The Igbo of Nigeria wore masks like this one in competitions where contestants would test their strength and endurance against each other. It was also a point of pride as it symbolized an expression of courage.
This was not the only mask worn in the film. In the end, the two central figures each wore a mask of their own.
One was worn by the "Hero" and one was worn by the "Villain". But it was not the mask that made either of these characters who they had become. Each of them had an equal potential to claim a place of great honor in the world. Both of them were of the same blood. It was what they had deep inside that made the difference.
What about us?
Are we willing to enter that ancestral realm to confront the demons of our past?
Are we ready to take a stand, to rise to the occasion, to stare the evils of history dead in the face and say "you were wrong"? Are we ready to seize the moment, speak truth to power, challenge those in leadership who continue on a path of indifference to injustices and say "you are wrong"?
Or are we comfortable with our role in the injustices around us?
You see, the question is not "Where was Wakanda?"
The question we need to ask ourselves is
"Where was Killmonger in our greatest time of need?"
"Where were The Brave when we needed them most?"
So where are the challengers now when we need them most?
Who will present a challenge for the throne of Wakanda today?
Where is the one who is ready to lead this revolution of change?
Well before we take action, we need to determine which changes we want to see.
So what are some of the lessons we have learned from the film portrayals of Wakanda (so far)?
1. The Study of Our Past is Essential For Our Future Success.
It was the will of his own father which motivated Killmonger every step of the way. It was the knowledge that he had a score to settle. Every day he woke up and set his mind on his plans, he reflected on that day when his father was taken from him.
Each time he looked in the mirror, the mark under his lip was a reminder of who he is, where his ancestors came from, and where he was going.
Erik Killmonger knew what he was up against. Even though he was on the other side of the law, he understood that in the long run, the black market arms dealer, Ulysses Klaue, was not to be trusted.
It was the will of his father which motivated T'Challa every step of the way. It was the knowledge that he had a pride to defend and a kingdom to govern. Every day he woke up and set his mind on his plans, he reflected on the day his father was taken from him.
Each time he looked in the mirror, he wore the suit, it was a reminder of who he is, where his ancestors came from, and where he was going.
It did not matter where they began. One was in the palace and one was in the ghetto. One started from the top and one started from the bottom.
Because they knew who they were, both of them were goal oriented and both of them took the initiative to claim their place of royalty in a world where people like them were told that they were good for nothing.
Both of them were warriors.
Both of them were kings.
The biggest difference between them was that Killmonger knew everything there was to know about T'Challa and T'Challa wasn't even aware of his existence.
Therefore, Killmonger had the advantage of surprise and everyone was even more astonished when he won the challenge.
Research At Work.
2. Always Be Prepared To Defend Your Way of Life.
Not everyone in Wakanda was in agreement on the direction the kingdom would take all of the time. There were arguments. There were fights. Such was the case from before T'Challa's reign and, no doubt, from the time of the first king, Bashenga.
While Killmonger trained his entire life to be the King of Wakanda by learning the language of his enemies, seeking potential allies, testing open combat tactics and covert strategies, etc. (The Art of War), the people of Wakanda were also prepared at all times for battle.
At the very least, they had an army with special forces, an air force (The Royal Talon Flyer and the Dragon Flyers), and a navy overseas. They had War Dogs, who served as a worldwide intelligence agency. They had a research and development lab to keep their military hardware updated. They had a massive remote-controlled barrier shield, which didn't do so badly in the Infinity War. They had a surveillance system that allowed them to monitor their borders and drop in on any location they pleased. Even their aircraft had cloaking technology so they could navigate a hostile world safely.
Both sides listened to each other and they settled their differences the old-fashioned way.
In the very end, the protagonist and the antagonist agreed to disagree.
3. Teamwork is the Way to Go.
In Wakanda, there was a general respect between citizens. They had discussions on politics, religion, and a variety of social matters. Nakia spoke of philanthropy. W'Kabi spoke on immigration. One took a more liberal stance and the other one had more conservative views. But they listened to each other - even their leaders walked among them - and they moved on together.
Rap superstar, Kanye West, once famously stammered
"You know, um...when you hear about slavery, for 400 years - for 400 Years? That Sound Like A Choice! Like, you was there for 400 years? and its all of ya'll??"
"To make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will."
"My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved." "They cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut."
Well, in the course of his more conscientious effort at damage control, he is actually not so far off the mark there.
The English pirate John Nutt, writing in 1717, reveals with blunt exactitude, the reason why Africans who were taken to the New World were subjugated for so long:
Though the Negroes out-number the Whites by far, yet 'tis impossible they should master them, because the English have many Forts for their Security, and that the Slaves being brought from several Places in Guinea, are of different Languages, so that they can't converse freely; and if they could, they hate one another so mortally, that some would rather die by the Hands of the English, than join with their Countrymen in a Mutiny.Besides, none of them must touch Arms without the Master's Command; but the Creolian Negroes are excepted, who all speak English, and can exercise very well.
