Header: Ian Kiragu via Unsplash
to belonging* is our next step to rethink and act on the topic of anti-discrimination. Moving away from the discourse of visibility of diversity and inclusion to authentic and lived belonging of all marginalized groups. This should lead to radical systemic change in the impact sector, from "power over" and "power for" to "power with." This series is made possible by the Open Society Foundations.
What does the re-envisioning of Africa have to do with issues of diversity? Everything! How the continent is perceived shapes how her children are treated worldwide. First to be accused, last to be honoured or recognised. Last to get hired, first to be fired. Employed mainly based on demonstrated competence and an implicit contract to give many times more, while others are awarded the opportunity simply based on imagined potential.
Our presence in certain spaces is not seen as a right or normalcy but a favour for which we must be eternally grateful. We are the face of a global misery, and a permanent underclass even when our land is where the world comes to seek fortune. We are the majority but treated as the minority who is always persona non grata everywhere on God’s overexploited green earth. Good news from Africa and Africans is seen as an aberration. “How can any good thing come from Nazareth?”, they ask.
Far too many nations spend millions to maintain this negative narrative about Africa by whitewashing their pernicious role in her underdevelopment in their educational curricula. Many don’t even admit that their inherited wealth has come from slavery, the genocide of over 10,000,000 people in the Congo or million others across the continent, yet they lecture us about human rights. While there are allies and objective fellows, there are also some scholars, journalists and some in the poverty industrial complex who build their whole careers specializing in defaming Africa and objectifying Africans. But I wonder why? Is it some sort of inherited evil lunacy, obsessive need for domination, or misplaced priority in life? To describe our story as tragic would clearly be an understatement. And if that sounds troubling, then that’s exactly what it has been for well over 500 years. “We’ve given everything but they are still taking”, says Ama Atta Aidoo. Thus, before we talk about diversity, inclusion or belonging, let us ask how we got here in the first place instead of barking at the wrong tree of symptoms.
They say, “He who informs you, forms you”, at least, over time. The minds of way too many have been formed to expect nothing good from Africa and Africans. Others are also wilfully ignorant about the 89 billion per annum that the world robs Africa of in taxes, and by under-pricing resources or through international mega-corruption Inc. That is exactly what has happened over the past 400 years through the ‘evil lunacy’ of made-to-believe stories, photography, films, one-sided journalism, propaganda, philanthropic and scientific racism, and pseudoscientific publications about Africa. We now realise how much we are worth; no one has any divine mandate to define us savages according to their malevolent pursuit of self-interests. We determine which story is conspiracy theory and which one is not.
So, I bring you peace, joy, and prosperity from a youthful and awake Africa, even amid a pandemic. I bring positive vibrations! Exactly. That’s what I mean. I choose to see Africa’s magnificence, adore her formidable resilience and create her glorious futures with fantastic passion. She’s been through a lot, but she is still standing after all. Isn’t that something? The last thing she needs right now is bad rap and a war on her image. Talk about the new start because all the troubles that couldn’t kill her have made her stronger, and her eyes wide open. I am going to be a slightly more contentious than you would expect because I am an African who won’t agree to sit in an ‘assigned’ low-caste place. I choose my own place and station in life with no need for any stranger’s validation - and we are a legion in this, no longer bowing down as ‘yes men and submissive women’, kowtowing to orders in exchange for crumbs. We are deprogramming, no longer paralysed by fear, we’ve gone past that stage.
If you were expecting depressing stories after you heard ‘Africa’, I am here to openly disappoint you. That’s because depressing stories and nasty images are neither healthy for you nor are they business friendly for Africa. Africa is not just a place over there; I am Africa right here. She is her children, and resources, past, present, and future. “I am an African not because I was born in Africa but because Africa is born in me.” Ask Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and he will confirm that - he is alive. When you disrespect Africa, there will be consequences because I am for, with, and in my Mama. To me, whether it is about geopolitics, astrophysics, climate change, international finance, global health, TV ads, philanthropy, drug testing, economic development, industrialization, hunger, plenty, or scientific innovation, Africa is personal. I don’t thrive on her misery as my capital. But I know many who do. You know who you are. You also know that the universe has no place for your greed and wickedness anymore.
