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The Black Woman Revolution has begun. 890 534 monity

The Black Woman Revolution has begun.

We sing at the top of our lungs the song from “Let it Go’ from the movie Frozen, but when a Black woman chooses herself, the music stops.

What a week for Black Women, from Olympic disappointments to show cancellations to ischemic life-changing decisions. We have been on full display. But the most profound announcement was the decisions Nikole Hannah-Jones made to join the facility of Howard University.

When I saw her perched in a seat across from Gayle King, I could feel what I was hoping to hear. Dr. Jones methodically unveiled her decision process to join Howard University.

When the story broke that she was the first person not to receive tenure, the internet blew up. She overqualified for the job and was pursued. She was to become the Knight Chair which has in the past since the 1980s included tenure. But because a donor did not like the breath of her work that won her a Nobel Peace Prize, The 1619 Project, he intervened by having her position excused from the tenure vote. After going through the entire process, she received glowing recommendations from peers and the university staff.

I can not fathom how she would have the fortitude to work under those circumstances. It seemed like the scrutiny would be the foundation of her career at UNC. Once a vote finally happened, Dr. Jones decided to end her process and move and provide an HBCU with her talents and resources. Bravo!

I heard years ago to go where you are loved. And while having the support of the students and staff, dealing with the administration would have been futile. Her work would have been under a microscope. Who in the hell wants to deal with that.

But from the perspective of a Black Woman, I am in complete awe of her. Signals a paradigm shift as Nikole puts herself first.

We historically rarely put need in the front of the line. We take a back seat to our dreams daily. The stories are heard daily about how we are sanctified to bring the dreams of others to life. Not only is it our conditioning, but in our DNA.

Servant Syndrome is a term use. The only way to explain how we take on the burdens of society even though it is killing us.

Our mask cracks every time a Black Woman chooses herself. The myth of strong black women dissipates when we speak our truth.

The truth of the matter is our obligation to this nation must shift. It is time to discover the part of ourselves seeking liberation. We owe everyone nothing but the opportunity to love us fully. As we break through centuries standing in the background, we begin to straighten our crown and create our worlds centering ourselves.

Ryan Coogler and our Black Panther… Chadwick Boseman 1080 540 monity

Ryan Coogler and our Black Panther… Chadwick Boseman

As the world is gathering their feeling surrounding the death of Chadwick Boseman, we are have been eagerly awaiting those who knew him beyond being a fan.

Though I am whole-heartedly a fan of the work of Chadwick, I also admire his place on this planet as a black man. Chadwick crafted acting roles that would honor our legends, fortify his legacy, and inspire us to see ourselves in a powerful way. From playing Jackie Robinson to James Brown, Chadwick had the ability to embody the essence of the person portrayed. His acting was intentional and uncompromising. Chadwick elevated the ideas of masculinity and stood strong in his faith and conviction.

Immensely private, Chadwick passed after a four year battle with colon cancer. Upon being asked on Instagram, Spike Lee let us know that he had no idea what Chadwick was going through as they shot Chadwick’s final movie. Da 5 Bloods, is an epic film about black soldiers returning to Vietnam many years after the world ended. Ironic that he was playing a soldier as he was in the fight for his life. I am incredibly moved to how Chadwick was able to film so many movies in such a short span of time while dealing with cancer.

It’s clear he was on a mission to make art that impacted black people around the globe. Nothing could illustrate it more than his role as T’Challa, the King of Wakanda. Black Panther was a worldwide phenomenon. It broke records and myths. It made 1.3 billion dollars so far and lead to the billion-dollar win game of End Game. The delegation will call Chadwick the multi-billion dollar man. Breaking the myth that the world does not want to see movies starring an all-black cast.

So much I could say about my love and admiration of Chadwick, but hearing the word of folks close to him is much more profound. Ryan Coogler, filmmaker and director of “Black Panther’, shares the warm words of love and stories showcasing Chadwick’s strength and character. We love you, Chadwick. Thank you for using your art to reflect the best of us.

Monica Wisdom, Founder Black Women Amplified

From Ryan Coogler:

Before sharing my thoughts on the passing of the great Chadwick Boseman, I first offer my condolences to his family who meant so very much to him. To his wife, Simone, especially.
I inherited Marvel and the Russo Brothers’ casting choice of T’Challa. It is something that I will forever be grateful for.

The first time I saw Chad’s performance as T’Challa, it was in an unfinished cut of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. I was deciding whether or not directing BLACK PANTHER was the right choice for me. I’ll never forget, sitting in an editorial suite on the Disney Lot and watching his scenes. His first with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, then, with the South African cinema titan, John Kani as T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to make this movie. After Scarlett’s character leaves them, Chad and John began conversing in a language I had never heard before. It sounded familiar, full of the same clicks and smacks that young black children would make in the States. The same clicks that we would often be chided for being disrespectful or improper. But, it had a musicality to it that felt ancient, powerful, and African.

In my meeting after watching the film, I asked Nate Moore, one of the producers of the film, about the language. “Did you guys make it up?” Nate replied, “that’s Xhosa, John Kani’s native language. He and Chad decided to do the scene like that on set, and we rolled with it.” I thought to myself. “He just learned lines in another language, that day?” I couldn’t conceive how difficult that must have been, and even though I hadn’t met Chad, I was already in awe of his capacity as actor.

I learned later that there was much conversation over how T’Challa would sound in the film. The decision to have Xhosa be the official language of Wakanda was solidified by Chad, a native of South Carolina, because he was able to learn his lines in Xhosa, there on the spot. He also advocated for his character to speak with an African accent, so that he could present T’Challa to audiences as an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West.

