Everything the light touches is our kingdom. Yes, I watched “Black Is King” 5 million times. Yes, I watched and read the praise and criticism. Yes, we need to discuss some questions. As an art masterpiece, I loved the wardrobe, imagery, representation, and the fact that so many Africans artists got full credit and got PAID. As context for discussion, I loved how it sparked so many conversations across the royal continent and the diaspora about who can tell African stories and which stories should be told. In this video, I share the questions that I have been inspired to think about thanks to the film and the praise/criticism.
As I mentioned in the video, the film and the conversations it sparked made me think of some questions. I feel this is how Beyoncé’s “Black Is King” serves Africa and it’s diaspora.
Is Black luxury or Black excellence appropriation or repatriation?
I feel the argument for appropriation stems from the notion that wealth and success is obtained through proximity to whiteness and is performative for the white gaze. Showcasing wealth and success through an African context is judged as colonialism. I hear you, but I feel part of that has more to do self-hate, even though elitism can come into play. On the other hand, could this be a form of repatriation? As a Black culture in and out of Africa, we all know we should never visit people empty handed. I feel showcasing Black luxury or Black excellence is a way to pull reparations that have yet to be paid. To bring wealth and access to those that have been forgotten in and out of Africa. I am not saying this exactly what the film has done, but I feel this is what the diaspora can do as it reconnects to Africa. It is true that a lot of Africa’s diaspora views Africa in this lens of luxury, which can be through material things or also afrofuturistic. Just because I love Wakanda does not mean I am oblivious to the suffering that is happening in Africa. It means I hold Africa in high regard and will not allow the damage it still faces infect that view.
Must Blackness or Being Black or Being African be rooted in poverty and struggle?
This is tricky. I feel it doesn’t, but I understand why it does. The collective story is rooted in resilience, which is constantly facing poverty and struggle. Why are we quick to say who is more Black or more African than the other? Someone is less Black because they speak a certain way or lived in a certain neighborhood. Someone is more African because they experienced certain circumstances or view Africa in a certain way. Again, anything that is outside of poverty and struggle is deemed to be performing for the white gaze. I feel this runs deeper in the historical experience of having to tolerate living in an oppressors world. Certain fragments of the community did change their behavior once their lifestyle changed. Some also were quick to snitch or be oppressive themselves once they apparently moved on up. When it comes to representation through the arts, if a Black person feels isolated or excluded by images of Black people wearing crowns or diamonds, what does that mean for the art? Maybe it worked by inspiring you to see yourself better. Maybe it worked by showing how complex and diverse Black people are.
Why is African royalty considered offensive, when the Lion King is a story about royalty?
This was a big one among the praise and criticism. First, the Lion King is a story about a royal family. Black Is King is a spin-off of the Lion King. Thus, it makes sense for the story to surround a royal family. Secondly, I feel the concept of African royalty gets mistakenly wrapped with elitism and capitalism. Yes, monarchs have a certain hierarchy and rules apply to them differently. However, in the context of Black America pushing the image of our ancestors being Kings and Queens, it has more to do with reclaiming identity than it does being ignorant of African history. It is a direct rebuttal to the brutal perception that Black is criminal, ugly, and disposable. It is a direct counterclaim that Africa is poor, diseased, and worthless. I feel claiming Black royalty is a collective form of intellectual freedom.
Why does Africa represent different things for different people?
Overall, this is what I felt created the spectrum of praise and criticism. This was not an us versus them. The praise and criticism came from a mixture of people in and out of Africa. I might have stated this in a previous post, now that I think about it. For some, Africa is home and easily accessible. For others, Africa is freedom and needs to be celebrated and protected at all times. There is more than enough room for both of those sentiments to exist. We also need both of them. The key to this is to leverage what we both bring to the table. Are we using our access effectively? Do we have our priorities straight? Are we making an effort to understand where we all come from, by location and perspective? This also means we need to agree to share Africa.
Finally, I really loved the wardrobe and imagery. I am so excited for how this is going to benefit African talent across all industries. I feel this is the blueprint, that can continue to evolve, for how to interact and work with the depth of creativity, innovation, and vibrance that comes from Africa while giving Africa full credit, full access, and full ownership. This is just the beginning.
What do you think? Does this serve Africa and it’s diaspora? Share with me in the comments.
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