Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Rift between Africans and the diaspora

not too long ago this post came across my dash on tumblr. you can read my response at the very bottom, so i won't repeat it. i mainly wanted to talk about the rift that exists and hopefully some solutions to building bridges and make amends.

i've spoken about this before in another post, and every time it gets brought up, i can feel hostility and pain on both sides. it is such a touchy subject that i have to remove myself from it at times because too many emotions arise from just speaking about my reality and my personal identity.

but it's become more and more evident to me that if we are to survive in this world, there has to be unity between us. ultimately, amongst all people of color, but we have to start in our own communities. i don't think it was a coincidence that the American revolutionaries that reached out to Africa or other diasporic communities have been swiftly assassinated, jailed, or considered the most dangerous by their respective governments. Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Marcus Garvey, etc. when detrimental links are shown between American (US) consumers and government, it is almost always silenced in some fashion because unity between us would mean unfathomable change on every level.
once we become unified and our struggles intertwined, there will be no mission that is unachievable.
so here are some ideas i've gathered from reading the views from those born on the continent and those that weren't that i think will aid in the bridge for both sides:

For Africans from the Diaspora:
Learn: it is a wonder just how little i knew about Africa last year, and the year before that, and before i read this one book or got linked with that blog. our system is sustained by our ignorance, so why would our public education have more than 2 pages on the entire continent of Africa?
go to the travel section and pick up books about Africa to get a basic feel (although, note, most of these books are written by white people who have their own experience in Africa that may or may not be based on their status as tourists/voluntourists).
the internet IS YOUR FRIEND. there is no excuse to not know about Africa, people from the continent, and various cultures within it. i have learned an immense amount of information from friends i've linked with through the internet, African blogs i've followed, and people i've met in person that have been very helpful. here are some blogs and websites about and from people from Africa:
Mingle: find out about African clubs, restaurants, organizations, and stores in your area. shop there, chit chat there, become facebook friends, etc.

Read: get some books and read your ass off. there are a number of fiction books from authors like Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, and Chinua Achebe that write about experiences in different African cultures. Chinweizu Ibekwe, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, John S. Mbiti, Cheik Anta Diop, and Ifi Amadiume are non-fiction writers that should be looked into as well. aside from books, read up on the history of different nations and colonialism. read about apartheid in South Africa, the Blood Diamond trade in West and Central Africa. read about respected leaders like Thomas Sankara, Patrice Emery Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and leaders that have aided in the destruction of their country like Robert Mugabe and Charles Taylor. and don't forget the revolutionaries such as Leymah Gbowee, Steven Biko, and Queen Nzinga. wikipedia does a great job of having a good amount of info about a country, its population, language, etc. all in one place.

Watch: Ousmane Sembene, one of my favorite filmakers from Senegal, has done a number of films about West African culture. search 'Africa' on netlfix (Lumumba is awesome!), youtube, vimeo, and Google Videos. there are a number of Nollywood flicks on youtube in full. watch them and ask some people you've become acquainted with any questions you may have.

Important to note: everything you read about and hear through the news is not always reality and that you must interact with the people in order to get their reality. no one else can tell their story. it is also imperative that you understand that Africa is a gigantic continent with an immense amount of diversity. what is true for someone in West Africa is not necessarily true for those in the Horn of Africa. even within the same country - Igbo is something separate from Ijaw and Yoruba.
classism and political rifts exist within African communities as well and those with money and political standing do not have the same reality as those without.
also, and most importantly for those trying to reconnect, understand that those living on the continent are not waiting for us to come back so that they can embrace us and have a period of mourning for our destructed history. they have their own lives and may not even know, let alone understand, those of us that wish desperately to return and reconnect. it isn't good or bad, it simply is what it is. this is something we have to understand and move on (something i'm still trying to do...).

