screenwriter, and film distributor probably hasn’t even hit her stride yet, but she is already breaking barriers in the film and movie industry. Ava Duvernay is the first Black female director to have her film, Selma, nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy award. Her documentary, 13, was also the first documentary by a Black female director to be nominated for an Academy Award. Her current film, A Wrinkle in Time, makes her the first Black film director to direct a movie with over a 100 million dollar budget. What is even more amazing than Duvernay’s film accomplishments is her path to film making. An English and Afro American studies major at UCLA, Duvernay hoped to go into journalism but then turned to public relations and started her own PR firm, the Duvernay Agency, in 1999 as well as many other business ventures. It wasn’t until 2005 that she made her first short film and the rest is history. Duvernay is a good Monday morning reminder that your day job does not define you. Your dream is what truly defines you. Work the job until it is time to work the dream!


Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

Long before Tiger Woods entered the golf world, Charlie Sifford was breaking barriers and making the road easier. A prolific golfer, Mr. Sifford was the first Black man to gain entrance to the PGA, an association that had a “whites only” clause in it’s bylaws. Although other Black players tried to integrate the PGA it was Sifford who after 9 years of unsuccessful attempts, finally broke the color barrier in 1961. Sifford credited Black athletes such as Joe Lewis and Jackie Robinson as helping him stay determined in spite of the death threats, hate mail and continual denials to the PGA. In 2004 Sifford became the first Black person inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Tiger Woods referred to Sifford as “the Grandfather I never had,” and in 2014 at the age of 91 and one year before his death, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Black History Moment

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

W.E.B. Dubois is one of the greatest minds ever. He was the first Black to graduate from Harvard with a PhD. He also attended Fisk University and the University of Berlin in Germany. He co-founded the NAACP, he is considered the Father of American Sociology, and he was an activist, prolific writer, and Pan-Africanist. Born in 1868, Dubois experienced 19th and 20th century life as a Black American. Highly educated, the doors of the eminent universities would not hire him. He coined the phrase, “Double Consciousness” and explained that Black Americans lived a twoness experience in America…one as a Negro and one as an American. Writing in 1903, Dubois felt that being Black and American and trying to reconcile the two experiences would be difficult. Dubois hoped for it to be “possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.” 105 years later Dubois’ double consciousness is still relevant and scholars and intellectuals continue to debate his words and legacy.


Black History Moment

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

Feb. 23 will always be a special day of Black History celebration because Geneva Estelle Lamb Ellis was born on this day in 1926. Gebo as she was affectionately called represents a generation of strong, determined, practical and beautiful Black women who had to navigate between two worlds…the world that their parents groomed them in-a world of segregation, lynching, disenfranchisement, deference to all things White-and a world that their children, grand and great grand children would be groomed in-a world of new opportunities, Civil Rights, affirmative action, Black power and Black pride. Gebo, like all of these grand-mothers did the best they could bridging the gaps between such different generations. Their advice and wisdom emphasized manners, cleanliness, getting a good education, loving God and treating people right. They disdained lying lips, women who kept dirty homes and men who wouldn’t work. They churched hard, gardened harder, saved any and everything, and gave to everyone in need. They healed with aloe plants, spider webs, snuff, pine needles, castor oil and red clay. And they loved. They loved unconditionally, matter of factly and unfailingly. They raised their own, their neighbor’s children, their grands and a few greats on incomes that could barely sustain one person. And in spite of it all, we are here as testaments to their commitment and faith. For their sacrifices, their tears, their pain, I salute my Gebo and all the Black grandmothers like her who became the backbone of an entire generation. Your living was not in vain. Make sure their living was not in vain.


Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

This is a picture of what separate but equal looked like. The Black man seated at the desk outside the classroom is George McLaurin. He was the first Black student admitted to the PhD program at the University of Oklahoma and to attend the school he had to sue for admission. The practice was that if Black students applied to public White colleges and universities, rather than admit them, the White institution would pay for the Black students to attend the nearest Black college or university. McLaurin already had his Master’s degree and wanted to obtain a doctorate. The only PhD program was at Oklahoma so McLaurin sued to attend. Yet his admission came with conditions. All of his campus experiences-his dining experiences, library visits, bathrooms, athletic seating- would have to be segregated. McLaurin decided enough was enough. With Thurgood Marshall as one of his lawyers, he sued the University of Oklahoma again claiming the segregated class experience prevented him from an equal learning experience and his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 1950. The Supreme Court sided with Mr. McLaurin and this marked the beginning of the end of segregating public schools, colleges and universities. Although Mr. McLaurin did not finish his PhD program at Oklahoma, his courage and commitmemt to endure the extreme isolation and exclusion that he experienced is a testament to his strength. Salute.


Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

Black History has been made once again in the 2018 #WinterOlympics! This Nigerian bobsled team became the first African nation to compete in the bobsledding event marking what will perhaps be the beginning of a new era. Teammates, Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga raised money to sponsor their trip through Go Fund Me. In addition to a tough financial challenge, the women found themselves without a coach or a bobsled a week before their history making moment after the coach abruptly quit. Yet, they persisted and with much support they found and purchased another sled to use for the competition. Although these real-life #Wakanda women warriors finished last place in their first ever Winter Olympics, they have already torn down barriers for others to follow in their footsteps. They also remind us that the path with the most resistance is usually the path that will lead to the most success!


Black History Moments

Black History is American history and by failing to remember the good and the bad…future generations lose momentum…

Vonetta Flowers had aspirations of winning gold medals for the U.S. Olympic track team, but after a few unsuccessful attempts, Flowers decided to modify her dream and turned to bobsledding. As a bobsledder, Flowers had immediate success and at the 2002 Winter Olympic games, Flowers made history becoming the first Black person to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. Flowers, a mother of twins, continued competing and retired in 2006. From the track to the snow, Flowers reminds us to recognize the difference in goals and methods. Flowers’ goal was to win medals. Her original method of track and field did not work so she chose a different method, bobsledding. If you haven’t accomplished your goal, be encouraged. You may just need to tweak your method!