**WARNING: POST CONTAINS SPOILER ALERTS**
While watching Marvel’s Black Panther, I noticed that whenever T’Challa introduced/announced himself to people outside of Wakanda, it was always, “I am T’Challa, son of T’Chaka, King of Wakanda”. It’s a very regal and formal response. But it wasn’t until T’Challa fought M’Baku during the ritual kinging ceremony that I realized that identifying himself that way meant much more than reciting formalities. During that particular fight scene when T’Challa was seemingly losing the battle, Queen Mother, yelled “Show him who you are!”. The proclamation gave T’Challa the strength he needed to defeat M’Baku. By verbally recounting is lineage and title, he evoked the spirit of his ancestors to help him overcome the fight.
The people of Wakanda are an uncolonized African nation and thus are able to preserve their lineage, traditions, and rituals. They have a clear and confident understanding of who they are as a people. But who are we? The descendants of slaves? The lost children of Africa? The Killmongers? Whose lineage do we call upon during our struggle?
When our ancestors traveled across the Atlantic we lost our customs, traditions, and rituals. We were forced into a new narrative. However, that narrative and the ramifications of our forced bondage are rarely acknowledged, glossed over, and inaccurately taught in our school systems. A recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center examined how slavery was taught in our K-12 schools across the country and it was discovered that students are taught incomplete narratives of the events. Only 8% of high school students were able to cite slavery as a major contributing factor for the Civil War. Also, students failed to recognize and connect how the effects of slavery still manifest itself in the Black community today. According to the study, the reason cited for this lack of information was that many of the teachers polled for the survey felt some level of discomfort when talking about slavery and its effects. Thus failing to fully acknowledge its existence and how this country was built by the literal sweat of slaves’ back. This failure to comprehensively teach Black history is the reason why Black History Month is still important to acknowledge and celebrate. February shouldn’t be just another ordinary month on our calendar, but one that is revered and celebrated. How can we confidently function and exist in the world without acknowledging or knowing our history? It’s no longer anyone else’s responsibility to teach you us who we are. Read, study and share the knowledge of our history so that collectively we can thrive. We may not be able to make a direct connection of lineage between us and our African heritage, but we can stand on the shoulders of giants who overcame major feats for us to have many of the basic liberties we have today. We are still a people with a rich heritage, history and legacy.
Who am I? I am WEB Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama. I am Oprah Winfrey, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer and Nat Turner. I am a descendant of the Conleys, Hills, Dentons, and Bonners. I am from a long line of direct and indirect ancestors who are resilient, powerful, beautiful, and righteously Black! It’s their power of endurance and love that I draw sustenance from daily.
The last line of the movie was “Who are you?!” Remember who you are!