Life as a Twenty-Something: A Blogging as Therapy Installment

January 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


There’s a moment in “Garden State” where Zach Braff, Natalie Portman and Peter Saarsgard yell into a giant hole in the ground. It’s a perfectly constructed scene of rain, garbage bag ponchos and Simon & Garfunkel playing in the background – it screams, “this here is a turning point!”

I like it, though. I would really love to let out a primal scream in the rain, sending my voice into the direction of an abyss (read: life), and hell, end it all with a kiss.

Perhaps it’s melodramatic, but I blame that on my twenties.

I remember at 13 thinking that everything became clear when you reached “adulthood.” By college, I would know all. I would know exactly where I was headed, if I hadn’t already reached it, and would live a “Friends” style life of laughter-filled escapades, “work” that didn’t seem to interfere, and probably a wedding (eventually).

I’m not bemoaning the fact that adulthood doesn’t actually turn out to be like “Friends.” Best friends sleeping with best friends is a hot mess. But I suppose I am bemoaning that confusion in life is never as fun (or funny) as every half-hour with the gang seemed to be. And that the attractions from such a life – a desire to be living in a giant apartment with friends across the hall, with a favorite coffee shop and an insanely large closet filled with clothes – are simply a mask for the confusion. At least in my case.

I feel as if I’ve been here before. Wasn’t it just last year that I wondered where my life was going? And why wasn’t I able to see it more clearly? Wasn’t it just two years ago, at the start of this blog, that we talked about this time we’re in – the “to be determined” phase?

I think I’m beginning to hate my twenties. * cue melodramatic soundtrack *

I’m realizing it just repeats itself: moment of clarity, vast abyss of uncertainty, moment of clarity…. Zach Braff’s character, if the movie had continued, probably eventually breaks up with Natalie Portman and has to go find another hole to scream into while its raining.

Oh dear. Am I turning into a pessimist? I hope not. Am I whining? Ugh, I don’t want to be. I feel as if I’m beginning to sound like an angsty teenager, à la Twilight or every CW show. But today, while “blogging as therapy,” I’m seriously having a moment.

So, Amber, can we revisit an old question

How do we seize the damn day?

For starters, I might need to let go of movie and tv references.

Liz’s Top Ten Deep Moments of 2011

December 31st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

1. Osama Bin Ladin is killed.

By far, one of the biggest moments of 2011. The image of an empty podium leading up to the press conference, the “ooooh shiiiit!” as Obama announced his death, the disturbing spontaneous celebrations, the fact that the elusive terrorist leader was finally caught (and killed) – for all these reasons, this was a BIG deal.

2. Arab Spring

A vegetable seller in Tunisia sets himself on Fire in December 2010 and suddenly protests across the region erupt. The exciting events were unbelievable to all as people swarmed the streets in several countries. Most notably the reigns of Mubarek in Egypt and Gaddafi in Libya end. Check out this awesome timeline that shows the major events – from Algeria to Tunisia to Jordan and Yemen.

3. Nobel Peace Prize awarded to three women.

It was wonderful to see these three women receive praise for their efforts in building and sustaining peace. Kudos to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Twakkol Karman.

4. Marilyn Monroe Statue in Chicago

Yeah, we win some, we lose some. While women are winning Nobel prizes, some idiot puts a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe, who will forever be objectified, in Chicago for all the world to pose under her giant legs and discover – lo and behold! – her panties underneath. Sigh. (“I love my city, I love my city, I love my city.”)

5. Occupy Wall Street

It started simply in September and spread like wildfire. The chant of “we are the 99%” has been heard in nearly every city ever since. How long, how far and how much effect this movement will have we’ll continue to see.

6. South Sudan Secedes

Remember this? I had to drag the memory out and recall that, yes Sudan did a hold a vote and yes, South Sudan did secede from the rest of the country (and that yes, Luol Deng, Bulls player, voted). Makes me want someone to recap what’s been happening in this fledgling country.

