It is hard enough to be an African in a globe that does not genuinely see the continent’s value. It is even harder when we adopt worldly views and behaviourial patterns as if our own were a curse from the Gods, who obviously must be crazy!
As an African, I have come to define for myself what that entails. First of all, it means accepting all that it is to be African – humbly and shamelessly. The loudness, the nappiness, the frugalness and treating dogs like guards in chains – the warmth, the strength, the wealth (in cows) and a deep sense of community. That’s just the way it is. Don’t fight it. Nature wins every time.
A fellow African said to me just the other day: “Eish, I wonder what it is God decided not to give us blacks because he certainly gave it to white people.” I was shocked! This is my peer and she holds such disparaging beliefs. Let me elaborate on my astonishment.
If we go back a thousand years or so, Africans lived for, with and from the land. Our ancestors ate what came from the earth and there it returned. What was waste, nature took care of and what was needed, nature provided.
Fast forward to the days of the egoistic colonizer, approaching in his ship to ‘conquer’ (cough: bullshit!), bringing with him his seemingly advanced technology, ways of being and of course, salvation in the form of missionaries; we slowly but surely got conditioned. Brainwashed to believe that our ways were primitive as if that was a bad thing. As a matter of fact, primitive means: ‘preserving the character of an early stage in the evolutionary development of a [culture]’.
Today, here we are, the ‘Internet Generation’ – dressing like Americans, eating Continental food and neglecting to give thanks to our ancestors. And then we measure ourselves according to values that we do not hold in high esteem. That is simply not fair. We don’t have to be well versed in the white man’s system and those who judge themselves against this will come up short time and time again. It is simply not our playground and personally, I refuse to play the rigged game. This is why I live by the DNA code.
Do Not Assimilate
This code allows me to be out in the world without losing myself to the world – it can allow you to share with the world, not to sacrifice or be stripped by it. This code has a basic set of principles:
Get back to your ancestors. Those that came before know all there is to know about you – all there is to know about being African. Only they can guide you for in African tradition, folklore is the means of transmission. Make a sacrifice, go to the village, consult with your elders, they will show you the way.
Take pride in what you are. Wear your hair natural for it represents your essence. Yes, sure, a style is a style but if you look a little deeper, straight to the root, that human hair does not belong to you and therefore can never be a part of you. It may be a small edit to your obvious good looks but the mere act perpetuates the ideal of the Western standard of beauty, which in my opinion, is rather played out! (Yeah, I said it!)
Greet. Such is being African. The reason that I have discovered for this particular custom is simple: in Africa, when you greet, you acknowledge that person’s existence. It is the least amount of energy you can expend to extend a greeting yet it is the greatest sign of respect. “Dumela. Molweni. Ndaa.” Instead, we have adopted the Western way of “minding our own business” – people walk by us every day and we don’t even take the time to say hallo. This has distanced us further and further apart and our communities continue to break down because we cannot scold a child whom we know is in the wrong because ‘well, it’s not our problem,’ right?
It is our problem and it is our responsibility to make it right. It is our very consciousness that needs an awakening, our paradigms that need a shift. It is up to us to be proudly African and to show up in the world authentically.
Do not take in any more of what is outside of you because all that is African is innately yours. To take on some, you have to lose some and this some is much too much for an identity that has been undermined from the very beginning of time. Be. Africa Be.
Let us walk with our heads up high! There’s nothing so fine than being an African. Living in Europe (as part of the diaspora) has taught me this. Seeing the standard of beauty here has helped me appreciate my native looks. Wearing a Badu turban in a sea of blondes has made me feel colourful. Speaking my language in a land that speaks their own has compelled me to realize that we all have a place in the world.
This code is more than a rule, more than the antithesis of any particular culture; it is simply a commitment to live true to my DNA.
I Do Not Assimilate. ■