African and Unapologetically Black. (Chimamanda)

So most you all have already seen the viral video where Chimamanda Adichie shuts down her white male cohost on the topic of racism and white privilege. Her co-host (he who shall not be named) was discussing DJT and completely denying any ounce of evidence or reality that he had said anything that was even the slightest bit racist or inflammatory. Adichie handled the situation with the upmost poise, intelligence and grace along with a fabulous eye roll. She quickly stated in no mixed terms with all the receipts in hand incidences of racism and racially biased language that was used by DJT throughout the course of his 18-month campaign. But more importantly, as a Nigerian woman, she positioned herself to speak truth to power and publicly spoke on issues of racism and white supremacy.

We often don’t see African women from the continent in popular culture openly take “radical” political positions. I think so often Africans, especially those of us who are still located on the continent, find it difficult to identify and align ourselves within black liberation movements that are going on across the diaspora. Growing up many of us received intense messages tying success to high educational achievement, assimilation and for the most part, remaining publicly apolitical. This compounded on much of the history we are taught regarding social justice movements is about those who are direct decedents of the transatlantic slave trade. This makes for a lack of language on how the African experience is both different and connected to that of the rest of the diaspora. As Africans there is very little readily accessible literature on how the effects of colonization (forced nationhood, religious and linguistic indoctrination) reverberates and traumatizes us on a physical, emotional, psychological, political and economic level. As Africans we don’t examine this reality in our schools or even in our homes, thus leading to a disconnect as we begin to see the rest of the diaspora engaging in the struggle for liberation (i.e. #blacklivesmatter).

As a Nigerian American woman I didn’t grow up learning about my own people as having a legacy of colonial resistance, much of what I learned regarding liberation was either nonexistent or about the American Civil Rights Movement. Which at the time  was both liberating to see people who looked like me take strong stances, but at the same time distancing, because I knew this wasn’t exactly “my” history.

This is why Adichie’s viral moment strikes a particular core with me. Her confidently inserting herself as an African women in the fight against white supremacy and racism is inspiring and I hope encourages more Africans, especially African women, to become vocal in resisting oppression. We don’t need to be divided by country or histories as Black people. We are all here collectively experiencing an injustice that is rooted in resource extraction, colonization, exploitation and slavery that still exist on the continent and across the diaspora. So thank you again Chimamanda for being fearless, for speaking truth to power and for being unapologetically black.

-A.A. Eke

Photo Credit: BBC

Let’s Take a Step Back

So I’m writing this the day after Trump was announced as President of the United States of America, November 9th, 2016. I feel… well outside of the nervousness that I woke up feeling this morning, I feel okay. To be honest, I had been telling all my friends and family that I believed Trump was going to win since the summer (but I’m not writing this to be that person). Therefore, I’m not shocked and I’ll tell you why.

At the end of the day this election has done nothing more than to show us all that white supremacy will never simply allow us to have a candidate (or even a President) that will bring about real change. No, absolutely not. Please, if we are to really going to become free we need to gain an entrenched understanding of white supremacy, capitalism and how then work in partnership to maintain the United States of America.

This starts with getting rid of the blame game. The uninvolved and third party voters DID NOT, I repeat DID NOT corrupt the vote and subsequently cause a Trump presidency; white people did this. Same as with the election of Barrack Obama in 2008 and 2012, he didn’t get elected because of the Black vote he was elected due to whites. Young neoliberal white people, who were careening from 8 years of Bush, wanted him, fell for his message of hope and his image as the “cool Black guy.” Abstinent, third party voters and other marginalized groups should not be blamed for not riding hard for Hilary, like Trump she doesn’t represent our interests as well.

I think of it like this: If we were all on a plantation and a small segment of the folks working on the plantation decided to run off the plantation and free themselves (from the system of slavery) and the slave masters found out they and they gave us who are working on the plantation all 3 lashes, we can’t be upset at the small segment for trying to get free. Temporarily it might feel good, it might even seem justified. I get it, if they wouldn’t have tried to escape then we would still be just picking cotton all and with no lashes. However at the end of the day they were just trying to get free, shit I can’t blame folks for that. Where we should be directing our anger is towards the plantation owner. This system of slavery that has us all toiling for scraps and dreaming of escaping its restrictive confines in search of freedom in the first place.

We need to direct our anger and our strategies towards correcting the system of white supremacy and capitalism. That’s what has enslaved, this is the rich us up for so long. Surprisingly enough people of color vote the same along party lines in almost every election since given the right to vote. It’s white people that change. Don’t forget we are and have always lived in a white world, and there are more of them than there are of us. Also, Trump might be president, but at the end of the day, we as people are still (like we are with the election of every President) in a position where we are nervous about what is going to happen to our environment, our healthcare, our incomes, our education, our safety, etc.

