Originally posted on Feb. 28, 2019 on Zoot580.blogspot.com.
Welcome back for the 5th and final installment of “Africa To America”. You’ve been following my personal opinions, knowledge and experiences with regards to society, its beliefs and my position within, as an African American. As much as I intended to open the eyes of my audience, this journey has found me looking inward with realization, sadness and thankfully, pride and hope. I have so many things that I’d like to share, but as a good friend advised, I “need to bring it to an end at some point”. I would love to cover many more issues, but I don’t want to risk stretching out and possibly watering down any impact made at this point and time. Maybe next year, during Black History Month. We’ll see. For now, let’s get to the big finish, closing it all out by talking about “The Future”.
And as an added bonus (in honor of Black History Month), I will be featuring applicable artwork along the way by my favorite artist, the talented Kevin “Wak” Williams (click here to visit his site and see more of his awesome work, available for purchase).
For those of you who are new to all of this, here’s a recap of what you missed (and may I strongly suggest that you actually start at the beginning). Links provided:
Africa: MORE Than Just Hollywood’s “Black Panther” (Pt. 1 of 2) – The inspiration behind this and all of its related posts, which began as a discussion with a dear friend in Kampala, Uganda. Our talks gave birth to my concerns that we (American citizens of all races, along with the rest of the world) so readily glorify the success and craze of a Hollywood product (as well-deserving as the movie was). But we fail to (want to) learn more about the real Africa, in all of its beauty and contributions to our world. “
Wakanda, Uganda Forever!”
Africa: MORE Than Just Hollywood’s “Black Panther” (Pt. 2 of 2) – Rejecting The “African” In African American – The subconscious (and sometimes blatant) denial of our heritage and ties to the cultures that exist in Africa today.
After the first two articles, I decided to celebrate Black History Month in my blog posts by sharing my thoughts on Black America, going back to our origin and outlining what we’ve lost along the way. More importantly, how I feel we can recover and flourish.
Africa To America (Pt. 1): More Than Just A Slave Journey – The unfortunate tragedy of not living, but existing as a slave in a foreign land. The strategy of dehumanizing us; stripping us of our pride and fighting spirit, beginning with something as simple as relinquishing our very names.
Africa To America (Pt. 2): Pride Of Self – Celebrating the achievements of Africans and African Americans. Utilizing the resources provided during Black History Month and year-round. Commemorating and educating ourselves about who and what we are. Being PROUD of the African, in the term “African American”.
Africa To America (Pt. 3): Hatred Of Self – The damage resulting from the battle “within”: Intra-racism (dark vs light skin), socioeconomic status, education, fraternal association, violence in the community and family, etc. (Please note that the photo below of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc has only been used for illustrative purposes, showing a fraternal organization drawn by the artist. No allegations or focus on any specific group intended. All respect.)
Africa To America (Pt. 4): Family – A slight deviation (but an applicable tale) from the series: A day in the life of my family and how our collaborative efforts have resulted in a bond that is strengthened by our mutual respect for one-another and love of God. Also how our talks have kept us on a path that has protected us, while paving the way for our own survival and future.
Paving the way for our survival. Our future.
Which leads me to the real meat on this bone: thoughts about OUR future as African Americans.
What will it take to ensure a future for my family and the African American community as a whole? Well, in my opinion, it begins with the following:
- Family Unity (rooted in love and respect for its members).
- Love of God. Honoring Him and His teachings.
- Uplifting the race, as we strive for our own success.
- Embracing our past.
- Education, beyond the academic environment.
- Minimizing or preventing Re-Enslavement (knowing what is already creating it, what’s on the horizon and how we can prevent it).
If you haven’t noticed by now, several of the aforementioned have already been covered in previous posts, so for sake of time and space, I won’t revisit them in detail. I TOLD you to go back and read it all from the beginning. Folks just don’t listen. Anyway…
Honoring family and “embracing our past” go hand in hand. During my research of customs and beliefs in Africa, particular attention was paid to two countries: Uganda and Ghana. Based on what I’ve learned, I will most assuredly do a feature on “family practices and values” someday soon. But for now, let me repeat something I said in a previous post. We need to keep our families close. Dissension in the ranks does nothing to fortify the family structure. We’re so quick to accept the word of others outside of the family, yet have so little patience with our own children, siblings, spouses and significant others. But people, remember, after all is said and done and when your friends have moved on to new crews, your family hasn’t and will never change. This is your blood and yes, it is truly “thicker than water”. My father used to say, “No matter where you go, NOBODY will love you like your own family.” I know some families will challenge that theory, exhibiting the opposite. To that point, I will pray for them, but trust me, they cannot deny that the opportunity to form a stronger bond was and is always present.
