Shut up and listen: How the women of ‘Black Panther’ empower young girls

First of a four-part series 

My entire professional career I’ve been talking my butt off. Whether it’s giving my opinion on hot topics on the radio, interviewing guests on a current affairs program or waxing reflective about y’alls president on a TV show, my life, my job, and my passion has always been talking. Blabbing out of control. And I’ve made a pretty good living doing it.

But then I went to Wakanda, the fictional African country featured in the movie Black Panther. I ain’t the same, y’all. For nearly three hours, I sat in awe, speechless and unable to find the words to express how I felt about the film.

My husband Shawn kept checking to see if I was still awake, ’cause the only time I ain’t talking is when I’m asleep (though he says I find a way to talk and mumble then, too).

Looking at this movie, I was proud of the strong female lead characters. I was encouraged by the overall theme of the Marvel flick. I was left spellbound by the Black excellence presented on the big screen, for all the world to see.

I thought, “Well, of course, everybody needs to hear what I think about this movie!” I called the editors at the MSR because I wanted some of their space to talk, to write, to give myself another opportunity to share my opinion.

This time, I wanted to reflect on the ways Black Panther influences the perception of African culture, and what it means to Black pride, our secret struggles and public pain, and the importance of family and friendships, mothers and their sons, and Black love. Oh, honey, I had a whole laundry list of what I was going to say — 10 pages of notes, in fact!

Then God stopped me and I heard Him say, “Shut up and listen.”

Dr. Verna Price (right) helps Sheletta fulfill her promise shut up and listen. (Sheletta Brundidge)

 

He wanted me, for once in my life, to close my mouth, and to hear from some other folks who have a different story to tell — a different perspective and take on this groundbreaking movie and the ripple effect it’s having on our society.

For the next four weeks, I plan to take a deeper look at the movie Black Panther, unpacking it, pulling the layers off and gaining some insight about how the world is being changed forever after visiting Wakanda.

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“The women in this movie give our girls a vision of who they really are…”

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This week, I’m listening to Dr. Verna Cornelia Price. I call her Dr. Verna. She’s an award-winning motivational coach, best-selling author, and human potential expert.

For the past 13 years, Dr. Verna has been the brains behind a program called Girls In Action. She and her band of women warriors work with at-risk girls in more than a dozen schools to motivate, mentor, and empower them. Her ultimate goal is to help these young ladies succeed in school and life.

So, when I saw the women warriors of Wakanda running the science lab and fighting bad guys, all the while looking FIERCE, I knew I had to shut up and listen to her perspective. An excerpt from my conversation with Dr. Verna (VP) appears below.

The marvelous women of Marvel’s Black Panther  (l-r) Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira Courtesy of Marvel/Disney

SB: What did you see in this film as it relates to young African and African American girls?

VP: I saw beauty and intelligence and what happens when those two combine. When you understand your intelligence, you understand that you can change things and your beauty becomes NOT your leading role.

Your beauty becomes an asset and a way to put all of that intelligence into motion. So you’re not relying on your beauty even though you know you’re beautiful. You’re relying on the fact that you’re so intelligent you can create things and make things happen and be beautiful, too.

SB: What was the most important theme you want girls to take from watching this movie?

VP: The importance of understanding your own culture and the importance of what your culture holds for you as an African or African American girl. Often our girls do not fully understand who they are and from whence they have come.

The women in this movie give our girls a vision of who they really are, which is incredibly beautiful, intelligent women who have a strong culture and a strong people and they can stand up on their own.

SB: I gotta admit, and I’m ashamed, but I thought Letitia Wright’s character Shuri was a lab assistant. I spent half the movie waiting for the smart guy who runs the lab to come back from vacation. But this was her lab and she was running it.

VP: What I loved about it is that she owned the role. She didn’t wait for someone to tell her what to do or show her what to do, she understood that the lab was hers and she knew how to work it.

People were relying on her to know what to do and how to use that technology. The entire country was built on that technology and here she was running it. But more important than that, she didn’t take herself too seriously. She knew how smart she was but she didn’t have to act smart. There was a quiet grace and strength about her. She knew who she was and that’s important.

SB: I went and shaved my hair off after I saw Danai Gurira’s character General Okoye in this film…

VP: I loved the general. She was amazing. She didn’t need fake hair. I loved that. You don’t have to look White to be right. I can be my African woman self and be incredibly beautiful and intelligent. I want our girls to take off all the stuff: the fake hair, the fake eyelashes. Just be your beautiful, intelligent, African self.

SB: What do you hope girls learn about themselves after watching the Black Panther movie?

VP: I want them to know they are already intelligent and creative contributors to this world. I want them to stop waiting for someone to tell them that they are okay. They need to know they are already amazing and already incredible.

The universe is waiting for them to stand up and take their place in this world. I want girls to see themselves as a scientist, a general, as changing the world. I’m hoping this movie will help them see themselves at a whole other level. But the truth is, Ms. Sheletta, that is who they are. That is who they are already. It’s time for our girls to step into it.

If you are a woman warrior and want to volunteer to help Dr. Verna mentor one of the more than 300 young girls in her Girls In Action program, you can reach her at 763-535-5711. She’s looking for strong Black women leaders to help raise a new generation of female leaders. You can also visit her website at drvernaprice.com.

Next week, I’ll be talking to Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, whose son Melvin Carter III was just elected as the first African American mayor of St. Paul. I’m gon’ shut up and listen as she explains how to raise our sons to be kings.

 

Sheletta Brundidge welcomes reader responses to shelettab@gmail.com.

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African Americans and Africans dialogue inspired by Black Panther

About Sheletta Brundidge

Sheletta Brundidge is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at shelettab@gmail.com. You can also catch her as co-host of the Two Haute Mamas podcast online at WCCO Radio. You can listen to the show on her website at twohautemamas.com.

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