To further clarify, we don’t live in a just system therefore we are not governed by good people who do good things. As a people, if we want to break out of that unjust system, we need to have a sober and intimate understand of just how encapsulating this system of white supremacy and capitalism is. Freedom will never look like us simply just walking (or escaping) off of the plantation with our freedom. In order to gain our freedom we will have to fight for it. If we know anything about wars fought in the past, those who are lucky enough to escape will only do so by the skin of their teeth and with very little left of their former life.

We’re talking about laying siege to empires and breaking out the physical and mental cage that is white supremacy and capitalism, and entering into a new system of interaction, knowledge and understanding. Where corporations will not be whom we answer to. Where we hold respect for the Earth, respect for each other and we covet a deeper understanding of our humanity and how it connects us to one another.

As a dear friend of mine once said, “You do not get what you deserve in this life, you only get what you are born into or are willing to sacrifice for.” If the former were true there would be no abuse, no poverty and no injustice. So that begs the question to our generation, what are we willing to sacrifice in order to get free? Because the forces we fight against have everything to lose and so do we.

 

Happy Nigerian Independence Day!!!

Happy Independence Day! Although the concept of independence is nebulous, especially when taking into consideration the colonial/capitalist context and formation of the country. That being said, I am and will always be Naija and proud, Igbo and proud and Biafran and proud.

“We continue make ourselves from all the pieces no one else wanted. We are in constant formation and that is our legacy as Africans. Rebuilding, reclaiming, remembering and always moving forward.” -A.A. Eke

Photo Courtesy of google.com.ng

Black Nucleus

I’m scared to have daughters

and he’s scared to have sons.

What’s stopping us?

Memories of unwanted taunting;

     “Midnight, asphalt, ugly…”

beatings, strange men in the night…

Simply put,

his flashbacks and my nightmares.

How can we create a family with the burden of so much fear?

How are we to move forward?

You Haven’t Been Forgotten

So to preface, I wrote this about 5 months ago. It was two months before I graduated from graduate school and interestingly enough I still struggle with the same sentiments. But it such a relevant post I’m deciding to put this up now. So much has happened between now and then. But that’s another story for another day. I hope you enjoy this Conscious Stream. 

Okay, so it has been far too long since I have posted, and for that I apologize. I have been beyond busy. This whole finishing graduate school and figuring out what I will be doing afterwards thing has gotten the best of me and my time. But speaking of entering the “real” world, which by the way is a term that I wholeheartedly reject, because it’s all the real world isn’t it? Anyways, something that I have been actively struggling with is this notion how do I balance, passion, with service, with creativity, with travel, with stable income; all while not giving into this “slave wage system”. I’ve been looking at job descriptions lately and just feeling so damn unmotivated and in some ways actively resistant to plan my future after graduation. Which, is foolish and even in some cases dangerous, or not…

I have two months until graduation and I have no desire to be a slave to work or even get stuck in the rut of being in excessive exhaustion due to work. I clearly recognize that this is not the life for me, and yet I see it is so common. Almost all of my supervisors seem to be burnt out and exhausted from the work they do, and it’s not just some type of light exhaustion, it’s this deep, achy, beaten down exhaustion, that results from constantly putting into a system that really gives you nothing in return. That is the Millennial Struggle, how do we exist within a corrupt and exploitative capitalist system as workers without completely loosing our shits? Working a typical 9 to 5 will never fully satisfy your economic needs unless you work in a high need industry (sometimes), and even then if you are a conscious (woke) person the likelihood of you enjoying or even feeling fulfilled by that type of work is little to none.

I think that’s why I feel so frustrated when I see all these programs for disadvantaged youth, yeah they pay okay, but the problem is never addressed by teaching youth to be coders. You can’t solve issues of racial marginalization and systemic poverty, which are largely produced by capitalism and white supremacy, by teaching youth “in-trend” “competitive” skills. Don’t get me wrong, having a varied STEM skill set is important, but that’s not the crux of the problem. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” as Audre Lorde would say. There is just so much more to these things. And by the way, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of service organizations that take on such a Western/white approach to solving problems; let’s not address history or the root of the problem, let’s just teach you skills that will make you just like us, without giving you any of the real tools or vocabulary to address the issues that are going on in your own communities. And honestly, that is just how I see a lot of these youth outreach organizations.

