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Why Lupita Nyong’o “Your Dreams Are Valid” Oscars Speech Wades into 21st Century Cold War

Can an Oscar speech have geopolitical ramifications? With close to 100 Academy Awards ceremonies, we’ve come to anticipate Oscar  winners speeches. Sobbing and thank yous to mothers. But that was before Lupita Nyong’o. The movie that earned Lupita her Oscar, 12 years a slave earned plaudits for not being revisionist.

Lupita Nyong'o

The role of Hollywood in modern cold war propaganda is set in stone. But what the Mexican born, Kenyan actor did with her acceptance speech is all her though. She must as well gone with the norm: thanked people, sobbed and leave it at that. Maybe, it’s Musambwa. Luhya speak for  it runs in the blood. The straight talk, not to be bowed , people champion talk Kenyans have come to know and respect her politician father for.


By its own merits, Steve McQueen’s flick represented another step for 21st century global citizens of African descent to reconcile with their dark past. I reckon Steve had no way of telling the geopolitical environment at the time of 12 years a slave greatest moment. Neither had he a way of knowing that such an otherwise innocuous statement by Lupita Nyong’o could reverberate across the world. This wasn’t in any way a Black Swan, but significant nonetheless. To understand the ramifications, we travel halfway round the world to the land of Putin.

The Stalled Russian Dream

Sochi came and its wake we had the Ukraine crisis. The heated conversation around humanity’s ever most expensive games revealed that modern games are actually a not so sporty affair. Major sporting events were once hailed as a civil way for nations to placate a bad case of blue balls. Through dignified acts of aggression- sports- nations were able to compete and exert soft power.

Putin didn’t hide this new found power, proclaiming that Sochi was Russia’s show of its virility. A showpiece event to let the world know that phoenix had arisen from the ashes of the Berlin wall.  And as if to rubber stamp this chest thumping, barely a fortnight after Sochi, the world was grappling with Russia in Crimea. We don’t expect a full carte blanche flex-your-muscle-show here; but just like Syria, you never know.

What is for sure is that the with Russia annexation of Crimea, the wars of deception upped. Propaganda to win allies came into full swing. In other words, the cold war never ended!

What next that the cold war never ended?

This most likely is a long drawn diplomatic ‘situation’. With posturing and all sorts of diplomatic jingoism flying around. Moreover in the 21st century, with the image, functioning and interests of nations increasingly depending on what happens in cyberspace, expect war . Cyberwars

Lupita Nyong'o with her speech exhalting the American dream may have done as much damge as this sophisticsted Russian cyber attack scheme involving cheap thumb drives sold unwittingly to servicemen that infiltreted secure servers when plug in high security installations

All considered, the gravity of the seemingly innocuous, Lupita Nyong’o 86th Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech hits home. A home run for America in this war of perceptions. At the biggest showpiece event for America’s greatest export: Hollywood (its equivalent is what Christian mission work was for The Great Britain in the conquest of its colonies) an African princess articulated The United States of America ultimate sales pitch so brilliantly.

Lupita Nyong’o Oscar Acceptance Speech: All Hail The American Dream

For a nation built by immigrants, never has been the American Dream been so beautifully captured:

Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.

And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own.

Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life. [Tears, applause.]

I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I.

Chiwetel, thank you for your fearlessness and how deeply you went into Solomon, telling Solomon’s story.

Michael Fassbender, thank you so much. You were my rock.

Alfre and Sarah, it was a thrill to work with you. Joe Walker, the invisible performer in the editing room, thank you.

Sean Bobbitt, Kalaadevi, Adruitha, Patty Norris, thank you, thank you, thank you — I could not be here without your work.I want to thank my family, for your training [laughs] and the Yale School of Drama as well, for your training.

My friends the Wilsons, this one’s for you. My brother Junior sitting by my side, thank you so much, you’re my best friend and then my other best friend, my chosen family.

When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.

Thank you.

Little wonder then, that America is in love with Lupita Nyong’o. How significant is this speech in the grand scheme of things? Probably fleeting. But we sought to come as close to the truth as we could. Charity begins at home and so we head to Kenya in an attempt to answer this.

Rise of Lupita Nyong’o

To be honest, a section of Kenyans were unmoved by the early proclamations of Glory! Glory!

They dismissed local media talk as just another case of Kenyan’s infamous sense of entitlement. Besides, skeptical Kenyans had learn a lot from the Obama experience. Just as they were about to press the next button, Lupita Nyong’o got herself a couple of selfies with famous people. Then Nyar Kisumo bagged a bunch of movie awards most Kenyans had never heard of. Before long,  paparazzi were tripping over themselves just to get a shot of Lupita Nyong’o. And now an Oscar!

On the morning following the 86th Academy Awards night, every damsel in Nairobi pulled a Lupita Nyong’o. Donning a blue flowing dress, though not Prada, irrespective if it fit the occasion or the weather! I am reliably informed that Nairobi HR mangers, for their sanity’s sake, let it go since it was the unofficial Lupita Nyong’o day.

On the Prada thing, these Kenyans! Give them a week and Pradah/Praada/Plada/Praba made in Taiwan et.al will be selling for an arm and a leg in them boutiques, on the street and in the ceramic-tilled shopping malls. I am sure there is already a matatu wearing her graffiti and a “local”; Smokey neighborhood tavern named: “Lupita Nyong’o Bar & Restaurant.” Wait. We aren’t done yet, there is even a tribute song done in her native Benga style

Granted, her home country is in jubilation as should be. I wonder though how the air is like in Mexico, her birth county. Nonetheless, a cursory look at google trends  reveals that besides Kenya Lupita’s words strung the hearts and stirred the minds of millennial world wide.The cardinal rule in any contest of rhetoric is that it’s imperative not to let your opponent have the headlines. The Lupita Nyong’o Oscars speech had this effect. It diluted the makeup work of the Sochi games on Russia in the eternal race for minds and souls.

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