 7. Earthquake in Japan

This devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake killed over 15,000 people and sent a country and world into panic over a possible major nuclear meltdown. Blessings and prayers for Japan in this coming New Year.

8. Charlie Sheen Meltdown

Okay, so he probably isn’t worth a mention, but “Winning” really did become the catchphrase of 2011. A saddening display of long-term drug use and narcissism.

9. That’s So Deep posts on Racialicious and Amber joins Racialicious Roundtable.

Ummm, you know we’re a bit narcissistic over here and I have to give us some shout-outs. That’s So Deep posted a lil G’chattin session on Racialicious which later led to Amber’s awesome involvement on the Racialicious Roundtable for True Blood. That also involves a good story of  how Amber frantically tried to contact me (lost in the wilderness) about this opportunity via text, phone call and Facebook. Ask us about it sometime. ;)

10. That’s So Deep headquarters officially in Chicago!

And finally, Amber moves to Chicago! I start seminary! She starts grad school! Life goes crazy! 2011, oh the changes you brought.

Whach’ya got, 2012?

Happy Friday!: This Week’s Links

October 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Happy Friday ya’ll! Need some help getting through this final day before the weekend? Never fear! We’ve got some links that we found particularly interesting this week. Enjoy! And share with us what you’ve been reading!

Start with a laugh and a little bit of a WTF. Have you seen Herman Cain’s latest ad? It’s worth the randomness at the end.

Check out Jill Scott’s latest music video!

Jay Smooth breaks down what he thinks the success of the Occupy Wall Street movement is really all about.

Melissa Harris-Perry never fails to lay it out there. Check out what she has to say post-Cornel West “feud.”

Remember some of our posts on feminism? Check out (the greatest title ever) “My Feminism will be Intersectional or it will be Bullshit!

Thinking of dressing up for Halloween? First check out these students’ campaign against problematic costumes.

Take a look at the trailer for Albert Norris. It took me a second to recognize a certain someone.

NOLA activist shares some of his experience and compassion after being shot in the head.

Safety First: The Racialization of Danger on Chicago’s South Side

October 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


Here’s a story for you…

It’s approximately 8:30pm and I’m a half a block away from my on-campus apartment waiting for the University Shuttle and talking to my friend on the phone. A Chicago Police car (NOT University police) pulls up and rolls the window down…

Cop: Is everything OK?
Me: Yep, I’m fine.
Cop: What are you doing here?
Me: I’m just waiting on the shuttle.
Cop: OK, well don’t be out here too long by yourself.
Me: OK.
Cop: And you shouldn’t be on your cell phone because you can’t hear if someone is coming up behind you. You should get an ear piece.
Me: OK.
Cop: And make sure you’re always aware of your surroundings and looking around ‘cause you know…we’re still in the ‘hood (smiles at me like I’m in on an inside joke).
Me: * blank stare * OK.
Cop: Alright now, be safe.
Me: OK. Thanks.

*He drives off*

Me: * raised eyebrow *

For a moment after he left, I stood there thinking about the interaction. This had never happened to me before. I’ve had a few run ins with cops over the course of my life but I’ve never had one express direct concern about my safety. Why did this cop feel the need to pull over and talk to me?  Was he just really concerned about my safety? What was it about me that made him feel the need to check in? If he hadn’t assumed that I was a student would he have still pulled over? If so, would he have given me the same message? What if I was a man of color–would we have had the same interaction?

I’ve been in Chicago a little over a month now and there have been several things I’ve noticed about this city that have really gotten me thinking and have kept my eyebrows raised. The most obvious is just how segregated the city really is. I had heard that Chicago was one of the most segregated cities in the country, but after living, working, and going to school here for more than a month, I no longer doubt that. I live on the southern part of U of C’s campus and if I walk 3 blocks South the white faces that are very present on campus disappear and suddenly, for miles, I am surrounded by people who look like me–and in some parts of town, only people who look like me.

