The Dilution of Africa Day

On the 25th of May 2016 my school held their annual Africa Day Assembly. This was the second year in which they allowed us to dress up in African attire. However, in this particular year, they decided to add some countries that are not a part of Africa for example – Scotland, Germany, China, Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and India.

 

Now anybody who knows the history of Africa knows that some of these countries colonised most of Africa. Citizens from these countries killed and enslaved numerous Africans.

 

Slavery is, in the strictest sense of the term, any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. (source: Wikipedia)

 

The British in particular were the ring leaders of this cruelty. Strong African men and women were kidnapped from their villages and forced to travel in shackles for days without much food or water to weaken them so that they were unable to fight or try to escape before they reached the coasts of Africa. Once there, my people were whipped and branded and stuffed onto ships like sardines while chained to the boat unable to move freely until they reached their destination. During this journey, they were occasionally allowed to walk to keep their muscles strong. When they were not walking, they remained chained with no bathroom breaks and very little food. During the journey they basically lived in their own urine, faeces and vomit from sea sickness. If any of the slaves appeared too weak, they would be thrown overboard.

 

Many women on board would be raped repeatedly throughout the journey. This sense of entitlement over black women’s bodies continued throughout the slavery days as slave owners were free to exercise their sexual liberties at any time.

 

Once they arrived on the shores of North America which was the most famous hub for slave trade, they would be taken to a town centre and auctioned to the highest bidder. The slave owner would then sign documents to indicate that they have ownership of the person whom they would have already given an English name. Their owners would take them to their plantation where they would be forced to learn English and adapt to responding to their new name. Any defiance would results in a severe beating in front of all the plantation slaves or if it were a serious offence, the offender would be lynched for all to see. This was supposed to be a warning to anyone who had previously considered stepping out of line.

 

The slaves were prohibited to read or write. If found reading or writing, the crime was punishable by death…

 

Slave masters created a stark division amongst African Americans. They separated the house slaves from the manual labour workers who remained in the yard, making it difficult for the slaves to work together to break the system. Any families formed within the slave community were usually broken up. The slave owners would sell members of the family to different people so that there were no chances of defiance.

 

By the end of the 18th century, slavery was abolished. The blacks were finally “free”. I could go on and on about all the horrific, heartless and heartbreaking history of slavery but I thought I should just give you a brief idea of what happened during the slave trade.

 

Let me now bring it back to Africa and colonisation. The “Scramble for Africa” was the invasion, occupation, division, colonisation and annexation of African territory by European powers between 1881 and 1914 (Source: Wikipedia). Colonisation by definition is the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. The colonisers partitioned among themselves and took control of the natural resources and stripped the natives of their sovereignty which was only gained back through independence. Africa Day as such is a celebration of this independence.

 

Now that you know a little bit about the colonisation and enslavement of Africans, I hope that you can understand where I am coming from. Africa Day formerly known as African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day; not Africa and Former Colonisers Day. This day is meant to be a celebration of liberation shared between African countries. It is when we celebrate our emancipation and the end of foreign domination and exploitation – not a time to celebrate the oppressors. It shows solidarity between African countries so it baffles me when the day has to be shared with non African countries simply to show that Africa is ”the melting point of all cultures”. I totally agree that Africa is the melting point of all cultures. However, I think this should be celebrated on a different day and preferably in a separate month. I am all for a culture day celebration! I would love to learn about cultures around the world and hopefully have a taste of their national cuisines. I am all about celebrating diversity but I just think there is a time and a place for everything and the 25th of May is just not the day.

 

If you would never run through a Cancer march shouting “there are other diseases too”, do not try to celebrate non African cultures on Africa Day.

 

Prelude to 2017’s Africa Day Assembly captured in the image below:

 

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When a book is judged by its color

Over the last couple of years, there has been an increase in open discussions about race. Don’t get me wrong, these discussions have always been there but before they took a different form. In the past it was blacks, Indians and other people of color verses white people but now a new strain of the colourism virus is creeping into communities with people of colour. It’s us against ourselves. The idea that lighter shades of brown are more appealing and symbolize beauty is eating away at us.

Colourism by definition is prejudice against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. It is believed to have started during the days of slavery when blacks with fairer skin were made to work indoors while the darker slaves worked in the fields. With fairness, came privilege. However, we have evolved. We should know right from wrong. We need to unite and acknowledge the beauty that is brown skin in all of its shades.

