Category Archives: women’s rights

Lessons Learned:  Women Wow in Marvel’s Black Panther

“Wow” is the best word for me to describe Marvel’s Black Panther.  It really requires no introduction but in case you aren’t aware, it has quickly become a top-grossing movie directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed).

I went solo and saw it on a very late Friday night in an IMAX theater several weeks after its opening. The IMAX ticket was pricey but I had heard so many positively encouraging reviews and comments about the film that I felt it necessary to be immersed in a complete theatrical experience when I viewed it.  Words really cannot explain my giddiness at the vastness of messages and positive portrayals in this film, and I am definitely happy for the IMAX experience.

I am no comic book fan by no means.  My superhero knowledge is, or let me say, WAS limited to the regulars. But this Black Panther movie, let me tell you, was excellent.  I felt so much pride in seeing all the beautiful Black faces, acting finesse of seasoned and newcomer talent, the superhero storyline and the vivid imagery of Wakanda (a fictitious African nation).  The character of King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) was great.  But honestly, most of the movie I forgot it was about Black Panther.  But no movie spoilers or critiques here; you must go see this movie yourself.  This post is on my women-centric thematic takeaway from the film in honor of March’s Women’s History Month (with respect to February’s Black History Month).

Year of the Adored Ones. It seems so apropos that this movie released in an immense season of female empowerment where women have used their collective voice to create societal change and norms about valuing women. I became enamored by the character and strength of the warrior women body guards called Dora Milaje, the general of armed forces (Okoye), the smart, tech-savvy younger sister (Princess Shuri), and of course the characters Mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Wakandan spy Nakia (Lupita N’yongo). In doing a little Black Panther and Marvel research, I learned that the name Dora Milaje means “Adored Ones”, and that truly is an apt name and description for all of the women.  The Adored Ones are courageous, confident, loyal, smart, talented, persistent, tenacious and regally beautiful.  In their core beauty and essence of black femininity, these women’s hearts reminded me of myself, my friends, and any woman that I admire for being true to their power and uniqueness.

Beauty in (Black) Women’s Complexity.  The principles of honor, love and power are thematic throughout the movie, and are adeptly representative of real life challenges that many black women face.  For example, there is a scene where Madam General Okoye immediately makes a dramatic decision during the height of the movie that I’m like, “Yes!!! Stand in your truth.” From a survival perspective, I see similar daily scenarios by black women but which often get overshadowed under misogynistic labels and negative stereotypes that dare acknowledge the complexity of womanhood and blackness. It is not always easy to stand on the principles of survival because our hearts get in the way and passionate presentation is misinterpreted. But more representation of Wakandan warrior princesses on film could help shape a conversation on the perceived mysticism of black womanhood and their real world instinctual survival skills, perspectives and experiences that are too often devalued.

Endless Possibilities Do Exist.  The telling is in the sharing of our stories.  Last year we learned in Hidden Figures of the amazing contributions of black women in science at NASA.  We also learned how a black woman’s cancer cells have advanced international medical research with the immortal cell line HeLa in the film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  While ficticious, what makes Black Panther’s Wakanda just as powerful is the telling of its technological advancement led by a young black woman, who looks all of 15 years old. If I were a young black girl or teen in 2018, I would be doing flips at the commanding presence and intelligence of Princess Shuri while signing up for my local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes.  When given the opportunity to be and show our best in an inclusive and supportive environment, black women can and will do much to advance society and life.  This is what we should be teaching our young black girls and supporting and encouraging them towards greatness and excelling in areas in which they show gifts, talent and technical strengths.

Lastly, I learned of a petition to create a Wakanda series on Netflix and wanted to share for those who also have fallen in love with Wakanda and want to watch the backstory unfold.  I imagine it would be rich in African history and pride and a great legacy story.  Please share and spread the word.

Three Life Lessons from Taraji P. Henson’s “Proud Mary” (Click image for trailer link.)

I am a Taraji P. Henson fan.  I love every character she has played, especially as Cookie in Fox’s Empire.  She always exhibits a level of sincerity, grit and tenacity as an actress. For me, her characters are always very relatable and multi-dimensional.  She’s like your favorite cousin, keeping it real auntie, friend that has your back. When I saw Sony/Screen Gems’ thriller action Proud Mary last weekend, I was again impressed with Taraji. But not because the film was great.

I did enjoy the movie, but Proud Mary was not a box office hit, grossing about $14 million by its second weekend amidst projections of $20 million in its opening weekend, and debuting in eighth place as a box opener. The movie, however, broke even so that’s always a good thing, especially since Taraji has executive producer credits.

There were elements of the film that were lacking (production quality could have been better, writing could have been tighter, would have liked a better build up in beginning and more action in the middle, maybe her face off with another female — something her Cookie character does flawlessly), and several character’s acting were not up to par (what was up with Danny Glover and Billy Brown).  But looking beyond all of that to focus on Taraji’s character, Mary, she performs entertainingly (albeit stereotypical) as a fearless, bad-ass, gun-toting female assassin showing maternal instinct, empathy, and survival skills in protecting Jahi Wilson’s character, Danny, the son of one of her victims.

