DEATH: the conversation that every parent owes their adult child and that every adult child must broach with their parent(s)

“A man that has not prepared his own children for his death has failed as a father.”

My mum died almost a year ago. Most days the shock of it is still too much for my mind to bear.

I wasn’t ready for her to die. I hadn’t recovered from my issues as I’d planned, I hadn’t been able to share the experiences with her that I’d hoped for and finally, I hadn’t had meaningful conversations with her about her death. My mum occasionally made mention of it, alluded to it, but I avoided talking to her directly about it even though the reality of her mortality was ever-present. It often drove me to tears to think that one day she would no longer be here and I had no idea how I’d survive life without her.

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Given that I wasn’t a fan of the movie Black Panther, it is strange that this quote came to mind but it did. It was the one moment in the film that truly resonated with me. A parent owes it to their child to prepare them for their death. No-one else can.

In my mum’s final year on earth, we wrote love letters to one another. I think she was preparing me for her death. We spoke with an uncommon frankness. I am grateful for all the moments we shared in spite of our geographical distance. Her gifts to me – her prayers, her words, her encouragement, her sense of assurance that I would overcome all my mental and physical difficulties come what may and thankfully, the gift of siblings – were the tools which helped me somehow manage and navigate ‘life after’. I’m still broken by her death but somewhere within me, I think I knew what was coming. I just wish I’d been brave enough to speak to her about death.

That missed opportunity is the reason I decided to write this post. Parent(s) and adult children need to have conversations about death. This post is a plea and a challenge to all parents and adult children.

You Need To Talk About Death.

Some say there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Well, I beg to differ. The latter can be avoided with some smart wizardry on the part of a great accountant but the former, DEATH, comes to us all. Death is the only certainty of life. And so I write an open letter to parents and another to adult children to ask that they begin to engage in this conversation.

An Open Letter to All Parents of Adult Children

Dear Parent(s),

You owe it to your child(ren) to discuss your life and your death with them.

You owe it to your child(ren) to discuss you life story so they have a sense of belonging and identity and quite frankly, so they don’t end up with a headache writing your biography once you’re gone. You owe them the gift of your stories, your triumphs and failures, your funny moments and even your hopes for them because these things will carry them once you’re gone.

You owe it to your children to have a will and to discuss the contents and location of your will with them lest its absence become a source of contention once you are no more.

You owe it to your child(ren) to discuss your burial wishes because it will either add to or lessen the burden of your death.

You owe it to your child(ren) to have a life insurance policy or to make some kind of provision for your funeral lest your child(ren) be broken by financial loss as well as the inevitable loss of their parent.

You owe it to your child(ren) to leave them with your words through love letters or recordings or something which will continue to exist when you’re long gone lest your children forget the sound of your voice and your words of encouragement.

You owe it to your child(ren) to encourage them to continue to live life fully in spite of the murky waters of depression which inevitably come with grief because they will never have experienced anything like it and the confusion and insanity which oftentimes accompanies grief can fracture even the strongest mind.

You owe all this and much more to your child(ren) because grief makes of every adult a child. And just as you would protect a child, so you must protect your child from and prepare your child(ren) for the harsh realities of death.

Should you choose not to have this discussion with your child and they by dint of some unspeakable power choose to broach the subject with you, it does not mean they are wishing or praying your life away. It does not mean they are plotting your death. It simply means they have chosen to confront their worst nightmare – the inevitability of your death.

Please do not chide, cast them away or defer the topic until ‘another day’ for tomorrow is not assured for any of us, child or parent.

And finally, if Mufasa can have ‘that talk’, so can you.

An open letter to all adult child(ren)

Dear Adult Child,

You owe it to yourself and to your parents to have this conversation. Speaking to your parents about their own death will not hasten their death. It may be one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have but you owe it to yourself to have this conversation. The process will enrich you and give you a chance to begin the work of coming to terms with the inevitable.

It will give you a chance to avoid some of the pain which comes with grief. It will give you a chance to avoid arguments with relatives about your parents’ wishes.

