Cassius April Cover
Ikiré Jones Born Between Borders

Source: Rog Walker / Courtesy of Ikiré Jones

To be young gifted and Black. Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud. When my mother was a young girl on Long Island, N.Y., having the N- word hurled at her by even younger white neighbors while riding her bicycle, these phrases by icons like James Brown and Nina Simone, kept her head held high, and her external emotions non-reactive.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced the racism on such a critical first-hand basis as my mom has, so those Black rally cries I revere and honor as part of my history, but they are hers in essence. When you see folks mulled down by fire hoses and dogs at the age of six, you’ve pretty much earned that right.  But when fellow New Yorker Eric Garner, a man who looked just like my uncle’s corner friends who wouldn’t hurt a fly, was suffocated and his cries were ignored, “Black Lives Matter” became mine. I felt it in my core, I wanted those non-Black family members and friends to understand why it was important for them not to ignore the hashtag on Facebook. Scrolling through their vacation photos while the bodies of Black children lay cold and unattended in the streets did and must affect them, because to be Black and vulnerable is my existence.

Identifying with Black pain? It’s become an inescapable birthright. But being able to celebrate Blackness in this day and age? Enter Ryan Coogler.

Black Panther stills

Source: Black Panther / Marvel

Before Chadwick Boseman donned the Shuri-made T’Challah suit, Coogler managed to make a generation of young Black folks proud with that soul-stirring scene in Creed. Young and Black? You know exactly what I’m talking about right now. It’s the scene when Adonis is having his Rocky run, but this time, the theme is remixed with Meek Mill, and kids are popping wheelies on dirt bikes all around him. He was here. He arrived. And so did our experience —and our bone-chilling authenticity—on the big screen.

Identifying with Black pain? It’s become an inescapable birthright. But being able to celebrate Blackness in this day and age? Enter Ryan Coogler.

So when it came time to sell out theaters week after week when Black Panther descended, we already knew what it was. We knew it was going to be sensational. We knew we’d be proud. And proud seems to be an understatement, as we’ve claimed an emoji for our official “Wakanda salute.” As Saudi Arabia’s 35-year cinema ban was lifted. As Pulitzer-Prize winner (I will never ever stop saying that) Kendrick Lamar produced the record-smashing soundtrack. As Beyoncé put the best of the Yard— and all of Black excellence— on display for a traditionally lily-white Coachella audience.

And now I understand what kids of the ’60s, like my mother leaned on. While racism reared its brutal weaponry, Marvin Gaye made it ok to holler on “Inner City Blues.” Stevie Wonder provided “Visions” of a better world. Billie Holiday allowed a space for true mourning on “Strange Fruit.” The Jackson 5 made sure my mother wasn’t robbed entirely of her youth with bubblegum pop records. With our music, our art, and our voice, we’ll surely be alright.

Enter hip-hop music. OutKast’s 2000 album Stankonia, with Andre 3000 and Big Boi standing in front of an American flag, cemented a new generation’s place in this country, but our way. Our “Fresh and Clean” way. Our smart, gangsta and bombastic way. That irresistible turn-up that’s “Bombs Over Baghdad (B.O.B.),” where flags and white tees wave in fury even when it’s played to this day.  It’s a pleasure to present DJ J. Period’s masterful blending of this hip-hop staple with The Black Panther Album. J. Period Presents… #WakandaForeverEver does exactly what music has the power to do when done at its best: transport you back to another time and place, reminding you of how far you’ve come.

Black Panther in Conversation

Source: Courtesy of The Apollo Theater / The Apollo Theater

Keep putting up your Wakanda salutes, being unapologetically proud of your roots in the African diaspora, with all of your words, art, and indelibly dope style. As James Baldwin reminded us, our crowns are already bought and paid for.

More From CassiusLife