I definitely understand your frustration in dealing with white students and individuals who come to Chicago from out of town and immediately assume that the South Side is dangerous. I have been frustrated with the same on some level as well. In Chicago especially, because this city is so segregated along racial and class lines, the “threat” of danger is very often racialized. People who have little experience working with or living in lower income communities (or just interacting with people of color in general, let’s be real) are often quick to stereotype these communities as “ghetto” read: Black, violent, poor people who want to hurt and/or steal from me. It is frustrating that people move into the “sanctuary” of Hyde Park or the University of Chicago and don’t think to question their own assumptions of what poverty and danger look like nor when worrying about their own safety stop to think about the safety of those who live and work in these surrounding “dangerous” communities everyday.

But, these images and ideals aren’t just perpetuated by the media. As you mentioned University officials and even Chicago police go out of their way to make sure that students don’t wander into “dangerous” areas. In my own orientation they were very clear to emphasize “dangerous” public transit lines (green and red) and let us know that we may as well not travel south of campus if we can help it and that traveling on campus after twilight is just a huge no no–call “Safe Ride” (an on-campus door to door shuttle).

Some of the stories and perceptions of certain neighborhoods (and the individuals who live in those neighborhoods) that I’ve heard from some of my new friends and colleagues have often made me feel uncomfortable, but I must admit that as a Chi-town newbie, even my own perceptions of Chicago have been influenced by what I’ve heard from others. It has really gotten me thinking about the privilege of safety and the racialization of danger.

For some reason, the cops I mentioned above (a black man and his white partner) felt the need to warn me, a black female student, of the dangers of waiting for the on-campus bus after dark. It led me to wonder, however, if I had been dressed differently or if they didn’t assume I was a student if they would have had the same reaction to me. If I had been a few blocks farther south of campus would they have thought to pull over–would they have even noticed me? If I had been a man of color on the same block, would they have expressed the same amount of concern? Would they even have assumed that I was a student before thinking that I didn’t belong?

Why is my safety privileged over the safety of others in this same community? And furthermore, how are interactions like the one between me and this cop that are seemingly intended to promote safety and awareness also perpetuating fear, misinformation, and further marginalization of others living, working, breathing, and eating in this same space. Can we really even call it “community” if the cops and university administration are working so hard to keep “us” in and keep “them” out?

I wholeheartedly agree with you that we need to question our own fears and the socializations that we are all a part of that inform those fears. But, we also need to question how these fears are affirmed, encouraged, and perpetuated everyday by our own actions or lack thereof. The Chicago Police force and the University of Chicago Police force are doing all they can to keep the streets of the University and Hyde Park safe, but what does safety look like in South Shore, Woodlawn, or Inglewood? Why don’t they show the same commitment to maintaining safety in these communities? And why are we, as residents of Chicago, so apathetic about the safety of others? We assume that safety is a right, but it is situations like the one I described above that remind me that safety is, in fact, a privilege and one that too many of us take for granted. Asking these questions is the first step toward recognizing the many ways that privilege affords one access to basic rights and denies a countless number of others the same. It is also the first step toward challenging these assumptions and the perpetuation of marginalization that happens on this campus and all over this city everyday.

WTF Files: Girl with a Dragon Tattoo Revisited

October 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

So Amber,

Remember when I recommended The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo last year? Well, not that I’m taking it back, but I feel like I need to air out some thoughts. While reading it, I was completely wrapped up in the mystery, but even with a good story a little something nagged at me. And when I started the sequel, that little something grew and I quit 20 pages in.

The sequel starts with a scene of violence against a young girl – “she lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed with a steel frame.” Reading those first words, I knew what I disliked in the first book. As much as Dragon Tattoo smacks of “female empowerment,” underneath is this running current of exploitation – a sort of titillating tale of sexual violence against women. The book works hard to mask it as somehow unveiling this underworld (scattering statistics throughout the chapters) or leading with a “strong” female character (is she really though?), but that’s all it is – a mask.

I never returned to the sequel, although sometimes I contemplate reading it. I’ve even been wondering if I’d watch the Hollywood version coming out soon.** But all my discomfort and irritation came roaring back with the release of this movie poster.

