Tag Archives: Africa

About A Married Man

“I want to ask you a question.” I smiled up at him.

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“Okay.” He smiled back.

“You have to promise to answer the question honestly.”

“Okay.”

“Are you married?”

“Yes.”

My smile faded.

He remained seemingly unaffected. “So now what?”

“What do you mean?” I struggled.

“Well you asked me that question and I answered it. What now? There must have been a reason you asked. Why did you ask?”

“I feel like you’ve been flirting with me.”

“I have been flirting with you.”

“That’s not okay, you’re married—”

“I know it’s wrong but I want to flirt with you, I’m choosing to do it.”

I was visibly disappointed.

“I still want to read your stories.”

I walked away.

I hadn’t even noticed him but he did everything right. He spoke to me just enough that I’d know he was there but not so much that he seemed overeager. He waited a few days to introduce himself and ask me about my name—its meaning and origin. He waited a few more days to ask me out and didn’t appear discouraged when I said I wanted to get to know him a little better before meeting him outside the gym. He disclosed a little information at a time about his interests and accomplishments to combat my apprehension. He read one of my short stories and actually understood it. He also gave me his work email address. He did not press me for my phone number even after we’d exchanged several emails. He suggested activities that I could explore but didn’t angle for an invitation to any of them. It was all compliments, eye contact, watching and connecting. I didn’t want him to say yes, but I wouldn’t have asked if I thought the answer was no. To my surprise, it did hurt me. Sharing a story for so many who write—it’s intimate. It’s like taking everything off so the voice of every stretch mark and curve can speak unencumbered by the penances of indecency.

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I know a few prolific cheaters and in some way they’ve all informed my view of sex. When I was going through puberty it was biology and a means to procreate. A definition bereft of colour. Now, I picture it like messy, greasy paint spilling over the lines or poorly managing to stay within them. It doesn’t really start anywhere specific, it just isn’t until it is. I’m still abstinent and I have to admit that I never really think about sex in the context of the other. In my mind it’s always about me, about something I want to feel. I want the pleasure that cannot hurt me. On most days knowing this is enough to keep me sound but when I’m self destructive, I realise how dangerously impressionable I am. So I hide or I demean me to save someone else the trouble. Or maybe because I’m the evil I know.

It has been suggested, “…women’s bodies are sites of patriarchal power and are spaces where men are at their most oppressive, and women are most oppressed”. I believe this to be true in the case of reproductive health where women are often denied agency over their own bodies. However, I cannot escape its applicability in the context of this post. Archaic express and implied policies and practices cite and impress upon women a responsibility to supply pleasure even if it is to their detriment. For instance, several countries did not and some still do not recognize marital rape as a crime. Don’t even get me started on female genital mutilation; they were worried about a woman straying and responded by absconding with her satisfaction. I have a very distant relative that was brutalized beyond recognition and murdered this year by a physically abusive man she left upon discovering he had multiple wives. Seeing him one last time cost her her life. She couldn’t live anymore because he couldn’t live knowing she breathed and it wasn’t for him. That’s the world we live in now. She says no and he kills her.

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I found his wife on Instagram, it’s what prompted me to ask. She doesn’t post any pictures of him or them and I wonder if this is more about him than her. She seems better than decent and I think she might love Jesus. I love Jesus. She’s a white foreigner and there’s also a child. It scares me that our ever-evolving patriarchy makes it increasingly difficult for women to not hurt other women. I don’t have a covenant with her. He does. I don’t owe her anything. He does. Yet he waited for me to ask. I had to pay attention or I’d have missed it. I could have been the other woman, the one he calls when his daughter is asleep and his wife is rummaging through the fridge for a late night snack to accompany the movie she’ll fall asleep to in his arms. I could have been the one he writes love letters to to feel young again. I could have been the one that causes him to shuffle uncomfortably at the dining table every time a notification sounds on his phone. Or maybe the reason it’s on silent half the time. But my mother didn’t raise that woman. So my conscience couldn’t rest with uncertainty. I asked and now I know. Now I am bound by a duty of care to a woman I have made no promises to before God because I have a married best friend, because I want my sisters’ to have good marriages and because I want my person to be mine.

