The new global black family....
The new global black family.... Universal Pictures

All I can say about Us is that Lupita Nyong'o's performance is really something else. If all works out, this will be the movie that makes her for our times what Will Smith was for the late '90s and early '00s. Time will tell. But the most important thing about this comedy/horror movie is not its story, written and directed by Jordan Peele, or the performances, but its casting.

That is the deep importance of Us. It will also be its lasting importance: Who is playing who. And it is here we must see Peele in the same light as Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther. These black Hollywood directors have a political agenda that's under the radar and not about exposing racism or addressing black suffering. No. They have another agenda—one that I think only the black audience can consciously or unconsciously catch and appreciate. They are forming a global black consciousness.

This Africanist project is by no means new. It threads threw Marcus Garvey, Richard Wright, the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia, Léopold Sédar Senghor's negritude movement, the Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers 50 years ago, the marriage of Miriam Makeba and Stokely Carmichael in 1968, and so on. But these were, essentially, directed by intellectuals and political figures. Peele and Coogler have transferred and redefined the course of this old project into a new channel: casting.

Think of it: Black Americans playing black Africans, black Africans playing black Americans, and also Caribbean blacks playing black Americans, black Caribbean blacks playing black Americans in films by black American directors. This is an opening. And my feeling is that the opening made by the directors has the potential to go beyond the black nationalist centripetal synthesis of the negritude and the pan-African moments in the second half of the 20th century. But by, of all things, casting there appears an opening that presents the possibility for a black-to-black cultural production that's powered by centrifugal forces.

The black American parents at the center of Us are black African Lupita Nyong'o (the mother) and black Caribbean Winston Duke (the husband). Nyong'o, a black African, played a black African in Black Panther, and Winston Duke, a black Caribbean, played a black African. Daniel Kaluuya, a black Brit, played a black African in Black Panther and played a black American in Peele's Get Out. These directors might be starting something.