Let’s get one thing out of the way. I am a Marvel fan. I discovered Wolverine in a comic book growing up in Liberia and my marvel fandom and street cred was established many years ago. HA! I’m also raising 3 boys, so superhero life will likely be a part of my existence for my lifetime. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I enjoyed the movie with my sons. Okur? Okurrrrr! Leggo!
Understand a few things people: Wakanda pride and fierceness in African women has been a part of the world I’ve known for well over forty-something years. It’s not new at all! Sure the movie seems to have made it cool to be of African heritage, but I’ve always known we were cool. As an immigrant who came to the US as a child, I do certainly hope the term, “African Booty-scratcher” which has been used to verbally assault by countless bullies in schools around this country, might be laid to rest. But uh, in the words of Snoop Dogg, “Back to the lecture at hand.”
I’m here to say, African Pride is about much more than donning outfits and adopting names that are hard to pronounce. The pride many of us who are truly and technically any bit AFRICAN is about tribe (extended families), and tradition, a sense of belonging, and sense of responsibility and duty. Furthermore, the African women I grew up with and around were ALWAYS a force to be reckoned with
I remember vividly the way my larger than life uncles would damn near turn into fiercely obedient boys around their mother (my late grandmother). I also remember how blindly protective those same uncles were of my mother.
Look, we all know that Wakanda is a fictional utopia in Africa- never colonized, technologically advanced, rich in culture, etc. The truth is Africans are FEROCIOUSLY proud of their heritage, despite what may be depicted in popular western media. Ask any West African, for example, about which regional nation makes the best Jollof rice and you first be greeted with gut-busting laughter, a little teeth sucking and then you’ll experience a deep existential debate about the merits of that exquisite delicacy. That’s pride in our culture my friends. Go to a Catholic church, here or in a West African country and observe the gele (headtie) that blocks your view of the altar. Try attending an African Wedding, and check out the entire production! We change traditional outfits several times (basically we slay THEE heck out of it!), we serve traditional African cuisine that comes straight from the Ancestors, and don’t even get me started on our dancing!
Oh we’re quite aware of how our traditional music has influenced hip-hop which has in turn influenced music all around the world. Listen to the beats of some of your favorite tunes- if you have the ear you can hear the African influence in the music of Rihanna and Drake. Heck, Rihanna has even been seen performing the South African “Gwara Gwara” dance moves recently. In Liberia, we throw to the ground and spread a traditional cloth known as a “lappa” (Ankara fabric) for a new graduate or sometimes a new bride to walk on symbolizing taking the clothes off our back to celebrate the achievements or good fortune of thatperson.
When we loudly beat those drums or play the “sasa” at that festive occasion, it’s to let the guest of honor know how proud we are of them and their accomplishments. Just about everything we do has meaning and is rooted deep in our history.
The way we name our babies, for example, has very significant meaning. At times, one name can tell you, immediately, what region person hails from. My own sense of pride led to my giving each of my sons African tribal names with special meanings. Why? You see my mother named me “Jlahsnoti” and she taught me the ‘how and why’ behind my name. I wanted my sons to be able to see themselves similarly with a specific familial and cultural context forever. That’s just another way we display our pride!
So let’s talk about the women of Wakanda for a sec. They were depicted as strong, protective, resolute, loyal and traditional. Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, stood firmly by her oath to serve and I was immediately reminded of a real life Wakandan warrior heroine, Chimamanda Adichie. You see, all while being feted and celebrated as an international literary powerhouse, Chimamanda has vowed to only wear clothing by Nigerian Designers. This is a woman who has designers at her fingertips begging her to wear their creation. Against the consumerist crush that surrounds fashion these days, she made a conscious choice to support and celebrate her Nigerian heritage while saying “to heck with the rest of ya’ll”. That’s the stuff warriors are made of and she is changing the dominant narrative the world over. There is also the story of a group of Liberian women who decided to stand up and help put an end to Liberia’s “second civil war” by engaging in a sex strike- another example of the ferocity of the African woman! Where do you think Spike Lee got the idea of a sex strike for his movie Chiraq? I thought of these same Liberian women when Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o in the movie Black Panther, would not let the story end quite the way how Killmonger intended. She pushed to change the outcome. I saw Shuri, Letitia Wright’s character, in these four Nigerian girls who attempted to power an electrical generator with urine! Further still, there is the fearless female warrior evident in the Malawian female chief, Theresa Kachindamoto, who broke up 850 child marriages. All I’m saying is that our fierceness, our outstandingness, and badassedness ain’t nothing new!
Tell you what: Don’t wait for Hollywood to depict what is amazing and wonderful and special about Africa. Get to traveling, reading, clicking, or talking to people from the continent. You will very quickly find that Wakanda is only hidden because the rest of the world CHOOSES to not see. Most of all, subscribe to our blog for inspiration!
So perhaps you want to learn more now? Check out any of these online vehicles and they’ll take you through real-life Wakanda!
By the way, tell them all that Tikolah.com sent you.
Let’s chat! What are some ways you celebrate African pride? Do you agree with the discussion above? What resonated with you from the movie? Comment below.