I think I’m more vulnerable with black men. I think I always have been and that too scares me. I’m unmistakably attracted to them, I have a desire to learn how to love them right and when I picture giving myself to someone, they’re black hands that touch me and black lips that taste me—he doesn’t need to be naturalized, he’s at home in me and dying for ourselves is dying for each other.

There’s this meme in circulation that reads, “When you love another Black person, you have to love each other through 500 years of broken promises, pain, and oppression. When we say Black love, it’s not just about some Black people being in love; it’s the most revolutionary thing you can do”. Imagine that. The resilience of our community, the struggle that we are born into and sustained by—imagine the euphoria of a love that insists on its time. Why wouldn’t I want it? More importantly, why wouldn’t I want it with a black man that wants it with just me? As a father, you could be the man your daughter hopes to marry or the familiar sadness she acquiesces to. So I ask this man, don’t you want her to be joyful and confident? Doesn’t she deserve laughter and genuine, constant, irrevocable love? If so, how will she fare when you tell her her mother was not worthy by entertaining another woman?

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I don’t hate him for being married to someone who isn’t black. I despise that he expected me to be okay with settling for the parts of him that he feels he doesn’t owe her. Whatever bits of his person he’s reclaiming over a decade later to carelessly share with someone who will help him recognise himself. My coarse hair and his, my scars and his blemishes, the blood and bone that has fed and shaped us—death buried in the ground, mouth to root inflating blades of grass and trees with air saved from the days of life. Our shadows have long been allies…then he bid on the sun. He sought to own the light we rely on. Would he kill me? Will he kill me?

I love being a black woman. I love being a woman! I love my skin, I love my mind and my body. So hear me when I say with or without a black man, I am black love.

Because I choose it.

Because one day, it’ll choose me.

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I watched ‘Rafiki’, Kenya’s (previously) banned Lesbian Film

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Firstly, I LOVED Rafiki. It is a beautiful narrative where every character is someone we all know, or have been at a time in our lives—maybe still are at present. Gossips, self-appointed moral justices, heterosexual perverts, desperados, hypocrites, adulterers, fornicators, individuals. We’re all in there really. It follows the tragic love story of Kena and Ziki, two Kenyan girls whose fathers are competing candidates for political office. During the opening credits, members of the audience hollered and cheered at the screen at what I assumed were recognizable faces, possibly friends. I didn’t mind it. I thought it remarkable that for once I found myself in a theatre where it was plausible that the actresses/actors on screen could have been sisters, husbands or neighbours to any one person in the room. But I do feel it should have stopped there.

Though the love story contained many components of most love stories, it was obvious we were watching something different. Not because Kena and Ziki were particularly extraordinary in any way, but more so because members of the crowd made it a point to vocalise the two women’s attraction. I was silently disheartened by the eruption of murmurs occasioned by Kena and Ziki’s intimate moments; an intense study of each other’s faces or the intoxication of their physical endearment. What should have been a privilege to witness was so easily interrupted by what I assumed was discomfort, or perhaps an audible study of the unusual. In truth, I found the clapping that met the end of the movie perplexing. I could not understand how so many members of the audience who had made such an effort to remind us of their presence, responded with an act of praise. Where had the respect been—the appreciation for moments that belonged to Ziki’s quiet stare or Kena’s conflicted desire? I feel strongly that we owed them our silence and attention, not our commentary. Given the delicate nature of what is many peoples reality in countries where being homosexual can get you killed, for an hour and 23 minutes we owed them the floor.

There is this horrible scene in the movie where the two women are mercilessly beaten by a mob of bigots upon being discovered kissing in their safe-place, having been followed by the nosy gossip and her daughter who instigate the attack. The next scene has them sitting on separate ends of a bench in a police station, visibly bruised and bleeding. Two police officers watching them jokingly ask which one of the two women plays the role of the man in their relationship. When their parents arrive to pick them up, Ziki’s father slaps her across the face and scolds Kena, before ordering his daughter to get into the car. I cried. I don’t think I’ve cried in a movie house since I watched The Lion King back when I was still in single digits. I found myself wiping runaway tears from my cheeks, though I managed to hold back most of them.

