Mon. May 16th, 2022

Black Panther needs almost no introduction. It is a superhero movie that featured a primarily black cast, and it was anticipated for months, probably years. So far, “Black Panther” has smashed records, broken grounds and most of all, it has broken stereotypical ideologies about Africa and people of African descent.

Being a foreigner from Nigeria, I rarely watched superhero movies. Growing up I saw “Zorro,” “RoboCop” and some other long-forgotten ones, but the intricacy of American accents discouraged my interest at a young age.

And then came “Black Panther.” I didn’t see it for the first three weeks because I couldn’t care less about another American narrative of Africa. Although I heard  about it and I saw the trailer, I was hesitant. I could not cope with watching another movie that depicted my continent as a slum, a place stricken by poverty and backwardness. But after being persuaded by a friend, after seeing the joy that emanated from the movie, the feedback, pictures and funny social media posts, I decided it was time to see it.

Alone with my crowded mind, I sat in the cinema. I had already braced myself for the worst, but then I was surprised. I was engrossed from the beginning to the end by the beautifully depicted country of Wakanda, the strong women it portrayed and the life that could have been without the invasions from the West. Most importantly, I approved “Blank Panther’s” depiction of the tense relationship between Africans and African Americans.

You see, T’Challa and Killmonger were cousins who grew up in different societies. Killmonger, the African American cousin, heard a lot about the magical world of Wakanda, a country that betrayed his father, and he grew up with the intention of avenging him. While T’Challa, the African cousin, grew up ignorant of Killmonger’s existence, struggles or experiences.

Having grown up in Nigeria, a country that has totally scraped the topic of slavery out of its educational curriculum, I was similar to T’challa. I grew up ignorant and uneducated about African Americans. I saw the U.S. depicted in movies, but I had no understanding of its foundational problems. I didn’t have an understanding of my cousins’ journey and struggles. My narrative was different and my society shaped my knowledge. The only images I saw of my cousins were of them rapping, using curse words and getting arrested.

Although I can’t speak for my cousins, I know they grew up perceiving me as poor, needy and depressed, always begging for aid and never giving any in return. My cousins grew up perceiving my land as one filled with lions and zebras, where clean water is ten miles away and thousands die daily from hunger.

The tension between African Americans and Africans didn’t develop from just TV but from lack of understanding of our histories and realities. It developed from exaggerating our differences and undermining our similarities.

For our wounds to heal, like a doctor’s prescription, I prescribe sharing. The only way Wakanda can truly last forever is if we bridge the gap between us and if we work to share our experiences and actively seek knowledge and truth that changes the negative narrative surrounding our relationships. If we don’t take these steps, Wakanda will be nothing but an illusion.

Victoria Molumo is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in international business. ✉

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