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Monday, November 6, 2017

Abeng Op-Ed: Are Many African-Americans Still Disconnected From Africa? by Joshua Chikudo

 Many Young African Americans Are Still  Disconnected From Their African Roots

                   By Joshua Chikudo August, 2017

"You Africans look like some of us African Americans" a young man accompanied by his girlfriend said to me as we waited for our beverages at a starbucks in South Florida. The statement caught me by surprise, how could somebody know I was African in a community full of so many  Caribbean immigrants. I had been mistaken for a Jamaican or Haitian in the past, but rarely called African American. I then remembered I had just finished telephone conversation with one of my African brothers before I placed the order. 

Now, the first thing that came into my mind was this African saying: "A father does not look like the son; it is the son that looks like the father". Since I have always enjoyed sharing the culture, politics and business knowledge of our African people and I have always assumed that African history or heritage is not taught in-depth at most American elementary schools, I was extremely eager to answer any questions the young couple had regarding Africa, our people and culture. I invited them to an empty table. My father always said there were no stupid questions in life, so I answered every question as best as I could.

One of the questions the young man posed was why so many different cultures existed amongst black people. Since the majority of African-Americans descended from the West African region, we can clearly see African culture in those parts of the United States where African Americans reside. And also, though African cultures vary, many share similar fundamental beliefs. But the slave era interrupted the continuity of culture when Africans were brought to America.

Though Europeans primarily orchestrated the slave trade, corrupt chiefs also played a significant role. Our communities were too welcoming which led to the success of the slave trade. The traders took advantages of our hospitality; our people were overpowered by better weapons and many of our strong men and women were forced into captivity in foreign lands

It is in these lands where their culture was altered to fit their masters' desires. The slave system ensured that our people lost contact with Africa. So much of African-American culture has European influence; however, if one looks deeper one can see some semblance of African culture within African America.

I was astonished when the young couple asked me why Africans believe in voodoo and if we believed in God. Many Westerners and Americans view African spirituality as evil. In Southern Africa many of us have always believed in the Higher power, The Almighty( Uthixo in Ndebele/Zulu, Mwari in Shona). Communities communicated with the higher power differently depending on the  specific culture.
Our ceremonies have been portrayed as voodoo by those who do not understand our practices. In many ceremonies we invite the spirits of our departed( Amadlozi in Ndebele/ Zulu, Vadzimu in Shona); we ask them for continual spiritual  guidance while relaying our prayer requests to The Most High.
Some people believe that African spirits can harm others by relaying bad energy to a targeted individual.(Ubuloyi in Ndebele/ Zulu, Kuroya in shona)

The first Europeans settlers that came to Africa did not approve of our worship. They introduced the Bible, their version of Christianity: God The Father was white, God's son Jesus was white, The Holy Ghost, too, was white. In their eyes everything had to be white to be pure.
These same people brought the idea that the devil Lucifer and our African beliefs were black and satanic. These views helped shape the African-American misconception of African cultures. Today Africa practices a variety religious beliefs; Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Rastafarian and traditional African animism contrary to Western media portrays.

Our conversation had gone on for an hour before the young couple asked me a very complex question: Why Africa was so poor, undeveloped, backwards and full of diseases? Most African Americans I have met are taught to glorify white-American and European culture. Images have been implanted in their minds that Africa is back-wards and primitive. Media outlets fail to share the growth and progression taking place across the continent. 
Many subscribe to the propaganda that broadly paints African governments as corrupt dictatorships. While there are still a few corrupt and undemocratic regimes, the vast majority of Africa is now stable.

Africa has a young population that seeks the same peace, financial stability and security that younger generations in the West seek. African Millennials, like Millennials all over the world, are spearheading technological advances that are helping to diversify and globalize African economies.
Some of these young African inventors and innovators are helping to change people's lives in many positive ways. I recommend those who like to learn about some of the progressive innovations that the continent has taken to read Ashish Thakkar's " The Lion Awakes" which highlights some of the many advances occurring in the motherland. 

Africa has been responding successfully to disease outbreaks. Since the 2014 and 2016 Ebola Deadly virus in the West Africa which left 11300 people dead( Wall street Journal; July, 2017). With the help of the World Health Organization and other NGOs, western doctors and African personnel, Africa managed to contain the disease. Even when it resurfaced in Congo ( Kinshasa) Africans contained the disease. Diseases like Malaria, Tuberculosis are now controllable. When it comes to AIDS, people are more educated about safe sex, avoiding infection and and adhering to available medication.

I concluded our conversation reiterating that Africa has evolved and continues to better its communities. I let the young couple know that having members of their generation connecting with their heritage will indeed be a great asset to the continent.
If we can get some of these educated, professional Africans in the Diaspora to come home to empower communities with productive wisdom and technological knowledge, we can catch up with the developed world faster and be better sales people for the continent.

Mr Joshua Chikudo

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