It was the rejection these young women faced that resonated with me most. They no longer qualified for the comforts of human decency, all because of a personal choice. Attitudes in this country have a way of making you feel like you have to live on the brink of apology. I’m not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community but I no greater reflect what prescribed human symptoms are championed in this land, and I certainly could not rely on a vocal majority to countenance my personal Unkenyan declarations and preferences. Kenya’s patriarchal standard has written implied laws for love and care, the same way it writes scripts for women to read from. It’s no wonder why our order of the day is not building a country we can all be proud of—it’s condemning a different flavour of love and humiliating human beings for being human beings. Is love not as per the one who does the loving, and made beautiful by the one who is looking to be loved in that exact way? Why can’t it be the choice we are all at liberty to make without fear of condemnation or prosecution?

I don’t know why there was so much talking during that movie but it reminded me of a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

“The beast at the bullfight is the crowd.”

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My Dark Skin

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My skin is like patch work. Different parts of my body are different shades of dark brown. Contrasting colors indicate where my arms have entertained the dancing sun and where my skin has hidden from the light. The different tones are bold symbols of movement, a defined surface area permanently singed in memory of where my feet have travelled. Yet this skin I wear is reviled by so many though it is the color of bare earth. It boasts a heritage rich as the soil, and a resilience coarse as violence. I am obsessed with it. I will always be obsessed with it.

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Still In Love With Him

I’ve been finding it difficult to feel anything for a few years now. I don’t really like to be touched in any way and it feels like an invasion of my personal space when anyone tries to engage with me beyond necessity. I often try to avoid being emotionally aware of other people’s feelings and I find it all to easy to walk away when I feel pressured. I am repelled by crowds and the only place my heart feels settled is on undeveloped land, with fresh air and cleaner skies- no expectations, no conversations, just peace.

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Breathing

Alas on this earth, one cannot live as an island, frolicking among the speechless green and brown furnishings of the earth. So when I do have to engage, I am assisted only by courtesy and whatever vessel in me demands performance of cultural, social and professional duty.

Lately, however, there has been one person I have wanted so desperately to speak with. The image below is of my grandfather’s Pass Book. During the colonial era in Kenya, blacks were required to keep a Pass Book that contained ruled pages titled Movement Permit. These pages would be filled-in stamped and signed by a white issuing officer that would record in detail the permissions, validity, purpose and destination (among other things) of the Pass Book holder that needed to travel to a different part of the country. My Guka (grandfather) was allotted a number, visible in the picture below that was used to identify him. Every time I look at this, I am overtaken by anger and pain. How any man could impose borders on those who are born of the land they seek to roam is well and truly beyond my level of comprehension. Yet, here is proof that such men lived.

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Still, my grandfather, though ill-treated in his own country, found light in life and became a lantern illuminating the paths of many. When I was child I remember the way he used to embrace me when he would visit, and how he would discipline me in playful ways that made me want to be better. I remember how I could never get my small arms to fit around him because of his big stomach and I always thought he must have had so much love to give it was bursting at the seams. I remember how he spoke to me and the effort he made to be patient and listen to what I had to say. I remember how his stubble used to brush against my cheeks when I would jump onto the seat beside him for a cuddle. I remember the scent of his clothes and the loud slurps he would make when he sipped hot tea. I remember the way he would smile when he was proud of something I said or did, and the warmth of his hands when he held mine.

He’s dead. Has been for many years. Out of desperation I went to go look for glimpses of him in my other grandfather’s eyes and was reminded that no one man’s words are a replica of another’s heart. Now I don’t believe in talking to gravestones, but if I could send any letters to heaven:

 

Guka,

It still hurts to know you’re gone. Lately, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I am lost in my own ambition and disgruntled by my failure to accept pragmatism and mediocrity as living. I have no real idea of what it is I want from life anymore and no real connection to the ground on which I stand. How did you find God in the chaos of such a dark period of history? Where did you source the strength to keep going?

If you could come back just for a moment, and hold me up while we walk for a while- I think I could use the company. Thing is, I’m stuck loving you until the rain doesn’t know how to fall anymore. Until the sand is so dry and rough that it cuts the breeze and the bleeding wind wets the thirsty earth.

