Kudos to Macron: Why Europe’s colonialization of Africa is still relevant

The latest comments by French President, Emmanuel Macron concerning the African continent’s “civilizational problems” hints towards the same narrow and worrisome ideology that still pervades many discussions concerning African development and prosperity.

It’s such an easy and logical rationale, that many, even Africans themselves have internalized it and began to preach the gospel: Africa cannot, in fact, should not continue to use the history and legacy of European colonialism as a way to explain the widespread state of economic, social and political calamity experienced by most of the continent. Many of us today, feel ashamed, backward even, to begin distilling the horrific atrocities of colonial rule as a way to argue the continent’s current state of acute famine, disease, and poor or absent governance. And, yes, this should make a great deal of sense. After all, by the 1960’s most former colonies were celebrating independence. Viva a free Africa! well, maybe not entirely free but really, why does Africa even need to be totally independent?

The latest comments by French President, Emmanuel Macron concerning the African continent’s “civilizational problems” hints towards the same narrow and worrisome ideology that still pervades many discussions concerning African development and prosperity. Instead of starting from the root cause of the African development palaver, the continent is continuously bombarded with a bucket list of suggestions, reforms, and overpriced projects. Macron’s comments at the G20 Summit provide ample reason why unpacking and detangling the history of colonial rule in Africa is still a necessary step for progress to take place.  Simply put, the careless statement should not be dismissed but rather, analyzed as a prime example of the simplistic approach that Africa’s complex issues are often viewed by the West. And yes, throwing ‘millions of dollars of aid’ also falls into that category.  As the Guardian’s Eliza Anyangwe so eloquently notes, “Macron’s statements make the blood boil not because they are novel but because they make no mention of the root causes of the challenges of which the president speaks. Gone is the lucid, welcome admission that France’s role in its former colonies was anything but laudable.”

So, no Macron, you cannot get a gold star for stating that Africa’s problems are to do with a lack of civilization (which your people supposedly brought, all quite confusing, right?) or that we have too many babies (which is done out of a need to survive, rather than our senseless desire to copulate). Such simplistic comments demonstrate the Western world’s lack of accountability and respect for the African continent. Most importantly, they tell us, as African people that de-colonialization still needs to happen both physically and mentally. We cannot argue that away, we simply need to deal with it.

p.c: http://bit.ly/2vkrZOR

 

ImmiGrant Diaries: The 67 Bus

The 67 bus would be leaving in exactly 5 minutes, no, rather in 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Although my shift had ended over a half hour ago, I was expected to continue work until the second shift (a.ka. Bimpe) arrived. Bimpe was a joy to be with but never really caught on about the importance of punctuality. “Ore miiiiii, ma binu naaaa, you know that yeye boss of mine at my second job never allows me to leave on time. Only God will help us in this America o! Excuses and apologies were synonymous in Bimpe’s world. Of, course, she didn’t go by the name Olabimpe at work, but rather, Josephine Reynolds, her expensive and also illegal, “Government name” as they had been dubbed amongst the African immigrants. I suddenly found myself musing over what my own government name would be: Catherine or perhaps Katherine-with-a-K Smith? no, that seemed to scream “yes, I am working illegally” way too loudly. How about Alison Roberts? hmmm…maybe a little more believable. I often liked to play the game of conjuring the most hilarious combination of names that I might get once I had put enough money together to purchase a government card. The game was amusing until I remembered, I didn’t actually have a say in any of it. 3 minutes until the 67 Bus and still no sign of Bimpe. 

“Where on earth is Ms. Josephine Reynolds?!” “I…errr..sir..” “No excuse Ms. Ayodimeji! Always late! No more job for Josephine after tonight. No show, no job!” My manager, Mr. Ali, was perpetually angry. In my six years, mopping up and washing dishes at The Asia Food Palace, I had never seen the man smile. That’s not to say he was never in high spirits or dare say, happy, Mr. Ali was just angrily happy. However, I had decided a few years back that I liked Mr. Ali. He was in every literal sense of the word-a slave driver but the man was honest. He always paid wages and bills on time and in full, never once missing on monthly payments. The Asia Food Palace wasn’t much, a corner restaurant that served cheap inauthentic “Asian delicacies” which translated to oil-saturated spring rolls and diabetes-inducing sweet and sour chicken. But Mr. Ali had kept the business afloat for the last twenty-five years, and single-handedly for that matter. At one time, there were rumors that by night, The Asia Food Palace became an illegal drugs transaction point but I had waved off such comments as pure jealousy and the need to dismiss what could only be attributed to hard work and determination to succeed as a brown male in a white America.

