Hi, My Name is…

So unless you’ve been living under a very large rock, Black Panther has taken the world by storm and it’s not letting up anytime soon. I have seen it 3 times already and plan on seeing a couple more. I can go on and on about how in love I am with the film, all the themes discussed, the scenery and the beautiful cast. It was so beautiful to see us on the big screen in all our power, beauty and our complexities. It was such a powerful and validating moment to see people who looked like me doing the damn thing.

There was a recurring theme of identity throughout the film that really resonated with me. T’Challa and Killmonger’s characters and their philosophies about identity really brought the conversation between the continent and the diaspora to the main stage. Ryan Coogler’s ability to give humanity to each characters’ point of view in a way that was refreshing especially for a Marvel film.

I lived in Nigeria from the ages of 4 to 7 while there I went to school, learned how to read and speak in my mother tongue, Igbo. Even while there, I still recall never feeling Nigerian enough because I was born in America. Eventually, I moved back and I remember being 7 and wanting more than anything, to fit in. On my first day, I remember being excited to start school and have tons of friends like I did back home. My parents, sister and a counselor introduced me to my class and I recall the giddy anticipation. My second-grade teacher, Ms. Batagllia, struggled a bit with my name as told by her screwed up face and mispronounced my name. KNEE-O-MA. My 7-year-old self was confused but didn’t speak up. I accepted this way of pronouncing my name even if it didn’t feel right. I was the odd girl out who just wanted to fit in.

Fast forward through a very uncomfortable period of time featuring me trying desperately to get rid of my accent and fit in. I stopped speaking Igbo for reasons I can’t even understand now. I was ashamed and so desperately wanted to be ‘normal’. I can go on and on with stories of me struggling with my identity as a Nigerian American while existing as a Black woman, it was a whole mess. I didn’t come to appreciate being Nigerian until I was 14 and went to the annual Ngwa Convention (Ngwa is a part of Igboland that my family is from). Being able to finally see the beauty of my people and our culture was everything and that’s what Black Panther felt like. Seeing different parts of the continent in all its glory. Getting to relearn and appreciate my identity in its entirety has been a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Watching de Black Pantha (Forrest Whittaker’s accent ftw!) has been such a moment of pride and a full circle moment. Being able to identify parts of Africa in the scenery, the characters clothing, to the traditions, was such an overwhelming source of joy. I was that girl in the theater crying because I finally saw my people in all their greatness and it was nothing short of awesome.

My name is Nneoma (NNOH-MAH)

until next time,