Stanning for Black Panther

I’ve got to get this out my system. The Black Panther movie was so great. I don’t know how else to say it. This movie was the superhero movie I didn’t know I needed.

Marvel is a franchise that does very well for itself, but there’s one thing we have to admit… the storylines and faces of epic white men and women somehow merge into one blob of the same ol’ story.

Getting to see a movie of this magnitude with a society  and a hero made up of people who look like me was a pretty cool experience. Not only did Director Ryan Coogler manage to get so many strong, black messages on the big screen, but each and every character was fun to get to know and kept the audience interested.

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As a viewer of color, I appreciated the timing of this movie. It’s already pretty tough to navigate life as a black, gay man, but doing it in Trump’s America is even more exhausting. The Black Panther was the motivation and push that I needed – a reminder to love myself, cherish my history and heritage, and to be the best version of myself.

Sure, it’s just another Marvel movie, but this is a huge deal! Never before has the black community had something like this. Representation in all avenues and facets of life is so important because it inspires future generations (of all colors and backgrounds).

Inspiration is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the glory of this cast and their performances. All this black excellence! Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, and so many more. So much female strength and empowerment throughout the movie. And the attention to detail! All of the tribes were designed and styled based on authentic African tribes.

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Okay, so I’m stanning a little bit. Stanning is when you’re “being overzealous or an obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.” All jokes aside, yes this movie is amazing to me because it was based in a black society with a black hero.

Most of the black roles we see on the big screen play supporting roles of some type or there has to be some sad undertone. Not all black stories are rooted in pain, suffering, or slavery. While all of those stories are important and a major part of my history, we as a people have been waiting for stories that are brighter and share successes; our triumphs.

In the Black Panther movie we see tough, all female warriors, a thriving black society with crazy tech and scientists, and heritage and tradition challenged. As a black dude who just recently received his AncestryDNA results, this movie made me want to dig more into my heritage and also made me think about what tradition meant to me.

I appreciate this movie so much.

Black Panther nailed it.

Ok, I’m done.

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Barbershop Talk

Going to the barbershop is probably one of the most ritualistic acts for a man. A man can give a woman a lot of crap for staying on top of her hair appointments and routine mani-pedis, but deep down, he enjoys these things just as much. As a gay man – and stereotypically speaking, yes – I like my hair to look good. Not only do I like my hair to look good, I prefer to get it cut in a black barbershop.

Ever since my brother and I were young boys, our father took us to get bi-weekly haircuts. 9 o’clock in the morning, every other Saturday, was our designated time and we’d only sit in only one barber’s chair. As I grew older and started to wrangle with my sexuality internally, the “barbershop” talk began to hit a little too close to home.

I was waiting to get my hair touched up over the weekend when one barber – not my barber – began to elaborate more on TV makeup and how he thought men shouldn’t wear makeup at all. Naturally, this snowballed into discussion about gay, black men and those of which who choose to openly wear full faces of makeup. “I don’t care if you’re gay, but I don’t need to know it.” One ignorant gentleman that sat in my barber’s chair even went as far to say gay men are “disrespecting their natural bodies.” What does that even mean?!

I sat quietly and fought the urge to jump in and come out in the middle of the shop. I wanted to say “What makes you think these brave souls care what you think?.. What gives you the right to dictate how we represent ourselves in the world?” Keep in mind the gentlemen spouting off this nonsense didn’t deserve any roses from anyone. I won’t stoop to their level, but I could say more about their appearances – how one didn’t appear the way I imagine a professional barber would, and how the ignorant patron looked as if… yeah, I won’t go there.

I’ll give a couple gentlemen in the shop some credit. They tried to explain how TV makeup works with the camera, but the conversation kept going back to sissy shit. “You should see the shit they get into on Empire! They’re wild on that show.” It’s funny because the gay character on the hit show is named Jamal. Jamal isn’t flamboyant and doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, but I appreciate the fact that the show lets his character express his sexuality and presents him as normal; as human.

In the end I stayed quiet because we as gay men – especially gay black men – argue too much about why we get to express ourselves the way we feel is right within our community and culture. I’m so over that argument and didn’t care to share any of my experiences with them in that moment.

Sure I could go to a more commercial haircut establishment – risking sitting in a chair that doesn’t know how to work with ethnic hair – but why should I have to do that? Nothing against those establishments, but I do value my culture and enjoy going to a black barbershop.

I realized this early, Saturday morning that that’s exactly what this barber and the ignorant patron wanted – for me and my fellow gay men to be commercial. I couldn’t be commercial if I tried. My spice comes out when it wants and it’s something I’ve had to learn to harness growing up in the black community.

STORY TIME:

I’ll never forget growing up and helping my cousin part and braid her dolls’ hair. I’d trot downstairs to show my mom and aunties my work, but had to get past the table filled with very loud, black dads that were busy slamming dominoes. “What’ve you got there, boy?!” My dad would shout where the whole house could hear. I’d simply hold the doll up to display the sharp and detail braids, styled and perfectly placed with my cousin’s approval. “Man, I couldn’t plait no hair like that! Keep up the good work and go show ya mama.” He’d then nudge my buzzed head and I’d hide a smile. Even at a young age, whether I knew I was gay then or not, I understood what the perception of a young boy doing great hair was – a gay boy in the making. My dad was a hard, Army veteran, but it was moments like this that made me view him as a superhero.

In closing – I’d like to share a note with the barber who felt it necessary to force his view upon me, the silent gay customer. You never know who is in your business or who is listening. You have to realize that you’re the face of the business in which you work and that comments like these should be kept to yourself if they’re not productive or being presented for an open discussion. Sure I could have jumped in and floored everyone, but I can only clean up so much ignorance at a time. On this particular morning, I was simply tired.

Keep in mind who and what you’re talking about the next time you speak, and realize they may have a platform where they can share their experience. Maybe you don’t care, and that’s fine, but here a few things I know and that you should as well about me:

  • I’m a black, gay man.
  • I’m married and in a stable relationship.
  • I take great care of my skin and I don’t mind sharing my regimen with you.
  • I’m just as much of a man – just as much as a black man – as you are, if not more.
  • And I’m also a customer service supervisor.

I’ll keep this story off Yelp though… (enter nail-painting emoji here)

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