WATCH: Danai Gurira Gives Amazing Advice to Young Leaders – #WakandaForever

We’re not reaching. Anyone who’s seen Black Panther and been to ALA would come to the same conclusion: “This is Wakanda!”

Danai Gurira did, and she should know: the award-winning actress and playwright, who plays Okeye in the global box office hit, thrilled students with a campus visit when she visited SA recently for the groundbreaking sci-fi’s local premiere. [WATCH the video below]

Black Panther, says Danai: “Sort of shows that world what I feel Fred was thinking about when he invested in all of you – that world where we think BEYOND whatever trauma we experienced as a continent, and we RECLAIM ourselves and our greatness and we find OUR way to our best modernity, from our own vision…”

Given ALA’s unique position as one of Africa’s premier future learning institution for ALL Africans, it’s innovative curriculum and diverse programs ­– and its proven global success rate, it’s an obvious connection to make.

But did you know that ALA’s link to Black Panther is as real as Wakanda is fictional?

As Danai tells it, she is the link between ALA founder Fred Swaniker – whom she met at university, and who started building his resource network for ALA from her  New York couch – and ALA’s Cultural Custodian, Gavin Peter. “We’re childhood friends, who grew up together,” explains Gavin. “Fred and Danai met at Macalaster, and she spoke of him often. She said: ‘There’s a guy you have to meet, who talks like you do, of wanting to start a school that educates the whole of Africa.’”

Isn’t it telling, then, that Danai’s trip, and the movie’s release, coincided with ALA’s Decennial Celebrations in February? Like the fictional African nation, ALA too, is a place of cultural unity, where various tribes live in harmony. Wakanda is the world’s most technologically advanced country – and ALA’s educational advances span technology, leadership, enterprise and more. We may not have to fight for our ethos and principles, but we are dedicated to African identity, resilience, growth and development.

‘Whatever you do, the continent needs it. Here is where you find your greatness on your own, which is your strongest self…’

Danai’s visit reinforced this, as did her advice to students: “Whatever you do, the continent needs it. Here is where you find your greatness on your own, which is your strongest self; if your passion keeps pulsating towards the arts, just go with it. Go where your greatness lies; that’s your fuel, it’s where your passion is.”

So thank you, Danai, for highlighting ALA as a Black Panther stronghold – and for making your  visit that much sweeter by booking out the entire cinema so students could watch the movie, and see just how they’re invoking the spirit of #Wakanda on campus.

WATCH Danai Gurira’s visit to ALA campus


The actress is an award-winning playwright fluent in Shona, French, Xhosa and English. She was born in Iowa, to Zimbabwean parents; her father was teaching Chemistry at Grinnell College at the time. When Danai was five, the family moved back to Zimbabwe, and she returned to the US to study social psychology at Macalester College. She has a Masters of Fine Arts in acting from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Her play Eclipsed, which won a Tony Award for Best Costume Design in 2016, also introduced her to Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, who was an understudy in the student production, then played the lead in the 2016 New York run.

Danai’s play The Covert won the the 2012 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Writing and the 2013 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Playwright.

Before Black Panther, she had parts in various TV series, and was best known for her role of Michonne in Walking Dead.