• Vimbai Nenzou

Harnessing the power of the Black Panther

In the dumpster fire that has been 2020, one event threatened to derail my mental health more than the rest and trust me that takes some doing. That event in question was the death of actor Chadwick Boseman. One would have thought that amidst all the global fuckery that our friendly neighbourhood pandemic brought us, that the news of his demise would not have sent me spiralling like it did, but alas here we are.

In my 30 plus odd years on earth I can remember with stunning clarity where I was when specific events occurred that shook the world. I remember keenly where I was and who I was with when Michael Jackson died. The same for the day Princess Diana died. On this particular day in question, I woke up as usual and in classic millennial fashion reached for my phone to do my programmed social media scrolling on one of Mark Zuckerberg’s apps. The first thing that popped up was the news of his death. I remember my body going cold and gasping so loud my husband came rushing into the room to check on my wellbeing.

For those who might not know Chadwick Boseman passed away on August 28, 2020 at the ripe young age of 43 from stage 4 colon cancer. To say his death hit me hard is an understatement. I felt such an overwhelming grief that I wept for him as if he was family. As an actress myself I have been a fan of Boseman’s amazing resume of work however I am aware that most only knew him, for playing the titular character in the global cultural phenomenon that was ‘Black Panther’. It is this role that catapulted him to Global fame.

Based on the popular Marvel comic book, Black Panther is the story of Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) of Wakanda, a fictional African country. The movie tells the story of Prince T’Challa’s rise as he assumes both the roles of king as well as the superhero Black Panther, after the passing of his Father, King T’Chaka.

This movie provided many “Africans” a great source of pride. The film celebrated us in ways that had never been done before in cinema. From the Western media’s portrayal of Africa many Westerners would be shocked to learn that Africa is actually a continent of 54 countries and over 1.2 billion people, not one monolithic country. Black Panther successfully showcased the beauty and diversity of the motherland and made us visualise the Africa we could have if things were different.

In terms of natural resources Africa as a whole is the wealthiest continent in the world. From our minerals to our fertile soil we are so amply blessed one would assume we should be as powerful and rich as our Developed counterparts. Instead we are for the most part impoverished with an estimated *422 million citizens living below the global poverty line. How can this remain the case decades after colonialism?* Source

Our continent in its current state is rotten. It reminds me of the Picture of Dorian Gray, beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside. We are quick to blame our colonial history and the Eastern economic invasion, but we also need to address the internal factors that have contributed to our woes.

I will not apologise for what I am about to say below as I know it will trigger many people; but at this point I could care less. I am tired with a capital T of our propensity to solely blame Western influences for our current state. Tired of watching the same old narrative churned out and excuses made about why we remain bottom of the class when its blatantly clear who is at fault. We can blame the legacy of colonialism all we want but we also have to point the finger at the shortcomings of our so-called African leaders.

We have leaders who get into power purely for their own self-interest and to bolster their coffers and those of their families, mistresses and their potbellied colleagues. The country, legacy and people of their nations are not even an afterthought in their quest to amass and hoard all the wealth. Most African leaders are for the most part corrupt undiagnosed psychopaths (I said what I said). Almost every past and current African leader can be accused of economic mismanagement whilst allowing rampant corruption to reign supreme. Their ideas of governance stems from - an outdated master and subordinate dynamic they saw modelled by their colonial predecessors. They fear democracy preferring authoritarian rule; with any questioning of their leadership met with brutal violence and sometimes death.

This is why black Africans mourned Chadwick as if he was kin. His portrayal of the Black Panther provided a visual representation of hope. In T’Challa and his alter ego Black Panther we saw the true possibility of a great African leader. One who was wise, kind and genuinely cared for his own people over material gains. We felt through his portrayal that he represented the type of leadership that has been lacking for decades.

To me his death has been a call to arms. A challenge to empower myself to do better and to be better. So, I am offering the same challenge to you my fellow readers. Why not become the T’Challa’s of our own destinies? What would happen if we all collectively harnessed the powers of the Black Panther to create the African utopia we all want? If 2020 has taught us anything it is that the way we have all operated has not been working. We need to break the status quo and establish a new norm. We as a younger generation owe it to ourselves and all future generations to be the change we want to see for our respective countries and the continent as a whole. We have a continent primed for growth, with the potential to become better than the mythical Wakanda.

I see the spirit of the Black Panther in the way the youth in Nigeria have stood their ground campaigning for police reform and an end to bad governance in their country via #EndSars. I saw it earlier when the hastag #Zimbabweanlivesmatter was trending and my fellow countryman were vocal in their condemnation the Governments ongoing human right violations. It is in the ongoing global protests over the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and in the loud war cries of BLACK LIVES MATTER! The awakening of our people has begun and instead of letting it die we as a collective need to feed the flames of change and revolution.

Wakanda can be real. The vibranium represents the plentiful Gold, diamonds, uranium, rubber, copper and mahogany (to name a few) that is present in the 54 countries that we call Africa. Our resources have historically been a curse its time they became a blessing that benefit the masses instead of an elite few. The solution to our own empowerment is US. Let us own, our own liberation and create a movement for lasting change. Who is with me?

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