Sunday, October 01, 2006

On the (occasionally) bitter reality

I was a bit down yesterday, and I crossed path with these 3 wonderful female friends of mine, who were also a bit down and frustrated, but for other (very valid) reasons, and that just made it worse. And although I felt better later on, the state of mind I was in meant that I could not help but to constantly rehash in my head, the words I wrote in this piece - Bitter Reality Check - for the Earlham Word, 3 years ago. I wrote out of anger and dissilusionment... and bitterness. Bitterness at some people's attitudes, and particularly their - some of my... friends' - attitude towards me. With the way some have been acting now, I am compelled to share it with you again.
Bitter Reality Check
It hurts when you finally realize
That for part of your life you've been living a lie
That ugly call to reality
That painful flashback to sanity
When in a few instants of clarity

The true nature of humans is revealed
And the images that repetitiveness and habit
Had settled as truth in your mind
Suddenly fade away

It hurts when you finally realize
The vanity of the people that share your life
The perfidy of their attitudes,
The muffled annoyance when they must listen to you

When in a few instants of clarity
The depth of their duplicity is finally revealed
And you realize that what you mistook for friendship, love,
Was simply pity and mockery for your sorry ass
Humans are funny that way

It hurts when you finally realize
That "irrelevant personal attributes" (so they say)
Such as looks, weight, money, "coolness"...even skin color
Viciously become primary issues of judgment

When in a few instants of clarity
You realize that you are simply tolerated
Like a necessary evil that might be useful in the future
Like the ugly duck that one keeps around out of pity
Eureka! For you, they will never go out of their way

It hurts even more when you realize
The efforts that, for their care and attention, you candidly made
Psychologically, physically, emotionally
And the soft abuse that, for their love and affection, you quietly endured

When in a few instants of clarity
You realize in their true spoiled nature
The only efforts they made were to fake sincerity
The only feelings they had for you were disgust, pity, mockery... hate?
They had ulterior motives all the way

When in a few instants of clarity
You realize that you have been a fooled fool...
A useful pawn whose presence, a necessary burden
Provided entertainment, a friendly domestic laughing stock
"He is such a loser, but he's funny in a way!"

When in a few instants of clarity
You realize the people you went out of your way
To show love, affection, friendship, care, and extend your help
Will not move a finger for your sorry ass
Or... maybe on your deathbed... and even then

When in a flash of clarity, you sadly realize that
Almost every happy memory you have with them
Almost every true moment of friendship and care
Almost everything good you share with them

You had to take the initiative, or
You desperately imposed your presence, or
You offered something they could not do without, or...
In short, it was all you, man!

Then you realize how much of a fool you have been
How much of a pawn you have been
How well people and their world have played you
How many illusions you have lived surrounded by
How many hints of reality you let pass you by

And slowly, but surely
In a slow motion chain reaction
Doubts, worries, perpetual paranoia
Begin to fill your heart, mind and soul

And slowly, but surely
The evils of this world shine on you
And you finally understand, in pain
That the world you tried to build around you
Was nothing but candid illusions...

And slowly, but surely, in your mind
Life loses all taste; love loses all meaning
Friendship is but a myth, ideals but utopias
And then: Bam! Bam! Bam!

In deafening bitterness, In horrifying honesty
A voice hammers these words:
"Welcome to reality!"And it hurts... but it's relieving
Ah, the sad beauty of truth

Monday, September 25, 2006

Can Africans get along (with each other that is)?

My beloved mother, God bless her, raised me as a World citizen. Regardless of whether she always abided by this herself, she made a point of inculcating in me the fact that all humans were created equal in rights, duties and worth, and that differences between humans were to be treated as a common wealth, because the exploration of those differences was what would ultimately bond us together. Hence I grew up with people I called uncle and aunt and cousin (very close-friends of my parents, and their children), who were black, white, brown, yellow, green, blue... you get the picture. So it really never occured to me until... about High-school that there was such a big problem with race.

What I knew however, were the problems between Africans, and differnt ethnic groups in Congo. And that was also interesting because my mother, God bless her, also inculcated me with a love and loyalty to Congo as a whole, and a very strong sense of panafricanism. Yet, I could always - and can - sense was/is some of the disdain by Congolese people, for the West Africans, which were nicknamed "waras" (in refernce tothe fact that many of them are Muslim, using the term "Wal'lahi" to say "I swear to God"). I could sense the issues between the Hutus and the Tutsi (and we saw where that ended). I have seen the clivages between French-Speaking and English-Speaking Africans, between light-skinned/mixed Africans and darker ones, between Igbos and Yorubas, Balubakats and other Katangans, Mbutis abd bantus, Muslims and Christians (and animists) in Nigeria, Ivory Coast; And later on, yes, between White and Black Africans. One often wonders whether these multiple - often VERY artificially created - will ever allow Africans to prosper harmoniously. For someone with my Panafricanism, it is often really... depressing!!!

