Saturday, July 16, 2011

I love the Gambia

Its a small little country, but sometimes with small things, there is a large charm that comes with it.  The Gambia, the smallest country on the African continent, resonates a large charm that is unforgettable and always leaves an imprint on my soul.  I've been going to the Gambia since 2003, and in 2005 bought land and began building a home there.  In 2006 I moved there with my family and each time I have been there or returned, I find myself taking the most beautiful photographs of the changes and development in the country, or at least within my view.  I remember when we first moved to the newly developing area, we had very few neighbors and there were no conveniences in the immediate area.  Now just 3 years later, we have a lot of neighbors, and booming development of businesses and services that used to be miles away.

There is an exquisite beauty in the Gambia, the nature is divine, the swaying palm trees, the voyerism of the vultures, or the multiplicity of bird life and fauna envelopes the landscape.  The other exquisite beauty are the women.  I always find something so immeasurably beautiful about the women in the Gambia.  The way they walk, and the constant multi tasking they do, carrying stuff on their heads, baby on their back, and carrying items in their hands, all while elegantly gliding along in their african dresses.  I find them remarkable, selling in the market, or just simply standing on the corner waiting to cross the street.  There is a reminder of the instrinsic, or even ancient beauty that we as African-American women derive our beauty from.  Mama Africa is the source and you find yourself looking in the mirror at the beauty in Gambian women.

This year, I found myself wanting to experience more and revel in the day to day grind in the Gambia.  People here are hard working and constantly finding a way to make it.  Nothing is easy in paradise, and while the sun and her fruits are intoxicating the constant need to exist in an increasingly materialistic world is driving Gambian people to seek the unavoidable all mighty dollar.  This need is creating a new kind of Gambia, one in which scrupulous deals and outright fraudulence is committed to keep up with the demands of a money world.  But in a place like the Gambia, one shouldn't need money so much, where mangoes hang so fully from trees, cashews grow wild and fish is in abundance from the Atlantic.  With more foreigners coming to the country and investing, living and developing, for the average Gambian, building a compound or buying land is practically impossible.  There is always this constant disadvantage to not being able to travel abroad to get the money needed to start one's business or build one's compound.

The impractical and racist reality of other ppl's money having more value than African money keeps the brain drain in over drive.  But this is not a deterent for african people because they continue to make a way regardless of the hierarchal forces that shape their economic futures.  In many talks with my Gambian friends, investment is always the talk of the day over a hot brew of attaya.  The many ways one can invest and make money is always of top concern.  Because opportunities are in low supply but chance opportunity for someone to invest in them is also scarce.  When visiting, you become more aware of the opportunities to invest, and create wealth in Africa that is certainly possible and deemable, but it doesn't come without its caveats and problems. 

My husband and I tried several times to have a business in Gambia, and each time we failed, not because we didn't give it the good old college try but because there are many deterrents to doing business there, and trust is one the main problems.  Finding people to trust to either run, work or manage your business is often very difficult, and you often find people are more concerned with what they can get out of the deal more than how they can help you succeed, even if you are helping them.  But after several years and experience of being in the Gambia, we are more knowledgeable now, but like any business, one needs capital to make capital, and it is very difficult to accumulate capital in the Gambia, which drives many to leave if they can.  For me this is my journey, I've had to return to the US to survive and to support my family and try to gain capital to establish a business there, to no avail yet, but that doesn't mean I won't keep trying.  The reality is everywhere people need to survive and Gambia is no different, I have kids who are in school, gas to put in the car and food to put on the table, and to adequately do that, one needs adequate and consistent capital.

I have found many great business ideas that could work in the environment in Gambia, and with the internet and technology increasingly becoming tools that people are using, we no longer are forced to do business with borders.  My initial business was to establish an internet business that would link artists, and vendors with the world to sell their products online.  In the Gambia, art is in abundance, the creativity that streams from so many artists has been one of if not my primary passion.   You are always invoked by the amazing and resourceful work that artists produce, and how they do it.  Gambian artists need the support and exposure of their original works.  You can find yourself walking in the tourist market looking at sculptures, clothing, textiles, and so much original works that you want to take everything home with you.  The vendors as well, can be very aggressive when they want to score your attention especially if they know you are a 'tourist'.  Because once you're in their shop, you're not leaving without buying something.

My site would take away all of that, and just bring the buyer to the goods, and one can select and venture into the array of work that abounds in the Gambia.  The artisians, craftworkers etc., are diligent and Gambian art is always a reflection of the beauty of the land.  But like any entrepreneur, I've needed the capital to invest, and to no avail.  But it doesn't mean I won't stop dreaming of the day I will become a business owner in the Gambia, and to sell the beautiful products that come from there to the world.  Until then, enjoy some of the photos that I took this year and leave your comments if you feel me! (coming one day soon)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Macy Gray v. being an artist of conscious

Published Feb. 7, 2010 National Black News Journal

Letters to the Editor
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Reader Critical of Macy Gray for Deciding to Perform in Israel
There are soldiers of conscious and then most times there are soldiers with no conscious. The fact that Macy Gray considered the Palestinians in her appeal to go to Israel and perform shows she's a soldier of conscious. However, it appears no matter what her fans would say, she had already made up her mind to go. Artists have the right to have a conscious its just sad that most of them don't use it when it comes to dire human conditions in various parts of the world that they may be asked to perform.

