Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #90

The actor:Chadwick Boseman
The character:T’Challa
The film:Black Panther
The quote:“Wakanda forever!”

Wonderland, Narnia, Shangri-La, Oz, Brigadoon, the Wizarding World, Atlantis. One accesses these fantasy places from a place in the real world, as we know it. A rabbit hole or a wardrobe, a plane crash or a tornado, a train platform or a submarine: they are tantalizingly close to us, intoxicating because they are seemingly just four Oreos away. The Marvel movies, to say nothing of Marvel comic books, have promised us an enormous number of fantasy worlds that our heroes are capable of accessing. It seems like people are not super hyped about the Quantum Realm or mirror dimensions, necessarily, but the far off planets in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies more or less fit this perspective, as does Asgard. But Asgard and Xandar are not going to be immortalized alongside Wonderland and Oz. Wakanda will be. In fact, it’s already there.

There’s another way to view “Wakanda forever!” It’s not a slogan with the same kind of historical, revolutionary weight as “Black power” or “Black lives matter.” There’s not a sacredness in this sentence. (That’s not an expectation. I mean, who can say with a straight face that T’Challa or Okoye are more important and meaningful figures than Fred Hampton or Huey Newton or Angela Davis?) The right corollary here is the fantasy-geopolitical equivalent of “Black is beautiful,” a statement which at its core speaks to a desire to express inherent worth. As “Black is beautiful” is a counterweight to centuries of white people expressing the opposite opinions, so is “Wakanda forever” a statement of aspirational Black nationalism. To say it is to put stakes in the ground for a state of Black people governed by Black people and perpetuated by Black people. What the phrase lacks in sacredness it makes up for in sadness. That there is no Wakanda means that there is no bastion so wealthy or belligerent or magnificent as this society in Black Panther, no special unobtainium which will solve far more problems than it creates.

If the line reading matters in my calculus, then it makes sense that gestures should also be considered. The right hand over left X has become instantly recognizable, so much so that it’s now a pretty standard celebration or greeting in sports settings. The statement with the crossed arms is as much a promise as putting a hand over one’s heart and delivering “I pledge allegiance to the flag…”

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