But then, you have those moments that just re-energize me, and give me more hope for the motherland. 5 years ago, while I was a sophomore student at Earlham College, I initiated - at the request of the elder Africans on campus - the "Pan African Society at Earlham" (PASE), to unite the very few Africans, Afro-Carribeans, potentially African-Americans, and friends of Africa from other continents, on campus. PASE started-off great, with a lot of optimism, and bright ideals. But in the following years, those petty, artificial divisions - as well as some interpersonal misunderstandings - made the group go to the deep end. I was worried that after I graduated, the group would simply... disappear. Well it did NOT!! In fact, they kept going, with the organization of "Africa Fest" (Earlham's African Festival) last year, despite the straining tensions that internal disagreements were creating.

And this year, the young PASE members have outdone themselves, with a nearly flawless Africa Fest, with great advertising, and a cohesive, communal and harmonious organization that would shame even the African Union. I was impressed to see the joy and the smiles on the faces of all these students, from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Lesotho, Swaziland, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Haiti, Jamaica, Fiji and the United States (and Congo, with me), all working together without unnecessary complaints, and annoying noises, and useless bickering... all working - even those that were not of African descent - for the motherland to be represented with dignity and quality - at least to the best of their ability. This are the small initiatives that give me hope in the future. If these students represent what the future of Africa and the world will be made of, I have hope. The synergy they displayed was a delight to watch, and observe, and participate in, and it was resounding rejection of all the apocalyptic views of Africa and its prospects.

The current PASE members and all their friends lead me to state boldly: Africans can - and WILL - get along, when given the chance. There are forces intent on us never getting that chance. Let them be warned: Their final hour is not far! Let those that have ears...

Bayete PASE!! Longonya na Afrika!!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My new love: America Ferrera

I am sure, those of you in the US and Canada, have seen all the previews for the new ABC show, Ugly Betty, based on the Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty la Fea. The young lady playing the title role is America Ferrera, the Honduran-American (well USAmerican, of Honduran immigrant parents), 22-year-old actress who has got to be one of my favorite actresses right now. I loved her in her debut role, as the leading character in HBO's Real Women have curves, not only because she is gorgeous, but also and more importantly for the quality of her acting. And I am not alone in saying this: She won a Sundance Film Festival award for her performance, and other awards too.

Moreover, her beauty is not the conventional, fashion-magazine type: she is a thicker, Latina woman. Yet, she is simply stunning, both in her shapes, her face, and those thin, almond-shaped eyes that are positively endearing, and charming, and simply ... beautiful! A true beauty, in the likes of Queen Latifah, Raven Simone, Jennifer Lopez, Selena and other women who are not afraid of reflecting their beauty through... their curves (imagine that!), and who are more than willing to grace us with their talents.

See where I come from, in Congo, men (and, I am sure, the very closeted Lesbian women), appreciate women of all shapes and sizes. Beauty is not - strike that, was not, until the Western magazine started flooding the markets - limited to any particular model, established by the media. People have the lattitude to decide for themselves what/who they consider, with some general consensus in the end, but no overbearing pressure to conform. Except with skin color, particularly since the 80's. There was/is a nasty movement of skin-bleaching, in response to this age-old Euro-born complex, associating lighter-skin with beautiful. And this is the ultimate irony, because nowadays, White people often would kil (figuratively) for a tan. Go figure... But nevertheless, if one should examine the general consensus on beauty back home, one would find thick women, thin women, big and small breasted women, dark and light-skined, etc. And America, in my humble opinion, has nothing to envy from the Halle Berry, Victoria Beckam, Penelope Cruz, and other beautiful, skinny celebrities.

America is a rising star, and I particularly admire her professional flair: it is quite a courageousstep to accept the role of a so-called "ugly woman", in the acting business, because to some degree, that sticks to you, like any controversial/disfigurment role. The title role in Monster definitely stuck to my fellow African Charlize Theron's image, Felicity Huffman will definitely be remembered for her trangedered role in TransAmerica, and I personally cannot dissociate Jack Nicholson and his character as the Joker, in Batman. So it is somewhat of a calculated risk, for America to take on a role that quite likely will stick with her for the rest of her life. And I say calculated, because the added exposure, including the association with such celebrities as the beautiful Vanessa Williams, and Salma Hayek, can only be good for her career. But even more to my point here, it takes a woman with a lot of confidence in herself, to be willing to take on the persona of what society sees as "ugly". And that is the quality I admire from this woman. She is determined to succeed, and she is ready to hold her own, and she is just beautiful!