Gendo

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The Sun’s Retreat

I’ve never been in love with the sun, I’ve always found peace under darker skies. Not because I crave the wake of indiscretion, but because I covet the moon’s quiet embrace. No majestic rays command unsettled existence and yet the glitter of stars guide lovers of night. What greatness is bestowed upon the earth by such gentle light- the glow of a fatigued feature placed beyond the reach of man, pilfering song until the wind is the only whisperer.

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Diaspora Diaries: How do we justify burning a child alive?

Repost from: Chathe and Ebra 

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Fire by Matty Ring

 

 

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Are you my village husband and which way to the Biafran War please?

About the black community’s seemingly non-existent reading culture destined to kill us. (Seriously though, it’s a problem!)

I often wonder if the mountains dream of being hills and if raindrops fear the boorish sea. If I were to live the narrative of that which is said to represent me, I could not operate without reference. My hair on its own could not abide an angry breeze and my skin would be a little lighter and a little darker all at once. My speech would be interrupted by foreign concept- language and pronunciation I would dread play subject to test. I would hurt for reasons unbeknownst to me, and weep over trials that wrongfully add to the credit of my soul; ignoring the true toxicity in which my ambition for so long has been submerged. I would fall in love with a man in a village- our village. I would fall in love with a recalcitrant political refugee escaping detention. I would write privilege with love and the characters that bury themselves in my heart would force a ballad of appreciation to remind me of my blessings and limited acceptance. I would have to beg an application of inanimate objects to present a body employed by standard. I would need to know of a hardship of the mind that would make me heroic in thought beyond my education, and still humble and happy. I would belong to a classified people. They would hear themselves in me because I would avoid all intolerable displays of my individuality petitioning silence. I would buy my happiness from heroes of a different race or class; cheap spoils for the lesser being. My woes would be chosen for me and mental illness would only ever make me seem crazy, not wise and knowledgeable of the sins of our world. I would be someone I have never known enough to write. I would be someone I have never been able to resonate with.

This week I got my first full manuscript submission response. I stared at the alert on my computer, panicking in excitement and wishing there was another version of me that could deliver the news. I picked at my fingernails, busying myself with light work to steady my breaths. Eight weeks I have waited for what I can now confirm is a kind rejection from what I can only assume is a lovely individual entitled to her own tastes and values. This is surely the pain of writing; that one is prohibited from human emotion because there is simply no one to blame. I cannot hate myself for not fitting the mold and simultaneously, I cannot hate her for not seeing beauty in the cracks. We are two individuals; different worlds and different loves. We are women of different worth in this world and on this occasion our differences did not make us better, just different.

While many aspiring and established writers have known/will know the inexorable pain of a form rejection, a critique or a blatant dismissal of acknowledgment, the hope is that a waiting crowd will call foul and force a conversation that has not already been started. A conversation only that underrepresented voice can start. You see, it is not a rejection of my words that threatens my spirit; it is the scale that weighs its relevance, the absence of a strong enough African/Black reading culture to provoke the necessity for my presence in literature.

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I hated reading when I was growing up. I couldn’t resonate with the characters in the books, furthermore, my primary and high school teachers took the fun out of it by insisting an author’s words only had one meaning, and to interpret against the grain was to disrespect the purpose of language. So I grew up believing that one only read novels to pay homage to language, and not appreciate the value of a human being’s organized account of chaos. I numbed my senses to scripted records of society because these writers who took time to lecture me, did not want me to resonate with them, only offer my respect for their toil.

“I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.” -Toni Morrison

As much as I hated reading, however, I loved to write. Poetry drenched in spelling errors on primed recycled paper, prose about suicide and dying and speeches addressed to no one. One day as I transcribed my genius onto my mother’s Power Macintosh in my father’s study, I leaned over and picked up a book off his desk. Pages of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom brought my heart to life and the euphoria of Madiba’s soul speaking to mine unapologetically pilfered my attention. To this day, this feeling has only ever been replicated once by Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father. So beautifully as these men wrote their stories, so magnificently did they share their worth. I fell in love with their anger, their frustration, their identity crises and their durability. Then came James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, Virginia Woolf and Octavia Butler, Oscar Wilde and George Orwell. I fell in love with reading because finally I could hear the voices of the writers and we spoke with such careless feeling; they were entitled to their version of reality and I was entitled to my interpretation of their chronicles. But in all their stories, for all the struggle that had birthed their greatness they did not represent me. They did not package my voice for the masses.

