When Black Panther was released in February 2018, I remember my Instagram feed being full of movie posters and my fellow African and Black friends posing with the Wakanda Forever signs. The love and unity for Africa poured out as people dressed in their African attire as they headed to see the movie with their family. At that moment, I felt so proud of my Nigerian heritage.
Ever since that movie came out, Black people have demanded that more movies have representation that showcases Black people in such a beautiful light. In the past few years, Hollywood has become more diverse in their movies and their cast, but African culture needed, and still needs to, be shown in an uplifting and positive way.
From a young age, I remember Africa was always depicted as a pitiful place. The commercials with starving children only show a single story of Africa. We don’t have only dirt roads and huts to live in. The amount of times people have asked me whether I dress in “normal” Western clothes or half-naked when I go to Nigeria is immeasurable. The beauty and the whole of Africa need to be seen– not just the one-sided image Western society has perpetuated.
Then, on July 31st, Black is King was released. What I watched and experienced was far beyond what I had anticipated.
The visual album tells the story of a young boy who goes through trials and tribulations after losing his father- essentially, a retelling of the Lion King. Beyonce reads through a poem as audio scenes from the Lion King plays as well. The story is told through beautiful scenery showcasing different parts of the African continent, accompanied by music by Black artists.
Most African artists are just seen as trends that people can listen to and then skip over– take Burna Boy for example. When his recent album dropped everyone was playing it, but soon the dust settled and Burna Boy’s moment in American culture faded. African artists’ music isn’t just useful as TikToks songs and to post on your story once, and Beyonce brought the representation that the continent needed in the music industry by putting African artists front and center.
This film sheds a light on Africa that hasn’t been seen since Black Panther. It shows the waterfalls and the sand dunes. The colorful architecture in Lagos to the majestic jungles surrounding the Congo River. There was one particular song that just stood out to me- Brown Skin Girl. The scene starts with a Nigerian rapper by the name of Wizkid and Beyonce’s daughter, Blue Ivy, singing the lyrics:
Brown skin girl
Your skin just like pearls
The best thing in the world
Never trade you for anybody else
Just from the hook, you feel the emotion behind the lyrics. Beyonce sings about loving your skin tone and loving who you are, motivating young Black girls everywhere. She establishes that Black skin is not a burden, but something that should be embraced and carried proudly like a trophy. There were a set of lyrics that stuck with me when I first heard the song. Beyonce sings:
Them men, them gon’ fall in love with you and all of your glory
Your skin is not only dark, it shines and it tells your story
Keep dancin’, they can’t control you
They watchin’, they all adore you
If ever you are in doubt
Remember what mama told you
The beauty and the soul that comes across from this piece of artwork is immaculate. Never has there been such a mainstream work of art showcasing African creators that has gained this much traction. Well, not since Black Panther. I only bring up these two films because it seems that people are finally seeing the light in Africa, instead of feeling pity for us and looking down on us because of our perceived poverty. Mainstream media is slowly but surely helping change society’s perception of African culture.
This movie isn’t just a celebration of Africa, but also a celebration of melanin skin. In this day and age, social media can make young Black children dislike their skin color. Black is King tells us to take pride in that part of ourselves. To not be discouraged by what we see in the mirror, but to keep holding our heads high. If given the chance, I believe that Black Is King is something that every dark-skinned girl and boy should watch.
I’d like to dedicate this article to the late Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick may be gone,but the impact he left behind isn’t. He was and still is a role model to African American kids everywhere. No matter what, we can all agree that he will never be forgotten for the work that he has done.
“In my culture death is not the end.” – T’Challa
Featured image credits: Hollywood Reporter