WTF. A fully clothed older male and a topless young woman, all to sell entertainment – can we say problematic? There’s also a version out there without the date obscuring what little is covered. It seems the movie will reflect the book very well. It all just kinda feels like a sexist fantasy played out by the author.

Anybody else read the book? Seen the Swedish movie version? What’s your thoughts? Is it just me?



** Okay, yeah, I probably kinda wanna see it because of Daniel Craig. ;)

Chi-town Blues: Who’s Afraid of the South Side?

October 6th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


Let me recall an exchange I once had:

White college student: Where do you live?
Me: South Shore [an African-American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago].
WCS: Oh. *Eyes Big* Wow. I drove down Stony Island [a four lane very busy street] and was so nervous. Is it scary?
Me: No. *Blank stare*
*Uncomfortable silence.*

You may think I was being mean (well maybe not you, Amber, but others might), but this was me actually being nice. I’d only just met her, so I was not going to go in on her, but neither was I going to give her any encouragement. I had no intention of making her feel better about being scared. So there was just uncomfortable silence.

In my head, I was screaming, “WTF do you mean, is it scary?! You’re in a car! With four lanes of traffic!”

Another time, I had someone ask me, “The south side of Chicago? Isn’t that a ghetto area?” To which I sputtered and haltered and didn’t know how to respond. What exactly do you mean by “ghetto,” sir?

During orientation at my seminary, a school in the neighborhood Hyde Park, the head of security told us to never take the Red line (an el train on the South Side). Just never do it. Ever. An eye roll was my response. How is it that a school that claims to have an urban emphasis (and urban ministry) warns its students away from the places where people around them frequent every day?

It’s all very frustrating. I understand that some people come to Chicago and have never lived in a city. City life is different and if you’re navigating it for the first time, you’re unsure what you’re doing. I also know that whether from a city or not, people unfamiliar to the South Side of Chicago are responding to everything they’ve heard about the South Side. If all you’ve heard is that it’s dangerous, you will be scared. If you’re told not to take a certain train, you will likely not want to take it.

But what I’m constantly frustrated with is that these responses go unchallenged. If you enter a new area and feel scared, why exactly are you scared? Just because you feel it, doesn’t make it valid. When that white college student told me she was scared going down a street with four lanes of traffic in each direction and businesses on either side, I knew that she wasn’t just scared because she’d heard something about the South Side, but because the only people she was seeing were African-American. And she had ideas about what that meant. Media and politics all train our imagination. When a white man asks me if an area is “ghetto,” I know that he isn’t imagining poor white people. And I know that in both these cases, they felt comfortable asking me these questions because I’m white – I’d understand, right? They could feel “safe.”

Because so many of these fears are racialized. And about economics. But a poor neighborhood doesn’t automatically mean a dangerous one. And a black neighborhood doesn’t automatically mean a poor one. And just because someone (oh us white liberals) believes they’re enlightened, doesn’t mean the news reports, the movies, the politicians, the social myths don’t affect their vision. You may think you see something scary, but what is actually informing your fear?

If someone feels afraid, they feel afraid. I can’t change that. But, ask why. If people live and work and play on the South Side of Chicago, can I not also? If people take the Red Line every day, can I not also?

And then when we’re done with that – you know, realizing you’re not entering a war zone when you come to the South Side – let’s talk about what we can do about the whys – why there’s fear, why there’s violence, why there’s poverty, why Chicago is so segregated, why, why, why.


My Question: What Happened to the Deepness?

September 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


I have to make a confession. I’ve started school. I’ve been stressed about money. Freaked out over a broken laptop. Thrown a baby shower. Searched (and am searching) for a job. I’ve turned 25. And I’ve watched many many episodes of Criminal Minds. In the midst of it all, I’ve made a realization and I need to confess:

I’ve disengaged.

The last post I wrote was on August 12th. The last post I even attempted was on Even the Rain – still sitting in drafts. It’s not like deepness hasn’t been happening since August. Politics continue to be a mess. Talking heads are still problematic. TV and movies (The Help anyone?) continue to offer a wealth of “wtf”s. The execution of Troy Davis alone warranted multiple postings. No, it’s not that there isn’t deep shit to write about. It’s that I’ve stopped listening.

