If you are anything like me, chances are you are a very lucky woman!
You have lived a happy middle class type of life in Africa. You graduated from a private high school and went to university in Europe, Canada or The United States. And it’s while being outside of your home country, that you begin to realize you were, well, black and African. Don’t get me wrong, before that, of course, you were African. But if you live in Africa, it does not really matter, does it? It is while you are outside of your country and your continent that you started to discover your blackness and that you start to be conscious of it. I mean, living in Senegal, I never had to defend myself, a black person, or to defend Africa. Back in Senegal, I never questioned, the way we were living either.
The point here is that once you begin to really think about your “Africa identity” and life, then, you start to feel bad about a lot of things. For example, in my neighborhood, they used to be migrants from Mauritania who illegally stayed in shacks next to the seashore. Eventually, they got evicted by a developer who is currently building million dollars condos on the same spot. Those migrants from Mauritania were technically leaving in a rich neighborhood, but they had a very difficult life. Now, someone could argue that they had a better life, in those shacks, than in their home country. Of course, it is possible! That’s the reason why they left in the first place. The reality is that no one really thought something was amiss. Now when I look back, I am quite shocked to realize that I was leaving next to very poor people and it was quite normal for me. This is what living outside your country does to you. It changes you.
It makes you think hard about a lot of things you took for granted. In your little crisis of identity, you want to change things. You start to question everything you think you knew about Africa. Why should people die of Malaria? It is a known disease, we have the medicines and we have the money. It shouldn’t be a problem. Well, it is a problem! Now you want to save the world
…except that in your case the world is Africa.
But how? Where do you start? What do you do? How do you do it? When do you do it? There are a lot of international organizations doing just that. Some people sacrifice their personal lives to help others. What could I possibly bring to add value to this quest? Well, the answer is I still don’t know. But my journey, so far, has been truly a journey of discovery. I discovered so much about myself, about Africa, about being black, being African. It is truly amazing!
I used to be angry at the big organizations for making us beg for food, medicines and money. For making us, proud sons of kings and queens lose our dignity, but now, I know better.
Reality check – that is not the issue here.
While it’s true that such systems can’t go on forever, they are changing the lives of some people. Even if it’s one person’s life that got saved, I think it’s worth it. We always say in Africa that one person supports 15 others persons. So they are making a difference. But then, I ask myself why exactly “white people” are doing this work? It’s not their country or their people. What about us? It’s our country, our land, our ancestors. We should be the one doing it, not them. Rather than focus on hating them, we should channel this energy and build the next save the children. “Save the children” is trying to save African children, so how come it is white people who fund it, run it and who save African children? Doesn’t make any sense to me.
What about Africans? If we say we are very intelligent and our ancestors were very advanced in all possible aspects regardless of what white scientists said, why can’t we figure out for ourselves such a straightforward issue? I am sure some people are doing it, one should beware of generalization. Our mentality should change, rather than focusing on criticizing things over and over again, please let us think together. Let’s use that energy to make change. Change the way we think.
Some people might legitimately ask how can we possibly change our state of mind. How do we encourage Africans to save Africans? Well, every change should start within the individual. If you as an African dedicated your life to assist your fellow Africans, then you are effectively making change. It has been said countless times, revolutions started with one individual. Also, a revolution starts with little things. If you are in the Diaspora and you volunteer to help organizations around you. You are making change, if you donate money, ideas, compliments, encouragements to people around you trying to disrupt things, you are effectively making change. It is not a matter of doing something dramatic overnight, but it’s more like a journey, a gradual process. I have decided to have an influence on Africa. No one is going to do it for us. We have to do it from within.
I strongly believe that rather than just trying to be rich and successful. I can play a much bigger role and fulfill my duty to my people. Money comes and goes; there is nothing you can do about it. It’s true the more you have, the more you have influence and technically and the more you can influence the destiny of the same people you were trying to help. But sometimes along the line of good intention, our brain can betray us. Good intention does not always translate into good and meaningful actions. And action is what we desperately need.
As a takeaway for this post, let me re-quote one of my favorite authors:
Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from
― Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success
Africans please help fund, assist, and volunteer initiatives that are trying to help people in Africa. Not people from your country but people from Africa. After all, what is 20$? Your weekly coffee? But the same 20$ can change someone’s life dramatically. And in that way, you are making change. One of my friends always says that Africa’s greatest resources are not its commodities, but its highly qualified human resources. Why not used those resources wisely and generate some longer term gain for everyone. Friends, this is a call for action!