My four-year-old nephew went to see "Black Panther" this weekend. My sister and my nephew's father debated about bringing him, thinking that he was too young. Yet they decided that the opportunity for a young black boy to see himself on a big screen happens far too infrequently.
My sister later shared that he sat in the theatre, eyes wide, a popcorn in his lap, and never took his eyes off the screen. He did not fall asleep half way through the movie as he usually does — instead, he sat mesmerized in black boy glee!
After the movie, he asked my sister about the possibility of him being a king, and the next morning he requested that everyone call him T'Challa. He had a new sense of pride, a new identity, a newfound confidence, and when my sister downloaded the "Black Panther" soundtrack, things went to another level. The entire family was blessed with a short video of his beautiful, beaming brown face, hips moving, and him strutting to his new "Black Panther" dance. It brought me so much joy that I now watch it every morning!
When the daily images that you see of yourself are negative or non-existent, it does something to your psyche. It chips away at your soul.
When someone wants to question if representation matters, I have to look at them in utter disbelief. Does it shape you in a different way to see your own personal image on screen? Of course it does! When the daily images that you see of yourself are negative or non-existent, it does something to your psyche. It chips away at your soul. It makes you feel you do not matter. It makes you feel invisible.
That is why, as a writer and producer, I have dedicated my life's work to continue to write black stories, and to give women of colour a platform to tell their stories and share their lives. I once had a reporter ask me, "Trey, why do you only write black characters and only tell stories rooted in the black experience?" My response was, have you ever asked a white writer why they only write about white people and white experiences?
As writers, producers or creatives, when we choose to use our voice to change the harmful narrative that is blasted across media about people of colour, often we are challenged. Challenged because we have the audacity to want to write and see something different. We wish to write our own stories, take back the pen and write a more empowering narrative.
I think the narrative is changing in ways we could not even imagine, and the mainstream is taking notice. "Black Panther" is steadily moving to become the biggest box office film in history. Numbers don't lie! And Hollywood can no longer ignore the need for diverse representation, the need for little young black boys and girls hungry to see themselves. When that hunger is addressed, the outcome is box-office gold.
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I'm excited to see what changes will occur (if any) in Hollywood, yet I'm hopeful. But for now, I will quietly witness the joy and magic of a little black boy in love with himself. And I will call him T'Challa, and let him know that indeed he can be king.
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