I’m ashamed to say it. I only half watch the news and I skim the paper. I’ve quit my daily perusing of blogs and news sites. I no longer click on the fascinating articles people post on Facebook. I don’t even click on the silly ones. I’ve stopped engaging and exchanging in ideas.

It’s freakin sad. Suddenly, I woke up and realized I’m isolated. Suddenly, I realized it’s been awhile since I’ve gotten downright pissed. Or that I was itching to say something. To respond. To react. To act.

What the hell happened? I’ve been feeling a little lifeless. I miss it. I miss hearing what others are saying. I miss confronting the ugliness of privilege in society. I miss shaking my fists. I miss battling out my thoughts.

So I’m back, girl. I here commit to being engaged.  I’m back in the world. Cuz it never stopped even while I did.

I need this. I am so ready.

Life off the Grid: A Few Summer Reads

August 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


I loved your “Life from off the Grind” suggestions – the hallway episode of The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl cracks me up every time. I still have to finish watching Black Panther (and I blame you for my sudden interest in superhero/anime type series).

I have also been living out this summer “off the grind,” but, for half of it, was forced to live off the grid as well. No internet, iffy cell phone service. Almost gone crazy? Even now I suffer from a broken laptop and rely on the mercy of others.

I read. A lot. It’s actually been wonderful and I’ve found some treasures. So, if you’re looking for some reading material, here are three I recommend:

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

On the cover there’s a quote from USA Today, “Readers entranced by The Help will be equally riveted by Wench.” I have yet to read The Help (getting it today since we plan to blog about it), but I feel pretty confident that readers of The Help will be more greatly challenged, in addition to entranced, by Wench.

The book follows four enslaved women, one in particular, who are “mistresses” to their white masters. The primary voices (really the only) are these four black women. The book offers a nuanced and varied approach to their relationships and perspectives. It exposes not only the physical, but psychological and emotional tragedy of a system that views humans as property. Heartbreaking and compelling.

Room by Emma Donaghue

What can I say about this book? It was like watching a thriller. I couldn’t put it down. Told from the perspective of a five year old (yeah you heard me), the book is about a mother and her son held prisoner in an 11X11 foot room. The only world he has known. Hats off to the writer for her exceptional skill. I will give nothing more away.

Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd

This is the only non-fiction I’ve read this summer (I’m a big novel fan). My sister recommended it to me and I am presently in the middle of it. It is a series of letters between a father and son over the course of three years in which the father (not a Christian) asks every imaginable question about Christianity. Why is the world so full of suffering? Does God know the future? Why would an all-powerful God need prayer? Aren’t the Gospels full of contradictions?

I mean, seriously, good questions. Questions that made me go, “yeah, answer that!” So whether Christian, curious or questioning (or all three), I highly recommend this book. It doesn’t shy away from issues (the father does not hold back – “why did God not spare your mother?”); there’s no “just don’t worry about it” type of answer. It is an open and thoughtful conversation between father and son, and therefore us as readers.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words: The Ethics of Photography

August 5th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


After watching the trailer to “The Bang Bang Club,” a movie that I may one day be tempted to watch on DVD but was not tempted to see in theater (another movie about white people in Africa? come on), I was compelled to write about photography. And art. And perspective. Ya know, deep stuff.

The Bang Bang Club” includes the famous story of a journalist, Kevin Carter, who waited to take the “perfect” picture of a dying child and a vulture nearby. He waited for twenty minutes hoping the vulture would spread its wings and won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo. No one knows the fate of the child.

Such a photo and story makes me wonder about the ethics of photojournalism and photography. One, is there a point to which you are not only responsible for your photography, but also for the suffering around you? Second, what perspective is given? Who is photographing and who is being photographed? Who decides what images to capture?