As a sparse movie goer but avid supporter of black women-led roles, I always look beyond the entertainment aspect of films and focus my understanding on the character’s backstory and its reflection of societal norms, values and beliefs.  Mary’s backstory was not fully developed, but the storyline was clear enough to ascertain that she was an orphan taken in by a crime family who had an encounter that woke her up.  She decided to reclaim her life, her goals and dreams while also giving Danny a chance to experience maternal love, hope and stability. Trying to regain control from a patriarchal environment is a familiar script that many women face in navigating their lives, but just like a bad movie, there are always some take-aways worthy of any experience.

  • Trust your gut. Mary’s career choice was more about survival that desensitized her actions and ruled her life. But when she saw the kid in her mark’s home obliviously playing video games, her instincts told her it was time to move on, but not without curiosity or concern of who she was leaving behind.  She thought about the kid often and checked up on him.  She recognized that a change in life was due. As women, we have a unique gift and often know when we are in a bad job, have toxic relationships, and make unhealthy life choices.  We must remember that it is our divine nature to trust our gut and know when it’s time to make change to do the right thing, not only for ourselves, but often for others. Let’s not ignore that nagging feeling or sign that we know is meant to get our attention.
  • Be willing to start over. The organized crime family decided Mary’s destiny was assassinating folks. It took her orphaning a child to realize her life was more valuable than that, so she decided on a re-do, to live life differently, and on her own terms. A re-do can happen at any time, age or stage in life but a person must be willing to let go of the past and anything negative weighing them down.  Unlike in the movie, I am NOT suggesting being extreme and taking out an entire family, lol, but there is no shame in distancing yourself from people who keep you in a bad place because of their lifestyle, actions, dysfunction, and/or attitudes. It is possible to outgrow people and move on, especially after we’ve learned the lesson they were in our life to teach.
  • You can always make a difference. Danny needed Mary in his life as much as she needed him. She learned that his mother left him and he felt abandoned, and that his father was not a good guy. Just the little bit of compassion she showed to him softened him to know that he mattered to someone. We never know someone’s story and the impact that life has had on them. Kids do become the adults we interact with and it’s the sincerity and small kindnesses that can make a difference, like a smile, holding the door for the person behind you, a quick email, text or phone call to let someone know you were thinking about them, an authentic compliment, or just paying it forward in your own unique way with the expectation of only good karma from the Universe.

The Great Debate

Justice Ginsburg2

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Our human society has been well groomed to focus on and perpetuate the anatomical and emotional differences of women and men versus our spiritual and divine presence as creators, collaborators, and thought leaders. I bring this up not for a nasty debate but sharing a personal viewpoint after reading the Yahoo News interview by Katie Couric with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in which she shares that she believes the male Supreme Court justices who voted against her in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive ruling had a “blind spot” when it comes to women’s concerns.

From what I gather from the interview and article is that the Hobby Lobby court ruling makes it possible for employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives to female workers on religious grounds, which Justice Ginsburg believes they do not have a constitutional right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees who do not necessarily share the same views.  Justice Ginsburg likened the ruling to a previous decision to an old Supreme Court ruling that discrimination against pregnant women was legal.

Hopeful for Evolving Mindset

While disappointed, Justice Ginsburg is not bitter, but rather graciously hopeful that the blind spot about women’s issues that she believes her male colleagues have will be removed with time. She especially believes that her male colleague’s perceptions can change when viewing those types of scenarios from a father’s (and husband’s) lens of his daughter’s (and wife’s) experiences.  This reminds me of a scenario that was related to me about an elected official who was against funding cancer research but then learned that his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After seeing her health rapidly decline and the pain she was experiencing, his viewpoints changed about funding the research. His heart was softened because he was personally affected. That is what love does, it softens the heart.

So one takeaway that I have from Justice Ginsburg’s interview is that our daughters (and I include our considerate sons) of the Millenials are our possible great hope for gender equality and equal rights because they appear to see and approach the world so much differently than previous generations; maybe not so much through the Matrix lens.  They are not necessarily bound by traditional and social beliefs and mindsets about gender roles but have a greater respect for understanding and developing meaningful relationships.  When I listen to my college-educated son and his peers talk about life and their goals, I see the possibilities, too. Hopefully, they do not become jaded through unfair life experiences and turn cynical about the real possibilities of equality and fairness in life and relationships.

We’re in it Together

Maybe one day the male–female debate will not hinge on a dominant versus weaker sex but an evolved thinking that we are all in this together and have to work together to make it work, not against one another. At some point we all have to hold one another up, believes Ginsburg.  Citing her 56 year marriage, she says that her now deceased husband respected her brain and valued her work as much as he did his, and that made all of the difference in their relationship and respect for one another.

Maybe one day that type of respect mindset will become the norm for all types of relationships.   Call me overly optimistic, but maybe one day men will have a respect for women’s reproductive rights and understand why they shouldn’t feel comfortable making those types of decisions for women.  Maybe one day women won’t feel the need to fight to be respected as a human being.  Even at the age of 81, Justice Ginsburg sees and knows that it is possible.  The better question is , do we believe that it is possible?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.