This Restorative Justice Life

105. Restorative Reflection on Wakanda Forever w/ Felina Rodriguez

December 15, 2022 David Ryan Castro-Harris
This Restorative Justice Life
105. Restorative Reflection on Wakanda Forever w/ Felina Rodriguez
Show Notes Transcript

Hey everyone, trying out another new format for this week's episode. David is joined by this week's guest Felina Rodriguez, as they reflect on the movie "Wakanda Forever" through a restorative and historically inclusive lens. Let us know if you like this podcast formatting!

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David (he/him): Hello friends again. We're trying something different this week on this restorative justice life in efforts to further amplify the conversations about restorative justice philosophy, practices, and values into new places. This week's conversation is a restorative reflection on the movie Wakanda for.

Ever. This conversation isn't the deepest dive into Marvel cinematic universe lore, or the most thoughtful critique of a movie as a piece of art. Nor are we looking to Disney, a multi-billion dollar corporation to produce art that guides liberatory movements. But we are here with Felina Rodriguez to have a conversation about the themes and lessons that are applicable to our lives as we strive to embody more more restorative ways of being so fe welcome to this restorative justice life.

Felina (she/her): Thank you. I am happy to be here and I'm excited to talk about this movie because I have a lot of thoughts on it. 

David (he/him): And, you know, Felina is someone who's been a part of the Amplify RJ community for a while. She's facilitated a lot of learning around Chicanx identity and decolonization. She's also been on the podcast before, I believe it was episode 39, talking a little bit about her approach.

And so you can learn a little bit more about Felina there. But let's get into this full disclosure. Spoiler alert coming. We're not gonna hold back anything. The movie's been out for a month at this point. If you haven't watched it please go watch it. Or, you know, you can listen to this podcast.

Just know that we are not gonna hold back anything from the spoilers. And so here's a little recap. Shout out to Charles Holmes of the Ringer Verse Podcast, one of my favorite podcasts to talk about all things fandom. This is his summary of what happened in the movie.

So we begin in Shuri's lab as she frantically tries to save t'challa from a mysterious illness by recreating the heart-shaped herb that kill monger destroyed. In the last movie, the original Black Panther, queen Ramonda arrives and announces that t'challa has passed, 

and so the kingdom of Wakanda is now mourning, but also celebrating t'challa's life even as they have to defend themselves from the world. That's after their vibranium now more than ever, that the country doesn't have its protector. Meanwhile, the US government finds vibranium on the bottom of the sea with a device built by Riri Williams, a k a Ironheart, but they're stopped by Namor and his army from telecon.

Eventually Namor arrives in Wakanda to warn Shuri and Ramonda in Wakanda that they need to deliver Riri to him immediately. And so Shuri and Okoye set out to find the scientists before anyone else can At MIT, the telecom warriors are ultimately successful in kidnapping, Riri and Shuri. And as a result, Okoye is stripped of her leadership role in the Dora Milage. The Queen Ramonda then asks Nakia to assist in rescuing Shuri and Riri from Namor and Namor while he is busy showing Shri that their kingdoms are not sworn enemies and they, they should work together.

Unfortunately, Nakias successful rescue mission means that it's now all at war between Wakanda and Talokan, and so Namor invades the country killing Ramonda. Shuri then recreates, the heart shaped herb becomes the Black Panther, rallies the troops, figures out a way to strip Namor of his powers. And a big third act fight ensues because it's a marvel and it has to happen.

But in the end, Shuri doesn't let the vengeance consumer, so Wakanda and Talokan hug it out. And then there's a post credit scene where we learn that Nakia and to Tchalla' had a son. And that's the movie. In broad strokes. For those of you who are familiar with the MCU and all that goes on there those that will make sense, that might have been a helpful reminder.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the MCU that might have been a lot of names and concepts and places that might not be too familiar. But here we're really trying to tease out how the themes and lessons of the movie as a whole and, you know, specific plot points can apply to our collective work of liberation and living this restorative justice life.

So before we get into the plot and the things that we can pull out from there Felina, how did this movie land for you? What did it mean for you to have this movie a part of, you know, pop culture now? 

Felina (she/her): It's, so when I do lessons on how we're represented in media, I always think about how my family really enjoyed superhero movies.