Let’s start with the second set of questions. I think this is one of the most important critiques of photojournalism and photography in general. Take for instance these images:

In each instance, the photographer is making a decision. How to photograph and what to photograph. The image of the Afghan woman came under fire when it was first published on the cover of Time magazine – for the effect on children, what it may imply about the war, the possible exploitation of this woman’s experience and the Western perspective of women in the Middle East. I look at the picture and am aware that she was carefully chosen: young, beautiful and mutilated. Are we shining light on a subject – the violence towards and oppression of women – or feeding into a peculiar fascination for the disturbing, the contrast of beauty and disfigurement or the assumption that we have a right into someone else’s experience?

The second photo reminds me that so many powerful, award-winning photos are those of pain and suffering. So many photos capture moments when grief overwhelms and allows us to witness this grief. But what is our own response to it? And with this picture, I wonder if any such photo would be taken in the United States and printed by newspapers or awarded by foundations. Would we stand to look upon the brutal up-close images of our own dead children? If not, why are we able to look upon the dead children of Haiti?

But it’s not as if these issues don’t arise over the photographs of Americans. The last picture shows individuals in Appalachia. It is clearly showing a particular perspective – unsmiling faces staring directly at the camera. Who decides what to capture among Americans – among the poor, the hurt or the disenfranchised? And who views these photos and believes they are witnessing “real” people and therefore know their experience? (Sociological Images has a great article about this set of Appalachian photos and the debate about them.)

With none of these photos do I want to suggest that I emphatically disagree with their portrayals or the photographer’s decisions, but these are the questions that make me study them and our responses. I believe photojournalism is important – it is important to capture events, to record oppression and violence, to bear witness – but even so, there are other elements at work – power, class, race, gender – that determine what and who is captured. Our own government has previously refused to allow photographs of the caskets of U.S. Soldiers. Obviously, photographs hold power and governments wish to exert control over these images. But it is not only governments who exert control. Photographers have a responsibility to the power of these images – to what they represent and what perspective they give.

As to the first question, of photography and suffering, the lines are so blurred, I don’t know that I have an answer. What, for any of us, is our responsibility to the suffering around us? How do you decide when photographing is not enough?

Photography is an art form, I know, and like every artistic endeavor it will hold a particular perspective. But what is most concerning is that photography captures real people in life in a particular time. It is not a rendition; it is a moment. And yet, we can manipulate that moment. We can determine how that moment is remembered or understood.

What do you think?

Life from Off the Grind: The Black Panther, The Glee Project, and The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl

July 29th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


After two years of a grueling “9-5” I have admittedly been breaking hard this summer. I have no shame in my game though and have been enjoying the much needed and rest and time off. In my overwhelming amount of free time, I’ve been able to indulge in many guilty pleasures that have kept me from being productive in any way, shape, or form. If you’re looking for ways to pass the time, look no further because I have a few things that’ll peek your interest. Leggo…


The Glee Project

In the midst of a Glee hiatus this summer, I’ve picked up on The Glee Project, a reality show that airs on Oxygen and serves as a highly competitive audition process for the newest Glee cast member. I started watching the show at the behest of a friend and slowly got sucked in against my will and better judgment. The premise of the show is simple—put twelve seriously talented theater kids in a house and pit them against each other to see who will win their dream of becoming the next big Glee star! Every week the kids attempt to outshine each other in acting, choreography, singing, and overall performance and as you can imagine, there is a room full of divas and strong personalities. So, why do I watch, you ask. Well, the talent in the room is overwhelming. Right in the center of all the drama, insecurity, and overly emphasized (and most times faked) emotion is undeniable talent and a few powerhouse voices. And, that my friends, is my weakness. If you can sing well, I will forgive all of your other shortcomings. Sigh. So I put up with all of the BS from the kids, the producers and from Ryan Murphy (who I am convinced thinks he’s god) just so I can hear some good vocals. I mean really, can you blame me? DONE.

Disclaimer: The show does often piss me off though because the producers ask the kids to fake emotion and personality based on their experiences and character traits. It’s like asking them to be caricatures of themselves. It’s extremely problematic and a huge part of the show. They had this episode on showing vulnerability that left me fuming! But yeah, totally worth watching anyway…you can catch most of the episodes on Hulu.