30 seconds to go and still no Bimpe. Just as Mr. Ali stormed out of the kitchen still ranting, I caught a glimpse of the 67 bus, pulling into the bus stop by The Asian Food Palace. Shit, not again. Within seconds, the bus was on its way again. “Ore o!! I am here- if you know how bad traffic was ehn” a breathless and perspiring Bimpe rushed into the restaurant kitchen. “Bimpe, you’ve made me miss my bus, again. And Mr. Ali is seriously vexed” “Forget, Mr. Ali, isn’t he always vexed? abegi.” I shouldn’t have waited for an apology but I always did. “I’m off, Bimpe” “Thanks, ore! Let me get into this uniform before Mr. Ali kills me for my children”

Stepping out of The Asia Food Palace, I felt the cool but chilly breeze sweep my face. Winter was approaching. I pulled my Good Will-obtained H&M denim jacket closer to my body. The jacket was in great condition apart from the fact that it was missing a few buttons and had a visible hole by the right sleeve. “Holes are in fashion, jare!” was Bimpe’s response when I had complained about the visible wear and tear of the jacket. Without enough cash to call a taxi and having missed the last 67 bus, the only other option was to walk the 12 miles. I felt my phone ring and could only decipher that it was a call from home: Mama calling about Kola’s school fees again. There was no money and no prospects of me having any to send so the conversation would be fruitless. My fingers danced between the two options: “Decline” or “Answer”. I stuffed the phone back into my purse and headed down Lockford & 2nd Street. I would get back to them but just not now or tomorrow.

P.C: http://bit.ly/2uGKqOk

 

MLK Quote, 1967

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans…These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro, there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.” -Martin Luther King, Jr

Credits: http://bit.ly/1KukFCl

When Our Bodies get trumped

It’s not the first or most likely the last time the leader of the free world would attack and reduce feminity and being a woman to a shallow argument about physical looks. Dare to wonder why he thinks he gets a pass on that one. But as always, our bodies, our strong, beautiful and intricate bodies have been trumped.

Trump’s recent barrage on MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and her alleged botched cosmetic surgeryTrump should alarm us for the simple reason that a president is not expected to publically make such comments.  However, more so, his degrading Twitter tantrum speaks volumes about the trials and obstacles that women constantly face in order to succeed in the corporate world as well as life in general.

Women- whether, white, black, brown- are constantly having their appearance scrutinized and rejected. The status-quo of a male-dominated society means that women always fall short, even if they attain perfection in all aspects of their lives. Yes, talk is cheap but Trump has demonstrated as he has done many times before, that women can and will continue to be reduced to physicality and sexual prowess.

 

p.c: http://bit.ly/2ts2E8w

 

Womens in me

To the womens in me and who have walked through me:

I thought about you all yesterday, as many hailed you and raised you up high. I felt a pride, yes. A pride of one who enjoys the yield of a sowing she did not attend. But between the lines of pride and joy, I also felt sadness, sadness that you must still request an invite to the table of humanity, sadness that your purity is still ranked according to pelvic tightness and painful groanings, sadness still that the pedestal is still too low and high and does not acrtually exist but you are made to believe and desire that it does, sadness again, that we cannot simply exist as womyns but as women always lacking-
and striving, sadness, that the present,
in all its future earnings,
can never simply be enough
for us,
for me,
and for the womens in me.

Dealin’

Sonia’s been talking about all that

all that storytelling about being black and bad

all that knowledge woven in the politics of

dealing with one’s self and

I’ve been thinking about what

it really be about when Sonia tells me

that i am a black women who hasn’t meditated

on my self and only myselves

i’m really thinking about what Sonia is preachin’

through her sweet monologs and sultry lullabies

that tell me my blackness is worth more than a

glimpse, more than a shame-filled, passionless

fuck.

so I am really thinking about what Sonia has got me thinking about:

that I ought to do more

to deal with all of this,

all this blackness

and all that lays beyond it.

Sonia most definitely has me thinking about

dealin’.

Politics of Black Hair (part 2): Social Regulation of Black Hair Texture

This piece, on the social regulation of black hair is the second part of my Politics of Black Hair series that was featured in the Earlham College student-run newspaper.

Historically, Black hair has frequently earned a reputation of being “unruly” and “unmanageable” with specific focus on it’s oftentimes kinky texture. It is such labels that aided the development and dependency of many black women upon hair chemicals (a multi-million dollar industry1 ) that promised the popular and socially accepted Eurocentric ideal of “good hair”, albeit temporarily. Perpetuation of ideas on what “good hair” must look like and how far black hair is from this idea, has worked to produce much of the social bias that many black people face within the workplace, school and in daily interactions.

Although the natural hair movement, has helped to sensitize and draw awareness about the beauty of black hair, there are still inherent problems with the way black hair texture is viewed. Because acceptable hair texture has often leaned towards the Eurocentric ideal, hair that could at least somehow “pass” as mirroring or attempting to mirror this Eurocentric ideal has usually been accepted within societies, both black and white. In Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary, Good Hair, we are taken into the complex and oftentimes expensive world of Black hair care and the lengths at which black people must be prepared to go, in order to achieve a socially acceptable image of themselves and more specifically, of their hair. Although the natural hair movement, has helped to sensitize and draw awareness about the beauty of black hair, there are still inherent problems with the way black hair texture is viewed. Because acceptable hair texture has often leaned towards the Eurocentric ideal, hair that could at least somehow “pass” as mirroring or attempting to mirror this Eurocentric ideal has usually been accepted within societies, both black and white.