Israel has brought in many artists to perform, and for the typical artist that has no conscious-- as long as its a free trip and a paycheck and the chance to be seen or heard is all that matters. But as an artist, when you have no levy to protest or to bring awareness to a situation, then you're just an entertainer, who deserves no honorable mention in era of any publicity is good publicity. Most artists pivot their back to political and social inequalities, and tend to ignore it because after all its not them suffering from apartheid. Even when their own fore parents had suffered such indifferences, today's era of musicians either don't care about the past or feel they are not part of that past. For Grays' credit she thought of the Palestinians, but in the end it was her paycheck that was most important (oh yeah she said her fans).

It appeals to the fact that artists no longer have a voice to educate, protest or heighten awareness about serious inequities such as the Israel/Palestine situation. If I were Macy Gray, I would never play there and would give my reasons for doing so. Sometimes its lonely being the voice of conscious, but its a price that many artists before have had to pay, so people like Macy Gray can sing anywhere in the world. So many of todays artists stand on the shoulders of those who said NO they will not perform they will not support apartheid regimes, and racist countries where their people were being dehumanized. But that tradition is long gone, and today’s artists are blatant examples of what amnesia can do to a people.

Adjua Dubb -

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Natural Hair should not be a Phenomenon

Its so interesting to see so many websites, blogs, magazines and groups dedicated to the 'natural hair phenom'.  The great debate over Black women and their hair has taken an unusual interest and increased activity online and off.  However, the reality is when I'm in typical places like the mall, restaurants, and occassionally a nightclub, I don't see a lot of 'natural' sisters.  The perm is still the 'standard' and is still the overall obsession for Black women.  It has been a good uptick for the naturalites because many hair salons are incorporating more natural elements to their services which is far better than the creamy crack and typical bleaching out of Black hair. 

Everybody has their journey and everyone who has made the transition to acceptance, has shown growth and even a better attitude about themselves once they go 'natural'.  Everyone speaks on the journey from  being a little girl getting relaxed, straightened and hot combed to burns.  A ridiculous ritual that continues well into adulthood and seniorhood if any hair is still there by then.

So I had to put my .02 in this phenom, because everywhere, and I mean anywhere I go people always want to know one thing.... 'how long have you been growing your locks' and when I tell them, their eyes go oh.  Like they can't even remember what they were doing  or if they were even born back then.  I've been growing my locs or rather been 'natural' since 1993.  The exact date Dec. 26, 1993 because everything that happened up to that point in my life was a big blur... I really didn't know who I was.  I had done everything to my hair to escape the pressure of being real.  Weaves, blonde, braids, extensions constantly, a revolving door or fakedom I had no escape from.  It was never just me. Its hard to be real, when society has told us to be fake, but its very rewarding when you decide to be real.

It was a dream that changed my life and changed my hair.  A dream that shadowed me in grace, warmth, protection and fortitude.  A warm glowing light was shining above my 'crown' and my hair was natural, in this dream, was unlike any dream I had ever had, it moved me so deeply and personally that the next day when I woke up Dec. 26, 1993, I went to the barber shop and told them to cut all that blonde ish out of my hair.  I had taken the weave out and it was just a hot blonde mess.  The barber laughed and teased me terribly, 'how short you want it honey'? he asked.  "Cut it all off" I said.  Affirmatively he did so.  But when I got out of his chair and saw what was left of my 'true' hair, I raised the bar.  He wasn't laughing at me no more, in fact he was surprised and delighted at how beautiful I looked.  I came in as a shell and left as a queen.  From that day on I've been 'natural' and locing my hair. 

The influences at that time in my life were Rastafari.  I have to give so much love and respect to Rastafari because it was this prophetic and minimal lifestyle and historical relevance from jamaica that changed my whole outlook on myself.  The cultural integrity of Rastafarians made me revere and respect them a great deal, and I only wanted to be one of them, carrying this legacy of Black redemption.  Locing my hair definately had spiritual significance, and cultural signficance.  I'm not one of those 'dread's walking around with no perception of its importance to me, or it being just a fashion thing.  Because Locs never go out of 'style' NEVER!  As well, when i started growing I wasn't caught up in keeping them 'pretty' and all, I wanted to just exist you know like I had never done so.  As they grew in length I was able to shape and form them, and learn how to take care of them.  By the time I had been growing them for over 5 years, I wrote a book in 1998-99 called "Spiral Identity: the Majesty and Mystery of Black Hair".    I journaled my story just as I see so many sisters doing today.  When I was doing it, the internet was just a grain of salt and the idea of making money off such a thing wasn't reality back then.  But now the natural hair phenom has taken on grand dimensions and its a wonderful thing to see.  But as i look at so many going 'natural' I can only hope in the next 18 years or so, they will still be, and the idea of being natural will not be a phenomenon but the standard.