I finally met Chad in person in early 2016, once I signed onto the film. He snuck past journalists that were congregated for a press junket I was doing for CREED, and met with me in the green room. We talked about our lives, my time playing football in college, and his time at Howard studying to be a director, about our collective vision for T’Challa and Wakanda. We spoke about the irony of how his former Howard classmate Ta-Nehisi Coates was writing T’Challa’s current arc with Marvel Comics. And how Chad knew Howard student Prince Jones, who’s murder by a police officer inspired Coates’ memoir Between The World and Me.

I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly. He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying. But also kind, comforting, had the warmest laugh in the world, and eyes that seen much beyond his years, but could still sparkle like a child seeing something for the first time.   

That was the first of many conversations. He was a special person. We would often speak about heritage and what it means to be African. When preparing for the film, he would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. “They not ready for this, what we are doing…” “This is Star Wars, this is Lord of the Rings, but for us… and bigger!” He would say this to me while we were struggling to finish a dramatic scene, stretching into double overtime. Or while he was covered in body paint, doing his own stunts. Or crashing into frigid water, and foam landing pads. I would nod and smile, but I didn’t believe him. I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game.  All while putting in the work. And work he did.

He would come to auditions for supporting roles, which is not common for lead actors in big budget movies. He was there for several M’Baku auditions. In Winston Duke’s, he turned chemistry read into a wrestling match. Winston broke his bracelet. In Letitia Wright’s audition for Shuri, she pierced his royal poise with her signature humor and would bring about a smile to T’Challa’s face that was 100% Chad.

While filming the movie, we would meet at the office or at my rental home in Atlanta, to discuss lines and different ways to add depth to each scene. We talked costumes, military practices. He said to me “Wakandans have to dance during the coronations. If they just stand there with spears, what separates them from Romans?” In early drafts of the script. Eric Killmonger’s character would ask T’Challa to be buried in Wakanda. Chad challenged that and asked, what if Killmonger asked to be buried somewhere else?

Chad deeply valued his privacy, and I wasn’t privy to the details of his illness. After his family released their statement, I realized that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him. Because he was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering. He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year. That was who he was. He was an epic firework display. I will tell stories about being there for some of the brilliant sparks till the end of my days. What an incredible mark he’s left for us.

I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before. I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.

It hurts more to know that we can’t have another conversation, or facetime, or text message exchange. He would send vegetarian recipes and eating regimens for my family and me to follow during the pandemic.  He would check in on me and my loved ones, even as he dealt with the scourge of cancer.

In African cultures, we often refer to loved ones that have passed on as ancestors. Sometimes you are genetically related. Sometimes you are not. I had the privilege of directing scenes of Chad’s character, T’Challa, communicating with the ancestors of Wakanda. We were in Atlanta, in an abandoned warehouse, with bluescreens, and massive movie lights, but Chad’s performance made it feel real. I think it was because, from the time that I met him, the ancestors spoke through him. It’s no secret to me now how he was able to skillfully portray some of our most notable ones. I had no doubt that he would live on and continue to bless us with more. But it is with a heavy heart and a sense of deep gratitude to have ever been in his presence, that I have to reckon with the fact that Chad is an ancestor now. And I know that he will watch over us until we meet again.

-Ryan Coogler

Black is King, Black is You 700 467 monity

Black is King, Black is You

The African symbols and symbolism shown in ‘Black Is King’ is where we come from. The propaganda that we come from a savaged land is untrue. We come from the innovators and creators of language, mathematics, science, religion, medicine, and beyond. Slave traders did not kidnap groups of ignorant people, they kidnapped doctors, teachers, healers, religious leaders, Kings, and Queens.

How do you think this country was built? Remember the Colonizers did not teach the Africans and indigenous people how to build this county. They arrived with knowledge of how to build civilizations. For centuries, our ancestors accomplished building nations and civilizations all across the globe. From China to Brazil and everywhere in between you will find Africans within the origin stories of many great nations.

Black as King also hi-lights African Religions. Yoruba, Ifa, and Orishas. Before Christianity was taught, we had our religion. Yoruba is not only a tribe in Africa but a language and belief system. Its root is ancient and has many forms of it all over the world. I learned to speak Yoruba years ago because I wanted to speak the language of my ancestors. Although I have forgotten it I still remember the beauty of it.

Yoruba is beautiful and like any of the indigenous belief systems, it is misunderstood. It is important to learn about it properly and to fully understand it void the ignorant propaganda of others. It’s everywhere around us and it’s all through Beyoncé’s work. The Black Church is rooted in it. Where do you think the term, ‘catching the spirit,’ comes from, or ‘the term speaking in tongue,’ means? The enslaved Africans hid their belief within Christianity to practice without it being detected.

Yep, it’s always been there, the keys to life. You just have to decode it. That is what Beyoncé is doing. Not only in Black Is King and Lemonade, but through all of her work. Beyonce has been studying her roots and sharing what she learns and believes through her music. Just as many artists do.

When you look at her last three works as a trilogy you can experience the full scope and beauty of black culture throughout the diaspora. ‘Lemonade’, ‘Homecoming’, and ‘Black Is King,’ tells a complete story that excludes slavery. I believe the intention is to see ourselves without the elements of bondage. I especially loved the nod to our Native American roots in her final song, ‘Rise.’ Beyonce’ is a great curator of our culture and unapologetically reminds us of who we are in the arc of humanity.

MonicaWisdom,

Founder, Black Women Amplified