As expected because it was so highly anticipated, Marvel’s “Black Panther” has created a lot of conversation since its release on February 16. One of the biggest conversations has surrounded the movie’s fashion. Costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, drew inspiration from various African cultures while maintaining the futuristic integrity of Wakanda to create the mainly green, red and black costumes.
However, the on-screen fashions were not the only eye-catching looks I noticed when I saw the movie on opening night. The audience seemed to have come to a consensus that the proper attire was either all black or traditional African fabrics. Of course, I wore my usual all black, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have “Black Panther” in mind that morning while getting dressed.
As someone who cares so deeply about adornment, it was heartwarming to see such adamantly pro-black looks both in the theatre with me as well as all over the country via Twitter. It was clear that the movie had instilled a sense of pride. Such pride is interesting considering the fact that much of the African-American population lacks knowledge of our origins. This was evident in the chosen movie-going attire. Pieces from various African cultures were mixed, most likely ignorantly but not maliciously.
This, however, is not really a negative in my opinion. It’s no secret that Black people were stripped of their culture and that any attempts to preserve practices for their prosperity were punishable during enslavement. Because of this, Black people not only in America, but across the diaspora have resorted to combining various West African cultures.
This is what I would consider self-determination. As a Howard student, I’ve had countless class discussions and written numerous papers about how enslaved people drew what they could from home while creating their own traditions in order to maintain their identities. Self-determination served as a defense mechanism against oppression.
This is exactly what we’ve seen in the theatres over the past week. Being Black in America can be exhausting, but “Black Panther” has inspired pride in African-American people. The moment may or may not be fleeting, but it’s still beautiful. And yes, as an actual Marvel fan, I know that “Black Panther” is not a “race movie,” but that does not change the fact that it was released in a volatile time and has sparked a cultural movement. Such an impact, intentional or not, is noteworthy.
Be the zeitgeist.