Negroes knew they would die by the hand of their enemies either way but they chose to die in slavery rather than to die in freedom. At least, some of them really did make that choice themselves to administrate in some parts of the industry.
In Wakanda, the people did not allow their differences of opinion on sensitive matters such as 'colorism', 'gender roles', 'human sexuality', or 'xenophobia', to drive a wedge between them and keep them divided. Rather, a spirit of unity and solidarity prevailed above all.
Each of the different tribes had a very particular role in the kingdom and all did their very best to meet it.
There was a code of honor. All were expected to submit to the the leadership of Wakanda, which was earned through the practice of a consistent tradition with specific guidelines - no matter who was in charge.
When the time came to engage the alien threat in the Battle of Wakanda (Infinity War), there were no deserters in the army. There were no skirmishes among them. They met their common enemy with a common purpose.
Nothing was actually accomplished by any of the characters without a team effort. The Black Panther did not work alone. He relied on careful communication with close associates when he was in the casino. His chief bodyguard, Okoye, had his front when Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow would not move in Captain America: Civil War and she had his back when he would not move as he was distracted by Nakia. As King of Wakanda, he counted on input from all four of the tribes on his council and he was willing to admit the Jabari Tribe within their borders to engage in the affairs of the kingdom.
After he lost the throne, T'Challa still had his loyal supporters, especially his own family - stepmother Ramonda and sister Shuri, to secure and revive him. During the Battle of Mount Bashenga (Black Panther), T'Challa had the Dora Milaje on his side with the rest of his court.
Killmonger had a few confidants of his own although, besides how he double-crossed Klaue, he so disgracefully disposed of his own girlfriend and partner in crime, Linda. Others joined him, namely W'Kabi and his forces. He also made certain connections around the world that would be fundamental to his final plan. However, these were not true friends and comrades.
When the time came for them to prove their loyalty, many of those people were no longer on board with Killmonger. W'Kabi gave in to Okoye. The almighty, faithful War Dogs Killmonger claimed were spread throughout the entire world came down to just three factions in three major cities.
When T'Challa chided:
"You will destroy the world, Wakanda included!"
Killmonger's response was:
"The world took everything away from me! Everything I ever loved! But I'mma make sure we're even. I'mma track down anyone who would even think of being loyal to you! And I'ma put their ass in the dirt."
This was problematic because it shows that Killmonger was only thinking about himself. It proves that if given a choice, he was eager to put his own ambitions before the will of his people and the safety of Wakanda. If someone had even a difference of opinion on how to solve their problems, that person would be a goner. Therefore, he was not fit to be their supreme leader.
He could hardly control himself. He was impulsive and he was arrogant. How would he manage the affairs of an entire kingdom?
T'Challa was not without his faults, either.
He put the safety of his people in jeopardy because he was blinded by a moment of passion. This is not only true of his brief interaction with Nakia, which is clearly not be the first time he ever froze, but this is a habit of his character.
He told Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) that he would kill "Bucky" Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Solder himself.
Clearly, he believed in the necessity of justice.
But when he confronted the man he thought was his father's killer, he froze.
Although he told the Sokovian terrorist Helmut Zemo he was done letting vengeance consume him, he also said, "Justice will come soon enough" and he expected "the living" to carry it out rather than for Zemo to take his own life.
Clearly, he believed in the legitimacy of justice.
But when he confronted his father's actual killer, he froze.
When Klaue so pretentiously begged him for mercy, T'Challa shot back with:
Every breath you take is mercy from me.
Clearly, he believed in the urgency of justice.
But when he finally captured his archnemesis, Ulysses Klaue, he froze.
And when he finally had the chance to finish Killmonger - the enemy of his father and the enemy of the kingdom through a "corrupted" and severed branch of the royal family, he froze yet again.
Perhaps it was a good thing he did freeze at those times.
Each time he was close to getting his claws dirty and exposing his people to a new threat, he said No More.
Each time he was close to avenging himself and compromising his identity, he said No More.
Each time he was close to making a permanent decision in closing off a second chance for flawed humanity, he said No More.
Each time he was close to making the same "mistake" his father made, he said No More.
His father could have easily taken a bullet for his people with his Panther Habit. He could have saved his man and disarmed his brother in the same instant he used to act on his baser instincts instead.
If the new king did not take the time to consider the consequences of his actions and weigh them against the security of his community, he would no longer remain worthy of his title.
So it follows that both Killmonger and T'Challa had their flaws.
Only, they chose to address those flaws differently.
T'Challa challenged his flaws. Killmonger embraced them.
Each of these responses were advantageous to them. If not, they would never have crossed paths.
"Y'all're sitting up here all comfortable. Must feel good. There's about two billion people around the world who look like us and their lives are a lot harder. Wakanda has the tools to liberate them all." - Killmonger to T'Challa
"Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."