And it’s like i want to work with people and youth in a transformative way that sparks resistance and a thirst for truth and knowledge in a way that supersedes the monotony of typical education system. I mean, I’m well aware that makes me a dreamer and radical in some sense, and that is exactly why I find it so hard to even find or look for jobs. I want to engage in work that stirs consciousness and creates a thirst for liberation. I want to engage in work that corrects the deep subversion that is our education system, our labor system, etc. I want to do work that makes me feel and is where I do not have to separate my personal from my political. So yeah, again I apologize for being gone for so long, I’ve had/have some personal ish to sift through.

 

Until next time….

A Candid Conversation on Identity, History, and Home

Let’s set the stage: This takes place after a community discussion about the role that queer and LGBTA folks play in the Black Lives Matter movement. To give a bit more insight it was titled, “Which Black Lives Matter?” Somehow the topic of the Africans and African Americans came up, which is always a multilayered and relatively difficult topic for me to answer, mostly because I’m still developing in my own thoughts/self perception. 

Her: So you’re Nigerian, how does that mesh with this black liberation, being African and all?

Me: Idk it’s complicated, my identity that is. My parents are Nigerian and I’m Nigerian, but I was born and raised in the Bay and Sacramento. So there is an identification with all these places.

Her: Where do you call home?

Me: I think the concept of home is a bit nebulous for black folks period. If you’re African American there is this detachment with the concept of home, due to slavery and displacement and that culture echoes and has influenced me. But also, when I think of my own parents as not just Nigerians but as Igbos, there too is this odd relationship with home. My dad lived through the Biafran War and he grew up in Kano, but was forced back down home to Owerri when the war broke out. So he has a displaced traumatic relationship with home, which affects me. So even though I’m from the Bay there is this other place in the back of my head that exists. And when I think about, like really think about it, there is a pain and a sense of detachment associated with that home as well. So yeah, to make a long story short, idk.

Her: Oh, well it seems like still you have a lot to think about and figure out.

Me: Yeah, I guess so.

Regardless of whether or not I was fluid in my response, isn’t the point. I spoke my truth. I told my experience. In all its layers and multiplicity. I didn’t make it easier for someone else to digest or distill it to make it more palatable. My identity does not deserve to be reduced for someone else’s convenience. I spoke, it was honest, and for me that made all the difference.

Until next time…

Nature Interrupted: An Urban Experience

images

Earlier in the week I had a moment. It was one of those I need to desperately get out of my apartment and just smell the fresh air and be around trees moments. So, I went outside and went for a walk. While outside and trying to find a quiet space were I could enjoy nature uninterrupted. I soon became cognizant of the many ways urban planning effects how we experience nature, especially in highly dense cities.

Living in New York City especially, can feel like you are literally living in a cage. The island of Manhattan is surround by water on all sides, sound like the perfect place for a stellar beachfront right? No. Absolutely no. Here, highways on all sides surround us. Which makes it impossible to experience nature (rivers, oceans, trees, most parks, etc.) without being adjacent to a freeway, construction sight, or major street.

This is the worst part of living in an urban area and speaks to larger issues of the conflation of technology/“modernization” and nature. Even as I am typing this and trying to express my organic thoughts, I must do so through a technological device (my laptop), of which could be having one of many unknown negative repercussions on my body. Same as when I was trying to clear my head in the park, mixed in with the smell of trees was the smell or gas fumes from cares, pesticides, and pollution from the Hudson River.

I understand that to ask for a complete overhaul of modernization and technology and in essence urbanization is a lot. However, all these things do beg the questions of in what ways can urban planning provide us with environmentally sound spaces? What is the true impact that living in these dense cities has on our health and environment? Do untouched spaces even exist? Or is that just some anti-colonial fantasy? How does this lack of access/difficulty of access discourage our participation in experiencing nature? Is this an intentional plot of capitalism? To keep us indoors, unenlightened and unconsciously consuming?

I’m not sure, however I believe there is something to be said about urban planning and the way we organize cities that can help provide positive and healthy interactions with nature. Nature in my life is so important and being able to connect with the beach, to walk through the park, to hear the birds, and to hear leaves rustling through the trees is so important to my peace of mind, concept of self, and feeling s of peace.

These are concepts and conversation that I believe people of color especially need to grapple with. We need to be conscientious of how these cities are being constructed and what the effect has on our mental health and physical health. Historically, we tend to get the brute end of the deal when it comes to living in environmentally safe places (i.e. water crisis in Flint, Michigan).

If this topic intrigued you please check out the Black Urbanist, she is an urban activist and blogger who is keenly aware of these issues and I’ve definitely appreciated learning about this topic from her site. Also below are some other great resources if this topic seemed of interest to you:

http://news.streetroots.org/2015/05/01/creating-livable-city-black-residents

http://www.thenatureofcities.com/2015/10/23/urban-spaces-and-the-mattering-of-black-lives/

Until next time…