The notion that lighter is better is taught from a young age within some families and friendships. My brother for example is considered light. How do I know this? I know this from the foot notes that are attached almost every time my brother is complimented. I’ve heard several comments in the last four years like “Oh he is so handsome – and light” and “Oh the girls are going to bring you trouble – because he is so light” and lastly, my “favourite” comment – “he is a yellowbone”. All of these footnotes take away from what has the potential to be a great compliment except for the last one. (I’m still struggling to understand its purpose) I know they mean well but that footnote changes everything. It makes it seem like he is only considered handsome based on the complexion of his skin. It makes me wonder how the compliments would differ if he were a darker and equally as beautiful shade.

It’s not only the lack of ability to see beauty in darker shades that bothers me but the fact that these people don’t see anything wrong with their comments. My brother is four years old. Four – the age where he is impressionable. I don’t want him growing up thinking certain colours of skin are better than others. I want him to treat everyone with respect. I never want him to feel superior or inferior. I want him to love his skin and other people’s too. However, your “compliments” take away from what I’m trying to teach him.

I’ve spent most of my life swimming and of course my skin has been bronzed by the beautiful sun. To me, there is nothing wrong with a change in the shade of my skin. It is expected but when I got to high school, I noticed that it bothered some people. I distinctly remember standing by the school pool one day waiting for my coach when an acquaintance shouted from the sports gate “ah you, you should stand in the shade or else you’ll get darker”. She seemed genuinely concerned and at that moment I couldn’t understand why. I let that one slide together with other comments about my “tan” until one day, a friend of mine who is “coloured” (mixed race) at the time looked at me and said “I need to put on sunscreen because I don’t want to get dark like you” it’s at that moment I realized that issues pertaining shades of brown existed in races other than mine. The irony is that sunscreen does not stop you from getting darker.

Her comment made me interested in researching on colourism and I became more observant during discussions and during my daily social media viewing. The issue of colourism exists amongst Blacks, Coloureds, Indians and pretty much any race with melanin. At my school there’s so much chatter about skin colour even from the people I least expected it from. A lot of people with darker skin carry a lot of insecurities. I have had instances where friends refuse to take pictures with me simply because they think I am lighter and if I do manage to get them to take the picture, it is usually drowned in filters to make their skin look less chocolaty, beautiful and natural. I recently found out that I too fall into the “light skin” category when I stopped swimming as frequently. It’s something I am not too happy about. To me it means nothing. To others it may mean everything! To me, it’s a sign of division amongst people of colour. Please note neither my brother nor myself have fair skin.

I have had to sit through conversations where black boys tell black girls that they are pretty “for a dark skin girl”. To me, that is an insult and I never imagined it would be difficult to explain to someone that that is a backhanded compliment – but it is. To some, having fairer skin implies that your life will be easier – they think you will get into relationships easily, get jobs easily, be thought of as sweeter because apparently meanness increases as the shade of brown darkens. Darker girls are perceived as aggressive, unfriendly, unattractive, unsuccessful, untrustworthy and undeserving of respect. In my life, I have come across mean girls from all the races, successful girls from all the races and down to earth girls from all the races. The color of your skin does not define your personality or your future, your heart does.

I am a girl crying for equality, unity and love amongst people of color. I am pushing for respect amongst us. Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.

We are all beautiful brown Kings and Queens and don’t let anyone tell you any different! It doesn’t matter what percentage of chocolate you are – 60, 70%, 90%, 99%, you are fabulous!

 

Read the book; do not just look at the cover. There is more to a person than their appearance and not everything is as it seems.

 

 

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Knowing your self worth

I’ve never needed validation from anyone. I’ve always believed that if I love myself, that’s enough. If someone else’s opinion of me doesn’t stop the sun from rising and setting then it shouldn’t affect me. 
Apparently that makes me stuck up. Knowing my worth and adding tax to it might make me unlikeable. Some in society would rather I get by life by feeding on their compliments. Some people want your self image to depend on what they tell you. They want you to crave their opinions and approval.
I’m tired of listening to people saying they deleted their pictures because they failed to get to 100 likes. Heck if you like the picture post it! Post it again if it’s that good. Out of those 100 people, how many have your back? A handful? If you’re like me you can probably count all your “ride or dies” on one hand. What are the other 95? Irrelevant!
I’ve been told I walk around with an air of confidence. Some people think it shows arrogance. It’s far from that! Would you rather I walk around like I’m about to be swallowed by the ground? I’m sorry if my self love stifles you but it’s not going to go away and neither are you.
The notion of self love is always misunderstood. My shining light doesn’t stop your light from shining. Don’t let your light flicker! Don’t let it brighten when your post is filled with comments and dim when you receive slightly less compliments than you think society accepts. The reality is some of the people commenting on your picture are the same people sharing it with their friends to mock it. 
Your dependence on their approval will be the same cause of your downfall. You need to learn to strengthen your heart and your mind. You need to drown in positivity every morning. If you think (know) you look good, don’t be afraid to say “Damn I look good today!” Make positive reaffirmations. Enough of this “hey Bwalya, do I look ok in this?” There’s a chance Bwalya won’t tell you the truth because she/he thinks you’ll dim their light. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you will need a pair of external eyes. Some Bwalyas will have your back and others won’t. C’est la vie.
Be confident! Be you and do you!