Hell, I am just going to say it: I want to marry America Ferrera!

Ugly Betty premieres on September 28th, 2006, on ABC (US) and Ciitv (Canada).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My take on race

So, I am going to say something that may lose me some friends in my own black community: I do not hate White people. And black people around me - mostly African-American, but Africans too - cannot help themselves but to say and do everything to make me feel guilty about it.

Do not get me wrong, I am not one to let them get away with bigotry. I will be the first to tell them off, when they are acting in total contempt of me, or fellow black and brown people, because of some misguided sense of superiority that they feel on account of their race. But I do not systematically assume that every white person that I meet, is out to get me. I am not naive about it: There are quite a few that ARE out to get me/us. But the truth of the matter is - IMHO - that we simply cannot coexist on this planet, if we do not at some point take a few leaps of faith - on both sides.

If there is something I have had the sad privilege of learning, is that human beings, regardless of race, have the same potential for evil and mischief. I have been screwed over by White, Brown, and Black people, for different reasons. If it was not racism, it was tribe, or ethnic group, language spoken, weight, plain ol' greed, or all the above together. Now, racism is still very much a problem, and many White people are either in denial, and some even embrace and strive in their racism, and all the shame in the World is on them, IMHO. That said, I have also been treated very well by Black, Brown, and yes, White people. Am I expected to reject all the individuals that have afforded me and other people of my color/race/origin/continent every ounce of decency and respect, simply because they are White? How does that make me any better than them? And if I do get upset, and get testy with them, are they expected to rollover and play dead, because they have to feel guilty?

I mean seriously! I resent being made to feel guilty for embracing those White people that are not in denial, or are trying to get out of their denial. I am tired of having to defend some of my White friends, from a blanket rejection by my family members, and black friends, because of the color of their skin. There are enough bigoted and racist White people, governments, and institutions in this World, for us to oppose, and try to bring down. There are lots of pretty ignorant White people that need educating. There are lots of White people out there that deserve our resentment. But we do not live in a vacuum. We cannot take the attitude that EVERY SINGLE WHITE PERSON is out to get us. Not only is it untrue, but it is very counter-productive. It diverts our efforts and our focus, and simply leaves us weaker in our fight, IMHO.

From a comment in my previous post, I discovered two blogs, by two black sisters: Black Looks, and Diary of a Mad Kenyan Woman. These ladies deserve a lot respect, for taking the time to air their frustrations, opinions, analyses and solutions on matter regarding black people worldwide, and I have lots of praises for them. That said, I quite strongly differ from (my perception of) some of their premises. They seem pretty angry and - justifiably - angry at this world of ours. Who can blame them? Not me. But where I disagree, is that they seem - and I would welcome a correction of this - to have lost any hope in a World where at least the majority of people can live in relative harmony. And that brings out a belligerent state of alert, which is not conducive to any resolution. I say people will be people. People, white or otherwise, will always be greedy, and if they so wish, they will always find some reason to hate. I advocate the stance that has us Black people, recognize our common humanity with other races, branch out to them in dignity, and call out into shame and destitution those - and only those - that try to deny our equality.

What does this entail? It entails not systematically seeing racism everywhere, in order to be able to focus on its root causes. It entails being vigilant, and standing ready to denounce bigotry and exploitation wherever we find it, and have the necessary elements to prove our allegations. It entails calling out ignorance not only among White people, but also among our own people. It also entails recognizing ignorance for what it is: blatant lack of knowledge, no more, no less. It entails being willing to share of ourselves, with those that share themselves with us. It entails being open to people of other races, in as far as they are open to us. It entails recognizing the potential for good in our fellow (Black, Brown, White) man, before pondering their potential for evil. It entails recognizing injustice everywhere, as much as we recognize it when it affects us. It entails being proud of who we are, where we come from, and getting rid of some of the complexes that both colonialism and slavery have fostered in us. It entails fostering in our people, not only a greater knowledge of our own History, and our own cultures and languages, but also those of the people that live around us, and share this planet of ours. Finally, and this is the most difficult, it entails being able to - sometimes - recognize goodwill for what it is: genuine goodwill.

You know where I am going with this, right? We do not live in a vacuum, and we never will. Until we develop interstellar travel, we are stuck on this blue ball of ours. There are countless of White (and other) people that couldn't care less what happens to the poor and destitute on this planet of their own races, let alone those n other races. When someone - to atone their guilt, to feel better, or genuinely - decides to address those plights, I see that as a positive development.

