We’ve All Got The Skin For It
Judas and The Black Messiah: Has Daniel Kaluuya’s Got the Skin For It?
My fellow Londoner Daniel Kaluuya has made a habit of playing American Heroes: Chris Washington in ‘Get Out’, “W’Kabi’ in ‘Black Panther, and now he’s playing a real-life hero, Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party in the movie ‘Judas and the Black Messiah.’
I discovered this while developing a new podcast, called ‘UpRising,’ for MACRO, the company behind the movie. I won’t lie, I thought casting Kaluuya to play a beloved revolutionary hero was a ballsy move, especially given the criticism about Black Brits playing American characters.
Yes, I’m referring to the hand waving and pearl clutching that took place after Samuel L Jackson wondered out loud if ‘Get Out’ might have benefitted from having an American brother play the lead role. Jackson, who later clarified his comments, argued that not all experiences are the same.
Well, OK….yes..I’ve lived in the US for *cough* years, and I’d agree that aspects of the African American experience are unique. I had no idea what grits were for ages. You call sweet potatoes yam (incorrect), you call okro okra. These things are indeed unique to you. But jokes aside, Black folk from other parts of the world connect with, understand and feel the African American experience more than we’re given credit for.
American culture is so ubiquitous, and has been for years that we get that experience better than most Americans think. We know more about you than you know about us. I grew up loving Dwayne Wayne and Whitley and Vanessa and Denise and those two twins and Girlfriends as much as you did. I desperately wanted to be a kid from Fame.
Yes, history of our arrival to British shores isn’t as traumatic as the arrival of African people on American soil, our shared history, of colonialism and slavery is dominated by trauma.
Brits with roots in the Caribbean have forefathers who were kidnapped from Africa. Those of us with a direct connection to the continent are the descendants of people who were subjugated on their own soil. African nations were created by European men hanging out around a table creating countries out of landmarks. They had no interest in what that might mean for cultures or families that might live there. The experiences are different, and we all bear our own scars.
Growing up Black in a white country creates an uncertainty in you that few other people understand. That cultural duality, and our ability to read the room and put people at ease (to protect ourselves) comes from those scars.
And so while we might look at the world differently, we get it. We see it.
Which is why I was so moved to hear Chairman Fred Hampton’s wife, Mother Akua say Daniel Kaluuya had the ‘skin for it.’ Yes, she did. Mother Akua, a legend in her OWN right said that this Ugandan-British ‘broddah’ had the chops to play this giant in African American history.