What’s even more admirable about many countries and cultures in Africa is how their citizens keep and value extended family as highly as they do the members of the core unit. Just imagine how enjoyable life would be if the people at your family reunions were part of your everyday life. I don’t mean moving everybody in, but the communication, the love, the support and the camaraderie. Imagine how we could improve our situations with an “organization” of such magnitude. Just wait until I talk about what we can learn from movies like “Soul Food” and “The Godfather” in a future post. Yeah, I got plans for y’all.
And having the Lord and His teachings as a foundation? Wow…
Next point. Education beyond the academic environment. I’m talking Street Smarts, in addition to book smarts. I believe that you should go as far as opportunity will permit when it comes to academic advancement, whether it’s via trade school, brick and mortar or online universities. Even a high school diploma is nothing to sneeze at. But no matter what you choose, give it your best and learn all that you can. Retain it. Practice it. Spend your free time learning more through research. Utilize the internet (I still frequent the library, at least weekly), watch the news (don’t dismiss it because someone calls it “fake”.. There are credible platforms out there.), pick up a newspaper or magazine. Read!
But don’t forget the lessons you can learn outside of the classroom; in the streets, at work and in society. Spend quality time engaging in extracurricular activity. Join your local NAACP, Urban League and Jaycees (Junior Chamber Of Commerce, if you’re under 40). Volunteer at the YMCA/YWCA, church and charity events. Spend time at the mission and not just during the holidays (they need you year ’round). Work within the community for and with the youth. Become a Big Brother/Sister. Pay attention to things your children learn, say and do. Research the current slang terms and urban colloquialisms. Learn the new drugs on the street. I have a book called “Street Drugs: A Drug Identification Guide” which is incredibly informative (I need to find a newer version because it’s now 10 years old). Learn the colors you should and shouldn’t wear in certain areas. Yes, that’s still an issue.
Don’t run from reality, KNOW it. Don’t let your naivete be your downfall, or your children’s.
Now, regarding “uplifting our race, as we strive for our own success“. You’ve heard me talk about the “Crabs In A Bucket” syndrome (when one crab tries to crawl out, the others pull it back in/down). Similarly, people try to hold you down when you try to think or live differently and attempt to better yourself. They’re like the human character Hem in Dr. Spencer Johnson’s short book, “Who Moved My Cheese“: Angry about the unexpected situation, wallowing in self-pity and hoping that change will come to him, as opposed to going out and finding/creating the solutions to his problems. For many of us that DO manage to obtain some sort of success, we’re like the characters Sniff and Scurry, who find our way out without looking back. And some are like Haw: They eventually leave a bad situation and consider going back to share their newfound success (and more important, the methods implemented to achieve it) with those unwilling or afraid to try.
But sadly, even when Haw went back to help Hem, Hem refused to leave, content with his world of stability (no changes). If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s a short read. I gave a copy to a family friend and she submitted her two-week notice to her job the day after finishing it. Yeah, it’s that deep, as well as enlightening.
One of my favorite historical figures is political activist and abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Harriet was born into and eventually escaped from slavery. What’s so astonishing is that she returned to her home and surrounding areas approximately 13 times, rescuing upwards of 70 people, including family and friends. Her story and accomplishments go far beyond that, but I want to focus on this remarkable achievement. THIRTEEN TRIPS, BACK into and through slave states, to rescue and deliver others from captivity! And let me add this point – as a child, Harriet (also known as “Moses”) sustained a head injury from a metal object thrown (intended for another slave) by an angry slave master. Consequently, she suffered from lifelong chronic conditions including hypersomnia, dizziness, disorientation and pain. Just imagine what it would be like to be a runaway slave, unable to revive your rescuer and leader, who has seized or fainted both infrequently and without warning. Not knowing when she would wake. Yet and still, she successfully rescued every single one of the people that accompanied her on the dangerous trek.
