Inclusion is the action or state of being included in a group structure.
However, what defines its structure? Self-esteem, representation, historical reference, or all of the above?
Despite the term’s popularity and newfound commitment, many companies are restructuring, rehabilitating, and willing to start the conversations that were once rendered taboo. The concept of a minority hire opposed to Black leadership further heightens the importance and representation in the workplace; and added legacy of what The Black Panther means to the black and corporate community.
As we celebrate the life and death of late actor Chadwick Boseman, it is important that we offer Black Panther the most proper of home-goings. Boseman, who also played Black icons such as James Brown and Jackie Robinson on screen, offered a 2018 action-packed performance accompanied with a global expression we’ll never forget: “Wakanda Forever” followed by the crossing of our arms. While appreciating its cinematic excellence, we were also able to preview the possibilities of a real-life Wakanda. Furthermore, it gave us the desire to reshape what an updated take on Black Empowerment looks like.
The call to action urged filmgoers to emerge and purge a lack of inclusion in American culture; in replacing typical garments of oppression with robust African headdresses, dashiki prints, and beaded attire, we have embodied the spirit of homeland and cultural agency through the film’s overall production, language, imagery, and on-screen appearance. This ushered in the very characteristics that set the original 1966 comic book apart from its counterparts.
Black panther was the first representation in the Marvel Comic legacy and the first expression on the big screen.
Like many of us in our respected professional fields, we are the first with hopes of never being counted last, especially in shared dreams of rising above set limitations and shattering glass ceilings disguised as “work culture” and “corporate decision making.”
Let’s begin with Black Panther filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who further dissects the Wakanda conversation to add a spotlight on the individual struggle of the African American man. He starts by strategically placing Oakland, California as the benchmark of the film, which also happens to be the home to America’s Black Panther Party headquarters. This encouraged us to do a deeper dive into the concept of duality while challenging the monolithic experience of Black people around the world, highlighting the resistance of the notion of an “abandoned tribe.” At the same time, this asked for a fierce return of Pan-African values, intentionally disarming the Black-on-Black armor while equipping us with afros and raised fists. In the film we were introduced to a united front built on the basis of Vibranium and technology — the very foundation of Wakanda, a universe that “we the people” once deemed untouchable or impossible due to its fairy tale appeal.
The return to Wakanda paints a vivid picture of collaboration and architectural advancements that lie within the parameters of the Marvel Universe.
Unfortunately, while Vibranium and a one-way flight to Wakanda are not available to us, typology examples exist in both the United States and South Africa. By incorporating similar design intent and the embodiment of Hannah Beachler’s “Afro-can” vision, retaining human idiosyncrasy is possible.
Although it’s safe to say that both Wakanda and South Africa sit at the intersection of cultural celebration and technology — in fiction and reality — it is the final message from King T’Challa that spearheads the trajectory of his legacy:
“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. The illusions of the vision threaten our realization of truth, we must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”
It is this realization and iconic statement that captivates the future of our united legacy as Black people. Thus, it shines a light on the potential for more architectural inclusion in generations to come. Chad Boseman will always be remembered for his role — plural, not singular.
Written by Brittany R. Guillory, a dedicated artist, designer and creator of Art Feen, an architectural consultant company based in Houston, TX.