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As Rumplestiltskin would say: "Hand me my blogging wig!" Well, I guess he never said that, but one of my friends - a prominent psychologist with a successful practice and numerous books under her belt- is famous for making a distinction between personal opinion and analysis grounded in research. When she says: "Okay, I am about to put my psychologist hat on." This lets you know that everything she is about to say is based on years of research by world renowned psychologists. It is her way of responding to dialogue about issues from a professional and not personal point of view. When she takes that position it is her way of asking: “Do you want me to say what is going on or do you want me to say what is going on? " . These conversations are helpful because it moves one beyond mere complaints to actual solutions. So this month I will digress, and "rock my anthropologist afro puffs" and discuss how applying principles from a widely spectacular comic book and now fictional movie can inspire us all. Unity, nationalism, and adherence to tradition enabled the fictionalized African nation of the Black Panther comics to develop into a ridiculously successful world power. We can also apply these same principles to create a successful community in real life. To not so subtly borrow from one of this century's greatest philosophers, Stephen Colbert - I am Wakanda (And So Can You!).
I am a Blerd. I am the proud wife of a Blerd. We have little Blerdy children. We play Blerdy games. (DnD anyone?) In case you did not know, a Blerd is a Black Nerd. I am a Blerd that has invested time, money and energy into semi massive a comic book collection. As a child, the Black Panther Comic book was so influential for me I used it as a basis for a project when I was in middle school. The project was make your own country and I basically used Wakanda as a blueprint. (Hey, before you get your waist beads in a twist, to be fair... no one stressed the evils of plagiarism in the sixth grade! LOL.) When I read the comic books as a child I was fascinated by the unity displayed by Wakandans. Yes, they had their problems but at the end of the day -they knew they were Wakandans. They had pride in that fact. They dressed Wakandan. They spoke Wakandan. They had Wakandan hairstyles. This is what anthropologist call an imagined community... that is although Wakandas did not know every single Wakandan in the county, they could recognize and easily identify one another. They perceived that they were part of an imperceivable whole. This is best exemplified in by the African proverb: "I am because we are." I know
the premiere for Black Panther folks were decked out in African attire but we can show more cultural unity when we dress like that on a daily basis.
photo courtesy of travel.juma.com
They also had a strong identification with, and pride, in their country. They were very nationalistic. Everything was done (be it good, bad, or ugly) with Wakanda in mind. T'Chaka (T'Challa's father) followed the Wakandan practice of sending some of its best and brightest out to get training. They would then return and pass the knowledge and skills to other Wakandans. We can easily apply this principle. For instance, you can use your talents and skills to volunteer with an afterschool program. That could help keep some young people in school and out of jail. if you have a business, you can donate some of your services to less fortunate families. You can teach about entrepreneurship and marketing. So, when our best and brightest become successful we can pass that knowledge on to help young people excel.
Finally, they had a sense of tradition. Tradition holds families together. Creating a tradition can be a simple as agreeing to all sit down at the table to eat dinner together. It could be an endeavor focused on health like taking an exercise class. Or you could start a tradition of reading to your children before they go to bed at night. Small steps reinforced with traditions helps children develop a moral compass. Tradition also helps one to navigate their place in the world. With tradition, families can develop good eating habits, positive self-images, effective communication skills, and shared positive values.
So like a true Wakandan, go support Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay (We cannot forget about A Wrinkle in Time!) Go watch Black Panther. Go read the comic books. Go learn about the real Black Panther Party. Go support businesses in your community. Go Volunteer. Remember when you practice unity, nationalism and create family traditions... you can say: I am Wakanda (and so can you!)
More helpful links:
History of African Fabric
African Owned Textile Companies
The History of the Dashiki