For so long I wandered around the world in pursuit of prosperity and freedom. I woke up this morning fully aware that I was hosting these two ideals and more inside me all along. How could I possibly forget that Africa is in me and she is everything I ever needed, and I could get that just by embracing myself? I had an epiphany and I stopped preaching to and agonizing about Africa. I stopped undressing her in global public platforms to the amusement of those who wish to see her naked, undignified, pitied and ritually humiliated as in human zoos for profit and the massaging of others’ false superiority complex. Mama, forgive me for not defending you or telling your story just because I did not want to make those who promise inclusion and a pay in paper money uncomfortable. I am ashamed I forgot that you are more than gold and diamond apportioned to me as a natural right. Was it not for the traitors, my inheritance, nothing can compare.
I promise I refuse to let outsiders and insider sell-outs simplistically define her despite her marvellous multifacetedness. Now we see the light. The traitors are the problem. But their season has expired. So, from the rich and magnificent Southern Africa, we move to the great lakes and rivers of East Africa, the greens of Congo and the precious minerals that feed the tech industry (whose AI technology criminalizes black bodies), we go through West Africa’s many gifts to the world (including chocolate, Kente cloths, techno-scientists and Kwame Nkrumah) to the ancient centres of scholarship in Timbuktu, sip some fresh water sitting with the elders of Dogon in Mali to get smart by learning some astrophysics. We then head all the way up to indefatigable Ethiopia, Nubia, and Egypt – the gift of the Nile that flows from Uganda and much of it coming also from Ethiopia. Mighty Africa has everything everyone wants and needs for their survival. Sadly, most fail to respect her for it or recognise her worth. Not this year. I had an epiphany; disrespect towards you Mama is disrespect towards me and my people, and I ain’t taking that no more. Respecting you means managing and jealously protecting your resources with integrity and carving a new future with yours in the diaspora.
I had an epiphany and I stopped listening to propaganda news and mind control games from strangers trying to tell me who my Mama is in their so-called scientific journals with bizarre logic, pseudoscience, and self-serving conjectures. No one is impressed anymore because their objectivity is a myth meant to deceive and maintain the status quo.
After the epiphany, I quickly concluded that the obsession with the one-sided narrative of death, disease and desperation is not only born out of ignorance, bedrock nastiness and hatred. Rather, it is part of a well-orchestrated psychological warfare with communication strategies aimed at gaslighting and casting sands in the eyes of Africans and non-Africans. Even on world map, Africa is minimized albeit being the second largest, and in history, her story is whited out or erased. Against Africa, these strategies aim to do two things, or may be three.
First, it is meant to gaslight the African self that he/she is never enough (although we are enough) but requires external validation – diversity and some inclusion to become whole but not with influence. This effective strategy through mass-media, miseducation, and marketing communication strategies leads to inferiority complex, self-hate, and self-subjugation in which we uncritically participate in creating and paying for the very weapons that subtly seek to undermine us through us.
Second, systemic racism or the fear of critical race theory, discrimination (lack of representation) and repetition of depressing stories of a permanent underclass that is forever suffering are simply weapons of mass distraction invented by the powers that be. These things distract us from functioning at our maximum level. They take away our focus from pursuing major exploits in science, technology, medicine, business and many more. These are what we are called up here to do but we rather spend our energies on getting accepted or respected by mere mortals instead of uniting. This is the virus of black destruction because every black person is multitasking to advance himself while simultaneously fending of dangers from within and those who seek to place him in a box of low caste from without.
So, a black scientist does not get to talk about her inventions but is forced to spend energy on dealing with racism and impediments to upward mobility. But this creature was deliberately invented in certain Universities, backed by famous people, enshrined into laws, became part of foreign policy and foreign trade relations, domination, colonialism, imperialism conveyed through images, symbolism, photography, educational curricula, taught to children at the dinner table at an early age, and practiced in stadiums and workplaces. If you did not know how come we are still talking about diversity and belonging after 400 years, these are the whys. All the above are not accidental behaviours but systematically woven into the institutional tapestry of those with ideologies of domination.
