How Zamunda in ‘Coming to America’ instilled African pride


Before Wakanda, there was Zamunda.

Let me say that again for the people in the back: Before Wakanda, there was Zamunda. (No shade to “Black Panther.”)

So it’s no wonder why black folks across the US, Africa and everywhere else melanin-blessed brothers and sisters who see themselves and their ancestors in Prince Akeem and of course King Jaffe Joffer — all hail James Earl Jones! — will be gathering for viewing parties Friday night to watch “Coming 2 America.”

The long-awaited sequel to 1988’s classic “Coming to America” — starring Eddie Murphy back when he was EDDIE! — is a must-see event.

Of all the movies Murphy made in his hilarious heyday — from “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop” to “Boomerang” and “The Nutty Professor” — it’s “Coming to America” that still holds such a special place in African-American hearts 33 years after it first put Zamunda on the map.

Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy in 1988's "Coming to America"
Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy as royal Africans arriving in Queens in 1988’s “Coming to America”
©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Col

Why? Because a generation of black Americans — before we were widely known as African-Americans — were first able to see ourselves as kings and queens in “Coming to America.” We walked on rose petals. We quoted Nietzsche — in a McDonald’s, er, a McDowell’s. We had “wipers” (eww — but the point was made for comic effect).

What we weren’t, most importantly, were victims captured into slavery. And while we always saw that part of African-American history onscreen — whether it was on TV in the groundbreaking miniseries “Roots” or at the multiplex in Oscar-bait films such as “Amistad” — “Coming to America” flipped the script. 

Instead of shackles, we had bathers.

We were coming to America of our own volition, in our own royal jet and with our own money. Black was king, long before Beyoncé decreed it.

Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy in the new sequel "Coming 2 America"
Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy reunite for the new sequel “Coming 2 America.”
©Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collec

Seeing black people as royalty was — and still is — a revolutionary concept. (Thank you, “Bridgerton”!) Think about that the next time you watch “The Crown.”

Changing the usual narrative — even for the sake of comedy — was progress. Zamunda was a motherland that made us proud.

Now, going back to Zamunda for “Coming 2 America” feels like going home to a place where no one can steal your crown. We can embrace the spirit of our ancestors, recognize the royalty within us — and maybe kick up some rose petals.



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