What does it means to be an African woman?

Is it spiritual connection? Is based on a journey, of self-identifying, or is it as simple as birthright? Is it determined by how well you can speak your mother-tongue? Is it based on your interpretation of your culture, and the effect it has in your day-to-day life? Or, is it a something as superficial as your general appearance? Of all the questions that have passed through my mind lately, the one question that stood out the most was, ‘what does it mean to be an African woman in 2015?” The identity of an African women in 2015 comes with a lot of uncharted battles such as our modern interpretation of customs, institutions such religion, beliefs such as sexuality, and the general thought of “African” as a unit. The identity can be interpreted differently by each individual – now, does that make you less or more African? Many people living within the diaspora have begin to adopt the ‘to-be or not’ mentality of ‘what it means to be African’.

I asked some friends and this what they had to say:

1. “Things that we traditionally find unacceptable in my household are now acceptable. Mothers are now more open to concepts that were once a taboo such as interracial relationships. I think parents are not as closed minded as they use to be. I think that mentality resonates in me.” – Iman Rageah

2. “You have choice at the end of the day. You can choose to follow the culture, and you can choose not to follow it – I choose to keep my culture in my life everyday. To me, that means speaking my language and following the traditions. ”

3. “Culture is still embedded in me. Things stay in the back of my mind, and the culture prevents me from doing certain things that normal Canadians would do.” – Hanna Abdulle

4. “To be East African is to be cloaked in a violent blanket of anxiety because you are intimately aware that to many, your blackness is always to be debate on it’s authenticity. It’s a constantly daily battle for you to shrug off conversations centred on innately exoticfying and always framing your Afro identity as being a black woman who is inherently acceptable by Eurocentric beauty standards because I don’t fit the mold.” – Riya Jama @hausofriya

5. “It’s complicated. I can’t say I am African because that’s ascribing to being this homogenized being some white wealth colonizer/colonizer aligned individual told me was a being. But, if we are using “African” as a simple term to make it easier for readers, being an “African” woman is to be a strong force determining my existence in a world pretty set on either telling me who I am or telling me to be who I chose to be so long as I exist within their parameters.” – Emdee Hussein @emdeehussein  I would like to know what other readers think

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“She who stayed, She who left”

Today, I attended a panel discussion exploring various topics surrounding somali identities. It was extremely interesting. It was cool to see how truly complex the topic is. Not mention, how complex all somalis are. Some of the key topics I took from the discussion were that:

a) Identity is truly defined by the beholder. What I may identity as being “my somali” may not be the same to another.

b) Our identities are shaped by our surroundings. I grew up in a Kenyan-Somali household, and I was very much in love with my Kenyan roots; however, when I experience the systematic discrimination faced by somalis living within Kenya. I decided I should learn more about who I truly am – i.e, dig into my somali heritage.

c) I have a lot to learn about my own identity and i can’t wait to do so.

I am exhausted. It is 12:44 pm, and I should sleep. I will attach a few pictures from the show.

 

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Goodfellas Gallery on Queen W

Goodfellas Gallery on Queen W

#Bringbackourgirls and Nigeria’s Agency

On May 9, 2014, Amnesty International released a report stating that the Nigerian authorities were informed about the potential attack of Boko Haram’s planned raid on the school and failed to act on the warning. In fact, Amnesty International revealed that the Nigerian security forces specifically knew that Boko Haram had been planning a raid, and did nothing to prevent it.

 Once the kidnapping had occurred, the international community took very little notice to the horrible kidnapping of these innocent girls, until Oby Ezekwesili, vice president of the World Bank for Africa, gave a compelling speech in Nigeria demanding the Nigerian government to step up and to essentially “Bring Back Our Girls”. This sparked the infamous #BringBackOurGirls, which as a result sparked international scrutiny to force the hands of the Nigerian government.

 Many witnessed, the tears of the first lady of Nigeria shed for the abducted Chibok girls exactly two weeks after they went missing, while her husband, President Goodluck Johanthan went on a political rally advocating his re-election as if nothing had happened. In the meantime, social media networks blew up with the demands to #BringBackOurGirls, which included many celebrities and political figures such as Michelle Obama.

 The Nigerian government influenced by the social media movement (BringBackOurGirls) had finally listened, and even offered a reward while also accepting international aid to help locate the missing women. The power of international scrutiny is impressive as the Nigerian governement initially did nothing to prevent this kidnapping from happening or after the girls were reported missing.

 And yet, I am pleased with the effect social media has had on the movement and remain hopeful for the safe return of these girls, however I cannot help but wonder what happens next? The movement #BringBackOurGirls does not change the fact that the Nigerian government failed to intervene initially by essentially doing their job of preventing harm to their citizens in the first place. The silence of the Nigerian government displayed, to me that is, implied consent. It has become more than evident that the corruption of the government has indeed eroded the system of governance to the point that innocent victims are being targeted due to their greed as well as a lack of security implications.

 The U.S. State Department’s 2013 country reports on human right practices found that in Nigeria, “massive widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces.” Thus, outlining an immediate link between violence, extreme fundamentalism and corruption being that poverty invites corruption, while corruption deepens poverty, and that is the issue that needs to be dealt with immediately to prevent these situations from ever happening. The reality of this situation is that the persistence of government corruption, police impunity and regional conflicts in Nigerian continue to undermine any sort of reform efforts that can ever happen in Nigeria.