It will give you a chance to begin to do now the things you will wish you had done once they are no more. It will open your eyes to the good fortune you have of still having your parent(s) alive but it comes with inevitable sadness so bring along a box of tissues.

It will give you a chance to confront your own immortality and perhaps prompt you into really beginning to live rather than sleepwalking your way through life.

It will give you a chance to talk to your parents about their life story – their place of birth, their own parents (your grandparents), their childhood, their highs and lows, their advice. Think of all the gaps in your knowledge when it comes to your parents and ask them questions. Their story, their stories, will equip you will an unrivalled sense of belonging and identity. It will help you understand them better and it will help you feel a little less lost once they are no more.

You need to ask your parents whether they have a will, where on earth it is, where and how they wish to be buried and whether they have made any kind of provision for their funeral because it will save you such heartache when they die.

Final thoughts

The word ‘Death’, is not an infectious disease. You cannot catch it by talking about it and you do not will it into being by making mention of it.

As humans beings, we are all ‘guilty’ in one way of another of avoiding or trying to avoid death. We avoid the word itself when we speak of ‘losing’ someone, of someone ‘passing away’, of someone ‘going to a better place’ instead of calling it what it is – DEATH. And oftentimes we avoid the products of death, the corpse of a loved one, grief itself and in many cases we avoid the grieving because the raw emotions of those who grieve can elicit fear and a sense of helplessness on the part of the onlooker.

But the truth is that avoidance of the topic does not prevent death and more importantly it does not make death when it eventually comes, any easier to bear.

If after reading this post you still feel unable to talk about death with your loved one, please print the open letters and share both with your parent or your adult child. Alternatively, direct them to this post.

This post is intended as a feather rather than a stick, a trigger rather than a bullet.

I hope it helps one or some confront the topic of death.

 

 

 

On the myth of colour-blindness: why I want to talk to White people and all peoples about race

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I’m late to the game. I have only started reading Reni Eddo Lodge’s book: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. I’m almost halfway into the book but I could no longer contain myself.*

I came to this country at the age of nine from Nigeria. Although I was born in the UK, as a nine year old, I had no ‘memories’ of any encounters with white folk. My first inkling that the topic of race might be a ‘hot potato’ came when I went on a camping trip whilst in primary school. I made a comment about someone being white and I was told by another white person that I was racist. The mere mention of race became racism.

We were kids back then and this was obviously a misinterpretation of what it means to be ‘racist’. Essentially what I was doing back then was using an identifier. I still do it unapologetically as an adult even though I am sometimes reprimanded for it. I do it because I SEE RACE. There, I said it. I see it. That’s no crime. What matters is what I do with that information.

Is it even possible to be colour blind?

When police officers speak about an individual, the first thing they often do is refer to an IC code. IC1 being White, IC3 being Black. They may then go on to talk about height, build, hair colour, clothes etc. These are all identifiers. There is nothing inherently wrong with identifying someone by the colour of their skin. What is wrong is attributing a trait to someone based on the colour of their skin. Here’s an example. I remember working for the Met in my early 20s as an analyst. I remember a White police officer talking to an Asian police officer about someone he had stopped. The White officer was annoyed with the ‘attitude’ of the young man an in describing this attitude to the Asian officer he said: you know, giving it typical IC3 behaviour. So, I will return to what I said. There was nothing wrong with identifying the young man by his race in my opinion. But I did have a problem with this idea that there was a behaviour that could be deemed ‘typical IC3 behaviour’. It is exactly this stereotype of the behaviour of Black folk that can land our behinds or heads on the wrong end of a truncheon.

It is impossible to be colour blind just as it is impossible to be blind to buck teeth when an individual is speaking or stank breath when someone comes close to you. We all have assumptions that we make about people based on their race. Sometimes those assumptions seem justified and at other times, they are not based on reality. Even kids notice race and they are pretty honest about it. It’s we adults who pretend that we cannot see race. The only difference between adults and kids in my opinion is that kids don’t allow race to stop them from having a new play partner whereas adults do allow race to stop them from interactions with other races. Adults may do this consciously or subconsciously.