“But you do discover that you are a writer and then you haven’t got any choice.” -James Baldwin

So I write because the bridge between this world and me is so insecure that only the sound of weeping rail dare attempt prevention of my fall, if only my steps should continue beyond shallow warning. I pray constantly and I query desperately, that I may not waste my mind and my passion. Stories where he yells and she cries and they break each other because he is just a man and she is only his accidental daughter. Stories where she is middle class, educated and still scaling the lowest rung of the ladder because this world has presented no allies to ensure her happy ending. Metaphoric shackles and her hair a metaphor still. Stories of reckless ambition challenged by a world where citizenship is the caped villain that hinders the protagonist’s progression. She has dreadlocks, dark skin and rotates her collection of skinny jeans. She doesn’t have Sarah Baartman’s large breasts, a West African Accent, or a loincloth, though she is born of Africa and so bound by its incumbent iniquities. What a tragedy it is that she and many others may never be acknowledged, because our community has neglected to add weight to our worth and support true representations of our demographics and our diverse obstacles. Why must we hurt ourselves by refusing a variety of narratives in favour of one that will constantly fail to represent all?

Alas, it would appear those of us who are different, who don’t fit the mold are writing our records for an empty room. Perhaps this is why I often wonder if the mountains dream of being hills and if raindrops fear the boorish sea.

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“Would you like me to sit with you?”

A little Turkish girl that lives close by had rushed home, having refused to wait for her mother to collect her from a friend’s house, a short distance from where they live. She wailed, knowing this to inspire the approach of her most loved person. Commitment to tears turned her cheeks red and the despair in her eyes unearthed an unrelenting desperation for her mother’s arms; a showering of kisses and cuddles from the Creator’s catalyst. Her efforts bore no fruit. Normally, I ignore outside noises. Anything that cannot be annexed to an action I have performed or word I have spoken, I will likely dismiss as being outside my area of concern. This time, however, hearing the loud cries, I stepped out to make sure she was okay. Although she did not speak, the locked grill door and her attempt to force it open with her little hands revealed the reason for her distress. Her mother was out and the house was impenetrable.

‘Sitting in Silence’ Sketch by Kanyiha Mbogori

“Would you like me to sit with you?” I asked.

She nodded her head, wiping her tears with her right sleeve and sitting on a step with her backpack still strapped to her shoulders. I moved to occupy a space next to her. In a world that tells us not to love without caution, a world that endorses a fear of what is different, we were breaking all the rules. Muslim and a Jesus lover, curly, soft hair and dreadlocks, child and young adult, Turkish and black African; irrespective of our differences we found comfort in each other’s presence. So the heart of a child will conquer the weight of any villain, with no more than the innocence that drives them to see the sparkle in an ogre’s eye. We just sat… on a step… quiet.

Sometimes our differences cause us to abandon a higher standard of humanity. But when we get it right, my God, is it spectacular.

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Ebola and the Price of Africans

The thing about Ebola is it’s effing awful. It has an incubation period of 21 days and its symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Perhaps what is worse still, is the world’s response to Ebola. The first cases of infected persons in West Africa are recorded to have been in December 2013, so it is astounding that it has taken, arguably, several months for the rest of the world to take Ebola seriously. This point is further exacerbated when more recent projections show that as many as 1.4 million people in Sierra Leone and Liberia could be infected and potentially die by January of 2015.

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Since the first diagnosed Ebola case in the U.S., there has been much more discourse on the state of affairs surrounding Ebola. In a CNN segment, Tara Setmayer, a conservative political commentator expressed her thoughts regarding Ebola. See below:

There are several issues I take with Tara Setmayer’s words. Firstly, when she addresses the issue of the Ebola patient (Thomas Eric Duncan) in Dallas she is quite candid in her view that someone coming from Liberia is likely to lie about their possible contact with infected persons in order to travel abroad. This introduces the idea that one is ‘guilty until proven innocent’ which goes against the presumption of innocence. Not only is she making assumptions she cannot aptly justify, she is making Duncan out to be some kind of villain who purposefully contracted this dreadful virus with some evil plot to further spread the epidemic purely because he’s African.
On the contrary Nima Elbagir had a differing opinion. See link below:

http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/bestoftv/2014/10/08/ac-nima-elbagir-on-liberia-ebola-timeline.cnn.html

