On Friday, June 27, at 8:09 pm, I received a text message. Although it was the start of the weekend, I was getting ready for bed in preparation for my early Saturday morning writing and exercise sessions. My first response was to ignore the text message and wait until tomorrow, but something told me it might be important. The text was from my youngest sister who I talk with multiple times each week.
I turned on my phone’s screen and read, “season 2 of Luke Cage is on Netflix!” I smiled and responded with, “No!!!!!! I will never sleep.” Season one was incredible and my sister remembered how much I enjoyed every episode.
In Marvel’s first season of Luke Cage, I found the plot, action sequences, and the intentional dialogues that gave voice to race and masculinity in contemporary America poignant. Through each of the thirteen episodes, the audience learns the story of how Luke Cage's incarceration led to an experiment that gifted him with supernatural abilities, and eventually transformed him into a hero of the Harlem community. With an intention, Luke wears a bulletproof hoodie sweatshirt as his version of a superhero cape in a conscious nod to the life of Trayvon Martin who was racially profiled and later killed by George Zimmerman. The first season of Luke Cage exceeded my expectations.
Yes, Luke Cage is a fictional character based on a Marvel comic book superhero, but I respect the leadership characteristics he embodies in the television series.
I’ve only seen the first three episodes of season two, but so far, it appears to continue with the high standards established in the first season. In these first several episodes you witness Luke wrestle with his identity and express emotional vulnerabilities when discussing his relationship with his dad and race in America. Some of the characters have returned from the first season, and there also exists several new characters to serve as friends and foes of Luke Cage. The Jamaican crime boss trains the African-Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, which as a fellow practitioner makes me enthusiastic about future episodes. Yes, Luke Cage is a fictional character based on a Marvel comic book superhero, but I respect the leadership characteristics he embodies in the television series.
This week, I want you to use your imagination and place Luke Cage in the current day United States of America. If he were a real person and eligible to run for office, I would vote for him in the next presidential election. He would earn my vote due to his integrity, bravery, and desire to make a positive impact on communities. I am confident that if he were elected, he would not advocate for travel bans, the ending of affirmative action admission policies, or take a passive stance against horrific crimes. Luke Cage's approaches to change would take place at the individual and systemic levels of unjust laws and policies.
If we wish to assume roles of command, we must be willing to first love ourselves, before qualifying to manage the responsibilities that accompany positions of power.
Effective, impactful, leadership derives from internalized positive self-awareness and the willingness to serve others. If we wish to assume roles of command, we must be willing to first love ourselves, before qualifying to manage the responsibilities that accompany positions of power. When we lack self-love, poor decisions occur, and we lend our support to actions that do not benefit our best interests or others.
From a selfless stance, leaders should strive to improve their selves, families, communities, organizations, and in some cases governments. The ideal leader will discover the methods to address the needs of marginalized populations, while also meeting the desires of people with an abundance of resources. This type of leadership is not easy, but if achieved, we can move in the direction of creating harmony. I'm sure this ideal leader sounds similar to the fantasy of a bulletproof superhero, but I'm optimistic and believe anything is possible.
This week, your call to action is to watch an episode of season two of Marvel’s Luke Cage available on Netflix! If this post resonates with you, share it in your community and consider contributing to a non-profit organization, United Capoeira Association – Berkeley, that creates superheroes by offering instruction in Capoeira.
*A previous version of this post originally appeared in my weekly column at The Good Men Project.