The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl and Friends

I started watching this web-series when I still was on the 9-5 grind at a job that often left me less than enthused at the end of the day. I recently had a viewing party with some of my friends and it brought back some vivid memories of me watching this on my lunch breaks (and coffee breaks…and “ugh, I’m sick of this” breaks) and cracking up on how hard I could relate to the main character, J. The series creator, Issa Rae, is also the main character and trust, you will find it hilarious as she navigates her way through life as an awkward Black girl. Luckily, Issa Rae just decided to extend the web-series beyond the original seven episode season due to popular demand. So if you enjoy the series, be sure to support! Peep the first episode. I promise you’ll be hooked.



The Black Panther Animated Series

I’ve been spending a hellauva lot of time with my younger brother this summer who happens to be a huge anime, comic book, and super hero connoisseur. He recently introduced me to The Black Panther, a Marvel a comic book series featuring Marvel’s first Black superhero of the same name. Marvel Animation recently created a cartoon series based on this comic book in partnership with BET. Now ya’ll know I’m not a huge fan of BET, but the production of this cartoon was something that I could get down with. The premise behind the series is also pretty interesting and brings up several issues.

As a short background The Black Panther is protector and ruler of a fictional African country, Wakanda. Wakanda is the only African country that has not been colonized and is far advanced in technology and medicine than its Western counterparts. Furthermore, Wakanda is home to vibranium, a rare vibration absorbing mineral that is coveted in other parts of the world (All you non-comic book heads, stick with me…we’ll get to why it’s interesting in a bit.) According to Wikipedia:

The Black Panther is the ceremonial title given to the chief of the Panther Tribe of the advanced African nation of Wakanda. In addition to ruling the country, he is also chief of its various tribes (collectively referred to as the Wakandas). The Panther habit is a symbol of office (head of state) and is used even during diplomatic missions. The Panther is a hereditary title, but one still must earn it. In the distant past, a meteorite made of the (fictional) vibration-absorbing mineral vibranium crashed in Wakanda, and was unearthed. Reasoning that outsiders would exploit Wakanda for this valuable resource, the ruler at the time, King T’Chaka, like his father and other Panthers before him, concealed his country from the outside world.”

Can you see why I’m intrigued and also raising an eyebrow? I found the series blog-worthy for several reasons:

1.The fictional nation of Wakanda has not been colonized. In fact, one of the primary duties of The Black Panther is to keep foreign powers out in order to preserve the Wakandan way of life. However, Wakanda is far more advanced than any other country in spite of staying within their own boundaries. A strong underlying theme seems to be a resistance to globalization and foreign influence. The technological superiority of the Wakandans also ties into their stellar homeland security (i.e. they have the weapons to keep people out) and a moral superiority. Many times throughout the series the leaders of the “Panther Tribe” would refer to the West as greedy and selfish, noting this as a reason they refused to share their findings in medicine and technology with them. They often implied that the West would only use this knowledge for profit and financial gain and not for the advancement of people or society.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. There is a HUGE romanticization of the African continent that draws from “ancient African civilization” narratives. There is this whole idea that colonization changed Africa (I mean, it did but…), and if it wasn’t for these colonizers, Africa could be Wakanda. The series paints Wakanda as untouched by outside influence; therefore, their connection to their god, culture, the land, etc. has also been unaltered by the influences of the West. They are still “true to themselves.” It positions Wakanda and the “Panther Tribe” as a kind of noble savage, which is a bit of a paradox given their technological superiority to any other country. The difference is that they seek to use their power for good. * side -eye * It’s so loaded and most definitely discussion worthy.

3. Finally, the show has an all-star cast of black actors and actresses including Djimon Hounsou, Kerry Washington, Jill Scott, and Alfre Woodard. THIS is why I initially started watching the series in the first place, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The entire series is available on Netflix Instant and episodes run about ten minutes each. So yeah, get on that.

Oh, and for all my working people out there…Happy Friday!!  :)