Another example: I went to a fantastic secondary school. It was predominantly white and perhaps about 10% black. This is a guesstimate. I remember being in a year 8 history class when a teacher started separating students. She said that she didn’t think all the Black folk should sit together. Now I didn’t actually take note of the fact that this is what had been happening. It seemed the Black students naturally gravitated towards each other and perhaps the White folk did the same (I cannot be sure). But perhaps as Black kids, we veered together subconsciously simply because ‘birds of the same feather flock together’. Some may disagree with the actions of the teacher who was White but I think she was onto something. When I look back on it, I can’t be sure whether we as Blacks or Whites ‘chose’ to sit with their own. Whatever the cause, the outcome was still the same – a segregated class – until the teacher’s intervention.

There is nothing inherently wrong with noticing race. I say it again. But there is something wrong when people consciously or unconsciously ‘ignore’ ‘the other’ based solely on their race. When I say ignore I mean choose not to mix with someone based on their race.

There is a kind of colour blindness that I as a Black woman have experienced. On one level, it’s the kind of invisibility that sees me waiting to get served at a bar whilst others around me who look nothing like me get served ahead of me. It’s the kind of invisibility which makes me wonder why Prince Charles rather than the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, will be the one to walk Meghan down the aisle.** It’s the double invisibility of being a 1) Black 2) woman. It means that in environments in which I am in an absolute minority (firstly because of my race) it can be hard to be seen unless I am seen. I call it ‘being invisible until you become visible‘. This visibility is often a negative kind of visibility (you’re late, you’re aggressive, you’ve done something wrong). It is very rarely a ‘that was a brilliant idea’, ‘let’s promote you’, ‘what are your thoughts on the matter?’ kind of visibility.

There are at least 2 forms of colour blindness (I suspect there are a few more when we talk about race):

* I don’t see race at all (I don’t believe this really does exist in our day and age)

* I don’t see you because of your race (this is more prevalent in our society in my opinion. It may mean that you find someone of a different race unattractive so you ‘cannot’ see them or don’t care to see them or it may mean that you have beliefs about a person of a certain race and don’t see the value in them because of their race)

Being blind to colour is in my opinion impossible: If we think we are truly colour blind then why don’t white folk walk into Black hairdressers and vice versa?

What is more likely is that as human beings, we see race just as we see the massive spot on someone’s forehead and we are left to choose one of the following options:

* I see your race but you are a human being first and foremost so I look forward to getting to know you more…..

* I see your race so consciously or unconsciously, I will stay away because we have nothing in common, because I don’t know how to interact with you…..

* I see your race but I don’t care because there are much more important things for me to focus on such as your ideas and opinions, how we can help each other etc…..

* I see your race so I can’t see you…..This happened to me and a friend of mine when we were studying abroad in France. We were the only 2 non-White students from our university. The university in France decided to enter us for a lower level exam than the others students. After scoring high marks, we were told by one of the university staff members that they thought we would not be able to cope with the higher level exam hence the reason we were entered for the lower level one. What they really meant was that ‘we saw your race not your brilliance’.

I am sure there are other variations on the ‘I see your race’ theme. What matters to me firstly is not that there are a multiplicity of perspectives but what matters is that we talk about these perspectives and the impact it has on individuals and groups. 

My teacher did me a favour in school. She didn’t pretend that she couldn’t see race. She spoke about it openly and gave me something to think about. She forced me to interact with others that I would not naturally interact with. I see race. Without a shadow of a doubt. But most of the time, what I care more about is the humanity of the individual and our interaction. My friendship group is full of people of different races and I love it. I love learning about culture, I love the different perspectives this brings. I love that I can joke with them about our differences. But I also love the fact that I can talk openly about race with most of them. We may not always agree (different lenses) but at least we can have a conversation and surely that is the starting spot.

Just because we say or pretend that we cannot see something does not mean it does not exist. The only way to truly make oneself blind to race is to tie a piece of cloth around one’s eyes and use some earplugs too. Race is not going anywhere so we might as well confront the issue of its impact on individuals and groups.

