I remember sitting in the movie theater on a hot summer night with my son and father. The new Marvel film Captain America: Civil War had just come out.
We were there for two reasons: one, my son is a huge fan of Captain America and two, my father caught wind that The Black Panther would make an appearance. An avid comic book fan, my father watched the film eagerly, anticipating the moment he'd be able to recognize T'Challa.
It was easy spotting Chadwick Boseman, being that he was a part of the very small representation of minorities in this film. The smile never left my father's face as he cheered, and my son did the same, staring up at his grandpa for approval when Black Panther's action scene came into play. I was partially embarrassed, but my heart was still swollen at the sight of happiness my father expressed. In his lifetime, he had seen his childhood hero on the big screen.
In the midst of my happiness, my heart broke in two when my son leaned over and asked me, "Why was the Black Panther actually black?"
Confused, I asked him to explain and he repeated his question. I quickly responded with, "Why not? He's actually more than a superhero, he's a king too and so are you."
He seemed to accept my answer and continued to watch the movie.
I fought back tears at the thought he believed that all superheroes are supposed to be white.
No matter the color suit of the hero in question, the commonality amongst them all was the fact they were white men. White men who were brave, strong, and always conquered over whatever obstacle that stood in the way of a successful victory.
In reality, there are very little visuals on television of black men displaying characteristics of being brave, strong, and always conquering over whatever obstacle standing in the way of a successful victory. The closest emulation I could think of that portrays those qualities in the black male are in sports. At my son's young age, he's not sure if he likes sports or not. He is, however, concrete on his preference of the characters wearing costumes with supernatural powers, making the world a better place again.
It makes sense for him to think that the super cool new character he'd never seen before, soaring through the air, and even at one point dominating his favorite character in the moment, Captain America, be white when he removed his mask. It would have played to the consistency that he's seen before in every superhero movie he's seen.
During the remainder of the movie, I thought of how the black man is represented in media as this overly stereotypical character that in many cases is not an accurate representation of real life at all. What broke me even more was the fact that I was now made aware of how that poor depiction of the black male has now found its way into my life with my own son, a young black male.
It was personal.
I didn't want him thinking that heroes only come in the color white. Furthermore, I didn't want him believing that he couldn't have an idol that wasn't white or, should he ever find himself in trouble in my absence, a white man would come and save the day. He needed to know that heroes are black men too.
So when I learned that Black Panther would get his own full-length feature film, I went to work. Apparently, so did Twitter, who wasted no time starting the #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe, which reinforced my already turning wheels.
#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe It means that my kids and young black kids everywhere will see themselves as heroes capa… https://t.co/ChdxCf6FVD— Matthew A. Cherry (@Matthew A. Cherry) 1517931944.0
Finally seeing BLACK people ruling their BLACK Country on their BLACK Continent minding there BLACK business thrivi… https://t.co/hlvd1j4rGK— KillMongerWasRight (@KillMongerWasRight) 1517931318.0
My seven year old grandson exclaimed "Superheroes can be Brown people too?! #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe— Sheel (@Sheel) 1517928544.0
#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe Finally watching all black cast being centered in blackness without being a victim to it.— JassyJeanette (@JassyJeanette) 1517930497.0
You can’t tell me that representation isn’t important. You just can’t. #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe https://t.co/mAmPvtNrN8— Anastasia (@Anastasia) 1518092702.0
I bought the comic books and sat down with my son to read them. We watched the trailer over and over again as he became more and more excited. The newfound light in his eyes was something that I'll never forget for the rest of my life.
He was seeing what I'd known all along: Black men are kings and heroes.
For Halloween, my father bought him the complete costume of the Black Panther. He wore it proudly and plans to wear it to the premiere of the movie as well. He'd come a long way from me having to explain to him that he and Han Solo were not the same color during a long drive home.
This film is also important in the way young black boys view black girls that will one day be black women. The film features an abundance of darker-toned brown women as main characters, being warriors, protectors and heroes. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the portrayal of black women in this film is the fact that the love interest of the main hero is played by the melanin-rich Lupita N'yongo. When black men are given starring roles in big budget films, it is very rare to see them with a love interest that is of a darker skin tone.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, a failure to see these types of representation has an affect on how young boys perceive beauty around them.