So what can we establish from this. Not only does this suggest that Duncan was unaware that he may have contracted Ebola, his biggest flaw was being compassionate enough to help a pregnant young woman up after she collapsed. What a villain!
Setmayer isn’t the first person to think in this manner. In 1998 the U.S. Embassies in the cities of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed by terrorists. Hundreds were killed and thousands were wounded (locals and expats). It was reported that locals in the Nairobi area moved to assist in whatever way they could, only to be turned away by American marines and personnel, who were under the impression that the locals would take advantage of this tragic event to steal from the embassy. Not only could this have been at the expense of the injured, but it further perpetuates the idea that it is okay to make Africans out to be unfeeling, menacing beings. As an African, this is simply heartbreaking.

Why must we always get involved?
Setmayer also insinuates that she is unhappy with the necessity for foreign aid in West Africa and doesn’t understand “why the U.S. (always) has to be at the forefront of it.”
To make my point, I want to begin by addressing the shared history between Liberia and the U.S. In 1816, a group of White Americans founded the American Colonization Society (ACS). With the number of free blacks growing, they were trying to figure out what to do with them. In short they decided to colonize Liberia and ‘return and or dispose of’ some of the free slaves. Some abolitionists opposed this for moral reasons and some people opposed it because they wanted to retain some of the black folk for labour and military purposes for the future. Colonization and enslavement took place on the continent of Africa. Among the colonialists were the British and French who had occupied several territories in West Africa and seemed to encroach on the territory the ACS wanted to retain possession of. So in order to have Liberia recognised as a sovereign state capable of retaining its borders, the American settlers declared independence from the ACS. We can’t ignore that there were some black Pan-Africanist’s that romanticised the idea of ‘coming home’ so to speak, but as Richard Wright and many others, they had been kept away from their roots for so long, reintegrating was not only hard but disheartening.

“Where the rubber meets the road”
In the 1920s, the U.S. began searching for rubber resources. The U.S. Secretary of Commerce at the time, Herbert Hoover, in conjunction with American business magnate, Harvey Samuel Firestone (owner of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company), wanted access to natural resources that were being constrained by other colonialist governments- that would be under America’s control. In 1926 the Liberian government granted Firestone the right to lease up to one million acres, creating the world’s largest plantation in Harbel, Liberia.

What’s been happening since?
Now it has been argued that the 99-year lease at 6 cents per acre, while liberal to Firestone, was also beneficial for the Liberian government who needed the money they made off of the rubber market to keep from being taken over by other colonialists. More recently, in 2005, Firestone signed a 37-year lease with the government of Liberia. That same year, “workers at the Harbel plantation filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court under alien tort claims act, charging Firestone with using forced labour and child labour.” A United Nations Mission in Liberia report supported many of the workers claims, while Firestone also admitted negligence concerning its own policy prohibiting child labour. One of the reasons found as to why children were working on the rubber plantation had to do with a “pressure to meet unrealistic company quotas”.

Firestone and Ebola
In the past few days we have learned of the effort Firestone has made to keep their territory Ebola-free, by establishing their own clinic on a rubber farm where they isolate and treat victims within the Firestone community (consisting of approximately 80,000 workers and their families). Firestone’s is certainly an admirable initiative, even if the wealth and resources available to the company is what has enabled them to be so proactive. It is worth noting, however, the somewhat volatile relationship that Firestone has had with Liberia. During the Great Depression when rubber prices fell, Firestone wanted the U.S. government to send a warship to Monrovia (capital) to enforce debt repayment and protect Firestone’s investment in the country. Additionally, given the history of Firestone in Liberia as far as possible human rights violations, we cannot escape the opinion that Firestone could merely be protecting its financial investment. Quite frankly, it is not often that large corporations see their employees as more than faceless numbers. Nevertheless, one cannot dismiss that their advances are somewhat avant-garde as far as this Ebola outbreak goes.