Like my dad is a huge avid comic book collector and we talked a lot about these comic books. But when you're a kid and you wanna dress up in a Halloween costume most of the characters that you wanna dress up as don't have tan skin and dark hair. Which gave me a little bit of an identity crisis when I realized that the very few people I could dress up as was maybe Wonder Woman, Jasmine and Pocahontas out of all of the characters of Disney.

And when I saw this movie, I got very, very excited just because of the fact that they are including specifically Mayan and Mezzo American. Images and representations because that has never been done as far as I've seen in the scale, as large as this, especially in blockbuster movies. And also done with the fact that there's never been a film.

That has actually portrayed us accurately. I mean, there's many stereotypes of what is called the the Indian Savage, and that applies to the way Meso American people are portrayed. Cause the other adaptation of Mesoamerica that I was familiar with growing up was Mel Gibson , which is. Very, very problematic.

So just to see an actor with my dark hair and my dark skin, just being in these movies and also seeing the artwork that I have finally had the chance to, to see in person, all of that is incredibly, like important to me. Cuz I'm, I get to like, kind of nerd out on the fact that I can talk about my history and explain it to people who are going to see the movie with me.

Even my own family who is familiar with my own culture. And, and Mayan artwork. Even then we got to explain a little bit more. And just to clarify, there are several indigenous peoples in Mexico, not just Maya and Nawa as even now there are over 30 languages indigenous languages that are spoken in Mexico.

So I'm excited, but I was also very cautious because what many people in the film industry tend to do is they kind of blend Mayan and naa. Aztec mythology together and it confuses a lot of people where they don't know which one is which. And there's several distinctions and linguistic differences between the two.

So I was excited, but also a little apprehensive. 

David (he/him): Yeah, of course. And you know, at the beginning we said like, we're not looking to the Walt Disney Corporation for like historical accuracy. Yes. On representation of Right. The, the mythology and history of indigenous people here in the us. Even Africa, right?

Like Wakanda is not a real country, just like Talokan is not a real place like it is representative of, of Wakanda is like really representative of what , you know, Africa could have been without colonization, right? And mm-hmm. having that movie come out in, I believe it was 2018, was like a really big moment.

For people across the African diaspora, myself included, to be like, oh wow. Like this is really cool to be represented in this way. Like royalty as scientists, as as leaders. And while there was like an amalgamation of lots of African cultures put into Wakanda, like not being like so specific to any certain place, right.

It was really cool to see that kind of represe. also not looking to that for like history, but like for Halloween costumes, for all that like really cool to have representation and like, this is not really a critique of Ryan Kugler and the creatives behind that. Right. You're given constraints as a storyteller.

Working for a multi-billion dollar company. Yep. to produce a product that also fits within the constraints of like, the story that the Marvel Cinematic universe is. Mm-hmm. is trying to tell and like you, you make the thing that you're trying to make. So, you know, kudos to him, the actors, all the production team for taking the time to do the research to create a world that is representative of something that, you know, hasn't historically been seen.

Felina (she/her): Yeah, exactly. And that's kind of where we definitely felt a lot of pride in just seeing the symbols and images. Of who we are because even though my family, our, our linguistic family de descends from Naat culture, so that would be Mexico City. I was recently in the Yucatan and I got to see Chichen IA in person and I got to learn from the people about the ca the Mayan calendar specifically.

And, and that's one of the things that I'm glad my family taught me Spanish cuz I was. Speak with a, with a community there and explain to them I'm, I'm a Mexican from the desert and I'm excited to, to see the tropical side of Mexico. And so just being able to, the fact that Wcan forever came out right after I'd gotten back from chia, like that was just ex so exciting.

And I. , I, my husband can say a lot of things about all the different historical tangents I went on when we went to go see the movie , all like being a US History teacher, that that kind of goes with with Yeah. That's just kind of what happens. 

David (he/him): For sure. For sure. And you know, like these movies do give us so many inroads to talk about different issues that come up.

And there were so many that we wanted to touch on in this, in this conversation. I think, you know, first is, well, let me, let me just put this out there Episode 32 of this restorative justice life was actually a crossover from a podcast that I did with Tim from the podcast of Pop Violence.

And we talked about the original Black Panther movie. And you know, one of my biggest beefs with that movie is at the end, KillMonger says, You know, bury me in the, instead of like being healed. And mm-hmm. taking care of, he said like, bury me in the sea with my ancestors because they knew like death is better than a life in bondage.

