Wakanda’s Own Villain

(Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)

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Wakanda’s Own Villain
Lessons Learned From Erik Killmonger

By Michelle Ochen

We naturally fall in love with superheroes for their empowerment to do the unrealistic and how they use their powers for the good of others. It is hard not to love the hero who shows up in a moment of distress and brings forth rescue. Their empowerment to change the disaster into victory is honorable and inspiring. We enjoy highlighting the super hero, yet always lurking in the shadows is the villain, and as much as we do not focus on it, they are commonly equally empowered. You see, empowerment can come from many sources and one of them is from a place of pain. The darker side of empowerment—-sown by hurt, fed by bitterness, and grown into resentment. 

Erik Killmonger comes on the scene in Marvel’s “Black Panther” with undeniable style and attitude. We quickly learn that life dealt him some hard cards and he experienced loss early on in life leaving a scar that grew into a desire for revenge. His view of the past, present, and future was shaped by the hurts he held onto. When life took from him what meant the most, his father, his dreams of seeing his heritage homeland of Wakanda went from wonder to conquest. He wanted to get equal with the throne that took his father away from him. Years past and empowerment began to grow from a place of hurt. From a hurting boy, he grew into a killing soldier, and from a soldier into a well-trained and intelligent conqueror to overtake the throne of Wakanda.

Grief has a way of changing us and it is in the way we choose to respond to our grief that its strength manifests in either compassion or bitterness. Loss always brings with it a gift; a gift to grow, a gift to empower. 

There is no denying Erik’s empowerment. From the moment of his entrance to Wakanda, his dark strength is evident. He brought to them their worst enemy defeated, in ritual combat mercilessly overtaking King T’Challa, and then forcefully carrying out his own agenda as King without respect of culture or reputation. His growing pain over the years left him with no compassion towards others and grew in him an empowered conqueror. 

In a turning of events, King T’Challa’s life is spared, and he returns to defeat Erik Killmonger and rescue his country. Erik’s life ends with a choice to try to be healed from his wound, but he chooses to rather pass with the same grounded mindsets of wanting revenge and seeing the world as unfair.

You and I may not be superheroes but the principle of being empowered by the events of life remains the same. We will all encounter great losses and gains in this life and how we handle the emotions of each will shape the power source of our life. Deep grief can bring forth a compassion and sensitivity that can be found by no other means. Seasons of successes and sorrows breed forth power—the power of gratitude and the power of comfort. You can choose to allow the events of life to shape you for the better or for the worse. Beware, for you too can become your own story’s villain if you give into the pain and allow bitterness and resentment to grow. Empowerment is not only for the heroes but for each one of us as we choose to grow under the conditions that life brings to us.