*Whether people agree or not with the author’s sentiments, I still believe it to be a fantastic read in our day and age and I hope it will continue to provoke discussions without accusations.

**This is pure speculation on my part and I acknowledge it as just that. Double invisibility for me is not just about how Black women are perceived and treated by others. It’s also about how we feel about ourselves and how we treat ourselves based on our experiences as Black women.

The importance of taking advantage of the Window of Opportunity

Window of opportunity: A favourable opportunity for doing something that must be seized immediately (Oxford Dictionary)

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I always laugh whenever I watch X-Factor and see some poor bugger saying through sobs “this is my last chance to make it. I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t get through”. What drama, I think. But there may just be a sliver of truth in what the poor sod is saying.

See in life, we all have windows of opportunity. Moments where taking action will or could produce an incredible, life-changing result. Moments that change us as people externally and/or internally. Missing that window may mean we end up taking the long way home, it may mean that our journey home is more painful, less pleasant or it may simply mean at its most brutal that we never reach home which for the person who gets the NO on X-Factor means singing may not be the thing which pays their bills. Fame and fortune eludes them for all time. There are no guarantees even if you do grab that opportunity but there is power in grabbing it even in the midst of an uncertain outcome. Making the most of an opportunity means your life remains full of possibilities.

Who calls this window of opportunity into being?

Nature: A wine maker has a window of opportunity in which to pick his grapes from the vineyard if he is to make the perfect bottle of wine. There is a window of opporunity in which to make the sweetest tasting fried plantain. Fry it too early and it will be like eating a yam substitute, fry it too late and it will be little more than an oil-soaked pile of mush.

Age: I was fortunate enough to have learnt Yoruba at an early age. I cannot imagine how hard I would have found it if I’d had to learn Yoruba as an adult. For me, it’s language, for you it might be something else. Most world class athletes begin training from a young age. That’s just the reality. Physical prowess is at its greatest in youth/early adulthod for the most part. There are always some such as marathon runners, golfers, darts players (is this a sport?) who defy this general rule and for whom the window of opportunity is open for a greater length of time.

Location: you might have a chance at IVF because you live in a certain part of the UK and so you take advantage of this before the opportunity ceases or before you are forced to relocate for some reason. I had a chance to get more support in my recovery process by moving out of London. I had a chance to master French because I was able to live in France for a while.

An individual: may present you with a window of opportunity simply by dint of their presence or support. I have a chance to recover now because I have a person at home who provides me with practical and emotional support but I am aware that I may only have months left of this support. It is incumbent on me to use this support now because there may not be a greater chance for me to recover than there is here and now. I am extremely grateful for this person and perhaps part of my act of gratitude towards them ought to be in seizing the day.

Physiology: just as a woman has a window of opportunity in which she can conceive, so she has a window of opportunity in which to deliver naturally. This window remains closed until a woman’s cervix is fully dilated. And even once at 10cm, if the baby does not come within a set time period, a woman is more likely to need a Caesarean section.

For me at the moment, recovery feels somewhat like giving birth. Like whilst in it, it is absolutely horrendous. 8 weeks plus into my first attempts at eating without compensation, I am still struggling with severely swollen feet some days, joints which are in constant states of pain, a stomach which is so distended that sometimes I can only compare it to carrying a football around with me day in day out, a digestive system which neither knows whether it is coming or going and a weight which I have not reached in decades. This might be bearable if I was not also experiencing bouts of depression and the reality of dealing with the loss of the person who was my everything.

The past few days have been full of tears and the thoughts of going back to who I used to be come thick and fast. I try to hold on to the ledge, I try not to let the current pull me in the direction of certain misery.

I still have my hands wrapped around the recovery tinted window of opportunity even though sometimes I feel as though I am losing my grip. On Sunday, I could feel the tears swelling and swirling. I knew I had a window of opportunity, to get out of the house and make the day count and spend some time with my wonderful godson and great friend. I seized it. I enjoyed my time out even though I knew it would only be a brief respite from the ocean of tears which would spill over once I got back home. Today, I knew I had a window of opportunity, in which to take a shower (do the minimum) because on some days, that becomes a task. I’m glad that I’m seized that opportunity. Maybe seizing one opportunity after another is what leads to eventual and total recovery or success or good health or wealth or whatever opportunity presents itself to you or me today.

