Black Panther Costumer Designer Ruth E. Carter on Three Decades of Dressing Superheroes

Topics: African Americans, Afrofuturism, Black Panther, Diaspora, Diversity, Diversity in Science, History, Martin Luther King, Speculative Fiction, Star Trek, Women in Science

The cultural reference: James Meredith shot after staging a "long walk" (his solo March Against Fear) from Memphis, Tennessee to Jacksonville, Mississippi encouraging voter registration for African Americans in the south.

I was proudly part of the online record-breaking purchase on Fandango. I started a Facebook group for the movie. Sadly, there are groups formed to boycott it, by people of color uncomfortable with the idea the Black Panther, like Pharaoh in ancient Egypt would be considered a god. There will be the sad/mad/pound puppies that foam at the mouth and howl at the moon at any speculative fiction that doesn't look like a spliced clone of James T. Kirk and Han Solo. They're the same group of spoiled narcissists that had something to say about Voyager's Captain Janeway; Deep Space 9's Commander, then Captain Benjamin Sisko and Michael Berman on Discovery. It's old, it's long and tiresome. But this is a movie I've been waiting for my entire life. Black Panther came out when I was barely out on the planet in 1966 - I was four years old. I am 55 now.

“Wakanda is a small country in Africa notable for never having been conquered in its entire history. When you consider the history of the region, the fact that the French, the English, the Belgians or any number of Christian or Islamic invaders were never able to defeat them in battle…well it’s unprecedented.” The Black Panther - Marvel Knights DVD limited series.

I don't have a vivid memory of Medgar Evers or Malcolm X - just what people told me, what I read and documentaries or dramas that I've viewed.

I do have a vivid memory of the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. I recall he was a Trekkie and talked Nichelle Nicholes out of quitting the show. I have a memory of Nichelle Nicholes and William Shatner sharing the first interracial kiss on Plato's Stepchildren, and how like in many markets in the south it was blocked in North Carolina (I wouldn't see it until I was an adult when it went into syndication reruns). I have a memory of the hot tears of five-year-olds in a segregated kindergarten that felt like we'd lost our favorite grandfather or uncle at the news he was no more from teachers that shared our grief. I have a vivid recollection of Confederate flags that paraded on pickup trucks in East Winston-Salem, NC... in celebration of Dr. King's assassination. For those of us in my age group, we resolved to not make his death in vein. If he would look upon our lives, we were determined to make him proud.

I recall the tears my wife shed on the election of the country's first African American president and the memory of her grandparents. Her grandfather "Paw-Paw" almost died in Shreveport, Louisiana at the hands of two white Klansmen for ATTEMPTING to vote. Serendipitously, it was two other white males that sped him to the hospital and saved his life. He, nor his bride "Mother Dear" lived to see the fruition of their labors in the personification of the country's first black president. The republic had existed 232 years, and with the exception of changing parties, managed to keep the office of Chief Executive distinctly white and (so far) exclusively male. Barack Obama was the seventh candidate we had all seen. Running for president as a black candidate was a running joke: you could run, you just couldn't WIN. The death threats and secret service protection he needed as a candidate said something was different this time.

The white backlash was immediate, as if a membrane had been jostled on a sensitized nerve. The rumble started with birtherism, "praying for the president" (reference Psalm 109:8-10); witch doctor effigies during the debates on affordable healthcare (that in hindsight benefited the complainers); screaming citizens at the border in the direction of brown children (the mortar for mythical border walls); and a beautiful, bright and loving African American family - the personification of the Huxtables before the downfall of Bill Cosby - routinely compared to animals and gorillas by people who haven't looked in the mirror, lately.

So, it is in this juxtaposition of previous, audacious hope; the resurgence of overt, de facto nationalistic, white supremacy racism, and a future in the hands of rank incompetents and xenophobes that we look forward to this movie. I don't know what will occur in the aftermath. I can only hope for a good, UPLIFTING and entertaining film.

The photo above says everything we've endured in our long walk. We'll do so as always, going forward in dashikis and "straight outta Wakanda" t-shirts with our backs rod straight. I'd like to think - like Star Trek - Dr. King would have loved it.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." Martin Luther King, Jr.

#P4TC: Slow-Walking Wakanda... August 16, 2015

Related links:

Box Office: 'Black Panther' Is Still Tracking For Record-Crushing O..., Scott Mendelson, Forbes

Black Panther Set to Break Barriers, MSN video

Will ‘Black Panther’ Smash the ‘Deadpool’ February Box Office Record? MSN

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Comment by cfus89 on February 19, 2018 at 12:58pm

Loved the costume design thoughout this entire movie. Black Panther Costumer Designer Ruth E. Carter  is a genius in my mind. A special kudos is especially due to her. Costuming engineer Ruth E. Carter's talents are especially skilled. Her valuable should be celebrated and rewarded accordingly. 

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