Someone recently asked me how it feels to be young, black and African.
A bit of a weird question huh?
Anyway, my immediate answer was – “It feels great”.
But when I thought about it more and more, the answer switched in my head to:
“It’s confusing.” (much like what this post will be – disclaimer*)
It’s confusing to be young, black and African.
And that’s true - mostly.
I mean, look at us.
We are the sum total of A LOT of things!
Too many things.
What we say about ourselves, with a generous pinch of our almost totally-erased cultures; what other people think about who we are; what both we and other people think we are; and of course the blind spots…what nobody knows!
Yeah, even Johari is confused with that whole thing!
And really, that is what it means to be African.
To be a confused and beautiful mess of everything we are, everything we were, everything we should be and what the world thinks we are/should be.
Just look back at our greatest hits.
There we were….the almost naked happy-go-lucky people, living in communities, singing and dancing, sharing everything (from food all the way to spouses), being one with nature, worshipping nature and our gods…..you know, just being awesome.
Then some ‘funny-looking’ people come from god-knows-where and decide that everything that makes us awesome is shit.
We can no longer be happy half naked people. No, that’s much too barbaric- we have to wear weird things called clothes to hide our endowed bodies.
We can no longer sing and dance all day if we want to. Oh no, that’s a waste of potential- we’d much rather sit in class, erase our tribal languages with English and strive to work for that weird thing called money all our lives.
We can’t keep sharing everything between us…..I mean what are we trying to be- saints? And come to think about it, there’s no way we can be ‘saints’ in the biblical sense of the word if we still worship our powerless gods, now can we?
So these new people saved us! Hallelujah! Like a juicy hen being saved from a ‘dangerous’ chicken coup by a prudent wolf.
Then they used us (and we used ourselves) as slave providers for centuries while perpetuating the very ideas that stay with us until today and make us who we think we are.
Most of us still take ourselves as being lesser than the ‘white man’.
Annoying but true.
We can be insecure.
And we have slavery and whole of other things to thank for that. You may want to watch this documentary if you haven’t already.
Fast forward a century after slavery was abolished and we were gifted with a new kind of slavery.
A scramble for African pie happened and then colonialism came to be – and interestingly enough, in the form of a vehicle called Christianity. But let’s not get into that.
Colonialism erased most of what we were (for those countries that went through it).
Today, the young black African is pretty-much an amalgam of what’s left of the traditional and the modern, if I may call it so. We are what our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents were as well as what the modern world wants/needs us to be.
It is a hard place to be at.
And hard to place us in one single box. Heck, throw away any box you may want to put us in.
We are everything.
We speak 2-5 languages.
We have beautiful names that Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize.
We can dance to anything and I mean, anything.
We are cultured by own traditional belief systems and also by global and international media.
A large number of us are just as educated if not more educated than the rest of the young world.
It is hard to understand us without putting yourself in our shoes. And yes we have shoes in Africa. Despite your many efforts to think that we don’t.
We do not live in trees and ride elephants to school.
We are just as fashionable as the rest of the world if not more fashionable.
We hang out in malls (we have those) and go on coffee dates.
Our cities are evolving faster than we can imagine. We are evolving with them.
We are ambitious and entrepreneurial. I mean, check out all the brilliant stuff we come up with.
But above everything else, we are our parents’ daughters and sons and our grandparents’ grand-daughters and grand-sons. We still follow tribal customs that have been passed on to us. We don’t agree with all of them but what we take in what we can.
So there you have it.
We are a mix of different worlds.
It is confusing to be young black and African. But you know what else it is?