 For the #BringBackOurGirls to be a successful campaign, it needs to be morphed into a real movement for the Nigerian people by the Nigerian people to underline the pragmatic fundamental issue within Nigeria and demand changes. The campaign needs to be directed towards the government and the laissez-faire Nigerian society to remind them that this can happen to them as well. Nobody is safe unless real change can happen within the structure of governance.

 The campaign proves to be fairly limited and offers some sort of agency to the Nigerian people, but also truly underlines the reality that the Nigerian people have more or less a real lack of agency when it comes to address, tackling and dealing with any challenges pertaining to their alleged democratic institution. The sad reality of this movement is that if and when the girls return what happens next? The government remains the same and so do the social challenges. It is time for real change in Nigeria.

What is White Privilege?

Today, I was in my tutorial class listening to my teachers assistant discuss the topic of embedded knowledge and white privilege. As a class, we began to deconstruct the topic of white privilege and to my dismay, a few students decided that was the chance to express their feeling surrounding the topic and how unfairly the term ‘white privilege’ marginalized them. I truly could not believe my ears. Marginalize who? What type of hardship has the white race ever endured? We were discussing the reality that white people have an upper hand in society and yet they managed to make a case for us to pity them. I could not help but to laugh out loud. “Ridiculous”, I said out loud. I was not going to allow them to paint themselves as victims when they truly are not. And, that essentially was the origin for this blog post.

In Peggy McIntosh’s article, ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ which we were discussing she explains that white privilege refers to something inherent. It is understood as something you were born with rather than something based on merit. As a black student, I was continuously told that if I worked hard enough, I could one day be successful, but little was I told that there would be a glass ceiling boxing me into a certain level of success and essentially hindering my process of every being more than what was expected. So, to hear some of my classmate turn the discussion into a pity party and state that the ideology of ‘white privilege’ should be deemed as discriminatory seemed quite insultive.

For they have no idea how it is to be black,and living in a world of white privilege. To me, white privilege is something as simple as being able to walk into a grocery store and find any hair products without a hassle. White privilege is being able to confidently turn on the television and see people that represent you as not just a token minority or the reason for the news. White privilege is being able to walk into a thrift shop and freely choice to buy second hand clothes and not have your decision being attributed to my economic situation or my race. White privilege is the ability to not be put down by terms such as ‘you people’.

White privilege is the capability to have a kid not fear of being labeled as a burden or leech to society or even be labeled as solely just someones ‘baby mama’. White privilege is being about to walk into a store freely without associates following you around presuming you are a criminal. White privilege is being able to be appreciated for my mind or talents rather than having to sell sexuality first to get your attention. These are things and just a few things that a white person could never, ever experience, or even being to fathom.

The sad reality is that white privilege will never go away because these people do not want to ever give up their privilege. They may write articles and articles about how to debunk or critically address the reasons behind it, but that is as far as it goes. The topic of “White privilege” is not suppose to be an insult or some sort of blame game to guilt white people to feel bad about themselves, but rather it is there to invoke liability for this unspoken privilege and help get rid of it in whatever way we can. Until then, it will always be us versus white people.

Let’s not be blind to the invisible system of privilege. Let’s attempt to break the barriers and stand up what is wrong.

No New Friends

I have never been one to understand the conceptualization of the term  ‘best friend’. What is a best friend? What does that even mean?

The premise for the term in itself confuses me. When approaching the notion of friendship, my first problem is the socially acknowledge criteria for what makes this individual a friend. At the age of 3, I carried around this fantastic Ralph Lauren teddy bear, which I named ‘Teddy’ a demonstration of my lack of creativity.

Teddy was the greatest thing I knew. I carried him everywhere and when I say everywhere – I literally mean everywhere included places such as the toilet to keep me company despite the fact my parents gravely frowned upon it. My mom introduced me to her friend one day to a friend of hers and this friend thought it was so cute I carried Teddy around who she labeled my apparent best friend. The labelling seem relatively less appropriate but it was a big piece of fabric stuffed with eyes. How could this bear possibly be my best friend? Nevertheless, I had to accept ‘Teddy’ as my best friend simply because it was what was expected. From then, I had a very thin understanding of what friendship necessitated.

The great philosopher Aristotle suggests that the notion of friendship has three components: ‘Friends must enjoy each other’s company, they must be useful to one another, and they must share a common commitment to the good’. In our collective societal obsession with the term ‘best friend’ or friendships in general, we tend to define friendships in terms of the initial component describe by Aristotle while ignoring the other crucial components. Yes, you can enjoy someone’s company but in the case of Teddy, who can metaphorically represent the vast majority of our friends did he provide any usefulness or even share the common commitment? No, because he was not real – like majority of the people we invest our time into.

Our obsession with placing unneeded pressures onto simple relationships that could easily stem from two people liking something as simple as captain crunch cereal in ludicrous. We waste our time on meaningless non-beneficial relationship solely due to the fact we are a group of lonely people. We need that labeling of being someone’s best friend.

Why can’t we put that much emphasis on being our own best friend? In reality, we spend a large amount of our time with ourselves. There is not another person who knows you better than yourself. And, the fact of the matter is you can never disappoint yourself nor can you ever expose your deepest secrets due to vindictive reasoning due to a falling out of any sort (cc: mean girls).

You will always be with yourself. Now, I’m not saying do not have friends, but rather I am saying put all that time and energy into being a better person who does not need to feel better because of another persons reassurance. You are your greatest friend.