Inconsequential Colonization
Something, as an African, I have never been able to comprehend is this idea that we are supposed to forget what was done to destroy us by greedy, merciless colonialists, and yet we are not afforded the right to claim that the weak institutions in Africa are in part due to the repercussions of enslavement and colonization. As children we are all taught that our actions have consequences and yet it seems colonization, according to some people in the western world, is inconsequential. This cannot surely be the case, as prior to Scramble for Africa we certainly did not have 54 countries and weren’t engaging in civil war after civil war. A negative in insisting on the enforcement of accountability, is admitting where you have royally screwed-up; economic and social stability should not be a prerequisite for who is extricated from this reality and who is subject to it. So while we cannot entirely blame the west for Africa’s lack of desirable progress in the strengthening of her institutions, I cannot reconcile the idea that so many western nations have used her (for instance for rubber) and continue to use her, in her vulnerable state, for their own benefits while passing off the dollar-a-day campaigns as making a positive difference. All this, only for an epidemic like Ebola to unveil how long it would take for the western world to make an ACTUAL difference when it truly counts.

CNN correspondent Isha Sesay conveyed the following message:

So what is my point? The irony of Setmayer’s frustration over the U.S. involvement in Liberia is how closely tied the U.S. is to the African nation. Not only is her pernicious attitude towards people who are not dying of their own volition of ill repute, but her blatant lack of empathy for people who have only recently emerged from a second civil war, leaves me wondering what her definition of humanity is. At what point do you look at a man and tell him that because he fell below the standards of humanity set by the western world, his death is justifiable?

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Depiction of Pre-colonial Africa. (Photo credit:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/01/13/40-more-maps-that-explain-the-world/)

For many years the rest of the world has de-humanised Africans. This is why the tear-jerker TVC’s and ‘poor-nography’ will never play a positive role in progressing Africa’s nations. Africans are seen as helpless, primitive, undetermined, unattractive, illiterate, shameful, barbaric beings, that don’t even really qualify as human. People may not expressly say these words, but it has been communicated by conduct for so many years that we may have started to believe this of ourselves; perhaps morale plays more of a role than the western world realises. So before you chastise us for being ill-prepared to deal with an epidemic none of us asked for, please acknowledge the role you played and in some areas continue to play in the weakness of our institutions.

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Photo credit: Steve Evans (https://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/3423517521/in/photolist-nMMip-koaRAz-5tg2Ez-5nYYKy-5tSqje-5t5nwH-5uqxs9-ptgHQT-6dwqua-oDXNYx-69YXTN-8LH4pr-7EjtE-brDb7M-Su9eY-scqvP-bxED7X-e3fHSc-aghHr7-vPpZt)

Finally, perhaps the biggest oxymoron about Setmayer’s words, is the fact that the woman herself is what society may term an African American. Now of course she may not identify with this title, similarly to Raven-Symoné who just this week said that she does not identify as an African American, but simply an American. I take no issue with this at all. Congratulations to anyone who can identify him/herself so decidedly. But the fact is Setmayer’s black. And whether she likes it or not, it is probable she has some ties to Africa, even if they are so remote that she could live more than comfortably having never set foot in the motherland. Black Americans gain nothing from the denigration of black Africans, so why do it? The mere fact that your ancestors were put on the Aurore and mine were put to work in a field in Africa, should not be a justification for your lack of empathy. This isn’t an attempt to play the supposed race-card, it’s a choice to address what could be seen as an ethnic inequality.

The great James Baldwin in his critique of Uncle Tom’s Cabin said “Our passion for categorisation, life neatly fitted into pegs, has led to an unforeseen, paradoxical distress; confusion, a breakdown of meaning. Those categories which were meant to define and control the world for us have boomeranged us into chaos; in which limbo we whirl, clutching the straws of our definitions.” The struggle against Ebola cannot so easily be classified as West Africa’s problem. It is everyones problem. As long as we are living we owe an implied duty of care to each other, not by law, but by virtue that we share this earth. That we- all of us- are human.

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Pity is not a taxable income!

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In my experience, it is not uncommon as an African to hear comments about Africa. Most of them are negative, and occasionally misinformed, but all of them are said with such confidence, as though anyone with a functioning mouth is a workbook of knowledge on the state of Africa. But as an African I would like to comprehend what it is people get from making these announcements? Are you searching for a sense of heroism or a pat on the back for demonstrating that you have ‘working feelings’? “Oh there is so much poverty”- congratulations you have eyes. “Oh the starving children in the slums make me so sad”- well done, your heart isn’t made of stone.