This woman had found her freedom, yet she risked re-enslavement and possibly death with every trip back.
And to think, the most I’ve ever done was leave a job, start a new one as a store manager, then go back and convince a former co-worker to leave the old job and come work for me. lol
Thank you, Harriet. You truly were and continue to be an inspiration to us all…
Which brings me to my final point: Re-enslavement.
I know your first question will be how we could possibly return to the brutality(ies) of slavery.
Let me ask you this… Do you consider southern plantations, cotton picking, shackles, rape, humiliation, family separation, physical torture, etc to be the only facets of bondage and servitude?
Buckle up. I’m about to hit you with a lot in a little bit of time… (and no, I’m not a conspiracy theorist)
In a way, we’ve enslaved ourselves by our own addictions and desires. My father once told me that while we are here in America, watching cartoons and playing video games, children overseas are “cracking those books” and becoming the inventors. They are the developers of the very games we buy and spend hours playing (He used to joke that when they come over to the U.S., we’ll end up working for them. There is some truth to that, though…). His point was that the time we invest in entertainment often hinders or cripples our capacity to learn and grow.
By the way, would you believe there have been cases of people actually dying from playing video games for days at a time?
And how much time do we spend watching movies? Binge-watching is actually the craze these days. I often see posts on Facebook and Twitter about how people spent the last week(s), catching up on seasons X, Y & Z of “so and so”. How many personal and professional responsibilities have been shirked along the way? But hey, I’m just as guilty. I look back on some of the Netflix marathon sessions I’ve enjoyed, then sighed, thinking of the tasks I hadn’t begun, much less completed.
For some, instead of finishing or furthering our education, many quit school early in pursuit of careers without a backup plan. With all respect, can you imagine how many teenagers have told high school guidance counselors that they want to be a rapper? That’s it. Secure a record deal. No alternatives. Some athletes leave college early to join the NBA draft (not all make it and some suffer career-ending injuries before their time). Some leave high school, chasing that instant money, working for drug dealers or pimps. No, this isn’t the “everyman”, but there are quite a few. The “love of” money has and continues to enslave so many.
What’s the line in “The Players Club”? Oh yeah, the main character, an exotic dancer, told another dancer, “Make that money girl, don’t let that money make YOU.”
And music (and social media) videos. How many minds and dreams have they altered? No, I’m not condemning it. Music is incomparably beautiful and social media, when properly used, is a wonderful tool. It’s the bastardization of both that breaks my heart. Babies brandish guns, calling themselves “Playas”, “Ballers” and “Gangstas”. How many times have parents “whooped” their children for “twerking” in a home video? Sex is glorified and women are objectified. Relationships are no longer the goal; you have to “hit it and quit it, but when she gets pregnant, don’t admit it”. Grandmothers are no longer 50, they’re 30! Too many fathers are nowhere to be found, if they’re even KNOWN. Body shaming and cyber-bullying are destroying self-esteem and creating active shooters and suicide victims. The quality of music has seriously declined as well and much of it pollutes our minds, as does television. And what was once taboo can be found if you type the right combination of letters in the search bar (Whitehouse.gov will get you to the oval office, while Whitehouse.com is a porn site. I don’t know if it still exists and I ain’t checkin’ either!).
When I was young, we had to wait until the bar owner down the street dumped his x-rated magazines in the trash can in the alley to access nudity and porn. All the neighborhood kids would check daily. Now, you can simply turn on your computer or phone.
And business. People avoid “black-owned” businesses like the plague and when they DO conduct business, they expect “the hookup”, depriving African and African American entrepreneurs of the opportunity to gain a profit and remain competitive in the business world. Asking someone to “look out for a bruthaaaa” keeps them from growing. Can’t you see that? Help them grow! You don’t ask for a deal at Best Buy, do you?
Again, this isn’t everyone that watches TV, shops or surfs the internet, but it’s the problem with way too many.
I know I’m all over the place right now and I intend to be. As I was saying…
Black-on-black crime is resulting in more deaths than we care to count (remember my piece on “Krazy K” and the white supremacist in Part 3?). People blame White America and the media for all dangers associated with being black, but the tangible and more immediate dangers come from within. Even comedian Chris Rock said “When I go to the money machine tonight, I ain’t lookin’ over my back for the media. I’m lookin’ for NIGGAS!”