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Abortion – a woman has the right to make this choice for herself

I’ve begun to realize that the world is full of hypocrites. Each person trying to enforce their personal beliefs on another human being when we were born to control ourselves. Abortion in many cases has been equated to murder which I believe to be an unequal comparison. All clinical abortions are done within the first trimester before the fertilized egg is able to exist outside the womb. Before the end of the first trimester the zygote is not seen as a separate entity and therefore termination of a pregnancy at that stage should not be considered murder.
Almost all the debates against abortion are built on religious beliefs used to confine non believes to what is considered the “right” way by believers of a “higher power” if I may call it that. However, religious ideology should not be foundation for law. As women we should be allowed the right to dictate what we do with our bodies and our lives. Laws against abortion strip women of their rights!
I don’t think a lot of people realise how this law affects several women around the world. In countries with severe laws based upon religion, like Ireland women are forced to birth children with defects who are likely to die within the first 24 hours. Just imagine yourself in their shoes. Imagine carrying a child for nine months knowing that you’ll be burying them within 24 hours of their birth. 
Countries with extreme laws have began to classify miscarriages as aggravated homicide and women are being sentenced for at least a year without trial. As if losing a child is not enough. Would you cope if you were punished for losing your child? It’s a growing problem in many countries and people are trying to raise awareness about it.
In El Salvador Teodora del Carmen and Maria Reresa were imprisoned after their miscarriages. Teodora has been in jail since 2007 and has recently been released thanks to petitions demanding her release. She had initially been sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” Unfortunately for Teodora she had to mourn her child in a tiny cell with 70 women. She has spent the last 9 years sleeping on a floor in a prison incapable of providing basic female necessities like sanitary, soap and tissue. How would you feel if that was you? Not only does she have to deal with the trauma of a miscarriage, she has to carry the burden and shame of being described as a murderer.
And let’s face it, even if abortion was made illegal around the world, that wouldn’t stop women from terminating pregnancies. It would just result in an increase in high risk black market abortions that would lead to an increase in death rates. It’s inevitable. No matter what laws we put, abortions will happen and I think it would be better in a sterile environment with trained personnel. And I’ve said it time and time again – if you’re against abortion, don’t have an abortion. 
The ruling against abortion in many countries greatly affects people of lower incomes. Wealthier people are able to jet off to a country that has legalised abortion, have their abortion and return while poorer women go through the emotional trauma of birthing a still born.
I hope I have managed to change your view on abortion.
No woman has an abortion for fun.
“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body” – Margaret Sanger
If you want to learn more about your body and your rights and Maria and Teodora’s story, you can go to http://www.amnesty.org

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When a girl is not enough

For a long time when I was growing up my mother and father had decided to have me as an only child and people would always ask my mother questions about their decision to have me and me only, a female child. People asked when she would have another child, specifically a boy. Was I not enough? It seems a family without a male to carry on the family name is a family with a severe deficiency. My father was constantly asked if he were happy with having a girl only. Why wouldn’t he be? 
When my brother was born I remember relatives coming out of the wood works to tell my father that he must be so happy now that he has a son. Had my mother given birth to a girl I would have loved to know how their comments would have differed. Should he have not been happy simply because he was having another child? 
Why do we live in a patrilineal society? 

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A no is a no, it’s not a yes or a maybe

It saddens me that in most cultures women have to dress conservatively or “tone down” the way they dress based on the perception of man’s inability to control himself sexually. We are constantly trying to cover women up as if that’s the reason women get raped. We are teaching girls to be self conscious of their bodies, making it difficult for them to love themselves because it has sometimes been engraved in them that the show of too much skin, like a slight glimpse of a shoulder or a thigh can in turn arouse a man. Why aren’t we teaching men self control? Why is it that some men have self control while others don’t? We need to praise the men that do have self control and condemn those that don’t instead of blaming the victim.
It’s 2016 and some people still believe that rape is the victim’s fault. It’s 2016 and there are still several rape apologists! When will it ALWAYS be the attacker’s fault?

