Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Two worlds one love

Since being back in the US, I have had to deal with living in two worlds, physically I can only be in one, but mentally and spiritually I have been in two.  My children were all born in the US, had never spoken a day of Wolof, their father while being americanized couldn't fathom speaking to them in his native language because he was the minority Wolof speaker in the house.  He would only speak it when he was around other Gambians or Senegalese.  Wolof is the dominant ethnic group in the Senegamiba region.  Their language is spoken by everyone else, Mandikas, Fulas, Jolas etc. 

When we finally landed our feet in the great Gambia, its was only a matter of time before my children had picked up the language and were conversing with their playmates.  I was amazed.  I didn't have any playmates, and my brain I thought, was too old to learn a new language.  I found Wolof to be difficult, but like any language you have to learn the basics to get around, and people will respect you more when you try.
In my 1 + years of living in The Gambia, I never became a Wolof expert.  But I was able to understand and was just starting to feel confident when I went to the market and haggled with the sellers.  It was always fun to do that and to speak to them in Wolof "dafa sale" too expensive!

There are many small pleasures that I deeply miss about living in the Gambia, hearing the call to prayer at 5am, and listening to the donkeys hawnky hawnky hawnky at the crack of dawn, as well the cuckadoodle doo of roosters.  Its a sound that never leaves your mind when you have to wake up to it every day.  You get used to it over time, the roosters are not just alarm clocks but a part of the african day.

I missed seeing people in the streets with cars, donkeys, horses, sheep and whatever else had legs to walk.  Its an interesting palette of humanity all trying to get along, the ladies walking in their slippers or flip flops who never seem to pick up their feet...but one thing that is always a sonic reality in the streets of The Gambia is the music.  Everywhere you go especially in the markets is the sound of mbalaxh (m-bah-lah) music, the thunderous, infectious sounds of the Senegambia region, whose biggest star is Youssou N'dour, but there are so many more, so so many.  I fell completely in love with the music that is mbalaxh, a music that no matter how bad it gets, once you turn it on, it is inviting to you dance your troubles away.  The music sort of encapsulates everything you see around you, palm trees, red dirt, concrete structures, development, sport utitlity vehicles and fresh fruit on market stands.  There's this constant edge of talking and drumming that is always fueling a rhythm in the people.  I found it endemic, and while I'm in america, I have no choice but to tune in to my favorite Senegalese or Gambian radio stations on line.  Because after all I'm still in two worlds, one body, two minds, two spirits, just trying to find a balance in it all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mainstream Black media and the Black out of Africa

There are many websites featuring African American news that feature consistent reporting on news that is relevant to Black ppl in America.  NewsOne, Black Voices (an AOL take over) Black Planet, and many others out there that focus on the dynamics of African American news.  I frequent many of these sites because lets face it, CNN is not talking about what's going on in middle class or lower class america for Blacks.  Niether are the rest of the white owned conglomerates that brush over the international and national news with a skinny brush. 

African Americans are taking notice and are creating their own vehicles and voices for discerning this information.  When the Bishop Eddie Long story broke, it was Black media and journalists who were all over the story, getting recounts and debating the history of the Black church and the scandals inside of them.  It was a story that captivated the audiences for the largesse of the personality involved and for the sanctity the 'black' church has been in America. 

Meanwhile other things were occuring, Nigeria was turning 50, Peace talks were faltering in Sudan, Buju Banton's trial was happening, and only Jamaican journalists were documenting the minute by minute updates, The Gambian President married his second wife, The King of Swaziland was detaining his minister for sleeping with his 14th wife, there were lots of things going on in the Diaspora that frankly even the Black media was not even sniffing.  It was more important to detail the sordid runnings of a Black Bishop gone wild. 

