Tomorrow is my daughter’s fourth birthday. She laughs more often than she smiles, she sings more often than she talks and she cries about twice a month. My wife and I relish in the obvious fact that she is fundamentally happy and we give thanks for that. One of the challenges that we face, alongside all parents, is trying to navigate the developmental path that keeps her identity as a child safe and her psyche and fundamental happiness protected. In thinking about that, I am concerned about the images of African and Pan-African people that she will be exposed to.
In the last few weeks it has dawned on me that my own psyche requires some protection from exposure. I can feel that my defenses are being worn down. The story and the imagery of
I grew up reading about freedom fighters and Pan-Africanists – the heady and courageous days of Dedan Kimathi, Patrice Lumumba, Leopold Senghor, Kwame Nkrumah (Osagyefo) and Nelson Mandela (Madiba). I read about their intellectual fortitude, their courage and their visions of
Conversations about them, their influence on the world and the identity of black people within it were an integral part of my household growing up, a part of the development of my identity. My own name, Kamau, is a Kikuyu name. I suspect that my parents were inspired by the Kenyan Mau-Mau rebellion and thought that a Kikuyu name, meaning quiet warrior, would forever connect me to this formidable Pan-African identity. What my parents did was to choose a developmental path that hardened the walls around my psyche, my humanity and my identity as Pan-African person.
Now I find myself besieged by images of African barbarism with white celebrities like George Clooney, Mia Farrow and Bono raising the flag on behalf of African humanity. The leaders and images that were the cornerstones of Pan-African identity are gone. What is emerging is an image of black people as fractured. We are victims of each other and of a global system in which we have precious little influence. The constant slaughter of black people by other black people, across Africa, in
I learned my lessons from Minister Farrakhan and Malcolm X, indeed from the very leaders that were part of my growing up. I know the barbarism and deceit that white people can exact on each other and certainly on the rest of us and I would not reference my humanity against them. That isn’t the problem that I have. I find no solace in comparative suffering or joy in pointing out the weaknesses of others. I have a problem finding the far reaching examples of humanity coming out of the African world that originate and are articulated by African people.
These kinds of examples of African and Pan-African intellect and humanity are simply gone or are very difficult to find. They have been replaced by the images and realities from
It is a growing challenge….