I’ll end this post with the following words (borrowed but dearly treasured):

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace

 

 

 

Patience not panic is the key to overcoming life’s difficulties.

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In life, no matter the difficulty, trial or tribulation, many roads are open to us. We can act without thought, run away from having to make a decision or flee mentally with unhealthy coping strategies (alcohol, drugs, reckless abandon in spending, overeating, undereating, throwing up, overexercise and a whole host of other things which only you know about).

My current trial is dealing with the physical reality of recovery (imminent post) as well as the depression which seems to rear its head every so often in my life. And while in the past, I would have resorted to one or more of the ‘unhealthy coping strategies’ mentioned above, I am now inclined to just sit and let it be. I don’t need to ride it out with a distraction or fight it. I just let it be, like a petulant child in the middle of an almighty tantrum.

One thing which I disagree(d) with in eating disorder institutions is this drive and push to get people to DISTRACT, DISTRACT, DISTRACT. You’ll be given a long list of things to do after having eaten (play a game, do some knitting, ‘stand’ on your head (ridiculous, I know), phone a friend as if this were a came of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire etc). Whilst these tools have their benefits, what you find upon leaving such settings is that distraction is a temporary solution which brings you back to the same place of agony.

The main tool which is helping me deal with the reality of recovery is to exercise Patience not Panic. This came to mind this week because I realised how much eating disorders are actually a manifestation of the internal panic or sometimes a response to the panic going on in our heads. For me, it was an eating disorder but for others, it is alcoholism, sex, burying oneself in social media or online activities. These are all manifestations of something internal – panic, anxiety/worry, frustration, dissatisfaction etc.

The only cure for all these emotions is PATIENCE. Patience doesn’t make the problem go away and exercising patience is not procrastination. Patience gives you the mental space and time to confront the problem, to come up with solutions. Patience prevents you from acting rashly or irrationally. Patience is devoid of all the chaos of panic. Patience and panic are like brothers from the same mother but you wouldn’t believe it from looking at them. Patience is the confidence that all things will and do pass. It’s the faith that emotions pass, that situations change, that solutions can be found, that joy whether fleeting or enduring can return.

In past days, I would have distracted myself from depression but these days, today, I accept its presence, I acknowledge it but I also exercise patience because I know that it will pass, like all things that have come and that will come.

Clouds are a well-worn analogy for depression. But sometimes, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. I like nothing better than to lie flat on my back on dewy grass on a warm day and watch and smile as the wind slowly moves each new cloud on. And so it is with the difficulties of life. Sometimes, a brisk wind will blow it away so quickly that you barely get a chance to decide whether the cloud resembled a tyrannosaurus rex or a diplodocus. At other times, you will look up and wonder whether that cloud has even moved an inch. It remains in the sky for so long that eventually, you fall asleep watching it. Upon waking, you will find yourself under a clear blue sky and wonder how long you were asleep for and wonder how in the world that stubborn cloud disappeared out of sight. The answer, Patience.

The art of talking to oneself: sanity born out of ‘insanity’.

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Approximately four months ago, I started talking to myself. It started early on this year when I was alone in my flat. At first it was only intermittent but now it’s daily. I enjoy talking to myself. In fact I encourage everyone to talk to themselves in the same way that I have been talking to myself. Before I go any further, let me explain a few things.

In my previous life as a College teacher, I worked with an assortment of eclectic students. Among them were some with serious and enduring mental health issues. Others had no official diagnosis but clearly carried with them minds as fragile as glass.

One common trait in both groups of students was a tendency (at times) to talk to themselves. Sometimes this was done in plain view and at other times I would catch a glimpse of them doing this when I was out and about. I always thought talking to oneself was a sign of encroaching or fully formed insanity but I no longer believe this to be the case.

