Danai Gurira
By Erickka Sy Savané

One thing we can say about the film Black Panther (now the #1 movie in the WORLD) is that it's bridging a long over-due gap between Africans and African Americans. To see the movie is to be proud of where we come from and that's just facts. As an African American woman who grew up with an affinity for the continent, and is raising two little girls with my hubby from Cote D'Ivoire, it's a world that has always held interest for me. So when I stumbled across an article in this month's Glamour magazine where Black Panther star Danai Gurira talks about what it means to be "Zimerican" (she was born in Grinnel, Iowa to Zimbabwean parents and moved to Zimbabwe when she was around 6 or 7 years old), I was all ears. Here are a few things that stuck out from her essay that old fans (Walking Dead is still her day gig) and new fans, will enjoy!

Danai shines in this month's Glamour mag! 
Danai says that she didn't find out that her real name was Danai, which means "to be in love" or "to love one another" in her parent's native Shona language, until she was five years old. Before then, she'd only been called by her nickname Dede. Of this discovery she says,
"A typical little girl with cool cred to uphold, I wasn't too into this other name. It sounded weird the way my mom pronounced it, her African cadences freely flowing, her tongue pulled to the back roof of her mouth as she said the first syllable like a d, but not really, her mouth wide as she pronounced the a and I at the end of this strange new designation." 
So like most kids who want to fit in, Danai wasn't having having any of it and kept Dede as her name of choice. It wasn't until she and her family moved to Zimbabwe a year later that Dede now became the weird name. On top of that, as Danai grew into adolescence and began reading about the likes of Toni Morrison, Alex Haley, James Baldwin, MLK and Malcolm X, a consciousness started to build and along with it came a new desire... 

"I started to connect the dots around why I was rejecting my people's cultureal markers and the dominating effects of Eurocentric culture. All of a sudden I needed to lay claim to what folks had fought and died for me to have- the freedom to speak my own language, my own name." 
From then on, Dede would insist on being called Danai, and a confidence in her authentic self was born. She says that embracing her real name has been a major influence on her life and career from the stories she tells (like her Tony-nominated Broadway hit play Eclipsed), the characters she plays (like her star turn as a general in an African King's army in Black Panther), and her activism (Danai co-founded the nonprofit Almasi Arts, a Zimbabwean American dramatic arts collaborative). 
"The irony that American greats helped bring me to this initial awakening doesn't go unnoticed by me. It's what makes me what I am- Zimerican, I call it. Both Zimbabwean and America resonate in me in equally significant parts and can't be extricated from each other. Right now both countries sit at defining moments: America faces political division and a crises of leadership, and Zimbabwe is finding its footing in a transition of power after decades under one man's rule. I've never felt the weight of my biculturalism more intensely. All I know to do is remember who I am and be ready to participate, as my full self: Danai Jekesai Gurira- a Zimerican."
Do you claim all parts of your heritage?
Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or  ErickkaSySavane.com
Photo via The Root
By Mwabi Kaira

It’s been days since I saw Black Panther and I’m still thinking about it. There was so much to digest and I know I’ll have to see it several more times to fully receive all the messaging and beauty of it all. Not since the history making November night in 2008 when Barack Obama became President have I witnessed black people come together and share excitement collectively. It was such a beautiful sight to witness and I know I will cherish this moment for the rest of my days.

The hardest thing about being an African immigrant in America has been explaining the beauty of where I am from and how what we look like plays the tiniest of percentages in our day to day struggles to African-Americans. I tell them that race is not woven in the fabric of our lives and we are made aware of it only when we leave our homes and travel to other continents. We are not without problems but our problems are not race based. We are the majority and can go for days without seeing another race. I have grown accustomed to being met with looks of skepticism and full noncomputeness. Zamunda was a point of reference but seemed too far fetched to be real life. How many real Princes do any of us know in real life? I am grateful to now have Wakanda as my new point of reference and know that this conversation will be much easier going forward.

Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman & Danai Gurira 
Black Panther depicted Wakanda, a fictional powerful African country untouched by the Western world so beautifully. In Wakanda beautiful black people are celebrated and not merely tolerated, they are strong, smart and want for nothing. Women in Wakanda are not second class citizens who are after thoughts, they are sought after for wise counsel and play such pivotal roles that Wakanda can’t do without. Wakandans are not our ancestors dreams, they are living exactly as our ancestors lived. Wakanda resonated in a way that I hope lasts forever.

There was also the addressing of Africans and African-Americans between first King T’Chaka and his brother N’Jobu and then between their sons T’Challa and Killmonger. Both T’Chaka and T’Challa believe in preserving Wakanda and not letting the outside in while N’Jobu and Killmonger believe in sharing Wakandan powerful weapons with the oppressed black people all over the world. Some argue that nothing was solved in this movie and the two worlds did not find a way to reconcile but honesty what could be solved in such a layered movie that had a timeframe? The much needed conversation has began and this start is enough for me.

Black Panther Cast
Black Panther made history, surpassed expectations and proved that a movie with a predominantly black cast can be received globally. I saw movie goers on social media in Australia, UK, South Africa, and Asia have the same excitement and reaction to the movie we did. Boris Kodjoe was in Bulgaria and the movie was sold out. He was the only black person in the theater and experienced everyone laughing and cheering throughout the movie. After the movie everyone wanted to hug him and Bulgarians pointed at him on the street and crossed their arms Wakanda style.

The narrative has been changed. Now it's time for studios to greenlight more of these kind of movies AND pay our actors the same as their white counterparts. Really it should be more money based on these numbers but we can start with the same. Black Panther was a reminder of our dopeness; our music is often imitated and duplicated, our style sets trends, our flavorful food is sought after, our rhythm is watched in awe, our inventions are innovative and have changed the world. We are the pulse of the culture and have been since the beginning of time. Black Panther just put all those things in Wakanda and it gave us pride. It's time for us to carry this pride forward and a piece of it in our hearts to remind us of our greatness. Wakanda doesn’t just have to be a state of mind, we are Wakanda everyday.

How do you think we can carry the Wakanda spirit into our everyday lives?
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/

T.I. & Family (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)
By Mwabi Kaira

Tip Harris aka rapper T.I. teamed up with Walmart to give away free tickets to an advance screening of Black Panther in Atlanta last night, and it was fiyah! Walmart chose to partner with T.I. because of his unwavering commitment to his community and because the movie was shot in Atlanta. Lucky ticket holders came to Regal Hollywood in Chamblee and filled 2 theaters while enjoying the movie in 3D. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms brought her family and joined Atlanta celebrities including T.I. and his family, television host and author Egypt, Sheree Whitfield of Real Housewives of Atlanta, Tye White of Greenleaf, and Ms. Juicy of Little Women, just to name a few...


Gowns on fleek! (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)
The atmosphere was electric; when 2 ladies entered the theater in their African material ball gowns, there was a collective gasp from everyone. Some even took to their social media live feeds whilst in the lobby to share their excitement and atmosphere with their friends.

Mayor Keisha Bottoms (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)
Mayor Bottoms expressed her gratitude by saying,
“I thank Marvel for believing in Atlanta, this movie was shot all over Atlanta not just the popular places like Midtown but even in Vine City.” Black Panther generated more than $83.9 million to the local economy and contributed more than $26.5 million in wages to more than 3,100 workers across the state. I’m so excited about the power of an African-American cast that will engage audiences, this is a great lesson for girls to see that we can do it all from being a Mayor to being so powerful on the big screen.”
T.I. (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)
T.I. is known as a walking Thesaurus on social media with his use of big words. Seeing him speak in person, I must add that he is an amazing orator that commands his audience. He gave red carpet interviews expressing the importance of seeing superheros on the big screen that look like us and how imperative it was that our children know that there’s greatness inside them that just needs to be activated but it was his short speech before the movie started that got us all going. Most notably T.I. said, “I thank Walmart for giving people in our community a way to see this movie. There’s a superhero inside all of us and the superhero is you.”

Black Panther is an absolute gem. No stone was left unturned. Director Ryan Coogler and the entire cast - Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kauuya, and Letitia Wright will leave you wanting more. I left the theater feeling  many emotions, the most prominent was pride. Black Panther will be in theaters on February 16th.