While many stories of Black content go under and unreported, its still very important for the Black media (that truly exists) to cover a Diasporic view to their readers.  Too often, Black America sees itself in a vacuum of dysfunctionality and crime ridden stories that fuel very little beyond a stale american view.  As a result Black ppl in America tend to be very narrow minded in what is 'news' or rather what is happening in their world. It keeps us from knowing the larger world the larger diaspora that is also us.  This limited view in thinking keeps a shackle on Africa's progress, because the more that Africans in the Diaspora know about each other, no matter where we are, the more we are able to see the problems of our separation and the more we able to converge more about the progress of Africa.  Our knowledge of the continent wouldn't be limited to wars and AIDS, and unfortunately that is the grist of what African Americans know about Africa.  Most don't even know how many countries exist, and a whole array of historical realities that has led Africa to the position it is in today. 

For the 21st century we have no room to be ignorant about Africa, the birthplace of humanity as well the source of all the raw materials that is generating our internet and telephonic social lives.  The overall media already marginalizes the continent to a large extent because it has no interest in reporting positive news or relevant news for that matter that encourages ppl to want to know more about the continent.  Instead we are used to the usual tribal warnings and depressive politics of poverty.  There is so much more going on in Africa than that. Some of it may be sordid but others is of the same relevance that we see in our own Black American communities.

The necessity for giving a fair and balanced view of what's happening in Africa is all of our jobs, if we truly want be considered enlightened individuals and an enlightened African Diaspora.


Monday, October 4, 2010

America has never felt natural

Deep down, I'm a city girl, not a country girl, a southern girl, or a rural girl.  The city has always been what I've known and its where I find my ordinance of living.  I was born in Washington, DC aka Chocolate City.  I am first generation born, since my parents were part of the migration from the South.  My father from Alabama and my mother from North Carolina, a pretty interesting mix of southern upbringing.  Both have strong memories of growing up in a segregated existence, but also an existence that consisted of strong knitted communities and family that were not so deeply separated by time and distance.  But all of that changed once the the 1960s hit, and really the migration from the South had pretty much pivoted by this point because it had been going on since the 1860s. 

People trying to find a better way of life, and for black people that often meant migrating from the most oppressive and depressive areas of our existence, which typically was the south.  Though many remained, I am the product of those who left.  My grand mother was the start of this migration as she moved to Washington DC in her thirties to find a better life that what was in Roanoke Rapids.  Even leaving her children behind to stay with her mother (my great grandmother & father), while she got herself situated in DC.  Eventually my mother came up to DC where she graduated from Rooselvelt High School, and eventually she married my father who had moved up from Alabama, because his mother had left the south and moved to DC also. 

In the scheme of things I am the daughter of migrationist, who wanted a better life. As I grew in the various suburbs of Washington DC, I grew into the fabric of this area, though DC is considered metropolitan for its diverse population and ease of transportation across the city via its metro and subways, and government hierarchy, there has always been a strong identity of Black thought and consciousness here.  A wider expansion of the great migration as to what Black ppl contributed to the nation's capitol, a once slave holding and trading commerical city, is now home to many black residents.   DC in all its grandeur still left me wanting more.  The obvious changes and gentrification over the past twenty years has left a gaping hole and an almost vacant feeling in the once popular go-go capital of the world.  As I myself married and began to have a family of my own, my desire to live in DC began to whither more and more, as I desired to be somewhere that felt natural.  Everywhere I could think of in America had no mere attraction to me, it was either too cold, too southern, or too far west, and I wasn't going out west.  At heart I'm an east coast city girl, but like my grandmother before me, I was becoming a migrationist... my next choice to live and make a better life....Africa!!!

It felt like a natural place to migrate to, to take my children and raise them in an environment that was not overly gentrified, and one that wasn't purely draining my children of their natural senses and desires of wanting.  It was natural as well to move to Gambia since my husband was from this part of Africa, and as we began to bring into motion this reality, the harder it was to believe that I would be leaving america. Not because everything was wrong with America and clearly there are some things wrong here. And not that everything was so right in The Gambia, because there are some real problems in Gambia too, but there are pros and cons to any environment no matter where you are.  But still, being in Africa felt more natural than being in America, and being in Gambia felt more natural than being in DC, my birthplace, and as I continue to struggle to decide where to be for a while, Africa still calls me....