There are in my opinion distinct types of ‘self-talk’. These are just some of them:

  1. an individual is talking to someone who is not visible to the naked eye (those struggling with schizophrenia, psychosis or even grief may sometimes fall into this category). I include the latter because people sometimes talk to people who are no longer alive. Whereas the latter group may find self-talk comforting, for those struggling with schizophrenia or psychosis this may be a sign of their deteriorating health.
  2. talking to oneself negatively. We all have instances of self-deprecation, self-criticism etc. Some do this aloud whilst others keep it to themselves. It’s not always a bad thing in my opinion. I sometimes berate myself for doing something silly. If it leads to a positive action, then I am all for a verbal slap in the face at times.
  3. talking to yourself in order to encourage yourself. I’ve seen sports stars like Serena Williams do this when on the brink of defeat. I’ve seen it serve her well and I’ve seen it sometimes not lead to victory. (Please note, this is not the same as what ‘the Donald’ does when he is feeding his ego).

It’s a combination of the first and third type of self-talk that I started engaging in earlier this year. At the start of the year, I started ‘talking to the ‘eating disorder’ as though it were a person. I started saying “I will recover, I am recovered, I will see the end of you, I will see the back of you” as though I were assured of victory. On the most awful day I kept on repeating these words and soon it acquired a realness to it, as though victory were a seed planted on fertile ground on the inside of me. Although I was still months away from visible progress, I stuck with this talk. Why? Because a decade of negative self-talk had done absolutely nothing but land me in hot pepper (ata rodo rather than horseradish type heat).

Recently, I started to practice positive self-talk. This was not about doing the ten steps to victory tips that I had read in some self-help book. This was something natural, intrinsic, which was born out of my realisation that anxiousness played a huge role in my current state and led to disordered behaviours. I started saying to myself “it’s okay Funmi, it’ll be okay, you’re doing well Funmi”. I said this to myself when I felt the talons of anxiety perched upon my shoulders, digging itself in, I said it when I was having a good moment or a good day when I was coming to some level of acceptance about the changes creeping all over my body. This is the kind of self-talk that I have come to love most and embrace.

For all the stick Americans get about their loudness, brashness, extreme self-confidence, the one thing I will say is that they really know how to cheer their teams on. I mean really cheer. Like back-flipping all over the field, fist-pumping, coca-cola all over my top cos I am so excited kind of cheering. And that is exactly what I am starting to become – my own greatest cheerleader. 

If we are ever to overcome the difficulties in life, make progress towards goals, pick ourselves back up with grazed knees and keep running, then we need to learn this art of cheerleading, this art of talking to ourselves. It will serve us well when we most need help.

Wakanda Forever? An honest but late review

 

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Gone are the days when you had to stay up till some ungodly hour ( 11pm, 12am) to catch a glimpse of a Black person on TV. Gone are the days when I suffered near enough third-degree burns to make my hair as straight as a ruler. Gone are the days when I suffered shame and bullying at the hands of other Black kids because of my strong Nigeria accent after arriving in good ol’ Blighty. These are new times. These are the days of Wakanda Forever. But this review is two-fold. It is about what it does for Black people and what it is as a film. As a film, I was pretty disappointed. I gave it a 5 or 6 out of 10. But as a celebration of Black people and Africa and our uniqueness and varied culture, I would probably give it a 7 or 8 out of 10.

What you need to know about me:

  • I am not a comic book connoisseur and nor am I am film buff.
  • I love great stories (plots) and great characters (personalities).
  • I don’t ‘do’ sci-fi as a genre but if a film is driven by a strong storyline and/or strong characters, I’ll pretty much watch anything.
  • I struggle to connect with worlds that are not real and that is perhaps why fantasy and sci-fi are not particularly my thing. I mean I love a good Superman film and even Lord of the Rings but for me, these were firstly character driven and then secondly or equally story driven films.