And I was questioning like, well, does Wakanda have prisons? And like, we know definitively in this movie. Yes. Yes they do. Yeah. And I'm curious, like, what was going on? The way that it was referenced is Daniel K's character whose name I'm forgetting in the moment is the, Was one of the wandins who aligned with Killmonger before, and we learned now, like as a traitor, he is, he's imprisoned.

And I'm curious like what that looks like within you know, the Afrofuturist yeah. Utopia that we, we ask. Like that we project onto Wakanda. Right. Like where's the restoration there? Yeah. Where's the healing? Right.

Felina (she/her): Especially Exactly. Especially the fact that our carceral systems that we have now are products of colonialism and the way, like, I believe it was at the national Conference of Restorative Justice that we attended, I ran into someone.

Who was part of the, of the, of the Chicanx community and in one of our community elders, and when I spoke to him, he said what people call restorative justice is what we call tradition. So like when we talk about our traditions and our, and even like the circles, like I knew them as even before I was introduced to restorative justice as, as the, the theoretical concepts we talk about.

It doesn't sit right. The idea of having these carceral systems in societies that never had them to begin with in the first 

David (he/him): place, , right. You know, many people on this podcast have brought up Afrocentric ways of doing or, or doing repair of harm. When somebody harms your community, that person isn't shamed or scolded.

They're told all the good things. They're brought into the town center. The whole community convene, and they're told all the good things that they do to contribute to their community. They affirm them for who they are and invite them back into being. Way. And so, you know, whether it is just the construction from Marvel comics, whether it is the colonialism that's seeping through Ryan Kuer and the writers , like, hey, there are definitively prisons in Wakanda.

Wakanda is a monarchy where there is like centralized power. I had a conversation. Mm-hmm. , I've had many conversations. Without, you know, the inner workings of like day-to-day wacon life for the everyday people. Yes. But that we won't get into today, but like there, there's prison there and Yeah. What does, what does that look like?

What is restoration for people who have. You know, betrayed the sovereignty of your country. Like what is the way back? We know that like this is a country that is dedicated to protecting themselves kind of at all costs, and we see that manifest in many ways that we're gonna, we're gonna touch on in just a moment.

But, you know, I am always curious about like what those restorative ways of dealing with conflict on, on that scale could have. 

Felina (she/her): Yeah, exactly. And even one of the things that I think of when, when they mention how Namor is seen as there's two things to be aware of that I saw Wakanda forever do. And they combined some Nawa with Mayan language, specifically - Mayan.

And those are two completely distinct languages that have their own variations and different forms of speaking. So - is the Mayan pronunciation of the figure known as - and it means the, the way I was taught it means feathered serpent, but it's not a position of royalty. It's actually been historically proven that when the Spanish arrived, we never understood them as royalty.

We never saw them as the God that returned. That was a myth that was perpetuated by Cortez himself. . And one of the stories that we like to share is when the Spanish arrived, because hygiene on a ship was not the best. And ancient meso-America actually had very advanced sewage systems and running water systems and actually practiced bathing regularly.

it was a very clean city, but they had to burn incense when the Spanish arrived because they smelt so badly. And that was misinterpreted as treating them as royalty. Mm-hmm. . And so just the concept of royalty and even the way they, they mention is also a misrepresentation and, and misunderstanding of, of the language and, and the metaphorical aspects of what the language is.

Because one word in Nowa, or one word in Mayan, has five or six different meanings depending on the context, 

David (he/him): right? And like giving artistic grace for the creators who are like, you know, creating a world within established canon and like switching it up to contextualize it in a way that they feel serves the story is not what we're here to critique as like a storytelling mechanism that it is to highlight, right?

The ways that pop culture, right. Like is not where we should be learning history. Yes. It's only like a jumping off point to, to learn more. For sure. Let, let's talk about colonization, right? Yeah. I, I think what some of what got left out of that summary was the origins of Namor, right? Yeah. And being a result.

While we think of Wakanda as this place that has never been touched by imperial powers Namor and to Talokan is a result is actually a result of. You know, the sickness brought by . Yeah. By, by Spaniard in, right? Yep. Smallpox. Yeah. Being given that that serum, that that potion that, yeah. You know, they, they, they took a potion to you know to take derive from a plant similar to the heart shaped herb in in Wakanda as an antidote to smallpox.

