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Life’s revelations- The spirit of community

I love becoming more liberated everyday, everything that has happened in your life the Lord will use to help you realize your purpose later in life…

I often wonder what is in me that makes me the way I am. To challenge people often on the things that concerns me, especially when it comes to Africa and the diaspora, and not let people’s reactions affect me. I realize that I’m fortunate, to have been able to be born in America and still be able to have traveled to Nigeria since the age of four. I have always seen the good in Africa, maybe that’s why I’m so passionate about my people all over the world because I know where we came from and where we have the ability to go. In Nigeria I am always reminded that I’m home and people know that I was not born there but they still tell me that’s my home. I feel at home as soon as I step off the plane, and I feel comfortable. And then I come here to Namibia for the first time, and still feel at home. I get that same feeling of home that Nigeria gives me but just different cultures, same continent. I was told by a Namibian that because we share the same skin, I should feel at home, and that I am at home. People greet me with respect based off of the fact that we look alike. Why is that? Why is it that I can feel more at home on a continent I wasn’t born in than I do in the place where I grew up? I can walk anywhere in New York where African-Americans are and still feel like a stranger. An African can walk into a room with African-Americans and not feel welcomed. An African-American can walk into a room with knock off clothes  and feel like a stranger in a room with people who have on name brands. On the North American continent, there has been a loss of the African spirit of respect for one another based on of the fact that we share the same skin, people respect name brands and “swagger” more than they respect the human being in front of them. I love my people but there has been a serious disconnection. That disconnection is a result of “divide and conquer”, which has to be overcome.

I’m going to break it down…

Being here in Namibia has made me respect the Himba tribe so much. The women walk around with their breasts out, red butter mixture all over their bodies, and they refuse to modernize themselves and wear “clothes”. The Himbas still to this day respect their cattle and that is their source of wealth, they are wealthy people. They walk around in modern Namibia where everyone else is “stylish” in their western clothing. Every Himba wears the same attire, but the most important thing is that they have community. I thought about it the other day, one Himba is most likely not going to be jealous of the next Himba because they look just alike with the same clothing and they work together to maintain their wealth. There is something about tradition that makes you realize the old way was not so bad.

What if we all as black people had solidarity like the Himbas? We are too far in the modern world to all wear the same traditional attire but forget clothes, what if we based it off of the color of our skin alone? What if we realized that the rich African-American and the poor African-American and the Jamaican and the African all have the same struggle based on skin alone? We fight the same stereotypes, we fight indirect rule, the new Jim crow, and white hegemonic viewpoints; and that struggle based on that skin tone is enough for me to respect you just for that alone. After that comes the real transformation; because we would begin to have dialogue that allows us to learn from one another. “oh really, you like that over in Africa, well I like that too here in America”. And then the conversation would become more informational, people would begin to learn from one another and see the similarities, and the differences would become invisible. Of course we should respect all people regardless of skin color and ethnicity but if we don’t respect our own how can we respect another? Just like a man who does not take care of home cannot expect to take care of his outside business, same concept.

Personally, I learned that lesson myself back in May, 2012. I had an encounter with an individual through my roommate who was friends with this person. This is someone who was so awkward in the club. I mean one of those guys that can get absolutely no play even if he was rich. Then my roommate invited me for dinner with her coworkers, he happened to be one of them. I was so shocked but here is the point of this story. He had me laughing the whole night! He was so funny! And really cool! It turns out that both of us are half Nigerian (Nigerian Father) with an African American mother. It turns out through our conversation I ended up teaching him things about Nigeria that he didn’t know, and he had been hesitant about going back because of his own personal reasons, but that night I changed his mind. So if I had let my initial thoughts of his “corniness” overpower my mind and actions, I would have never met an awesome person. It made me think and I felt so bad about my initial thoughts but I felt even better that I had been transformed in that one night. What if the whole of Africa and the Diaspora could have that same mentality?

“In Africa we share”, is a common phrase but means a lot. As African Americans sometimes we fight so hard to beat the stereotypes that it becomes a competition. Too often we hear phrases like “first black person to do run for president” (for example). How about just because I broke barriers, it doesn’t make me the exception to my race; I’m just doing what my ancestors have always done and never get recognition for. I am not the exception to my race; I represent the people who fought to do what I’m doing but never got to see it, and because American society is so individualistic we  have seen people claim the victory for themselves and leave others behind. What If we created ways for all those around us to be successful whether they come from where you came from or not? I didn’t grow up with the same lifestyle that most of the kids I work with in Albany did, but it doesn’t stop me from treating them as if they were my own brother and sister. The fact that I look like them is enough. I still fight for the kids well-being because the same system that tries to oppress them tries to oppress me too, no matter where you grew up. Money only liberates to a certain extent, but knowledge of the system along with wealth goes an even longer way. In that case, if my students in Albany want to think I grew up like them, it’s ok. As long as that motivates them to follow the same path i’m following and become successful, that’s all that matters. Most times when Jesus did a miracle or preached, people didn’t know he was Jesus, in fact at times Jesus told people not to tell others who he was. Nobody has to know our status in life because the impact comes from your influence on the people you are trying to help, not where you come from or what you’re worth monetarily. There’s too much division already so my credentials mean nothing if it didn’t help someone else get to where they need to go. I had to realize this for myself and I’m glad I did. If we started sharing and giving without expecting anything in return, we could live freely. How about if the next person isn’t “fly”, give them some of your clothes, make them fly, it’s simple.

Giving and community building has always been part of the African Spirit. We don’t need to be in Africa to experience it though. We can work together to create it wherever we are in the world. A person’s outside appearance shouldn’t matter, we should feel welcome amongst our own no matter what corner of the earth we are in. It’s about mentally becoming free and ridding ourselves of all the brainwashing that has taken place by way of oppression. There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing and acknowledging what has happened in the past so that we can work on our present and have a better future…

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