By now you know that all eyes have been on Marvel's latest movie, Black Panther. Not a day has gone by in the past month where I didn't see an article, someone posting about it on social media, an illustration honoring the signature character, or get a text from friends practically shouting their excitement. This past Saturday, as my family and I sat around the table eating dinner, my husband's mom declared that she's going to see it and she hasn't seen a movie in theaters in over fifteen years. My husband bragged to everyone that we already got shirts to wear on the big day. His cousin, who had been sitting at the table mostly in silence for the past hour, unzipped her hoodie to reveal a t-shirt with Black Panther standing heroically, a golden crown placed over his head. She looked my husband dead in the eyes and said, "And I have three more, boo."
There's a reason for all the pride surrounding this movie. Hollywood's depiction of black people has been traditionally bigoted and excuses to deny us access have always been hidden behind "it's just business." Barriers to entry include rarely having more than three black people in a film (otherwise it's deemed a "black" movie and unmarketable), being told that black films don't sell (especially internationally), hiring practices that don't include black directors, and casting black actors in racist or stereotypical roles. A movie like Black Panther that's helmed by a black director, and a majority black cast, means a lot to people who have been told time and time again that we don't get to be the heroes.
That's what I wanted to capture with this piece. Two kids watching a movie is a pretty simple illustration, but it's also a pivotal moment. There's something to be said about the value of not having to see yourself as the "other." When you finally get the chance to see people who look like you depicted on screen in a way that's neither demeaning nor stereotypical, that small moment right there in that chair as you're eating popcorn becomes everything. I hope there are kids just like these watching the movie this weekend and I hope it impacts them enough that they'll want to create moments like this in their own creative endeavors in the future. For right now, I hope I've captured even a little of that magic.