Queue up the Fat Boys’ song “Can You Feel It?”
The Black American experience is unique. It is unique in that it is an experience defined by survival. We adapt. That has been our power. We literally made lemonade from a crate of dried up lemons. We take things and we make them ours. Food. Art. Music. Language. Comics. Killmonger shows us in the Black Panther movie this dynamic. He was a kid from Oakland, who made it to throne of Wakanda. He killed. He lied. He stole. Yet, more than that. He learned. When he stares at the mask before him; Ulyssus Klaw ponders and asks him is the mask he is staring at intensively is Vibranium? He simply replies, “nah. I’m just feeling it”. That is who we are. We feel. Our pain. Our visions. Our enviroment. We feel it. The need for representation is the need to feel. When we see ourselves on the covers of comics. It speaks to us. It says to us. We are here. We want you to see us. We want you to not feel threatened but we need you know we are here. This whole thought that representation is only authentic when it is original characters comes from an perspective that originality is best. However, we know as the bible says, “there is nothing new under the sun”. So even if you see something that looks original, if you look closer you will come to understand that it isn’t new and there’s nothing original about it. We want original characters but we not dissing legacy characters. Adilifu Nama says in his book “Super Black American Pop Culture and BLack Superheroes that “Imitation periodically leads to innovation”. Hip Hop’s musical origins started large in part with sampling. Cats took pieces of a record, usually the “break” and created brand new songs. Somewhere I read a hip hop quote. “Hip Hop did not invent anything but it did reinvent everything”. What is a stolen people supposed to do? Play by rules made up by the thieves? Where do you think slang comes from? Where did you think the inspiration for tagging trains comes from? We see art museums filled with little pictures in fancy frames. You think a kid from the South Bronx whose life has been “framed” by poverty and lack of job opportunities wants to stay there. Feel me? See my artwork! See me! So in short, we do what Killmonger did. We take the mask.
We are all Killmonger when we see things we have been denied. You see the mask can represent a plethora of things. The mask is a symbol of home. He had never been there but he knew it was a bread crumb. When we put on dashikis. The colors, the designs, feel like another place but it’s a place where we may belong or long to be. In any case. Comics are a medium where we long to be. So when I see comic book with my image on the cover, I don’t necessarily feel I have arrived but I know the journey just got a little shorter. Can you feel it? – Richard J Wright
NOTE: Richard J Wright’s complete blog listing can be found at blackwardslivingincomics.blogspot.com