The importance of Chadwick Boseman in African culture – The Undefeated

When Black Panther debuted in 2018, it meant the world to me as a black woman of Nigerian descent. The film was a big first, not just in my life, but in all of the cultural moments. It was a reminder of the heritage of Africa and its black kings and queens, and gave the African diaspora a point of global pride. As a Marvel movie, it was also necessary to be viewed by millions of people around the world; as such, I saw a change almost immediately in the way the world viewed my people.

Chadwick Boseman was an onscreen superhero in Black Panther and, ultimately, a superhuman offscreen as well; he battled cancer privately while filming one of the most iconic African characters in cinema history. His death on Friday hit us hard, especially the black community. Sports superstars such as Lewis Hamilton and LeBron James, among others, honored him with a “Wakanda Forever” salute over the weekend as a tribute to his legacy.

It’s hard to put words to the impact of Boseman. In 2018, when I was playing for the Connecticut Sun, I was doing the “Wakanda Forever” salute every time they called my name in the starting lineup because at that point I was about to be this awesome. -heroes for my team; I had to free my inner beast. I was so proud of what the film represented and how well it represented people like me.

Too often we have seen stereotypes in African culture, where people don’t care to pronounce our names correctly, of children calling children ‘African loot scrapers’ or asking if their parents ride tigers to school or had an elephant as a pet. In contrast, Boseman went the extra mile to ensure that African heritage was treated with respect in the film, not as a joke, fight for the right accent for his character, T’Challa. He didn’t allow stereotypes of African culture on screen, but instead pushed to highlight the diversity of black culture, and the film became a touchstone as a result.

In many ways, Black Panther helped normalize African heritage and style in popular culture by genuinely celebrating it. For example, after the film came out, I now regularly see people rocking Ankara outfits or saying that they have tried jollof, an African rice dish. (We all know the Nigerian jollof is the best.) As if to further cement the idea of ​​going mainstream, this summer Beyoncé even used her platform to share with African artists with the release of her latest visual album, Black is king. I never would have thought that this would be possible just a few years ago, without a change in our cultural experience of the continent I love and the people who hail from it.

When you think of Africa, what do you see? Do you see corruption and poverty? I do not. When I think of Africa, I think of its beauty and its people. I have spent a lot of time in Africa. I studied abroad in Nigeria at Stanford and anchored Africa Sports Center in 2017 and 2018, the year Black Panther came out of. When you arrive by plane, you don’t see trade and smog like you would in the United States and other industrialized countries. You see natural resources, virgin lands, but also modernity. It is a place of power and potential that many of us try not to see wasted. We, as a developed nation, do not educate ourselves enough about what Africa is and maybe. It is a place full of opportunities.

My parents came from Nigeria before we were born, making my three sisters and I second generation immigrants. My sister and I are both Stanford graduates. My mom just got her doctorate in education and my dad is the CEO of an international tech company. My little sisters are in medical and business school. I often say that my family has the best of both worlds: the Nigerian spirit of resilience and determination, coupled with all the opportunities that America presents.

Among people in the diaspora, and especially Nigerians, I see black excellence in many forms. Take Giannis Antetokounmpo, of Greek-Nigerian descent, who is expected to become a two-time NBA MVP. There is Anthony Joshua, who is a leading heavyweight boxer. There’s Emmy-nominated actress Yvonne Orji, who plays Molly Carter in the HBO hit. Unsafe. There’s author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, modernizing feminism through her written work, and Burna boy, which brought the Afrobeats to a new global audience. And then there is my sister Nneka and I who tried to carry the torch of women’s basketball.

Accurate and nuanced representation is so important. Role models are essential. Until you go to Africa, you didn’t know how such a small thing – like providing shoes or providing internet service – can change someone’s perception of what is possible. As an anchor for ESPN, reaching 19 sub-Saharan countries, I took the responsibility seriously. I knew that as a black woman and basketball player, presenting sports news there, I would change the perceptions of all young African girls who are not encouraged to practice athletics.

The first day I docked I looked back at the tape and felt like I had changed my voice and temper to mimic the “typical broadcaster”. I couldn’t sleep that night. It kept me going in exactly the same way as a bad loss, where I knew I could have performed better on a few key games. From that point on, I promised myself that I was going to be me, the flaws and everything. And this is where I found out that your best work comes from owning which you are. Be authentic. People resonate with it.

One person who leads the way can shatter a culture’s limiting stereotypes and traditions, moving the needle in a positive way. Boseman taught us that superheroes aren’t created when the lights are on. They do their real job for those in the dark, who could always use a dose of our truest light.

Chiney Ogwumike is a member of the Los Angeles Sparks and co-animates ‘Chiney and Golic Jr.’ on ESPN Radio.

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