It also ended up giving them the powers to breathe underwater, and they ended up inhabiting an underwater and building an underwater civilization, right? That has then been untouched by the western imperial powers. But you. That's still an impact of colonialism. And so like while, T'Challa and the protectors of Wakanda before have always been isolationist in that like, Hey, we're not gonna mess with other people.

And then like, oh, actually when we have this exposure, we're gonna go help. We're gonna go help our black brother and sisters by, you know, setting up cultural exchange places and science centers in Wakanda, and we can critique that yes, that saviorism at another time. You know, Namor and Talokan's approach is a little bit more hostile because of the way that it is a result.

Mm-hmm. of colonialism. Mm-hmm. And you know the name, Namor, no Love, right? Yes. Again, right . So many things. Go, go for it. Yeah. 

Felina (she/her): Yeah. Well, It's very interesting that you'd give a name derived from Spanish, which is a colonial language to a figure that is supposed to represent the indigenous people before the Spanish arrived.

And I know the film does say that is, but like the. 

David (he/him): To his enemies right, 

Felina (she/her): exactly. And I feel like there were many things that you could have, have done creatively that brought in more of, of the languages that are, that are spoken there. I did like that the plant that they derive the potion from was for from what I saw, it looked like a mawa plant or something similar.

And those are very sacred medicines that are used even throughout the desert. It's similar to an agave plant. And it's of like the agave family. We know historically that a lot of people and in different nations have used the agave plant families for a variety of medicinal pla practices.

And also it's where tequila was derived from. But that was not from Meso America. - Is from Meso America. Tequila was distilled with Spanish practices. But with that being said, What I found interesting too is it did speak to a lot of the resentment that a lot of chicane Latina people experience when we discuss the Spanish invasion especially with everything that was lost because for many Latina people, unless your family was somehow able to preserve their cultural ties to their indigeneity, either through our food or their traditional recipes, or even through our elder.

There's still a lot of pain and anger and resentment. Even I'm guilty of it when it comes to not being able to speak your indigenous language, not knowing your practices. Which is why so many people, including myself, have turned to - and attending more of our, our AF spaces and, and rediscovering those cultural ties because it, it is very painful and especially for people who are Latina in the United States.

Not only are we the descendants of the people who survived the Spanish invasion, but then we're also the descendants who survived assimilation in the United States. So there's like a whole there's a lot of layers to unpack. And I, as much as I hate to say it, there was something cathartic of seeing him take action against the Spanish plantation.

Which speaks to a lot of just the, the har, the harmful acts that were witnessed because not a lot of people know that the people of me America were enslaved by the Spanish and then, Because so many people were dying from smallpox and genocidal practices. - Was like, Hey, the indigenous people are dying, but you know what?

Black bodies are stronger. And that actually is what started increasing the trans-Atlantic slave trade to Meso America and the West Indies, which is very rarely talked about, but whenever people bring up - I'm like, you all know he was still a problematic figure, but. We'll leave it at that . 

David (he/him): Yeah, I mean, this is something that I like literally, before we were having This conversation I was talking to my friend, and maybe we'll do a podcast with him, , about the show andor, u the Star Wars show.

Felina (she/her): Yes. Okay. I, but I will finish 

David (he/him): it, . Okay. But we were talking about like the, the, the things that people do in order to stop harm to their communities. Right. We don't condone violence, but like at what point is violence the only option to stop harm in, in your community? I don't have an answer for that, and that's not what we're here to get to right now.

But I, I did want to go back to one of the things that you talked about, you know, with indigenous people in Meso America, Latin America what, whatever phrase or word that you want to use, like having their history erased, right? Like that's, Just that's not just there, like everywhere the Spanish went.

Right. So like as a Filipino person too, right? Yeah. So being so far removed from, you know culture, right? Like so much of Latina culture, so much of Filipino culture is rooted in Catholicism. Right? Yes. Where did we get that? And like for those of us who aren't Catholic anymore, like yeah, we can still like, enjoy the festivals and enjoy the food, enjoy the tradition, but like those things are only a couple hundred years old.

Those aren't the ways of, of our people. And you know, they're lots of ways that indigenous cultures have been infused into some of those practices, but it's not always the case that. We really got the things that we needed that were representative of who we were. And that, that's a re-discovery path that many of us are on right now.

