Homelands are tricky when you are of African descent. They are elusive. They seem more whimsical than concrete. This is perhaps why we all fell so deeply in love with Black Panther’s Wakanda. The notion of a place where Blackness in its variations roams so carelessly free feels so damn good and yet so damn mythical. But as I lined up to watch the movie in one of the Blackest places in my state, the Magic Johnson Movie Theater in Largo, Maryland, literally the center of Prince George’s County, a predominately Black suburb of Washington, DC, I knew where Wakanda was real.
I had moved back to the county just 6 months prior from Miami, Florida where I had lived for 12 years. I left P.G when I was 24 years old, and I had no appreciation for the county then. It felt regular and far from the exotic life I craved. Prince George’s County is where I had grown up with Black professionals everywhere in the comfort of Black spaces that were familiar, warm, equipped, abundant. I understood that I had lived in various parts of the county from working class neighborhoods to upscale ones. In both locales, I was protected from norms that defined other parts of the country. I knew what Black success looked like. It was everywhere. It was the norm. I knew people who compared their value in square footage. It was the norm. I knew what it was like to go to HBCU bus tours and ski with all Black children down snow-sided mountains. It was the norm. I knew what it was like to be almost always in the majority. It was the norm. I knew what it was like to share North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia roots like homemade desserts. It was the norm, and so I deemed it regular and had no appreciation when I left at the age of 24.
But after living in Miami for more than 12 years, I began to see home through a new lens. I now knew what it was like to be consistently, painfully in the minority- the one singled out in spaces by color, by gender, by assumptions. My P.G. County didn’t translate into my new home, and I was constantly assumed to not know things, nor be privy to “class,” and education based on the way that I looked. I had to prove myself in spaces. In the beginning, I considered it growing pains, but as time continued it wore deeply on my spirit, and I saw visits home as a refuge. I would get home and walk through a Bowie Target full of beautiful Black folk and feel like I was on some paradisaical Caribbean island in the middle of winter. My longings grew and tested my relationships in Miami. I stayed year after year for love, but all the while longing for “home,” rest from the racialized experiences I was having in Miami. Relationship one and two ended and I wanted to head home, but I fell in love again and then hoped again to seduce my new love to the beauty of Prince George’s County, to its semi-rural roads that I loved to drive through-the largely upscale Black towns of Upper Marlboro and Bowie.
I don’t care, the homes are too big. But they stand in the exact spaces that slave quarters once were mocking the slave plantations that still dot the county. The roads are named after former slaveowners, but Black success drives all over them. Shit we won. The people are collectively beautiful. They call it “pretty girl county” for a reason. The schools are in need of some TLC, but the images of young fathers with locs to waist and young daughters riding bicycles on suburban streets in safety next to 5,000 square foot homes is a sign. He nor she is “out of place” as they would be presumed to be if people did not know this county. He is home. She is home.
Ain’t nothing here perfect but the fact that we have taken our place as Great Migration children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and we have run with it in this county. And this space is shared with Afro-Caribbean and newcomers from Africa direct. It is my proud home. It is flawed, but it is the place where I swell up in pride just in the damn Safeway, Giant, Target, walking down the street. It is where a friend and I walked into a liquor store last Saturday night to the sight of 5 beautiful Black men singing and stocking the store they ran and owned.
Today, as I drove down to the Prince George’s County Board of Education where my own family helped integrate employment decades before up from Charlotte, North Carolina, my daughter called attention to the mural on the facade of the Board of Education building. That mural is pictured above.
I need no more evidence. I am home and this is my Wakanda.
I thank my ancestors for delivering me safely here.