Updated: Apr 29
In the wake of some of the most tragic modern day lynchings of Black bodies and the acquittal of their White police perpetrators, the Black Lives Matter movement took root and spread its branches around the world. Thanks to social media, we got to witness how the movement gave voice, support and strength to black people outside the United States as they sought to confront and dismantle white supremacy in all its various stifling forms.
Similarly, as I’ve witnessed and participated in the hype over the release of Marvel’s “Black Panther”, it too is creating a synergy that — though at this moment is particular to black people living in the United States — has the potential to be an impetus for black people across the world to connect to Africa.
When Africans were stolen from their lands, stripped of their language and culture and brought to the Americas, their bodies carried the memory of African culture and replicated it for the sake of survival. It’s no coincidence that one sees remnants of Africa in the song, dance, behaviors and overall ingenuity of Black people in the Americas today. From world renowned artist Rihanna showcasing South Africa’s “Gwara Gwara” dance at the end of her 2018 Grammys performance, to Hip Hop taking over Africa; it’s deeply moving to see how we influence one another still today though we are oceans apart. In fact, in reading about black inventors this black history month, I have been reminded that black people have been excellent creatives even with limited resources at hand as exemplified by this kid from Ghana whose story was first told by BBC Africa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Ois0B9_5s
Despite this beautiful thing, some truths must be told. As the American media continued to push a single narrative of poverty and pain about Africa and Africans, black Americans have believed it. I and many Africans have felt this firsthand when our classmates have called us names like “African booty scratcher”, asked us if we lived in trees, and have been surprised that we speak English well and black Americans were part of it. For this reason, many Africans have valid animosity towards Black Americans and don’t want them tampering with their culture. And because the west has always been about the business of dividing and conquering, they have painted a picture of inherent waywardness about Black Americans to Africans and we have believed it as the first lessons many of us get upon immigrating to the United States is to stay away from black people if we want to grasp the American dream.
Thus, while Black Panther’s Wakanda is a fictional country, it has created a hype about a place that is just for us. Such is a place where we can bask in the beauty of our sun kissed skin and culture without the scrutinized gaze and aggression of white supremacy around us. Africa is that place. Africa isn’t perfect, but it is real, it is beautiful and will be here in the future. There are 54 countries of distinct cultures and though we are not monolithic, there is something or maybe there are some things (swag, rhythm, seasoned food… ) that makes us quintessentially African.
So, my fellow black people, in my opinion, you can’t appropriate African culture for it is your roots. However, as you slay in your African garb, and paints; be sure to learn about the meaning behind them. To connect to your culture, you can: find your African ancestry if you have the means to, you can adopt several countries by traveling to them, you can befriend an African person and adopt their culture, you can lift up the stories of our struggles that have direct connections to colonization and join forces to stop neocolonialism being perpetrated by the West and East, you can invest in the booming economies of Africa and so much more. I hope Wakanda leads you to a newfound longing for home because there is indeed no place like home.
Janjay Innis is the Founder of The Africa Expo
She is obsessed connecting black people globally.