A Lament for Black Panther
How lonely sits the city
who was once full of people
we have quarantined in safety or
taken to the streets for change
We who were chief among nations
now reflect from a place of ruin
How do we tell our children
Black Panther is dead?
Bitterly we weep at night
tears upon our cheeks
out of all of our heroes
one stood a Marvel
Black power betrayed
by unruly death’s unfair advantage
How do we tell our children
Black Panther is dead?
After affliction and in pandemic
America has gone into panic
law enforcement has become
an order of police state
the blood of another Black brother cries out
from fleet-forced city streets
How do we tell our children?
Black Panther is dead.
Wakanda Forever we
lament from the blood bathed
city streets where black abundance
insists again on rising from ashes
and children of Power rise to be
princes of peace
It is likely safe to say that the list of Biblical scholars who focus a career in entirety on the book of Lamentations is probably short. Lamentations, a set of five poems (each 22 lines except the 66 line poem #3) authored by the prophet Jeremiah (yes, he gets his own book too) is a reflection, a homily, a eulogy and a lament for the state of Jerusalem and the corrupt people of Israel, who have lost their way, forgotten their calling, turned their back on righteousness, and fallen from glory. Over again, Jeremiah laments, “How, in what manner?”
America today echoes this question and rings of Lamentations. Since March we have watched a country we’d often believed the best of fall like a Jenga tower. The Trump presidency played an unfair game, pulling the foundational pieces we’d believed would hold us strong early — and by first quarter 2020 we were leaning so far right it felt a collapse was imminent. A global pandemic, hard fought and quick beaten by other nations, would come to linger on our shores and then settle in Middle America where our Jerusalem pride put blinders on eyes and personal freedom was the war cry. It’s here, it’s amongst us. The pandemic is Covid-19 and the pandemic is Selfishness and the pandemic is Nationalistic Pride.
As the tower leans and begins to topple, cornerstones of racism and ideologies of white supremacy are exposed. Where there are cracks, light shines through. And in the horrors of revelation of systemic injustice towards Black and Indigenous people in the Land of the “Free” we have seen Black man and woman attacked, dehumanized, destroyed, and dead at the hands of the law enforcement officers America had been hoodwinked into believing existed for protection and peace.
Cities are on fire as mothers and fathers, sisters and nephews and sons and daughters weep and tear their clothing. BIPOC and allies offer everything in sacrifice begging that human life be more valuable than property. Please tell me you can correlate the white people screaming “how dare you destroy my property” to white slave owners bloodying the backs of those they believed to be “theirs”. Please tell me you can correlate Black and Indigenous people standing in bloody streets to claim them to Trails of Tears and Underground Railroads.
We needed Black Panther. Still do.
In Lamentations, Jeremiah speaks of the heights from which we have fallen. In the fifth poem He asks the Lord to remember His people — orphans and fatherless, mothers as widows. “We labour and have no rest,” he cries out. “Our fathers have sinned.”
In desperation, Jeremiah wonders at the desolation of his spirit. “Our heart is faint. Our eyes are dim.”
The news of the death of Chadwick Boseman, beloved actor, Black Panther Marvel, has caused my heart to go faint. My eyes are filled to the brim and my outlook is dim. In a year that has stripped off America’s white bedsheets and exposed a pile of maggots feasting on the underneath, has knocked down the Ivory Towers and turned the foundations to exposed rubble — thrown bricks through the windows of Oppression and properly named the Law “Brutality” when she has shown herself unfair — we need Black Panther.
It isn’t fair. Isn’t fair. Will never be fair or right but the truth is we needed Trayvon Martin’s stamina and we needed Tamir Rice’s playfulness and we needed Ahmaud Arbery’s passion and we needed Breonna Taylor’s healing hands. We needed Chadwick Boseman but what we get is his ashes and his battle cry and a legacy and a hope.
May ten million Black Panthers rise in their honor.
May this fucking nightmare end. May we be the heroes of our stories. May our lament turn to dancing. May our streets become celebrations. May God have mercy on our souls.
If you connected with this story, consider following me on Instagram at @OhNatSlack or on Facebook at Natalie LaFrance-Slack. You can also check out my website at natalielafranceslack.com or find me on most other social medias, attempting to engage in civil conversation with people very like and unlike me — fellow travelers seeking the light. As always, may you carry on with clear eyes, soft shoulders, and a strong chin. ❤