More red carpet photos!

Sheree Whitfield (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)
Egypt (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)

Tye White (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)
Ms. Juicy (photo: MichaelWalker/UmeekImages)
Do you have your Black Panther tickets yet?!?!
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world. She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993. Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy. She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon. Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/
Black Panther Cast
By Kanisha Parks

Black Panthercomes out next weekend and it’s already broken Fandango’s advance ticket sales record, becoming their #1 selling superhero of all time. Needless to say, we’ve been waiting for this movie long before its official trailer dropped back in October 2017 but now the anticipation is through the roof. My entire family and I have our tickets and outfits ready. #IssaCelebration. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Reviews are in for Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, and they are easily the best for a Marvel Studios project to date, with almost everyone left in awe not only of the movie’s ambition, but its success in achieving that ambition on the big screen. As of Tuesday morning, the film has a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.”

The fact that this movie is called Black Panther is reason enough to raise intrigue, but there are several other reasons it's a huge deal for the world, but specifically, the black community.

Chaswick Boseman & Michael B. Jordan
1. For Us, By Us. Directed by Ryan Coogler, (who also directed Creed and Fruitvale Station), Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa/Black Panther alongside fellow heavy-hitters Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker. “Black Panther marks the first time that a major studio has greenlit a black superhero movie with an African-American director and a primarily black cast” (Variety).
Our representation in this film is present throughout: from the title to the director and actors. Even though it technically wasn’t made just for black people, we’re definitely laying claims and will likely constitute the greatest support for the film’s sales.
On whether or not a white director could’ve done Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman told Variety, “Well, is it possible for them to make it? It could be, yes. Would they have his perspective? Probably not. It wouldn’t be nuanced in the same way because they wouldn’t have the same conflict. They don’t have the African-American conflict that exists: Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you have an ancestry that is very hard to trace.”

Chadwick Boseman
2. It’s Been a Long Time Comin.’ We’ve had black roles in other superhero movies: Will Smith in “Suicide Squad,” and Halle Berry as “Catwoman,” and do we even have to talk about Michael B. Jordan in Fantastic Four? Other attempts at black superheroes as leads include Meteor Man, Blankman, Steel, Spawn, and most notably, Blade. In fact, Wesley Snipes even wanted to play Black Panther back in the early ‘90s but the vision was remarkably different—focused on cultural diversity instead of centered around black power—and never came to fruition. The time is now.
“We've been waiting to see ourselves onscreen, flying through the air and running across buildings and dodging laserblasts from bearded colonialists our entire lives. The future is Ryan Coogler, Chadwick Boseman, T'Challa, Black Panther. The future is here on February 16th” (Tre Johnson, Rolling Stone).
When asked why this is a good moment in history for this movie to be made, Chadwick Boseman responded, “Everybody is excited about the opportunity to do something that we should have already done. People are excited about seeing new stuff, but I think they're extra excited about seeing stuff they should have seen already” (CNET).

Dunai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o & Florence Kasumba
3. Strong. Black. Women. Yes, Black Panther is the lead character, but he doesn’t shine alone: he is surrounded by strong black women, which is truly a positive for black women and girls alike.
Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Nakia, an undercover spy for the fictitious African nation Wakanda in the film, says, “The man’s power does not diminish because the woman is assuming hers (power). So, just because I have power it does not mean that I threaten the man’s position.” Always an advocate for women and girls asserting themselves, Nyong’o adds: “Little girls watching it will perhaps, they won’t be so afraid of their power. We have four women in this film that are powerful in very different ways and that is really exciting to have that be the thing that our young ones are watching” (Hindustan Times).
With the current culture of how women are being treated in America, it’s important for women, especially black women, to be appropriately represented in the media. I’m glad that we have the opportunity to see ourselves represented on-screen as we truly are: beautiful, bold, brave, powerful women.

And I’m even gladder that we finally have our iconic superhero movie, created from start to finish with us in mind. It’s about time.
Why are you excited to see Black Panther?
Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than CurlyNikki.com, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, "Love Letters from the Master." Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at [email protected]