The government of the nation of Namibia have clearly overdone it, when they seemed to have bowed down to the Brangelina couple. Clearly. But the claims that my fellow Africans have made that they "surrendered their foreign policy to Hollywood"... come on now! We know what world we live in. We can try to change the world, and I do my part, but until that changes, every country's leaders are often interested in one thing: the bottom line. Brangelina was a publicity opportunity for Namibia, and they took it. It has nothing to do with Namibia's lack of pride, IMHO, but more to do with the lack of interest in positive stories about Africa, in the rest of the World. Those of our governments that do not happen to have a war going on, try to find their place in the Global arena, and it is not easy. Do I condone the particular event, maybe not. But for a Hollywood star, Namibia could have done much worse. I may question her tendency to adopt-children-on-demand, but I cannot question Angelina's motives, because one of my family members, who happens to work in the UN, and who normally has nothing but contempt for the punctual do-gooders, says she is very different, because she is sincerely committed. Why should I then reject her contribution? Because she is Rich and White? Somebody please explain that to me.

I believe that we black people, need to find better targets for our anger and resentment. We need to hold the White/Western/Wealthy establishment fully accountable for their centuries' old oppression of us, but also give them the necessary room to redeem themselves. And for those of us that are Africans, we also need to start hold our own leadership accountable. We need to fight our own discriminating urges, and we need to regain our pride.

I am black because I am a human who happens to be from the motherland, and happens to have a certain level of melanin. I am Kongo and Lulua, two great nations of Central Africa, now included in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am African, and I am human. I am not black because I am not White. I am not black in contrast to White people. I am not black as opposed to being White. My blackness is not defined by a contrast to their Whiteness. I am simply Black, JUST AS others are White, or Brown, or otherwise. I am proud to be from the Motherland, and my level of melanin changes NOTHING in the common humanity I share with other humans. I act, and bear myself like a human, equal to all others, that happens to have dark skin. We must internalize that sense of human dignity, and TAKE our rightful place as equal members of the human family.

It all starts with us.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What is black?

So, yesterday, I was talking with this African-American friend of mine, and I just had an epiphany: Apparently, I am not black! This came as quite a shock to me, as I have been looking at the mirror for 23 years, and I have always seen a black man looking back at me. But apparently I am not black, because I am not US-American. In other words, only US-Americans of African descent are black; the rest of us are just Africans, or West Indians, Carribeans, or Latin Americans, but we are not Black! Wow, man. I have been fooled for so long! But then how come I am darker than most of them? hum... interesting...

More seriously, the debate is a really stupid one, and quite senseless, when we know that we are all in fact different shades of brown. People of African descent here in the US need to recover their pride in their African heritage. And those of us that are Africans need to make an effort to understand and associate more... politely with our brethren on this side of the pond.

Then, we can work on duking it out with our pink... I meant white fellow humans :).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The most random sound...

Have you ever noticed that the even in a well insulated house, when there is total quite inside, you can always here 2 outside sounds: Police cars when they pass by, and the sound of kids playing basketball on tarred driveways. It is rather interesting don't you think? I mean such a little thing resounds so strongly that it really carries through! I know, I know, I notice the craziest stuff.

Anyway, today I am taking a new step in making myself healthier (and hopefully lighter). I am going to start on a program called Zumba. It is a fitness program, that is based on latin/carribean dances - and anyone who knows me, knows that I love doing those dances. So hopefully, since it is something I actually like, I will be able to stick to it! Wait and See!

Friday, March 24, 2006

US bus cleaner retires aged 100

Talk about a man of integrity and ethics... and very good genes!!
BBC NEWS | Americas | US bus cleaner retires aged 100: "A Los Angeles man who worked cleaning buses for the Metropolitan Transport Authority for 76 years has finally called it quits on his 100th birthday.

Arthur Winston was only absent for one day during his working life - when his wife died in 1988.

In 1996, Mr Winston was honoured by former US President Bill Clinton as 'Employee of the Century'."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mischevious in Indiana

Last year, I - yes ebony black me - went into a video store/tanning salon here in Indiana, and with the straightest face, asked for a tan. Can you imagine how quick the lady there blushed in confusion, hahaha!!!!

As she saw that I seemed very serious and determined, she actually agreed to give me a tan!!!!!!!!! Can you believe that!?! I promptly refused, of course, prompting the biggest sigh of relief I ever heard...

I mean I guess I can get the whole sun-tanning thing. In fact many people actually do look more attractive with a reasonnable tan, especially those that are very pale. But direct exposure to concentrated UV's? Does that sound healthy to you?

I wonder...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My beloved country

My beloved country will never cease to surprise me. As much as we have some of the brightest minds of the continent (and also some of the most scheming minds), we also have the not so bright. I mean who, in teir right mind, would let the above happen???? Posted by Picasa