Young black girls are young queens in the making, no matter the hue.
This movie is more than a movie. It's something that is monumental to our black youth, to our girls but especially our boys.
It's very hard for young black kids to believe an alternative concept when they don't see it represented in everyday life. Words cannot express how exhilarating it is to know that this is changing with this film. Not only will our young boys see a superhero that looks like them, our young girls will have the representation that has been missing from media all these years.
They will get to see that the possibilities are endless and they are indeed, young kings and queens in the making.
It's up to us as a community to support this movie so that it breaks records and we see more people of color on the big screen. Deeper than that, it's our job as a community to reinforce, promote, and support content, movies, music, television shows, any form of media, that promotes positive representations of black men and women. Our futures depend on it.
See you on the 16th.
- Chadwick Boseman Proved Not All Heroes Wear Capes At The MTV Movie & TV Awards - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Why 'Black Panther' will mean so much to so many - The ... ›
- Why 'Black Panther' Is a Defining Moment for Black America - The ... ›
- The Story Behind the “What BLACK PANTHER Means To Me ... ›
- Lots of People Are Tweeting About What 'Black Panther' Means To ... ›
- Why Marvel's Black Panther is no ordinary superhero movie - BBC ... ›
- 'Black Panther' Reviews: What The Critics Are Saying | Hollywood ... ›
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
They say you can’t heal in the same place that made you sick. And I couldn’t.
The year was 2019, and I knew I had to go. My spirit was calling me to be alone and to go alone. It was required in that season. A few months prior, I had quit my job. And it was late 2017 when I had met trauma.
I was completely broken, and every part of me hurt. I was no longer the lighthearted Camille that everyone loved and knew me to be. I remember a family friend saying, “You’re not the same.” And I wasn’t. I no longer recognized the girl looking back at me in the mirror. I needed major healing.
It was 2018 when I found the courage to seek mental health therapy. At that point, I knew there was nothing more that my friends could do for me. I was all cried out, and the silence was killing me. At the time, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety, depression, and PTSD. How?
How did I let trauma take complete control of my life? But I had to forgive myself for all the things I did not know.
At the time, my therapist introduced me to journaling as a coping mechanism. Words ultimately became my best friend. In many ways, I would like to think that writing saved me. I am in love with words, and I always have been. My writing was and still is my safe space. It unlocked opportunities I never imagined – like writing for xoNecole.
And with this gift, I can now tell you a story about my own trauma, healing, self-discovery, and the journey to learning how to celebrate myself.
Starting a Healing Journey
In early Spring 2019, I was told by a Reiki healer that I was going to embark on a journey. She told me it was going to be lonely, but I was never alone. The thing is I never once mentioned to this woman my travel plans. It was August 2019 when I planned my solo trip to Europe. It was going to be 38 days alone on a continent I knew absolutely nothing about. By the end of summer and a nine-hour flight later, I touched down in London.
I fell in love with every single thing. I fell in love with everything I could see – colors, cobblestone streets, spiral staircases, adorned windows, architecture, garden terraces, nature, and people. I fell in love with everything I could hear – accents, language, history, and music. I fell in love with everything I could taste – wines, foods, and desserts. I fell in love with everything I could feel – ocean breezes, white sands, and well-designed buildings. I fell in love with everything that fed my soul. People, stories, and connections. I fell in love with myself.
I always say women have the ability to heal others naturally. It was here in my travels that I started to pay attention to the concepts of purpose, connection, energy, alignment, and universal signs. I began to truly realize not only my strengths and universal gifts but also how to use them too. I started to step into my authentic self. I began to realize who Camille really was. A free spirit with a heart of gold.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
A New Season
By the time I had returned from Europe, it was late Fall 2019, and I was a completely different person.
I spent most of my time pouring into myself. Self-development and self-love became key. Everything that I previously settled for in family, friends, and relationships – I went and gave to myself. Read that again. I became completely in love with who I was becoming, and I still am. I had let go of tradition, conditional beliefs, people pleasing, and living my life to make my parents proud.