Lack of education, spousal and child neglect and abuse. I’ve said it all before…
Dear God, it just goes on and on and on.
Am I still sounding sporadic? GOOD!!! This whole WORLD lacks cohesion! I hope that reading this is as loud on your brain as your kids in the kitchen playing the “Pots And Pans Symphony in Scream minor”. Oh wait. They don’t play musical instruments anymore. They use a beat machine on their path to become Hip Hop artists. Nobody wants to learn piano or rhythm instruments. Nobody wants to play in the horn section for Earth, Wind & Fire anymore.
Who is Earth, Wind & Fire, Kenny?
*grabs baseball bat*
Ok, let me calm down and drive in one lane.
Ask yourself if you’re truly succeeding, by your own standards. Are you building a future or are you throwing your career, your health and/or your family away, living these lifestyles? Have you become a slave to the machine? To work? To drugs? To entertainment? To lies and propaganda? Is that your passion?
Sure, entertainment and material things are fun and even healthy in some respects. I enjoy the luxuries of life just like anyone else. But if you forsake your future and your family in pursuit of these things, maintaining these practices, what are you truly accomplishing? What legacy are you leaving? What happens when the smoke clears?
“What will it profit a man if he gains the world, yet forfeits his soul?” – Matthew 16:26
I’m tired of talking. I’m actually trembling right now. I’m angry and I’m terrified. I’m in fear that so many of us have lost sight of what matters and by doing so, have abandoned the ways taught in the time before slavery, in a land we are ashamed to acknowledge as our original and TRUE home (remind you of something I said in an earlier episode? I told you to go back and read!).
SHAME on you. Shame on ME. Shame on US! As Rep. Elijah Cummings bellowed in his closing statements of yesterday’s Michael Cohen Hearing before the House Oversight Committee, “We’re BETTER than this!” I’m not even gonna go there right now. Yesterday was epic.
I don’t know what else I can say. The future is coming and I’m not talking cyborg house servants, laser weapons and teleportation. I’m talking about retirement, son/daughter graduation, health problems, economic slide, etc. The future is as soon as tomorrow. Hey, in many cases, it’s already here!
I can only ask… …I can only hope and pray that we all are prepared when it comes.
I’d like to thank you all for your time and attention to my sincerest thoughts on the past, present and future of the beautiful people of Africa and Black America. Believe it or not, it’s been emotionally draining, yet purifying, trying to speak with eloquence when I would rather grab a microphone and rant for a good 7-8 hours. I can DO it, too. Just ask my friends and co-workers.
I thank you, for following along with great anticipation of each episode, while others may have felt a bit inundated with truths they may not want to acknowledge or discuss. No matter your stance, I’m sure we can all agree that the journey and transition of the black family from ancient Africa to Obama/Trump-led America begs discussion and review and the strictest attention and action.
I’d like to thank and credit Kevin “Wak” Williams, whose talented works I referenced to help illustrate my points. Please pay his site a visit here. Perhaps you’ve been inspired to purchase some of his work.
In addition, I’d like to thank Tonya for convincing me to start a blog and put my crazy ideas in print (or cyberspace). My cousin John “Pasquale/Pot” (R.I.P.) for introducing me to Africa, the Swahili language and Kwanzaa as a child. I’d also like to thank Abass, Ibou, Richard, Sophie, Nahna, Bunmi and Yonatan for their many stories about life in Africa, along with my former co-workers who brought me dishes from their respective countries, each day at work.
And finally, I’d like to thank Siima, who talked with me for hours and hours, teaching me about customs, beliefs, travel, politics, entertainment, languages and so many other facts about Africa. You’re amazing, Siima!
All of you are.
I hope you enjoyed my contribution to Black History Month. Sadly, the series ends today but I hope it’s just the beginning for you and yours. I tried my best to inspire you and I hope I succeeded. I’m no high-profile figure, but my love for all of you will always be of A-list caliber…
See you soon, my friends!
“Diversity, Equality and Brotherly Love. May these concepts someday collectively traverse our nation and God’s beautiful earth, ultimately softening the hearts of its inhabitants…
…today, tomorrow and forevermore…”
– Kenny “Zoot” Davis
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And come back soon because I’ve got plenty to share during Black History Month at Kenny’s Camera, Cooking & Crazy Confessions!