For Africans from the Continent:
Learn: from what i've heard, most Africans know a lot about the US and even television shows from the US are aired in a number of African countries. those shows tell about the lives of rich/middle class white America. many African immigrants come to the US with stereotypes about Black Americans birthed from these diluted and edited media outlets.
the US is not a land of milk and honey where we all have money, good education, and equal access to prestige and power. racism, classism, and sexism are thriving in the US at this point and have since its conception. these media outlets and television shows will never show you the dozens of Black males the police have murdered, the Black and Brown women that have been forcibly sterilized or the number of Black people who are working 2+ jobs and still can't pay their bills. and it damn sure won't tell you about our history of lynching, genocide, and the systematic dehumanization of people of color. not just of Blacks in the US but of Native Americans and immigrants of color.
here are some blogs and websites of people from the diaspora that speak about our realities:

Read: there are a ton of books written about Black experiences in the US and other diasporic communities. writers in the US like Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Saidiya Hartman, bell hooks, Angela Davis, and James Baldwin, and Stacey-Ann Chin are just a few. unfortunately, i cannot name any other writers off the top of my head from the Caribbean or South/Central America, so feel free to add to the list or do a simple google search. books that speak about our histories can be found from writers like Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, Fredrick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston. and if these books are not available, google searches with yield just as much information.

Watch: watch films about slavery so you know what they did to us and why we are still recovering. i would suggest staying clear of most news outlets because they tend to focus on and even exaggerate negative aspects of us as a people. there are a number of contemporary films you can watch to see Black life in the US (like Precious), but almost all of these films come along with baggage so it is important to read the criticisms in addition.

Important to note: in turn, as your realities are not the same across the continent, nor is ours. i am from the southern US middle-class background in a small rural military community. this is not the same for someone raised in an urban lower-class (financially) background in Northern US. not everyone is rich in the US, regardless of what they tell you on the news. most of us live in debt up to our eyeballs acquired from college. public education may be better than some places around the globe, but there still exists a hierarchy in which rich white kids have better resources and opportunities than Black and Brown children living in largely colored communities.

i cannot speak of the other diasporic communities, but if you come to the US, understand that you are Black. you will probably get special treatment from whites that like to fetishize you or look at you through a pitying eye ("the poor malnourished, uneducated, savage African that just needs a pair of TOMS shoes and a check from UNICEF..."), but otherwise, you are Black and will be looked at the same way those of us born here are seen. that being, if you're male-a criminal/rapist and is you're female-an emasculating bitch best used as a sex object. all of these can be usurped depending on your level of assimilation, of course. this whole mess about i'm not Black, i'm Somali, i'm Igbo...ain't happening in THIS country. it is true, but once you step in this country, the color of your skin is most important. most people in this country could not tell you whether "Igbo" is a people from West Africa, or a city in Jamaica. and frankly, most don't care. so understand that you may spend ridiculous amounts of energy and time on foolish questions and categories Americans may try to force you into.
also, regarding those that want to reconnect with you, your culture, your country, etc. (note that it is not all of us...not even most...unfortunately) please understand that this is vital to some of us. there is a lot we simply do not know and/or have yet to understand about you or your particular culture. be patient, please. but don't be afraid to set us straight about misunderstandings.

comment. think. criticize. feel free to add to my list if you like.


  1. Excellent write up! You're right when you say the internet is our friend, if you have access to the internet then there's really no excuse to be ignorant.

    Also, thanks for linking to my blog!

  2. hey no problem.

    off the subject, but what are your thoughts on the recent Occupy Nigeria movements? last i've heard, immigrants in London were protesting as well.

  3. off the subject, but what are your thoughts on the recent Occupy Nigeria movements? last i've heard, immigrants in London were protesting as well.

    I wish they wouldn't call it 'Occupy Nigeria' because it implies similarities with other 'Occupy' movements. From what I've seen, these protests are in reaction to the removal of fuel subsidy by the government. There's supposed to be a nationwide strike starting Monday as well.

    I'm not in Nigeria right now so I can't give first-hand details. However, I've had conversations with friends and we all agree there will not be anything different in Nigeria if we protested enough and changed governments. Nigerians love to blame leaders for their attitudes towards power and money while conveniently forgetting that these attitudes are not limited to those in power.

    Corruption has truly touched every single part of the Nigerian society and our attitudes to power is likewise corrupt. There's so much work that needs to be done...on another note I don't see them removing the fuel subsidy any time soon.

  4. Fabian Egbesu OhoreJanuary 9, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    that was a very interesting write up. i would also like to add that most africans and african americans need to follow in the footsteps of malcolm x who was trying to make his struggle global. a perfect example of how african americans and africans can re connect is here . Egbesu asawanna .

  5. Fabian Egbesu OhoreJanuary 9, 2012 at 5:24 PM africans around the world unite