Taking up space, seeing our faces reflected
Coming to America is a film that portrays the royalty in Africa and the history of how we see ourselves. It does not violently portray Africans as forms of (other) Western media do. It honours us and our ways of living, although it is a fictional story and Africans do not have a monolithic way of living. In addition to this, it portrays Black beauty beautifully. It sends the message that Black beauty is synonymous with royalty and it is something that deserves to be embraced. We see this in the brown skin of Imani Izzi (Vanessa Bell Calloway). Additionally, it shows Black love without attaching it to struggle and emotional turmoil as well as violence. It depicts African men and Black manhood in a way that is hardly seen. Prince Akeem (Eddiw Murphy) represents Black manhood as non-violent, compassionate, loving and soft but not weak. The film is so much more than just about African royals finding themselves and love in America though.
The sequel to the 1988 movie Coming to America, Coming 2 America, is a rewrite of the first script which includes the presence and voice of one of our own, Nomzamo Mbatha. In the new film, Mbatha plays Mirembe, the royal barber and love interest to Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler), Prince Akeem’s son. Her role and her accomplishment is not just a personal career milestone; it is a win for every child in South Africa. It is a validation of their dreams. We are affirmed that even in our tiny space at the bottom of the globe, we are more than capable to soar. Seeing her means seeing ourselves; seeing her win means seeing ourselves win. We are proud of Nomzamo Mbatha and we hope that the representation we have been gifted through her never ends.
South African children were made to fly. May we continue to see ourselves in the spaces that world deems excellent. May we continue to see our faces reflected in Zozibini Tunzi, Trevor Noah, Thuso Mbedu, Nomazamo Mbatha and each other. Let us believe in our beliefs of each other.