People say she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. People say that she was dressed inappropriately. People say she knew what she was getting herself into. So do you think someone would put themselves in such a situation deliberately?
We have so many excuses. Why can’t we just believe that there are some sick people in this world? It’s easier for most people to shift the blame onto an innocent victim than to convict the criminal. Why? 
For all the rape apologists, what is your excuse when a woman gets raped by a family member or a teacher, a boyfriend or a stranger? Was the woman in the wrong place at the wrong time? Had she no right to be within her own house or society?
Grandmothers dressed in chitenges (Zambias) and babies in diapers get raped too. When did these articles of clothing become inappropriate? Did these women know what they were getting themselves into? Rape is about power and control not sex. 
Instead of only policing girls and telling them what to do to avoid being raped, we should also tell rapists not to rape. The focus should not only be on one gender but should be on both.
Comments and thoughts like these are what make it difficult for people to speak out. Who wants to speak up when they could possibly be told it’s their fault and get victimized. Who wants to speak out if they are going to be accused of lying? For all the rape apologists, only 2% of rape victims lie. 
Today people tend not to think about the words they use. I’ve heard so many people say “the test raped me” and “you raped my phone”. The English language is full of so many words that could be used to describe how you feel after a difficult test or how you feel when someone looks through your phone. Use those words. 
It’s funny how we use the word so loosely, almost in a mocking way. We don’t realize how the word impacts someone else’s daily life. Some people might not know the impact the word has on others; some people just don’t care. 
It’s 2016 and I’m shocked that we are still having this discussion. I hope that things change in the near future.
Parents need to teach their sons that no is no, even if it’s a silent no. It’s not yes and it’s not maybe.
Rape culture demeans everyone, and everyone should speak out against rape culture.

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Is the word wife synonymous with slave? Is it really a man’s world?

I live in a country where the majority of the women are still viewed and treated as being the lesser being. Inferior! Are we as people of a modern world not supposed to be moving away from these oppressive tendencies? Is gender equality a myth? Will I ever see equality during my lifetime? It saddens me that some women are still expected to serve their partners. In most households wives are expected to cater for their husbands – cook, clean and submit even when they are primary bread winners. Why can’t we do that for each other? Is marriage not supposed to be an equal partnership? This kind of outdated thinking is what discourages many young women like myself from considering marriage as we fear that we might be expected to be submissive wives. Even today in churches when the vows are being said the woman always has to say words along the lines of “I will promise to submit to you my husband.” Submission is fine if it’s a two way thing. However, that’s hardly ever the case. It amuses me that some men and some women will go out of their way to choose Bible verses that suit their personal beliefs and practice selective Christianity. If we really want to use the Bible to defend our points then men should love their wives as much as Christ loved the church because as far as I’m concerned that amount of love is unfathomable. With such an over flowing pool of love, men would not treat their wives like servants. It breaks my heart to see women that work against the emancipation of women instead of for it. I can’t wait for the day when we as women can stand united and say no to this mistreatment. Most women have had it engraved in their minds from childhood that they have to be subservient to a man. They learn from what they see and experience growing up and what they are told is their role in life. Most are raised to believe that if they are unable to cook, clean and do “feminine” chores then they have nothing to bring to the table and no man shall want them. What happened to offering yourself? Does my lack of skill in the kitchen make me any less of a person? Does it take away my intelligence? Does it take away my personality? Does it take away my femininity? Does it make me less of a woman? The answer to all these questions is no!
I struggle to understand why as women, with the same or greater abilities than men should not be given the same opportunities as men but instead in most cases be restricted in the roles that are predetermined by society. I’d look on as our very hard working house keeper, who worked all day, would be expected to still go home to cook and clean after her children and her husband who would have been home the whole day as he was unemployed. What’s sad is I could see that she was grooming her daughter for the same roles instead of grooming her sons as well.
The problem starts from home! It’s what we teach our daughters; it’s what our sons observe from home. It is what the schools teach our daughters. Girls are forced to do “feminine” subjects and courses like Food and Nutrition, Fashion and Fabrics, Child development and Art. There are girls that might want to do practical courses that are traditionally considered “masculine” and vice versa! It’s like they are preparing the perfect stay at home wife. They want us to be able to cook for our husbands, mend his clothes, nurse our children and then maybe in our free time we can draw a picture or two. It should be a choice. If a woman happens to like cleaning and cooking so be it but don’t make it mandatory. We should be allowed to be who we want to be – home makers, astronauts, engineers, farmers, actuaries, anything we are able to achieve, the possibilities are infinite.
Don’t limit your daughters, sister, wives or other women in your life. You’ll be amazed of what we are capable of given the chance. Allow them the freedom to choose. If you’re going to teach your daughter to cook, teach your son as well. I can’t imagine being a mother to a child that’s being belittled by man. Think of your child’s happiness. Make a change. Lastly ask yourself if the word wife is synonymous with slave.

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