And like that can happen across cultures. Which, you know, brings us to like, I think what you and I were really passionate about talking and I saw lots of critiques of the film in this way thinking about like, you know, so many times like cultures of. The global majority, right, of cultures, of people who have been colonized, cultures of people who have been enslaved or who have been impacted in some way, shape or form by colonialism in imperialism, often do end up fighting each other.

Right. And that's what happened here. Yes. Even though, you know, events started by the United States Right. With the discovery. Vibranium under the sea are what triggered telecon to go after Wakanda. Right. Why did the conflict stay between Wakanda and tele lacan instead of like being like, oh, these people are trying to extract our resources, like let's go after them and, right.

I don't know what restorative way that could have gone about like in this violent superhero world in a. 

Felina (she/her): Act three, like Mo superhero movie. I did tell everybody that went to see the movie with me. My preferred ending would've been if Namor and Forgetting and Shuri had teamed up together and fought the US army trying to invade them together because that would've brought many, many moments of joy.

But I know Disney would never go there cuz you'd have to address your role in imperialism, which not everyon is ready to do and nor can media fully be the instrument of that, 

David (he/him): right? I mean, some media can, right? Yes. But not again, multi-billion dollar corporation.Uh, Walt Walt Disney. And you know, we just have to reckon with that.

And yeah. You know, there are future stories that can be told knowing that Marvel and Disney are US owned and based properties like mm-hmm. , if Wakanda and Talokan go to war with the United States, who's gonna. I don't know what story they're gonna want to tell, but you know, there is so much more history of cross community solidarity even.

Even as there is a history of intercommunal violence. I know you wanted to highlight a couple of those examples. 

Felina (she/her): I mean, so one of the things that I always, so in teaching US history, I not only teach US history, but because of the most recent attacks on education in Arizona and the person who banned Mexican American studies, Tom Horn has recently been reelected as our superintendent of public instruction.

We have to be very careful with what we name our courses. But one of the courses I do teach is US History through a Mexican-American lens. , even in my regular US history course, we just wrapped up the Civil War. But I was very intentional about using black historians to teach the narrative of the Civil War because unfortunately, in many classes, we still kind of wa not just whitewash, but watered down.

The real, the real cause of the Civil War, which we all should know, was enslavement. But in my US Perspectives class with through Mexican-American lens. We start speaking about the resistance to colonization, because most history classes just say, okay, Columbus arrived. Now we have the, and you know, it, it kind of creates this idea that we kind of just took invasion and just went along with it.

But no, we actively fought and resisted it. One of the things I bring up to my students is the Pueblo Revolt, which was the only successful re indigenous revolt at the. By the PU people. But what's left out is that many of our rebellions against colonizers was led by women, predominantly indigenous and black women because all the men had already died or were forced to work in the mines.

And I don't say work. I mean, they were enslaved and, and tortured at risk, penalty of deaths who work to be in the minds. And so many of our most ex of our. Impactful rebellions were led by black and brown women, and that's already in the 15, 16 hundreds. And then if you wanna go even further, it's lesser known, but a lot of the underground railroad actually extended all the way into Mexico.

Texas was stolen from Mexico, and Mexico has its own imperialist policies, which is a whole history that I can go into for another time. But Texas particularly. Highlights to many people the battle over enslavement and the fact that Mejico had abolished enslavement in 1821 several years prior to the United States.

And so many people have formed free black communities and throughout Mexico. And so there has been evidence that when it comes to addressing colonial powers, we are much stronger when we are together. That does not erase the history of anti, of anti-blackness that Mejico has had and even in Latin America.

And that has to do with the ways that these colonial powers have treated darker skin pigmentation and, and the melanin of our bodies, which is a whole complicated lens when you study all of Latin America and just. The way colorism severely impacted us. So there has been a, and even, oh, and I almost forgot, in the 1960s, the reason we even got ethnic studies is because of the Black Panther party working with the black student coalitions, and then they worked alongside the Indigenous and Chicano student coalitions and Asian student coalitions.

And it was through that solidarity that we even have the classes that I teach. So like this has been going on for years and decades and centuries. It's been very clear in a lot of mainstream media audiences that when we don't necessarily show that solidarity, it's much easier to just use divide and conquer tactics like they did in the film.

