By Ron Wilkins
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
I went to watch “The Woman King” movie on the very first day it opened to public viewing. Not very long after the film got underway, scene after scene projected wave upon wave of fearless, capable, self-confident, and enthusiastic Black female warriors defeating, killing, and capturing their adversaries on large battlefields. Continuously clapping and occasionally shouting, I found myself in the midst of a throng of Black women spread out in the theater thunderously applauding our sisters on the big screen. I became even more astounded and uplifted as the movie unfolded and I said to myself that recognition of badass African women warriors is long overdue. I also thought, then as now, that “The Woman King” with its undoubtedly very courageous and outstanding producers and actresses is clearly a history-making film. The Woman Warriors featured in “The Woman King” are an unprecedented cinematic expression of Black Power.
As my eyes focused on the film, my mind recounted how Black women especially have been short-changed in recorded history due to the preponderance of male historians, many of whom are chauvinists who belittle the contributions of women. As an Africana Studies and history professor who taught a dozen years on several Southern California campuses before retiring, I recalled my having encouraged Black female students to develop themselves as historians and write themselves back into the history that male historians have excluded them from. How uplifting it was to view a movie with young African female recruits conditioning themselves, training, evolving into women warriors, and taking center-stage not as sex objects but as defenders of a kingdom, while men at-most were an after-thought.
I recalled my experience many years ago visiting the “Valley of the Queens” in Luxor, Egypt, and connecting with the spirits of Queen Nefertari and so many other revered queens who are entombed there. I also reflected on the legendary Angolan Warrior-Queen Nzinga, who while not offered a seat when she arrived to meet with the Portuguese governor to demand that he end the TransAtlantic slave trade, blew his mind when she sat on the back of a member of her entourage who had suddenly rushed over and got down on their hands and knees to accommodate her. I noted too that not unlike the mighty Queen Nzinga, Queen Nanisca of Dahomey also personally led her warriors onto the battlefield.
While critics of “The Woman King” have maintained that everyone in ancient Dahomey engaged in slave-trafficking and that the movie is fictional, I would argue that the two terms “Hollywood” and “Fictional” are quite interchangeable. In my view, most of what Hollywood creates is fictional, and on that note I can’t wait to see another fictional movie like “The Woman King” which glorifies Black women warriors on the battlefield. I would add that given slavery’s dehumanizing cruelty, there must have been some Dahomeyans who opposed slave-trafficking, which would have included women warriors. None of the “Dahomey history experts” denouncing “The Woman King” for its “fictionalized history” have acknowledged them!
I would be remiss if I fail to point out that being conceived by my extremely poor yet loving mother and raised in this racist, oppressive, segregated, self-hate-promoting, and white-male-chauvinist dominated environment is what prepared me to view, absorb, and rejoice while viewing “The Woman King,” whose heart-wrenching scenes will resonate with me for the rest of my life!
Ron Wilkins has an extensive background which includes Pan African and African Internationalist organizing, progressive radio broadcasting, and revolutionary photo-journalism. His history includes serving as Deputy Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition and Africana Studies, and History Adjunct Professor positions on several Southern California campuses including but not limited to California State University, Dominguez Hills, and West Los Angeles College.