In the Marvel movie Black Panther, there is a scene where Killmonger is called before the council of Wakandan leaders in the throne room. In this scene, Killmonger says, “Ask who I am… Ask me” to T’Challa, the Black Panther. This phrase is reminiscent of another phrase that has ties to African American culture from the time of slavery – “Ask me what my name is.”
In those times, asking someone to speak their name was a challenge to tell the truth about themselves (see “Speak My Name: Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream” by author Don Belton, page 5). Mr. Belton writes, “Names exist to counteract confusion of identity or location.” Killmonger asking the tribe leaders to “Ask who I am” is a definite challenge – ask me my name and I will reveal who I am and I will remove all doubt of why I am here and what I am owed. He is asked and Wakanda is forever changed by his answer.
Earlier in the movie, another phrase similar to Killmonger’s is said by Black Panther’s mother, Ramonda. During the waterfall fight scene between T’Challa and M’baku she says, “Show them who you are!” – in this case it is a shout of encouragement from mother to son. She wants him to take control of the situation, defeat the enemy, rise above and take his place as King of Wakanda. This phrase is a command for him to reveal what is inside him and bring it out so the world can see. It is not only necessary for T’Challa to do this (his life depends on it) but also necessary for Wakanda – he has the strength and wisdom that Wakanda needs at this very moment in time (after the death of his father).
Both examples point to revelation and reconciliation of one’s own self. I believe that revelation cannot be accomplished without reconciliation.
First, one must reconcile and merge the inner being with the outer being. Come to terms with who we were meant to be. The inner being that had been hidden and beaten down by the world or even ourselves must be addressed first.
Then, revelation can be accomplished. Show them who you are.
Don’t wait for someone to ask you what your name is – Tell them, Show them!