Op-Ed
Video still via Twitter.

Off With Their Heads: Diversity Won’t Save the Royal Family’s Legacy

On the Royal engagement and why Africa never seems to catch a break.

During the Mau Mau uprising in 1950s, the British detained over one and a half million Kenyans in concentration camps. In these camps, men, women and children died of starvation, waterborne diseases and torture. The documents recording these atrocities were of course destroyed and the knowledge thereof hidden away because hey, long live the King!

Yesterday, news of Prince Harry's engagement to his girlfriend, the sexy paralegal Rachel Zane from "Suits," played by Meghan Markle, has created an epic media storm. This is normal for a royal wedding but the fact that Markle is of African American descent has had many people feeling all kinds of different ways.


The British royal family has ruled for the centuries and still are—sort of. In that time, they have colonized numerous African countries, murdered a great deal of Africans, disrupted and appropriated our cultures, initiated bloody wars, stolen our land, pillaged our resources and imposed on us their allegedly superior ways of doing things—the English way, good and proper.

Prince Harry has always been a bit of a "royal rebel." Unlike his brother William who has always borne the burden of taking the throne and thus having to tow the line, Harry has really been living his best life from chilling with the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West to allegedly throwing naked parties with a dominatrix.

The dyed in the wool monarchists turn up their nose at the pair. He can do so much better than a young woman who is not only not British but, gasp, has ancestry from Africa.

Personally, I don't see how the monarchy itself is more moral than the African dictatorships that they so indignantly denounce. In 2017, why have we not gotten rid of this ridiculous notion of a lineage of blue blood in the same way we got rid of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution? Without all the gore, of course, but nonetheless they simply must go. The royal family is not a force for stability but rather a stunning representation of grievous class inequality. And so if anyone should be turning their nose up in disgust, it's certainly Markle and the rest of us as Africans who are still deemed not good enough to grace the lavish corridors of Windsor Court. Isn't that a load of BS?

I'm all for love: black love, interracial love, and everything in between. Harry deserves to marry whomever he wishes (Markle the same) and whether Markle has a black mother or not or hails from the jungles of Africa or not shouldn't matter.

So, while Markle is black, that doesn't mean the royal family's wrongs have now been righted and we can sweep everything that happened historically under grand Persian rugs. Not by a long shot. It runs far deeper than that. However diverse and 'forbidden' their love may be, it alone will never atone for the centuries of crimes against humanity committed by the royal family—no matter how dreamy their engagement photos may be. So let us not entertain the idea that it may or that it will. It. Will. Not.

What matters most for me, is whether this impending marriage will finally start a necessary and long overdue conversation. Perhaps not by Harry and Markle themselves but at least by the public at large as to the royal family's history of imperialism in Africa especially and its steadfast condescending perception of Africans in general till this day. I may be naïve but surely it's the uncomfortable and unavoidable white elephant in the room? I mean, it has to be. They'll be having tea with one of our own now.

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.