David (he/him): And there's so many ways that that continues to manifest now, right? Yes. I mean, it might look like gerrymandering, right? It might look like the way that people are counted on the census, right. It might look like, like, and all of that is about resource allocation to communities of the global. Mm-hmm.

majority, which have been historically and strategically Oppressed, marginalized through housing discrimination, all all these things that we see show up i in the world today. But there, there are still, there have historically been, and are even now history of black and brown solidarity. Like you talked about the Black Panthers and the young Lords, right?

Yes. You think about things that are happening like in neighborhoods that I've I've worked in, lived in where there's intercommunal violence. especially when people are talking about gun violence in places like Chicago, right? Yes. So much of that violence is intercommunal, right? Like black on black brown on brown, there is like black on brown crime.

But there are so many more people who are advocating for peace and working against violence. And we've talked to many of them on these airways, right? Orlando Maor Chile on this podcast specifically. Who else? Like Derek Brown, who, who have been on these podcasts, people who have been doing like restorative work, bringing people together who have been for circumstances outside of their control, born into places that have been economically disadvantaged and like, what do we do?

Do we struggle against each other? Fight for the scraps, or do we like organize together? Mm-hmm. like thinking about people who have been on this podcast again, like Marlon Chamberlain, who have been organizing to like, get more resources into these communities like, There's so much more that we can do together.

Yeah. And while I did not expect this of Disney, it is still disappointing that like that wasn't the storyline that came out of it. 

Felina (she/her): Yes. And I felt a little like misled just because there's the amazing United Nation scene where. and, and the United States actually has a whole history of declassified c i A files where they have openly tried to invade other governments and coup other governments.

Like this is no longer a tinfoil hat conspiracy. Like this is a, this is proven in historical records. The fact that like Wakanda was able to withstand the, the mercenaries and then openly brought them to a United Nations meeting it just made me feel like really happy inside. Just seeing how like there are people.

Of the global majority. And there, there's there, even if it's a a, an imaginary country, there's a country that can withstand us and European imperialism and like that, that brought me some joy. And then the fact that they kind of switched it at the end and had Shri and they more fight each other, like, kind of was like, come on you.

They like, you kind of 

David (he/him): just tease us. Yeah. I mean, and like we have to acknowledge that some of that. Damn, you killed my mom, right? Mm-hmm. like, we're at war. Yeah. And you know, what could restoration have been like between two parties where like, you know, Namor was just wrong mm-hmm. For that, right? Oh, yeah.

Like Namor, like, I, I think there was this tweet and I don't remember who it was. Like Namor is the antagonist. He's not the villain. Like the United States, France. Mm-hmm. Imperial Powers are the villain. Yeah. Yeah. But like, he was also just like wrong for like going. In the way that he did, right. Going after, yeah.

Riri Williams, like a black, brilliant girl who was like, yeah. Doing a science project and then her professor sold it to the us 

Felina (she/her): exactly. 

David (he/him): Military to go find the thing. Like she's not to blame. Like, why are you going after? Yeah. That person. 

Felina (she/her): And even just the characterization of nemore was interesting because when we talk about the intersection at race and gender, In like just history, it was interesting to see the way brown men are often depicted in media and in, if you've ever grown up seeing as a child, like there is a very clear stereotype of what a macho man is supposed to be.

And I feel like even though what kind of gave us a lot forever gave us a lot of representation, they still held onto elements of that stereotype because Namor was depicted as being angry and hungry for violence at the expense of black women. And I thought that was a verys. Drain like, because like when, so my first introduction to Namor, which I should explain was the 19, I wanna say it was a 1960s Fantastic four animated cartoon series.

Yeah. Which I loved. And when you first see Namor in that cartoon it, he is angry because New York is polluting his rivers and his oceans. And I'm like, you know what? I get it. I would invade New York too if you were polluting my home 

David (he/him): and I'm gonna steal your girl . 

Felina (she/her): Exactly. Because right. You're not paying enough attention to.

To Susan. So that was the first time I saw Namor and I wish they had taken advantage more of the fact that when we talk about just what recently has happened historically in Mexico and all of Latin America about our deforestation and the polluting of our homes, and the fact that tourism has caused a lot of harm to our, our, our, our homes.

