Anyone who knows me know that my kids and their holistic development has been at the center of my life for most of my adult life. I have no regrets about my decision to invest in them. My intentional investment in them enhanced my life in ways I never imagined and produced two amazingly creative, independent, courageous, resilient, global thinking young people. Their successes, unique gifts, and interests guided my advice and parenting choices while my parenting discussions were motivated by my desire to promote within them the belief that they could achieve their goals and dreams. I wanted them to believe that they could succeed and overcome even if they were the first person to make the choice to attempt the things or accomplish the things in their dreams. I worked hard to find stories and models of people doing amazing things even if the actors were imaginary characters. I knew that a thoughtful visionary did not exist without imagination. I wanted my children to be visionaries with the strength and courage to stretch their minds beyond their current status. Overcoming mediocrity and external limitations required them to be grounded and well-rounded. Establishing stable foundations for them meant infusing positive energy and positive messaging into their lives. I needed them to see people like them being great despite the odds.
Cinema provided two opportunities for me to meld entertainment, education, and edification with parenting moments with my children. Years ago my daughter and I saw “Princess and the Frog” together. Princess Tiana became the first African American fairytale princess. We were excited to go to the theatre to see how a common childhood tale would be told from the perspective of a community comprised of people who lived and grooved in a world that looked more like the one we called home. Even as my daughter aged, I found ways to introduce reminders of Tiana into her world with items bearing Tiana’s image. I gave my daughter a number of Tiana-themed items: an ice pack for her snack bag, a coloring book, a cookbook, and a bowl and cup set. Tiana was a young girl who overcame challenging people and challenging circumstances and I connected my daughter to her image as often as possible.
About a month ago, I recognized that the cinema would soon offer a similar teaching experience for my son and me. I bought two tickets for “Black Panther” online from a theater that allowed me to select our seats in advance. Attention to details was everything in preparation for the anticipated release. I forwarded the electronic tickets to my boy to confirm our date to Wakanda. We counted down the days and minutes much like I did with my daughter many years prior. We selected movie attire that met our Wakanda certified standard. We arrived at the theatre early enough to get snacks and settle into our oversized, comfy theatre loungers minutes before the lights dimmed. Like Tiana, Prince T’Challa inspired us to meet challenges of loss and leadership with intelligence, historical perspective, and collaborative alliances.
These animated royals lived in colorful, vibrant communities. They taught us to align with folks capable of hearing our voiced and sharing our visions. The young royals recognized the challenges they faced individually and as a community. Tiana and T’Challa acknowledged their positions, purpose, priorities, and predators. Both of them with the counsel of trusted advisors investigated the internal and external influences in their lives with a counsel of trusted advisors. They let the partners nurture them while they fed their own visions for leading their communities to greatness.
My daughter was my princess before Tiana was a thought. My son was my prince before Marvel ever introduced T’Challa. As their mother, I had a queenly duty to raise my little royals to be ready to stand in kingdoms riddled with unforeseen villains and unimagined change. Good villagers should see the value in using cinema and any other vehicle to instill the spirit of overcoming challenges through hard work, strategic planning, meaningful relationships, and humility.