On Being African in China: When a student from Ghana arrived in Beijing, she hoped to serve as a cultural ambassador -- but instead became an unwitting spe
The author in China. (Zahra Baitie)
by Karimah Shabaz
When I found out that I would be going on a pilgrimage to Ghana with Episcopal Relief and Development, I became overwhelmed with joy and excitement. Weeks before hearing the news, I had prayed and asked God for His will to be done. When I found out that I would be going to Ghana, I thought about how great God is and how He continues to bless me through it all. I knew right away that it would be an unforgettable pilgrimage and that it would change my life, because it was in His plan. What I experienced while in Ghana was surprising. I expected my life to change and for my perspective to be enlightened on social issues and problems that affect the local communities in Ghana and the global communities of our world. Thankfully, I experienced that. However, I did not expect to experience an identity check. During each program visit, through each person I met, and within each visual picture I took with my eyes, I explored my identity as an American and as an African American. Within both identities lie historical journeys of freedom, pain, pride, injustices, and resolve. While in Ghana, I was faced with the reality of my identities and given another perspective of how my identities interact with the rest of the world. I wrote almost daily on how I felt, on my thoughts, and on my experiences while visiting programs. Within my blog lies the thoughts that I could not at the time give voice to, but lingered within my mind and my conscience, reminding me constantly of who I am and what my identity means to me and to others outside of the U.S. borders.
The US premiere of Simon Rittmeier's Drexciya amongst other things at The Future Weird's screening of a compilation of afro-futuristic films under the theme of "Black Atlantis" this Monday, 26th August, at the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn. For more information, and to RSVP, see the event's Facebook page.
AADAT! and RiseAfrica's new collaboration: Narrate Africa. A book club for African literature on the interwebs. The first book will be Taiye Selasi's "Ghana Must Go". Registration for membership to the book club starts Monday 26th August and the beginning of the scheduled reading of the first part of the book is slated for 2nd September.
Watch the video below and visit their tumblr for more information about how to participate.
Speaking of RiseAfrica, their first New York Meet-up is this upcoming weekend on Sunday September 1st, 4pm at Dave and Busters on 42nd Street. For more information, visit their website. AfroPulse is very excited about this, and will definitely be represented there.
By Julia DeFabo '14
President Obama's recent trip to the historical slave trading island of Gorée ade me think of the impressions I had of the island when I visited it in February. The island is situated off the coast of Dakar, Senegal's capital city. More than 15 million slaves passed through la porte du non-retour (the door of no return) on Gorée Island between 1536 and 1848. The beauty of Gorée Island is depressing. It looks like a mini, colorful France and is crowded with tourists taking pictures. But of course I partook in the picture taking.
In the photos from Obama's trip, the President seems contemplative and the crowds seem cheerful. This duality of emotions is not particular to the President's visit. The tourist aspect of the island is confusing: I was obviously there as a tourist, enjoying the aesthetics of the island that differs so greatly from Senegal's mainland. I understand the need to make the island a tourist destination. The history needs to be remembered and respected. But was I making a show of the slave fort by taking romanticized pictures of it? It makes me wonder why we attach so much meaning to a physical location in the first place. Does history have to be tied to a tangible place? Of course I am not against the conservation of historical places (anyone who knows me knows my love for museums and artifacts and monuments), but is this fascination with physical location an extension of the capitalist desire for private property/land owning/the concept of a nation-state with definable borders?
I know it is ridiculous to think that only our contemporary capitalist world values land. The Bedik who live on top of a mountain in the Kedougou region of Senegal claim that their ancestors lived there since Islam was introduced to the area. Although it is difficult to get water up the mountain and although they are isolated from establishments like schools and hospitals, they refuse to move. There are spiritual ties to the land because of their ancestors. As much as I would like to claim that Gorée Island acts in the same way, I had a difficult time finding the spirituality. Yes, there are opportunities to feel spirituality on a personal level: standing alone in a musty room that once held hundreds of young women or looking out of the door of no return at the seemingly endless ocean. But these moments are overshadowed with Western-style restaurants and overpriced cloth (seriously, you can buy that cloth for a quarter of the price in the market).
However, the people who live on Gorée make their livelihood off of tourism. In the true capitalist sense, who can blame them for selling a yard of fabric for the price of five? If a tourist will buy an inaccurate replica of a wooden mask, sell it to feed your family. I do not dislike the tourism of Gorée. Rather, I find it an interesting cultural phenomenon. And perhaps the island did a better job than I'm giving it credit for paying homage to all who passed through it. After all, it's July and I'm still thinking about it. It's four months later and it still makes me feel uneasy.