Nigeria: Up From Wakanda

Black Panther.

The movie, Wakanda has become the latest rallying point for an exasperated black race. The euphoric success of the box office hit has made recommendations to watch it as imperative as a doctor's prescription to a dying patient. It is the latest quest in the search by the African race for redemption.

This search for redemption began the moment the black man was forced into ships across the seas in shackles and manacles. Even with padlocks in their mouths, it did not die on the sugarcane plantations neither did it evaporate at the seas where packed like sandiness, the weak and the dead were tossed overboard. It was not killed through the Jim Crow era. Rather, the movement peaked in the early 60s finding voice in the mouths and activism of Martin Luther King and El Hadj Malik el Shabbaz a.k.a Malcolm X.

Malcolm drank from hitherto convoluted waters of the theory of creation and Islam as enunciated by the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. He found redemption in that brand of Islam that put the black man at the epicentre of Allah's creation. Through prison he kept learning until he made the pilgrimage to Mecca and subsequent tours to motherland Africa where his vision received illumination. Both X and Luther King would meet violent ends even as the firy rhetorics of their revolution burnt brighter. Where Malcolm stopped, or derailed, (depending on whose account you believe), his brother Louis Farrakhan has continued.

Regardless of your faith or political leaning, a good chunk of what Farrakhan has to say on any topic inspires, the evidence being Nation of Islam mosques and Farrakhanistas strewn across coloured America. Farrakhan has survived several assassination attempts and conspiracies, managing to escape prison. Of course, we dare not forget the pivotal roles of African women through the ages. Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks and other mothers of the revolution have headed movements that the black race is proud everywhere they are.

In our generation, Maya Angelou's struggles have inspired the likes of Oprah Winfrey whose glass-shattering Golden Globes Award speech prompted a short-lived Oprah-for-President movement. Coming so soon after Barack Obama's historic but controversial presidency, Oprah was smart enough not to bite the bait. Partisan politics has a pin that punctures the balloon of myths and it is obvious that for all its talk about equality both of races and gender, America is not ripe for a female presidency.

Perhaps the most iconic African of the last decade to rekindle hope in a black renaissance is our sister, Lupita Nyong'o. The young Mexico-City born Kenyan caused a cultural stir for her appearance in the movie, Ten Years a Slave. Everything, from her velvety-black skin to her hairdo became a symbol of identity and revolution at the same time. Just last weekend, Lupita walked the grandest stage of them all co-hosting weekend's the Oscars. Wakanda has spurred, black kids into researching their roots for untainted role models. Unconsciously at 35, Lupita is being called to mentor kids from Mexico City to Kenya, Johannesburg to Timbouctou and the remotest parts of the globe - and they are trooping into her school of consciousness in hordes.

Role models have a difficult calling. As unelected representatives, they are thrown into the eternal searchlight of a probing media asking them to be superhuman; to throw away their own lives and ethics and to subscribe to the unwritten moral code that none of the examiners live by. They should be pitied rather than envied, because so very often they are hounded into destruction. Theirs is a difficult calling. Wakanda has opened us up to a glorious past - the quest is to use this past as a bridge to a glorious future.

Here is what is missing from the struggle against so-called cultural appropriation by impressionable young people of colour. Youths must walk up from Wakanda to a future of selflessness. To steal a stolen cliché, the change we seek begins with each and every one of us. An attitudinal redirection is needed if we are to move up from Wakanda. It must start with demanding good leadership at all levels because we are change catalysts everywhere we are. We must reflect this change in the personal, political, religious and social terrain. Respect is that is earned is the real deal, the one bestowed is stolen. If you are in school, strive to be the best and be a ladder for those who are less privileged to climb to success. Before you buy that latest dress, ask if you really need it with the ones in your wardrobe or if someone somewhere might benefit from it better than you do. Must you eat in that posh restaurant if you could cook your own meal or patronize an eatery run by a brother or sister? Before you pick that latest ride with all the add-ons; have you thought about the thousands needing a mine-free land to walk on?

We cannot be a race of people who manufacture nothing but mannequins for the greatest show-off of things we could do without. Wakanda must mean more to us, than just the euphoria of the moment - could we translate it into an eternal moment of rebirth instead of a flash-in-the-pan movement?

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