Regulation of Black hair in the workplace is one of the most blatant forms of discrimination against people of color but also against the natural state of Black hair. In their opinion editorial entitled, “When Black Hair Is Against the Rules2 ” (2014), Ayana Byrd and Lori L.Tharps, authors of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” (2001) demonstrate how the US Army’s decision to revise its appearance and grooming policy, disproportionately affected Black women and their hair. The 2014 policy was said to “refer to hairstyles like cornrows, braids, twists and dreadlocks” while “severely limiting or banning them outright.” Specific language within the policy also referred to these styles as “matted” and “unkempt.”3 Although the policy has since been revised, such action conveys a clear message to black people: The US Army will not accept your natural as it is, alter it or prepare to face the consequences. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that social regulations on Black hair are perpetuated by Black and White people alike, who staunchly believe in the inherent inferiority of black hair. However, the best-kept secret still remains: Black hair should not need reform, rather it is the unhealthy ideals of Eurocentric beauty, unequal racial structures and power dynamics that need to be abolished.

 

Politics of Black Hair (part 1): Black Hair and Petting Zoo’s

As a young girl my mother’s decision to make me wear my hair in it’s natural state (without any chemical products) largely made me an anomaly amongst my caucasian friends but a symbol of celebration for its length and volume amongst my black friends.

I would grow up to expect the “oohing” and “aahing” of non-African’s at the sight of my hair, followed by the occasional, “can I touch it?” or “how often do you wash it?”. I will admit, some experiences were better than others but not one left me feeling necessarily good about myself or the attention that my hair provided me simply because I did not see individuals of other races being riddled with questions about the “management” of their hair. Disclaimer: In making these statements, I do not attempt to speak for the entire Black race or individuals who share hair textures that deviate from silky and straight. Although my experiences concerning my hair stem far beyond the time I have spent in the United States, I will have to admit that living in the US has opened up me to several new dimensions of the black hair discussion.

The attention that black hair garners whether in it’s natural state or in other styles such as wigs, crotchet braids or braiding extensions has often left me weary. Weary of explaining the “how’s” and the “whys”, weary of defending that black women’s decision on how they choose to wear their hair should be left to each woman as an individual and not a collective and weary of feeling like an animal at a petting zoo. The general inability for black hair to simply exist without question or analysis is frustrating, to say the least, and although there is so much discussion on the topic, so much ignorance still pervades the issue. In her internationally acclaimed novel, Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie demonstrates the difficulties that the protagonist, Ifemelu faces in deciding how to wear her hair and the consequences that arise from either wearing it naturally or using chemical products. Although Adichie helped to provide a platform for the discussion of the politicization of black hair, much more needs to be done. So my advice to anyone who feels the urge to grab a braid or quiz a black woman about the texture of her hair is to Stop! you are not at the petting zoo.Black Hair Collumn

ImmiGrant diaries

He wasn’t coming. I could feel it, first in the air—the way the vicar’s musky cologne hung heavily in the stuffy office cubicle. Then I felt it in the shaking of my hands and then blood-pumping thud in my ears and chest. Nicholas was not going to show up.

“Ms. Bamidele, I’m afraid there are many other couples waiting to be officiated this morning and I will not be able to wait much longer.”

He seemed like a friendly-enough man, in his mid-60’s. He was mostly bold with a modest patch of graying-to white hair hedged around his round head. Probably underpaid and accustomed to expecting little or nothing from people. Beyond his smiling face, I could feel the sadness in his eyes –the fatigue from an unfulfilled life. Once again, he gave an urgent glance at the lopsided walk-clock on the opposite end of the cramped cubicle. In seven minutes, she would have to leave the cubicle.

Clearing his throat, the Vicar, began, “Ms. Bamidele, I do hate to pry but I have witnessed such situations too often in my life-time not to—

The shame of the entire experience forced me to cut him off before he could finish the statement I had been fervently praying I would not hear on this day.

“Vicar James, I do apologize for taking your time like this. I do realize that this might seem like a typical immigrant story but I can assure you Nicholas and I are in it for the long haul. I am sure he will be here at any point.”

The desperate words even seemed hollow in my own ears. Who was I fooling? The vicar simply smiled weakly and nodded.

And so here I was, a 30-year-old Nigerian woman engaged to the man of her dreams who was thousands of kilometers away. Even when Segun’s visa to the United Kingdom had been denied for the sixth time, I could not have imagined that this would be it. That I would be sitting here waiting for a strange man to come and sign a marriage certificate, making me his wife, in order that I could ‘legally’ remain in the country.

I suddenly felt very nauseous. Very nauseous and very alone.