A very ‘Black Panther’ reading list

It’s been a week. “Have you seen ‘Black Panther’ yet?” is a mantra, a stupid question and a shameful one all rolled together. If you have already seen “Black Panther”, congrats: you are on the right side of history (and should probably be trusted to buy Hayley Kiyoko or Jorja Smith tickets). If you haven’t, get on it: if not for the wonderful experience of the film, then so that you can understand what all those wig gifs are about on Twitter.

Here are some reads about “Black Panther” I’m feeling this week.

‘Black Panther’ costume designer breaks down Wakanda’s killer style (via Entertainment Weekly)
For those only vaguely familiar with African styles of dress, this article is a good primer on which African cultures the “Black Panther” costumes come from. Ruth E. Carter, of “Selma” fame, is to thank for all of that.

“Okoye (Danai Gurira) leads the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s elite female fighting force. Carter kept the deep red colors from the comics but added Vibranium necklaces and cuffs, modeled on the neck rings worn by Ndebele women. ‘The neck rings needed to have a hand-done feel,’ Carter says. ‘Most jewelry you see from Africa looks like someone hammered it and molded it by hand.'”
“While some costumes have a more handmade look, Carter wanted a sleek, futuristic style for Ramonda. For the headpiece, she recruited a special 3-D printer in Belgium that had the technology to print a flexible, perfectly symmetrical hat.”

What if Wakanda had street style? A ‘Black Panther’–inspired zine
 (via Vogue Magazine)
If all of the slick, fierce, afrocentric looks filling your timeline for the past month weren’t enough, the official style guide to Wakandan haute couture exists. In collaboration with Disney, FKA Twigs stylist Matthew Josephs brought together an all-black modeling crew and designers of color, such as Mowalola Ogunlesi, to create an editorial straight outta Wakanda.

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Vanessa Ohlens, Photo by David Uzochukwu
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Photo by David Uzochukwu
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Photo by David Uzochukwu

We need to talk about the significance of Princess Shuri and seeing a black girl in STEM (via AfroTech / Blavity)
There’s no doubt that Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, stole the show in “Black Panther.” But more than being charming, Shuri is a role model to little black girls in a field that systemically erases women of color. “Ryan Coogler gave us a lot with ‘Black Panther,’ but the gift is having my nieces and future daughters watch young women like Shuri and know that anything is possible.”

‘Black Panther’ is a powerful force at the box office everywhere — including Africa (via LA Times)
If “Black Panther” taught Hollywood that black movies can reel in crowds across the nation, hopefully it can prove the same for overseas markets. $300,000 to $400,000 might not seem like a lot stateside, but “Black Panther” marked the biggest box office opens ever in East and West Africa. The film also banked $1.4 million in South Africa, $27.1 million for South Korea and a fair amount in countries like Poland and Bulgaria as well as Israel and Pakistan.

This comes in the wake of the international success of “Hidden Figures,” “Moonlight” and “Straight Outta Compton,” as well as earlier cult classics like “Blade” and “Bad Boys.”

The Tragedy of Erik Killmonger (via The Atlantic)
Yes, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger can really, really do a person in.

Erik Killmonger squaring up in “Black Panther”

But more than eye candy, Killmonger gives “Black Panther” a political edge beyond its significance IRL.

As Brooke Obie writes for Shadow + Act, “Killmonger’s pain, abandonment and generational trauma touch on the rawest parts of being African American. Sure, the imprint of the continent our ancestors hailed from is embedded in our gums, but our AncestryDNA results don’t exactly lead us into the open arms of our ancestral cousins. We are a homeless people, not welcomed anywhere. If Wakanda is the Black Promised Land, then we are its forgotten children, sold away, left behind, rejected, condescended to.”

Apart from touching on themes of pan-Africanism, “Black Panther” touches on the concept of the Void — it’s the absence of culture and connection African-Americans wrestle with thanks to a little thing called the Middle Passage. Killmonger isn’t just some gorgeous, evil dude hell-bent on revenge: his vendetta is the byproduct of this void. As much as Wakanda’s existence is a “love letter” to African culture, it’s a black American’s eulogy for the legacy of the slave trade. It’s also a study in colonialism, imperialism, isolationism and whether liberation should be attained by any means necessary.

Nakia is the real revolutionary of “Black Panther” (via Bitch Media)

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia and Letitia Wright as Shuri in Black Panther
Nakia and Shuri heading into battle

As a stark contrast to Killmonger’s power-hungry, f*ckboy behavior, we have the wonderful Dora Milaje warriors, led by Danai Gurira as Okoye. And just as much Shuri’s wit and as Okoye’s kickassery is front and center in “Black Panther,” so is the vital figure of Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o.

Nakia busts up terrorists and gives aid to refugees, and if you squint, her intentions to spread Wakanda’s wealth to the rest of the black diaspora looks like Killmonger’s plan. Except, she understands that stealing vibranium and killing anyone who lingers in your path isn’t the best way to do things.

“Her methods are starkly different because she understands that liberation can’t be predicated on the oppression of others,” Evette Dionne writes.

We Sink Our Claws Into “Black Panther” with Ta-Nehisi Coates (via Still Processing)
Led by New York Times writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, Still Process is full of all kinds of pop culture goodness. Wortham and Morris offer a black perspective bolstered by research and cultural deep cuts, for context.

In this episode, they chat about “Black Panther” with fellow writer Ta-Nehisi Coates — a good pick because of how noteworthy is commentary on race is, but an even better pick since he’s currently writing the Black Panther comics.

On a more light-hearted note….

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta has been offering flights to Wakanda and Adorned by Chi has every black girl nerd heart aflutter with how we were all thinking about the boys from “Black Panther.”

Snag yours here.


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