I had let go of being a “straight arrow,” and the idea of having it all figured out. I outgrew tradition and cultural norms. Sometimes, those things can be so blinding.
I began to shift. I adopted and altered the things that aligned with my purpose and values.
I became risk-tolerant instead of risk-averse.
I canceled my fears.
I welcomed uncertainty, knowing I would always land on my feet.
This newfound level of confidence came out of nowhere. It was no longer a question of if I can do this. The question became, how can I do this? I stayed open to possibilities and opportunities in whichever form they came to me. I became selective and intentional with my time and energy, too. I went from being a 9 to 5 government employee, then a corporate consultant, to a small business owner not once but twice by 2021.
If you ask me who I am now, I would say I am authentically a creative. I write from my heart, and I speak from my core. My voice is my power, and my words hold weight. By trade, I am a paralegal and a business consultant.
How Trauma Shows Up in the Body
Even though I was able to heal my heart, my mind, and my spirit, I wasn’t quite done healing. And I didn’t even know it. In the last seven years, I gained weight. This was a direct result of a broken heart, emotional trauma, mental health issues, stress, and poor lifestyle choices. I was a good 50 pounds overweight, too. I knew something was wrong with my body when it stopped responding to my dietary and lifestyle efforts.
I started to advocate for my health in the winter of 2022 to get clarity and answers. I sought the care of medical specialists, asked the right questions, requested second opinions, and tested and retested my blood. Not one doctor could properly diagnose me, either.
When Western medicine failed me, I chose holistic medicine. What I learned and what I understood was that my physical health issues were a straight-up trauma response. I cried. I was always conscious about my health, and now I’m sick with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yes, PTSD triggers and is linked to autoimmune diseases.
I remember thinking, “I did this to myself, and I have to fix it.”
I spent the majority of 2023 detoxing with Chinese herbs, making every lifestyle change possible. My body was holding on to dead weight – it had to go for me to continue to become.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
Summer 2023 couldn’t come any faster. I completed my holistic detox with sacrifice and ease. While everyone saw just a “body transformation,” for me, it was an emotional release.
I was no longer reminded of what transpired. I cried again.
There were so many days, months, and years that I thought I would never get me back. And I believed it. I mean, who wouldn’t? Medical experts adamantly told me that there was nothing wrong with me. All I wanted was to feel like myself again. I missed me so badly.
I looked for me everywhere. I couldn’t find her until I paused and did the inner work.
I wouldn’t change one thing about my healing journey. It all had to happen so I could be in this current moment. And this girl right here – I know exactly who she is. I know what she stands for through and through. And I’ll never stray from that.
I’ve grown so much, yet in some ways, I’m rediscovering who this girl is again. It’s so intoxicating.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
Returning to Europe
I have always wanted to go back to Europe. Europe is a magical place to be. It's the energy, the people, and the lifestyle for me. But the timing wasn’t right. It took the wedding of a close friend of mine to make my return happen. I returned to Europe in August 2023. This time to Greece.
At first, I didn’t realize the significance of the timing. But make no mistake, this was alignment, a full circle moment, and a testimony to myself. I started a healing journey in August 2019, and I returned as a completely different person this year.
Happy, whole, and healed. Resilient and confident.
I knew I was meant to share a pivotal moment in my friend’s life and celebrate myself. My word for 2023 was joy, and I wanted all of it. More importantly, I deserved it.
I fell in love with everything all over again. Everything that I can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, that is. I created moments and memories. And I felt each moment and memory deeply in new places and with new faces. Greece owed me absolutely nothing. Europe will always and forever have a special place in my heart.
My five-year healing journey taught me to always choose myself. I am grateful because my entire journey brought me home to myself. And one thing about me is that when I am in the right environment — I thrive. Always.
The journey to self-discovery is worth the uncomfortable moments and ugly crying. It’s worth the undoing, redoing, and reprocessing to finally come to a place of happiness, peace, and being comfortable in your own skin.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by AzmanJaka/Getty Images