You could have gone through that angle, but no. Instead we kind of got like a. We, I, I, I will call it weird approach to creating this character that, that I enjoyed from that 1960s cartoon. 

David (he/him): Yeah, definitely. And you know, again, I, I've said it over and over like this is not about like, Hey, Ryan, like a critique of the world at Ryan created in the story that sold. Like it's just noticing patterns, noticing themes, and like identifying where those show up in your life. There's one more point that I wanna touch on before we wrap up. You know, we talked about the CIA and and like all the malevolence that it's done. And we have an agent of the cia, a Everett Ross a, a white man.

The only white man who's like given a, a major role in this movie. And like he's, he's actually an ally of Wakanda and like, goes to like great lengths, like be betraying his country, betraying his job, like, gets arrested for doing the things that he, he knows is right. To acknowledge the, the sovereignty of of nations.

And right there is also as much as, in the current conversation there. Is often a vilification of white men. There are always, and have always been white people, not just men who have stood up and done things that are right, whether we're talking about John Brown, whether we're talking about James Reeb.

and you know, myriads of others across history who have, acted on behalf, like put their lives on the line, put their livelihoods, put their put their work, put their community and their relationships on the line, for what they knew was right. I as much as like, oh cool, we have like a representation of a like benevolent white guy you can feel however you feel about that, like, , you have to acknowledge in, in these circumstances, like that's a person who like did risk it all, put it on the line, like was in line with his values, doing what he thought was right within the conditions that he was working in, right?

Mm-hmm. people can critique. I'm often someone who critiques the, the systems Yes. And the roles, right? the CIA is, is the police, right? Yeah. Teachers who work for public schools are Yeah.

Are arms of the state, right? Even within those roles, you can make decisions for liberation in solidarity with people who have been marginalized, whether that is teaching history, whether that is. , standing up against racist, misogynist, anti LGBTQ policy. You, you can do those things and those things may cost you.

Yeah. Right. And you just have to decide where your line is and what you're gonna put forward. 

Felina (she/her): Yeah. And yeah, and you bring up very real points because one of the things that I always have to come to terms with as an educator is, This form of education was an institution of colonization. I mean, my high school is built right next to a boarding school that was active into the 1970s, and the fact that.

Someone with my identity and my history. School wasn't a tool for liberation for us. It was a tool for assimilation, but now I'm in the position of a teacher and so it's, it's always interesting like the, the daily contradictions that I have to exist within in order to do my job and also be happy with the decisions I make and not just be happy, but be able to live with them.

I, I've noticed this happening a lot, predominantly in TV or film, less so in books especially given the array of many fantasy and sci-fi genre books that I have here sitting behind me. What I've noticed and what some actors have commented on is that when we teach stories especially bipo stories or even stories over the global majority, there has to be at least one main white character in order for the story to appeal to white audiences, which is the, the common conversation.

And I feel like that's untrue because you could do an entire. Film without the CIA character helping Wakanda. Because for me, I'm still salty cuz historically like they kind of just have murdered a lot of our civil rights heroes. But with that being said, it was very when we talk about white allyship, it's coming into terms with the fact that you are gonna be speaking to people you care about and people that are considered your family, that are considered your friends, your colleagues.

That's like, are you ready? Ex-wives, like, are you ready to have that conversation with people that you invite to the dinner table every day? Like are, are you willing to have that conversation about racism and where your allyship is with the people that you consider friends? And I say that even here in my institutions of educations to people who say they're white allies.

White allies. I'm like, okay, so when are you gonna take a stance on whether or not police belong in our schools? And why don't you challenge the superintendents and the people in power next to you to start thinking about us in a humanizing way? And that's where. And, and for education, unfortunately, that's where I, I have to like set a firm boundary.

Like this is where allyship is, so prove it. And with the CIA character, it was, it does bring out about the point, like when you are an ally, like. We be aware, we may or may not be breaking the law. Like there are several things in our history that were legally allowed. Like for example, the Underground Railroad, it was illegal to be part of the Underground Railroad.

You would be fined or imprisoned if it was discovered. Same with harboring people in Arizona. There are severe penalties. And there's, right now we have a lot of, no, your rights prejudice going on. If you are protecting someone who is undocumented in that, and like even in the Arpaio era, that was like a whole mess that we're still trying to heal and, and combat, like, so just being aware of the very real consequences to what allyship truly means.

you know, are you in ? 

