Please can we have a standing ovation for the men in my community. Valentines day has gone (thank goodness) but I’m sprinkling love on our black men anyway. We appreciate you guys! For those who find the concept of black appreciation extra or think it’s discriminatory because all people deserve a standing ovation, feel free to stop reading. If you do choose to read on, please be aware of three things;
1. It’s going to get extra with a capital X
2. Taking time to appreciate black men, doesn’t mean that other men don’t deserve some appreciation too. It’s not a zero sum game
3. There will be references to the Black Panther movie but I promise no spoilers
It’s my hope that 2018 will be a year black people focus on using our words. Not just in the way we speak to each other but in the things we write and in the preservation of our various languages and dialects.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Black Panther hit our screens last week and its fair to say a lot of us were hyped – me included. I don’t normally get drawn into the ‘new black movie’ let’s rush to watch it thing, but this one had me intrigued. I was really interested in how relationships between characters would be portrayed; particularly if stereotypical antagonistic relationships between black men and women would be present. But alas no such thing (praise break!), which really warmed my heart.
Tell you what else warmed my heart, the standing ovation a few of the men gave at the end of the movie. The atmosphere was electric and our post film discussion was so interesting. I can’t tell you too much about what we discussed without giving away some of the film, so I’ll just say what I observed. The buzz amongst the men not just relating to action scenes but also their discussion of various relationships between characters was phenomenal. I’ve heard some of these guys discuss movies before, but this time it was different. Their words were those of appreciation for not having to endure yet more negative characterisations of black men.
Relationships between the characters in the movie seemed more pronunced when they spoke in isiXhosa. This beautiful language, untouched by colonial influence and rooted in South Africa’s fight against European colonizers, sounded like music with intermittent clicks setting an almost rhythmic beat to each conversation.
The strategic use of isiXhosa was no more evident than during a touching conversation between T’Challa (Black Panther) and his father T’Chaka. They would switch between isiXhosa and English, which really focused my attention on specific parts of the conversation. This was one of my favourite scenes, because in all its simplicity it represented the powerful and important role of paternal legacy in helping to nurture black identity.
Again I can’t say too much about this but I will say, that on behalf of black women (well the black women I know) we’re here to support black men in leaving a paternal legacy for their community and the rest of the world. We’re here to give a standing ovation to those of you who are making a conscientious effort to fulfil your roles as fathers, husbands, sons and brothers. Black women are here to say, that we won’t ABANDON you in your pursuit of excellence.
Sidenote for the fanatics amongst us: the above statement isn’t a cry against dating/marrying outside of our community – as stated before, this isn’t a zero sum game. Rather, the above statement is a public recognition to black men that ‘WE SEE YOU’ ! Please stand up and irrespective of whether they want to look, let the rest of the world see you too.
The narrative of black excellence has never disappeared from history but it has been muzzled under the sound of white oppression and black ignorance (some of which is apparent in the film). However, what I appreciated about this film was it encouraged black excellence through both innovation and traditional practises. In a world where individualism reins what this movie exemplifies is a need to return to those collective practises which ensured not only our survival but progress.
As a black woman I’m not here to speak against black men. This doesn’t mean I don’t hold them to account; but I must not confuse holding to account with putting down. I don’t claim to be ‘WOKE’ (I’ll leave that to more intelligent people) but basic common sense tells me we can’t achieve excellence whilst using oppressive words/actions against each other. So here are the words I choose to use to my black brothers; I appreciate you, you are needed, you are loved.
Black brothers, please rise for your standing ovation.