“In your next book, make the main character a black guy.”
I listen to my dad from the speaker of my phone as I try to get my hair to cooperate. It’s no small feat for curls, no matter how short.
“Make him a hero and make sure he gets the girl. I want him to save the day.”
I’m pretty sure I know the type of images rolling through Dad’s head. He constantly had Westerns on during the year I lived with him. I usually didn’t pay too much attention, but they had obvious patterns. The good guys were larger than life, the bad ones were easy to pick out, and it was obvious who would win.
Both sides were white, except for the occasional Native American or Mexican caricature. Men like my father were never anywhere to be seen. I wonder if he still looks for people like him in those films from his childhood or if, after 64 years, he’s given up.
Satisfied with my hair finally, I take the phone from the bathroom counter and place it on the bed so I can get my coat on. “I’ll see what I can do,” I tease, throwing on a hat. “Just got two more faerie books and I’ll get cracking on something.”
“Throw in some black faeries then.”
“You know what? You’re right. I got to go, though, Dad. I’ll talk you later. Love you.”
“Love you too, baby girl.”
It’s a familiar conversation. I have a plethora of them in my memory, so I tuck this one away with the rest, hearing it but not properly listening. I’ve listened before though, I promise. I understand, but at this point it’s just an excuse to talk to my father before heading to the movies.
Change is coming, slowly but surely, I tell myself after every conversation.
Somewhere along the line, that became enough.
We settle into the over-plush seats with our buttered popcorn and whispers as the lights go out and the ads go out. It’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” so we whisper about the future films that flash across the screen, how close they’ll be to the comic books, who will play who. they’re conversations I just have to follow along with since I’m not that versed in this particular aspect of nerd culture.
But then the screen changes to a waterfall tumbling over a chasm and slowly it dawn on me what film is on the horizon. When Chadwick Boseman comes on screen, my suspicions are confirmed and I tear up.
At twenty-five, I’m crying over a movie trailer because every scene is full of people who look like my father, my brothers, my sister, my nieces and nephew, and all my cousins saving the world and doing amazing things.
And they’re doing it on a platform the entire world is going to see.
After 64 years, my father doesn’t have to look any more for the black hero he’s always wanted. Change isn’t just coming, it is here. Today’s kids aren’t going to have wait the way he did. That gives me a small moment of pure joy in a time when worry and panic feels far more appropriate.
By no means is this the end. The fact that “Black Panther” is breaking records left and right is a sign that it’s paving the way for more movies like it., I’m treating the night I get to see “Black Panther” as a celebration. I’m celebrating the fact that someone is telling a story for my father better than I ever could. I’m celebrating everyone who’s been waiting for this movie for years.
I’m celebrating the fact that change is here. It is small, no more than a blip to some, but it is here.
And I think it is here to stay.