Black history month is almost over so let’s talk about Africa.
Somethingâ€™s been on my mind for quite some time. And itâ€™s bigger than me and you, your mama and your cousin too. Itâ€™s a phenomenon that was brought to my attention while reading the book Authenically Black by John McWhorter about this whole notion of Mother Africa and the ability of us black folks to claim any and everything as being inherently African.
And you know what, I agree with himâ€¦thatâ€™s pure and utter bullsh*t.
Now Iâ€™m not a fan of Mr. McWhorter at all. In fact, I believe that heâ€™s exactly whatâ€™s wrong with some black folks in America. And it isnâ€™t that he doesnâ€™t have good ideas because truthfully he does. Itâ€™s more in his execution. For instance, as opposed to saying that Amadou Diallo was unjustly murdered for pulling out a wallet, McWhorter took the side of police officers in pointing out that they are working under stressful conditions and that they feared for their lives. Now I donâ€™t find anything wrong with that statement except for the fact that THEY SHOT THIS DUDE 41 TIMES AND HIS BACK WAS TURNED TO THEM. Forty one mother fuckinâ€™ times???
Look, I know this is old, so I skip that since most of us have forgotten about it, but sometimes you do have to say f*ck the police.
And like usual, Iâ€™ve digressed.
Ahaâ€¦Africa. Have you seen Belly?? Of course you have. Iâ€™ve seen it a good million times. Even bought the special edition. I love that movie. Youâ€™re probably wondering how I could love that movie. See, I donâ€™t view it as a movie, more as an extra long form music video. If you watch it like that, it makes complete sense and flows smoothly. And yes, T-Boz and Taral Hicks both need Oscars for their interpretations of hood chicks that canâ€™t act. Shout outs to Octavia Spencer.
[***Sidenote: Speaking of T-Boz, wasn't her performance the absolute worst you've ever seen on screen? Go ahead, you can admit it. I wonder how many times Hype Williams wanted to shoot her, and I don't mean that in the directorial way either. It's hard to believe that her scenes were the best takes they got on her. If they were, then she is living proof that you cannot do anything you set your mind too. See that kiddes, failure is real. Sometimes there are things you just CAN'T do. Sheesh!***]
At the end of Belly, Nasâ€™ character Sincere and wifey Tionne, decide to move to Africa. Where at in Africa??? Youâ€™re guess is as good as mine. They showed some damn trees and the sky and the assumption was that you were somewhere in the motherland, as opposed to say, I donâ€™t know, ANYWHERE ELSE THAT HAS SOME DAMN TREES AND THE SKY!!! The voiceover was very clear as Nas says, â€œAfricaâ€¦it was so beautiful.â€
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem. Now I know that we cannot trace our ancestors back very far. We just know that they came over on some party boats and were promised some bubbly and some new digs, and well, we were lied too. But what we do know is that a majority of our ancestors came over from the Western Coast of Africa. Not exactly South Africa or Madagascar. Not Zimbabwe or the Congo. Not Kenya nor Ethiopia.
So why in the sh*t is it that every time we do something we trace it back to Africa??? As a whole?? Now I understand the whole cultural identity thing and the fact that we, as a people, were removed from the original homeland and over time lost our ties to whichever country we originated from and its customs and heritage. Due to this, our history is lacking. We donâ€™t have much of one outside of being Americans, nowadays, and even thatâ€™s shady at best.
But that whole notion gets lost on me when we start referring to everything we do as being of African descent. Every dance cannot be traced back to some tribal dance. And I swear, if another dude tells me he got his aim from his ancestors, which is why heâ€™s so accurate with a .45, I just might scream.
Further, I wonder if most people even know any actual Africans. I wonder this because every person I know from Africa refers to their country as their home. They donâ€™t just say Africa when asked where they are from. They say Nigeria or Ghana (or wherever theyâ€™re from). When we go overseas and somebody asks where weâ€™re from, we often say America (or some country in the Caribbean if weâ€™re in hostile territory), or the U.S. Kicko, thatâ€™s a countryâ€¦not a continent.
So where do we get off appropriating everything to a damn continent?? Dashikis!! Africa. Kwanzaa!!! Africa. Honestly, none of my friends from Africa celebrate Kwanzaa. Nor have I seen any of them in that overly colorful sh*t you can buy from the African stores in AnyMajorCity, USA. If you ask me, it seems like somebody is pimping Africa. Making money off of the perception of Africa.
Now that I think about it, I also get slightly miffed when folks send out those emails where you list everything about yourself and send it to 30 of your friends or youâ€™ll die a horrible death by papercut, lemon, and telephone cord. One of the questions is always: Have you been to Africa? I can only assume this is the African-American version. I wonder if the white version says, “ever been to Russia?” People always respond to that question with, no, but Iâ€™m planning too. So my question isâ€¦WHERE in Africa?? Hell does it matter? Does stepping one foot on the continent equate to soul cleansing because of the journey, trials, and tribulation of our ancestors. And if thatâ€™s so, does it matter if our ancestors didnâ€™t actually COME from the part of Africa you step foot on??
You see, people, my people, especially black Americans, are quick to point out that Africa is a continent full of beautiful black people all over. Continents have countries and everybody in Africa isnâ€™t the same. Until we come up with something like Kwanzaa or some other random sh*t that cannot be factually tied to any particular country, and just say itâ€™s fromâ€¦AFRICA!!! I have no real beef with Kwanzaa until people start espousing that cultural tie to Africa thing because then my question becomesâ€¦WHERE IN AFRICA??? Itâ€™s good in theory but dammit, Africa isnâ€™t a big a** country. Everybody in Africa doesnâ€™t speak the same language or follow the same traditions.
Hell, everybody in America doesnâ€™t speak the same language or follow the same traditions. So how can we be so close-minded as to just determine that anything we do black comes from Africa. Like that makes sense?? Can we determine a country of origin dammit?? Does it make any difference that people in Egypt and people in Sierra Leone do completely different sh*t?? Or is that just inconsequential when we are trying to establish that black people were responsible for civilization??
Iâ€™m all for determining our origins. But I really hate that black folks just so quickly make some false tie to Africa for any and everything that we do. Newsflash muchacha: Everything ainâ€™t African. Ebonics??? Questionable tie AT BEST. Kwanzaaâ€¦ummâ€¦right! Kinte clothe??? Named after Kunte?? I donâ€™t know the answer to that but until I see REAL people from Africa wearing it, Iâ€™ll pass.
And until somebody can prove to me that Nas was really in Africa, Iâ€™m assuming his a** was in South Carolina somewhere looking at some trees.
Unless somebody can prove he was in Kenya or some sh*t.
To be clear, I do understand the ultimate longing for connection and connectivity, and maybe that supersedes everything I’ve just stated. However, I do think that there is a supreme leeway being taken when it comes to what we state comes from Africa.
But what do you think? Am I reading too much into it or am I selling Blackness short? Talk to me.
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. EASTSIDE SOUTH COMPTON aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3
DC Folks: This Saturday, March 3, 2012, is another edition of REMINISCE, the party dedicated to all 90s everything. Folks can tell you by now how dope a party it is. And this edition is all about Brooklyn! FREE before 11pm W/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com) ($10 after), OPEN BAR from 930-1030pm and NO DRESS CODE. Come party with VSB!!! Peep the Facebook event reminder: http://www.facebook.com/events/109004725890162/