What I liked about Black Panther as a film:

  1. I loved Okoye, the female warrior. We get a strong sense of her loyalty to the throne (no matter who sits on it) and also of her ability to exercise her sense of right and wrong which leads to her eventually going against the king. We witness her emotional growth and we feel the strength of her emotions.
  2. I laughed when Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o) is shot clean out of her car with nothing but the steering wheel and her seat for company.
  3. I loved the film visually. The waterfall was beautiful and the plains outside of the technologically enhanced Wakanda were also captivating.
  4. We saw that villains are made, not born. Or at least this is what I saw. Killmonger, T’Challa’s cousin has a backstory which means we have some connection with him even though he is in essence a tyrant. But this is born of anger it seems, not pure evil.

What I liked about Black Panther as a Black woman:

  1. I loved the Okoye’s attitude towards her wig. In an age in which black women are feeling increasingly empowered to wear their hair as God and nature intended, it is a thing of beauty seeing this love for our own hair displayed on screen.
  2. I quite liked Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) because here was a confident Black woman who was technologically mature but who was still essentially a child at heart (playful, self-assured, ready for action).
  3. I loved the idea that on the outside Wakanda (like media portrayals of Africa) is considered a ‘third world nation’ but that essentially its richness lies beneath. How wonderful it is for Africans and Blacks to celebrate their inherent richness. Only those who take an interest will ever know this. I’d always viewed Nigeria as a country of cities until my cousins showed me around and took me to Erin Ijesha waterfalls, and Abeokuta.
  4. Wakandas just like Black folk come in all shapes and shades. No ‘colourism’ here. Light, dark, mid-tones, we are all beautiful. And the colours in those outfits. Damn. My last trip to Nigeria was when I received a baptism in colour.  Wakanda reminded me of this glorious array of colour.

There were things I felt let the film down:

  1. The lead character was supposedly a superhero with not much super about him except for his suit. I couldn’t see the evidence of his power when he was away from his suit but yet I am told he has the power of a panther.
  2. I believe a great story needs a great character and for me, T’Challa was not that. He lacked the passion of Okoye (a great female warrior), he lacked the good humour of his sister and he lacked the quiet yet passionate emotion displayed by Daniel Kumuya’s character.
  3. Am I the only one who thought that Killmonger’s death was unnecessarily strung out? I mean at one point I wanted to shout “just die brother, die”.

There were things I wasn’t sure about as a Black woman:

  1. I wasn’t too keen on the barking thing. Just me personally. It plays too much on the idea of ‘African savages’ for me. This was however tempered by the vegetarian joke made by the ‘chief barker’.
  2. I personally didn’t feel empowered as a Black woman by watching this film but after speaking to some Wakanda admirers, I understood that maybe that is simply because I am in a different place. I love my hair, I love the richness of my culture, my language (Yoruba) and I am also comfortable with my ‘Britishness’. I am now used to seeing black people on TV. But I understand that just as Africa is a continent rich with diversity, so are Black people diverse in thought, experience, identities etc. So some Black folk may have felt able to puff out their chest more after watching Black Panther.
  3. There were references to colonialism (Shuri’s greeting: hello coloniser) which I felt slightly uncomfortable with. Was I uncomfortable because I thought that White people in the audience would be uncomfortable or was I uncomfortable because I thought it was ‘old’. I am not sure. I may have to ponder that one for a little longer………..Okay, I’ve pondered. I’ve got it!!! I felt as though certain bits of dialogue were put in specifically for the benefit of Black folk and perhaps there is nothing wrong with that but for me, that is like an actor looking directly into the camera rather than pretending that the camera is not there. It is as though there is a conflation of the real (the oppression and enslavement of Blacks) and the unreal (a place called Wakanda) and this for me is the equivalent of musical dissonance.

I would recommend the film to comic lovers but as I was told beforehand, ditch all expectations.

Next step: Black films set in the real world which tell the story of ordinary rather than extraordinary Black folk. Like not about the world of criminality or drugs or how great we can sing or how well we can run because Lord knows I have seen some slow Black folk out there just like I have heard some awful voices on a Sunday morning. No. I just want stories of great Black people overcoming adversity in whatever walk of live they happen to inhabit.