N. F. Kenure
When I rolled over right after waking and saw the notification on my phone that Chadwick Boseman had passed away from colon cancer at 43, only slightly more unexpected, was my reaction to the news. I began to sob uncontrollably.
I am staunchly anti-celebrity culture, all forms of it. That all too Americanism of finding out everything one can about actors, their lives, their romances, what they eat, how they smell– the complete idolization of ordinary humans doing just another job. I have always privately classified it as a symptom of being of lesser stock and yet here I was crying over this man I most certainly did not know.
This man–Mr. Boseman had the rare honor of being our King, somehow American and African at the same time.
King T'challa of Wakanda was different, for the first time as an African, I saw what we could have been for us and the Oasis that the motherland could have meant to Africans in the diaspora. What it would feel like to be proud of our place on the world stage.
From Zamunda to Wakanda, the need for our diaspora to create fictional homelands of their dreams highlights the disappointment that is the real state of African affairs.
Having enjoyed the lesser-known privilege of growing up undefined by color in Nigeria, I know every time I buy a ticket out of my country to first check what it feels like to be black in foreign spaces. I know that my colour may not be welcome and that when it is, it is usually because of the far-reaching work of African Americans.
Like when I lived in Rio de Janeiro, recognizing that if I spoke English and replied “sim” when asked if I was “Americana”, the treatment I would receive from the store owner would be tempered compared to if I said “no”, owning up to being just plain “Africana”.
T'Challa and Killmonger - the African and his American cousin separated by circumstances and bitterness were unable to come to terms peacefully but in real life, the “cousins” have begun the process of working it out and reuniting. The divide grows smaller daily. Our distrust and mistreatment of each other over the years are continually being trashed out on social media helped by collaborations that blend our separate cultures that have always fed off each other. Most recently being P.Diddy executive producing Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall album and Beyonce’s celebration of all things Africa in her Black is King album.
All of us who have watched the Black Lives Matter movement in America from afar know that the argument that our American cousins make for themselves in their country includes us. That the casual mistreatment by their compatriots of other races, and the police brutality that they face in this home that has refused to love them as fiercely as they love it, is not just their fight. And that their agitation to make room for themselves, through whatever means necessary at every level of life– in excellence and in mediocrity– is a basic human right.
In spite of Africa’s shortcomings, many Africans in the Diaspora are beginning to look to the continent as a haven for their blackness as racist rhetoric rises in America. To know that if a policeman abuses his power while carrying out his duties, it is most certainly not because he takes offense to your skin color can be quite liberating and one less thing to worry about. Countries like Ghana have made it clear that their "lost children" are welcome home with the 2019 year of Return for Africans in Diaspora, even extending citizenship to such returnees.
So tonight, this African will spend the day in bed ugly crying because the goose pimples start to tingle every time T’Challa emerges in the Endgame portal scene and yells “Yibambe”. In my head, it's always been ‘Igbo Kwenu’, my own tribal salutation and a call to assemble. I will cry because I know that the African and American king has gone to be with his ancestors and all of the Avengers will never assemble like that ever again.
I will watch everything that Chadwick Boseman gave us with all of his heart while he battled for his life, dreaming of the day that Africa will rise, free of corruption, ahead in its technological offerings, prospering and with its culture and traditions intact.
Sep 2, 2020