A few of months ago I was on Twitter and saw a tweet of a group of Black ladies, based in the United States, wearing African inspired attire with the caption, “Wakanda Forever”. Another tweeter had retweeted that tweet with the caption, “You had 54 REAL African countries to choose from”.
I totally identified with the second caption in the retweet. Now don’t get me wrong I am so happy the movie Black Panther came out. The message, cinematography, settings, and costume design were all on point. I loved the movie and the pride it has birthed in identifying with the continent Africa*.
I love all the Black excellence the movie portrayed on the world stage – as Black people we know what has been up – the world is just catching up with us and our Black excellence (in the arts, sciences, literature, medicine, technology…. The list goes on).
However, I am also disappointed. I had hoped that the movie would ignite something in Black people living in the diaspora who have never been to Africa, to start asking and finding answers about the real Africa. As well as igniting curiosity in those who are from the continent of Africa.
I have spent the last couple of months in the United States and I have met a range of Black people. From those who are “woke” and have travelled to the continent extensively to those who have never questioned the reality of their circumstances. I have been exposed to the miseducation on the continent of Africa in the western world and have been confronted with statements about Africa which make the blood boil.
This miseducation is then translated into mistruths about Black people in general and a lingering distrust of those who are from the continent of Africa or of African descent. This miseducation has unfortunately (but intentionally) created a divide between Black people from the continent of Africa and Black people of African descent living in the diaspora.
Prior to the movie, the questions one would be exposed to were along the lines of “How did you get here?”, “Do wild animals roam the streets?”, and “What village are you from?” etc.
These non-facts, half-truths and in some instances straight up lies about the continent of Africa have made me view the world in a different light, as well as, view my brothers and sisters in the diaspora differently. I had honestly hoped that in this new millennium a lot of those miseducations (and in a lot of instances straight up propaganda) about the continent Africa would have been diffused.
Post the movie, the questions now go along the lines of “Is Wakanda real?”, “Does Africa have technology like in the movie?”, or “Do we practice the rituals that were shown in the movie?”.
There is a lack of knowledge on the continent of Africa and the 54 countries that make up the continent. This lack of knowledge is amplified by the lack of dissemination of truthful narratives about the continent of Africa. Step in the internet. Thank goodness for the social media revolution which allows us to tell our own stories through our own words and more importantly shared images of the Africa we live in. An image of Africa which is just not associated with poverty porn. An image of Africa which displays our advances in medicine, technology, engineering, fashion, media, and lifestyle.
The movie Black Panther has also forced me to not be apathetic to the ignorance. I realized if I’m not part of the change then how do I expect the change to happen. If I get frustrated when people who’ve never been to the continent of Africa, ask me silly questions about the continent and I don’t give them grace and give proper answers or laugh off their ignorance then things will never change. Those moments of inquisitiveness are opportunities to teach and share the truth. I know it can be draining and irritating at times, but if not you then who?
Reflecting on the impact of Black Panther has made me reflect on what is our duty as Black people living on the continent of Africa to our brother and sisters in the diaspora? Until I moved to the United States, I did not truly appreciate the severity and generational consequences of the transatlantic slave trade.
Our brothers and sisters were ripped from the land, forced into manual labour, forced to reject their culture and language and were indoctrinated in a subversive culture of inferiority. Those types of wounds don’t heal overnight. Those types of wounds require all of us to be a part of the healing process.
This psychological divide between Black people from the continent of Africa and Black people of African descent living in the diaspora can and will be broken. We are one people. Our ancestors are from the same land. And my hope is that more movies like Black Panther can be made, more movies from African film makers can be shared with those in the diaspora, and more movies of the Black person’s truth can be made, to show not only the connections and similarities but that can also begin to show the reality and truth of present day Africa.
The next time someone says “Wakanda Forever!” My response is going to be “No. Not Wakanda forever but Africa forever! Wakanda is a fictional city based on the hundreds of metropolis cities found in the 54 countries that make up the continent of Africa”. Wakanda is a reflection of real present-day cities and possibilities.
“Wakanda Forever!” is a conversation starter. Conversations on real possibilities, that begin by us using opportunities like discussions on Black Panther and Wakanda to open the door to building real connections, real bridges of unity and share our present-day truth as Black people on the continent of Africa and in the disapora.
*I have purposefully referred to Africa as the continent of Africa throughout this post because it is time to drill in the narratives we wish the outside world to embrace. Let us be purposeful with our words and how we use them.
Lerato is a lawyer and aspiring writer. She has a deep passion for the Lord and following the path the Lord has set her on. She is passionate, driven and kind. Lerato is a wife, daughter, sister and friend. She is a woman who is unshakeable yet immensely compassionate and I respect her greatly. She also recently attained her Masters of Law at Emory and was honored as the 2019 recipient of the Emory Law LLM Leadership Award!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important topic Lerato! I hope you inspire and encourage those around you continually. Please go ahead and share your thoughts and questions on this topic below. Are you an African based in the diaspora or an African on the continent? What has been your experience on either side of the spectrum?
Thank you for reading and know we’re praying for you always.