As a kid growing up in Nigeria, popularly known as the giant of Africa, I was surrounded by mostly blacks and hardly ever confronted with the subject of racism. In retrospect to my childhood days, pictures of the civil rights movement from the US and the struggle for black liberation in South Africa now surface vaguely in my memory. Fast forward to 2020 it is not very far fetched to say that not so much has changed from neo-colonialism, to systematic racism and police brutality. It’s hard to see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. One thing which has certainly changed is the fact that citizen journalism has made it possible for anyone with a camera to capture some of these hideous crimes on tape.
There would never be sufficient articles or books which would be enough to capture the plight of my people or highlight the social and economical injustices we experience as a race. That is why I have decided to create that light at the end of tunnel and share a profound experience which has shaped my personality and self-awareness even through the darkest of times.
During my high school days, I was introduced to African literature. Luckily, the teacher who lead this course was very well grounded on historical events. Due to this, he was able to re-dramatize some special moments by engaging us to take part in public poem readings and plays as he introduced us to the works of some reputable black writers such as Leopold Sedar Senghor, Maya Angelou, Wole Sonyinka amongst others. One consistent theme which was emphasized in their works was that of black pride and black beauty. I was privileged to learn about my cultural heritage and that we were kings and queens before the exploitation of the African continent. The negritude movement which began in the Francophone and Caribbean regions long before I was born helped me embrace the fact that black is beautiful. Also this knowledge gave me more insight into Africa's contribution in the global fields of arts and sciences.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
In many of these poetic and novelist pieces, the African woman is seen as a powerful force to reckon with. The works of these artists challenged the mis-representation of the black woman and reinforced beautiful images of the thick hair and skin, highlighted the different shades and shapes of blacks and celebrated all the negro features which were supposed to be a taboo. These concepts have solidified the pillars upon which I have built my cultural identity as an African in the diaspora. It has also helped me uphold certain values which help me navigate through the difficulties of being black in a white mans world. While it is hard to foresee a society devoid of prejudices based on race and gender, I have decided to cling unto the fact that black is beautiful.
It’s a privilege to be bestowed the opportunity to define and reshape narratives as an artist. In times like this I believe that literature, music and art in all forms are vital tools for societal change. This is a pivotal moment for reflection and action for black people around the world. Whether in the diaspora or back home in Africa we have been victims of oppression and marginalization on so many levels. I believe it’s time to shake up the status quo by engaging in meaningful conversations and reshaping the narrative through agendas that strike change. We all have a part to play in shaping the future through our voices, platforms & solidarity with our black brothers and sisters locally and internationally.
To my white friends: not being racist is not sufficient. In times like this, we need white allies. People with racists opinions should feel afraid, uncomfortable & unable to move in circles around you because YOU call out racism! Together WE can create a better future for the next coming generations.
Keep your head up high and be thy neighbors keeper.
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