David (he/him): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. There, there are so many lessons to take away and like, I, I need to close this conversation with this, like, we've gone however long we've gone without talking. Extensively about, you know, the ways that black communities deal with the grief. And as much as this was a superhero movie this was a movie honoring the life and legacy of not Tacha, the Black Panther, but Chadwick Bozeman.

And I know the process of making this movie was like a process full of grief for, for everybody involved from, from the first movie, right? , you know, in the interviews and the conversations that have come out since with actors and everyone involved, right. It was just so clear to me that like relying on community to, to get through these difficult times is, is where we have to be.

Where it's at. Yeah. Right. When we're thinking about restorative justice and all the themes about stopping harm and how we deal with conflict there's also these parts. Restorative justice practices that are about like building and strengthening relationships. We're going to encounter issues, we're gonna encounter conflicts, we're gonna encounter harm challenges.

And the way that we navigate those things is leaning on the people around us. You know, we have Shri and her mother, like trying to tap into ancestral practices and like she's somebody who is resistant to that and finds her own way through that. blending what is science and relying on ancestral practice.

But like, none of that happens without her community of mbba aoe yeah, NAIA like being there for her and, and talking through that even, you know, revisiting the way that I was gonna bring in kil monger. No kill monger coming in. Yeah, yeah. Coming like, and like even like on the ancestral plane, like you can where she encounters kill monger her, her cousin who was telling her to get revenge, right?

Like there is a moment to. There are times where you can learn from your ancestors, right? You can follow the things that they did, or you can like, oh, that's probably not a path that I wanna go on. , right? Yeah. And so like, leaning on the community, like yeah. To move, to make like leaning on. Both your community and your ancestors looking back.

Mm-hmm. So you have a better way forward is, you know what Yeah. All of us should be striving to do and it as we're navigating all 

Felina (she/her): this conflict in harmony. Yeah. And it was very moving to see the practice of burning your mourning regalia. Because what, like, obviously as in, in my workshops with Thes, the way.

Hold, not necessarily hold on to our deceased loved ones is that we are able to tell their stories for future generations to know about them and hear about them, so that even though the pain of losing them. It's very much hurts. It's the courage of being able to talk about what they did and how, and, and, and how they lived.

And it was very, it was very soothing to see how letting go is repre was represented and how we let go of, of that grief, even though we hold onto the memories of those people. And it's also just in our restorative practices, the biggest thing that has helped me is. Being in community, as you said, with people, but also people who broke generational cycles of trauma and, and, and understanding.

Like as much as we loved our , they did the best they could because of the traumatic cycles that, that they were pushed into. And being around other people who are also breaking those cycles of generational trauma has been incredibly healing, which has helped us in our, our restorative practice journey over.

David (he/him): Yeah. There there's so many things that we get to take away from art, and so if you've appreciated this restorative reflection or response to Ocon forever, let us know. Again, experimenting with different formats on this podcast. But Felina, thank you so much. For your time and your reflections. Yeah, 

Felina (she/her): thank you.

And I did, oh, I almost forgot because this moment made me like yell happy tears, if that's even a phrase you can use. But - speaking, fluent in Spanish in the film, like brought me so much joy because many people do not seem to realize that. Even being from Mexico, because this is where this takes place.

We, we have an entire spectrum of what is considered Mexican that is not defined or tied to one race. And I just really appreciated like, and was super happy to see her like, just like talk about being Mexican and Kenyan because it just made me so happy. And so I, I, and also I loved hearing her Spanish because there's way too many movies where I know the actor does not speak Spanish because of the pronunciation

And it sometimes hurt me, even though I know Spanish is a colonial language. , you know, when you are proud of a language that you speak, regardless of what that language is, it's nice to, to hear it authentically represented. . 

David (he/him): Yeah. . . Shout out to Lupita. Shout out to all the actors, everyone who yes. Put their heart, soul.


Felina (she/her): Challenging Mexican, Mexican cinema. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Into creating. Th this work that has led us to reflect and think and hopefully apply some of the lessons to our every day. That's, that's all we have for this week. Next week we'll be back with one of our more traditional episodes of this restorative justice life.

We'll be taking a break until the new year, but until then, take care. 

Felina (she/her): Thank you for having me.