Former Hollywood actress and multiracial media darling Meghan Markle pulled off a Royal Wedding infused with African-American cultural traditions, and audiences loved it.
We got our first glimpse of the American Princess, as Twitter is calling her, riding with her mother, Doria Ragland, as they approached St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. When the mother of the bride stepped out of the vehicle, she was immaculately dressed in a mint green dress and jacket, her locs perfectly topped with a matching hat. Ragland, who is a Black yoga instructor and social worker in Los Angeles, has been a staunch supporter of her daughter since the royal engagement was announced. Her decision to unapologetically rock her locs, a natural hairstyle that Black women have been routinely subjected to discrimination for wearing, was a bold statement of self-acceptance and reverence for her culture.
Due to her background as a Hollywood actress and her mixed racial heritage, Markle was already an unconventional match for Prince Harry. The prominent presence of her Black mother was a preview to a ceremony that would be unlike any royal wedding we have witnessed before.
Markle was a vision of beauty as she made her way down the aisle, signifying the end of a royal engagement marred by vile acts of prejudice by the media and certain family members and the beginning of her life with Prince Harry as a married royal. After the announcement of their engagement, some of the vitriol she received from the press was so excessive Prince Harry issued an official statement condemning their behaviour.
Despite the drama that preceded their nuptials, the Royal Wedding gave us touching moments of inclusion and plenty of highlights.
Reverend Michael Curry preached a rousing sermon on the “redemptive power of love,” quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sharing how black slaves in the Antebellum South explained the power of love though an old African-American spiritual, “There Is A Balm In Gilead.” As the first Black presiding bishop in the Episcopal church, Curry was considered a radical choice because he is known for addressing social justice issues and supporting gay marriage.
The message of his sermon was so profound and relevant that it has gone viral. Curry not only spoke to the power of human connection, he globalised his message by highlighting issues of poverty and oppression. He made a plea for us to love ourselves and our neighbours. His sermon was particularly uplifting for Black Americans and other racial minorities experiencing racism. As one viewer tweeted, “That sermon by Reverend Curry wasn’t for the newlyweds. It was for the world.”
That sermon by Reverend Curry wasn't for the newlyweds.— Rhett Bartlett (@dialmformovies) May 19, 2018
It was for the world. #RoyalWedding
As his afro glistened, teen music star Sheku Kanneh-Mason was backed by an orchestra and elegantly played the cello. Viewers were impressed, tweeting his performance was a welcome display of Black Excellence, as he flawlessly performed Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria," Gabriel Fauré's "Après un rêve" and Maria Theresia von Paradis' "Sicilienne." Previously crowned the BBC Young Musician of the Year, the current student of the Royal Academy of Music in London had already released successful songs in the U.K. before he was tapped to perform for the royal ceremony.
Members of The Kingdom Choir sang a stirring rendition of “Stand By Me,” a song written by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King after hearing a spiritual co-written by soul singer Sam Cooke. This was a significant choice because it is a politically motivated anthem that gained popularity in America during the civil rights movement. Much like the 60s, the country is currently experiencing widespread racial division during Donald Trump’s presidency. As the newlywed royals departed the chapel, the gospel group performed “Amen.”
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey, tennis pro Serena Williams, and movie star Idris Elba were among the Black celebs that made the exclusive Royal Wedding guest list. All have an international fanbase and global appeal. By bringing a bit of Black Hollywood to Windsor Castle, the ceremony integrated part Markle’s past life as an actress.
The world has gotten a taste of Black culture and learned what Black Americans already knew. We are oratorically gifted spiritual leaders, we are classically trained musicians, we are international superstars, we are royalty — and our culture — has always been rich with socially-conscious and inspiring traditions.
The energy, the imagery, and the spirit of the Royal Wedding solidified how the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle diversifies the monarchy. By blending cultures, it inspired hope that Curry’s universal message of redemptive love will resonate and become a reality, uniting people on all corners of the globe.