What do you accomplish by saying things about us that you pretend don’t exist in your own countries? Have we begged you for pity and opinions, or does this come free of charge? Your dollar-a-day campaigns; your endless supply of grains because children will not suffer from kwashiorkor if they can swim in an undying stream of millet and maize meal; your “quick, we have to save the Africans from themselves“ attitude? You initiate “Hunt-Kony-Down” movements and show pictures at dinner parties of that poor African girl you sponsor, through that multinational NGO, with $25 a month who, “bless her, sends a thank-you note in terrible handwriting whenever she can get her hands on some paper and a stamp in the village”. You take pictures and record stories to share among your social circles, as though we are animals of a different species, with no voices of our own. So while Museveni is passing heinous laws, and other African leaders and criminals are committing unfathomable atrocities, your attention is on what you think is the REAL problem. Why should we make a puppet our priority, when he’s a dispensable pawn on the chessboard of a greater monopoly? Honestly, if I am starving, I’m not focused on the future; I’m living for the present. So ask me to take a picture and give me some food in return, and HEY PRESTO- starving African kid acquired for FB #tbt picture upon your return home. Hunger is a deplorable demon- don’t take advantage of how easily manipulated someone is in that state. Jacob and Esau people, it’s a heck of a story. You’re not a hero, you’re today’s meal ticket.

Perhaps it’s that you’re trying to “save” us by encouraging perpetual dependence on you. But this is not the 16th century- we’re not trying to encourage one-hut missionary schools in a field of dust somewhere in the middle of the Kalahari, where people are learning to read and write, so they can achieve basic literacy for blue collar work- we’re fighting for REAL development that gives EVERYONE a chance to dream of a dignified future. Why must we sell our children a dream, when we know that your ostensibly “helpful” handouts are not sustainable? You say poverty and Africa like one would Australia and beaches. But Africa has beaches, flamingos and sunshine; Australians are just very good at hiding their poverty- so why must we assume the SOLE role of poster child for destitution? You say Africa and aid like New York and dreams. But you don’t do any research as to what this money is used for or whether it is actually beneficial, but the fact that it’s aid MUST mean it’s good. You don’t think we dream? You don’t think there are some people in New York in need too? And yet you will also say Seychelles or Mauritius and associate them with honeymooning and luxury, like they are two magical lands where Dora the Explorer and Boots play. DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE FUCKING SEYCHELLES ARE?

When we don’t put coins in a beggar’s box on the street, it isn’t because we have hardened hearts and have rejected to acknowledge the state of our nations. In many cases it’s because we realise that feeding a man today, doesn’t guarantee he will eat tomorrow. Imagine spending your life begging and every day you live is another day you MUST beg to eat- is this life or is this cruel impending death? There are Africans who work diligently IN AFRICA, who assess the situation, identify the cracks in the system; corrosion of the chains, and their blood sweat and tears go into sustainable development; strengthening of institutions; improvements in the legal system; improvement in healthcare; microfinancing for lower level income earners; investment in quality education; fighting corruption; trying to educate the population on failing leadership; cutting ties with greed; addressing lack of proper security; funding entrepreneurship; exploiting freedoms under the constitutions; investigating how mineral wealth can subsidise poorer communities, etc. If we don’t address the problems that perpetuate poverty, we give it a platform to fester. Would you weed a garden by snipping off the top, or do you pluck from the root? People are WORKING, really WORKING to create something that the generations that follow can inherit. We’re not sitting around waiting for a hero- but we cannot fix many LIFETIMES of errors in a day. So forgive us if we don’t worship the ground you walk on because your band-aid solutions have not as of yet proved SUSTAINABLE in the long run. I know at the end of the day, many people will take offence to what I have said, because your intentions may be pure, but your approach sits unevenly. So please, I IMPLORE you, for the sake of the poverty stricken Africans you ‘weep’ for, if you take nothing else from this, at the very LEAST acknowledge that your pity is not a taxable income.

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Filed under Politics