- T'Challa to the world
One believes in unending peace and one believes in unapologetic freedom.
One is rooted in deeply conservative ideals and one is grounded in deeply liberal ideals.
Both of them offer different perspectives.
But at their core, they are not really at odds with each other.
Both of them believe in justice.
Both of them seek the same goal: for their own people to prosper.
T'Challa and Killmonger are essentially two sides to the same coin.
For this change to manifest for Africans on the continent and across the diaspora, not only must Africa say "NO MORE AND NEVER AGAIN", the whole world must say it with her.
But what if diplomacy fails?
What if the agencies of the western world decide to stick to the script and infiltrate Wakanda for its vibranium after all, using the terror attack in Lagos as a pretext?
What if there are talks of alleged war rhino abuse and the pressure of global sanctions caves in on the surrounding nations until they attempt a collective migration into Wakanda?
What if W'Kabi makes up his mind once and for all that he is the king Wakanda needed all along, plots a coup d' etat, and allies with rogue Jabari for a mass invasion of the Wakandan capital?
Just like Agent Ross of the CIA foreshadowed in a deleted scene before T'Challa's speech at the United Nations:
Listen...I really don't think you should do this. What you guys have is going to scare a lot of people in that room. They're going to come after you.
For 400 Years, this has been our reality.
The coastal slave dungeons were replaced by factories, wells, and mines serviced by Africans who labor under deplorable conditions. The scattered war fortresses protecting these foreign "interests" were replaced by military bases which serve the very same purpose. Meanwhile, Africans themselves trail far behind Europeans, North Americans, and Asians in manufacturing (20 times behind them) while Chinese contractors, supported by American retailers are slowly making in-roads. As one researcher, Yuan Sun, states, “Many of the things that Americans buy in shopping malls are made by Chinese companies, not in China, but actually in Africa." In addition, not one government in Africa has a plot of territory in a foreign land while the United States alone occupies at least 50 of 54 African nations.
Greedy opportunists no longer need African people or the help of African governments to operate in Africa. This was not the situation for Wakanda when they announced their plan to distribute equal portions of raw vibranium to the nations of the world on their own terms.
So what if they try it?
What if we are ready for them?
Let them make their plans. They are going to do what they have always done.
We know their goals.
We know what they are doing to achieve them. We know them well.
But if we know who we are...
If we have our own goals...
If we have our own plans...
If we know what it will take to achieve them...
If we stay firm and true...
Then as long as we wear the mask, there is nothing to fear.
As long as we wield this vibranium armor, there is nothing to fear.
And even without the presence of the Black Panther, we still carry the flag.
When at last, we are ready for that change of which we seek, we are truly unstoppable.
But until then, those of us who believe in change cannot wait on those who don't to change their beliefs. We will NOT wait on T'Challa. Those of us who believe in change cannot wait on those who believe in it but agree with those who don't. We will NOT wait on Nakia. Those of us who believe in change cannot wait on those who are just sitting around idly, waiting for that change to happen. We will not wait on W'Kabi.
Future Wakandans of the World:
Everyone wants to live in Wakanda, but if we are not ready to challenge the status quo, then like M'Baku said, WE WILL NOT HAVE IT.
Let us be clear: this expose about colonialism is not a statement against anyone but colonizers. Nor is it a statement against everyone who is genetically related to the colonizers of the past.
What is a colonizer anyways?
Colonizers of the past were people who believed that their purpose in life was to "civilize" the people of the societies they hated. But what will it take for the colonizer to civilize himself/herself? At what stage of their own evolution does a colonizer become a civilian?
When they learn to live in harmony with the people of the global society in which they live.
Part of that process involves a submission to the core principles of those societies which are governed by other people.
On the other hand, if a person in any social environment (regardless of their racial identity) refuses to live by the tenets of that society as established by the people of that society themselves, then they have chosen to be an enemy of that society. They have chosen to live as an outcast or a criminal. If any individual chooses to continue the program of colonialism in its various forms as it existed in former times, that person is a colonizer. If any individual chooses to begin a new program of colonialism, that person is a colonizer.
Based on the history of colonialism, a program of colonialism is a program that decides on the affairs of a society without the full disclosure of its operations and the consent of the people.
It is that simple.
We don't get another chance to change the past, but there is still a chance we can change the future.
Each one of us has a chance to take and a choice to make.
Let's get to work.
The Time of the Brave is upon US.
The Time of the Brave is upon YOU.
While all the powers of your social privilege are still with you, are you worthy to wear the mask?
When the powers of the Black Panther are at last stripped from you, are you still worthy to wear the mask?
After you have seen the deepest, darkest truths of your past and you have returned to your present, are you still worthy to wear the mask?
Every face wears a mask. Every mask has two faces.
What lies within?
I ask... "Who Are You?"
It is time to find out.
- Admin Om
Scientific Researcher, Independent Historian, and Co-Founder of Black Research Central