These practices of exclusion are all disguised under a never-ending crude image of TV/newspaper/NGO ads begging for money for black people just to torture our minds. It has been called a black trauma porn. Guess who enjoys watching the downcast faces and suffering and is easily angered by any positive news from Africa. Clearly, only those who come to steal, kill and to destroy. Not long ago, they said we live on trees, photos of our lynched bodies sent from state to state in the US, naked black women in cages across European capitals to be watched, and Arthur Benga and friends stolen from Congo displayed among animals in zoos, ritually humiliated until he took his life. The pigmies are short, but no one wants to say the South Sudanese are the tallest on the planet, not the Dutch. So, you never hear about the young black girls from Ghana who beat everyone in the world robotics competition because it is not quintessentially African. And certainly, not the 15-year-old Nigerian girl who beats everyone in the global maths competition. The world is force-fed with the falsehood that we have contributed nothing to humanity. But they wilfully forget that we are the cradle of civilization and we have had a hand in everything that has changed science, technology, medicine and astrophysics today. Going to space, see Hidden Figures, NASA engineers; GPS, fibre optic technology and everything. Whilst others make weapons of mass destruction, we bring a peaceful equilibrium of joy to humanity through Soul, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Rap, Reggae, Ragga, Afrobeat, Blues and teach the world once forbidden by religiosity and fiats of feudal lords to express itself stylishly through dance. Elvis copied rock from black gospel.
If we did not have to deal with all the negatives but rather redirect our energies to building and cherishing Mama Africa, there would not be any holiday place in the world that has the full package than many places in Africa. What sister Chimamanda Ngozi calls a single story is an energy draining system. So, fam, fight for your rights and act in herds to keep fixing the problems through what Dr Claude Anderson calls group economics in his book ‘Powernomics’. If you owned the company, no one could tell you that your skin colour or kinky hair isn’t appropriate, because ‘your company, your way’. Every continent has their own problems in a certain shape or form, so do not fall for the trick of thinking we are the worst. No, we are the present and the future. Even they are convinced about that, so why don’t you know this? Some have made it their life’s mission to undermine us for profits just because we are blessed with melanin – unfair and lovely. Additionally, while you are dealing with these social impediments, others are plotting how to patent your ideas and take credit for your creativity even on TikTok. Wake up and direct your energy towards a better understanding of our place in the world according to us. Individually, our energies and intellectual resources are too dispersed. This is precisely the reason why we see so little change. Yes, they tear down the wealth we build as it happened on May 31, 1921, in Tulsa Oklahoma – race massacre based on a false claim. Worse, those who want to keep the memory alive are being denied tenure in academia; Nikole Hannah-Jones, Chapel Hill, Cornel West, Harvard, to mention a few. Our happiness and prosperity make them extremely unhappy and outraged, and I wonder why. James Baldwin would think I am being repetitive, but elder, nothing has changed since you went to rest.
The third poignant point is even more insidious. While our attention is turned toward seeking acceptance and fighting for basic human rights, and inclusion elsewhere, someone is taking over our natural resources and miseducating our people to turn against themselves. We had the epiphany and now we see the light. Victims no more. Landowners now. But most importantly free to think and shape our destiny. Or are we?
While we seek to be to be included in someone else’s system, we forget to be united in creating our own future, our way, hence the self-hate and division in the black family. A Jamaican, a Haitian, an American, a German black running away from themselves by trying not to be African. Where will you go without Mama? Ask Peter Tosh. Then there are others trying to bleach away blackness, as if they can avoid the consequences of such sacrilege. But it is also so comforting to see a new generation of unapologetically black youth around the world learning about their histories without waiting for them to be added to a curriculum.
Whilst we are fighting, we forget to cherish the plethora of ethereal and pristine greeneries and fauna that bring ineffable joy to our souls in a place where we can call home without being told to go back to Africa. After this pandemic, your next holiday destination must be the Motherland-anywhere – watch Wode Maya.
We forget that we are Africa, the world has never done without us, and can never do without us. We fought the first and second world wars but went home to Africa as the colonized and to America as second-class citizens-without civil rights or independence. Yet, we whole heartedly welcomed 20,000 Polish refugees in Tanzania, East Africa. Last year, I would have said that fire from above must come down and burn the enemies of Africa within and without. But this year, after my epiphany, I say may they live to see what the new force of energy is about to unleash on those who disrupt the change to make Africa great again.
We’ve been put down, trampled on, but we say after Maya Angelou, we arise!!
About the Author
I am Frederick Ameyaw Ahen, PhD in International Business (Finland), MSc. in International Business (England), BSc. in Economics and Management Sciences (Italy). I am an author, a public speaker/listener and an ardent researcher of global African futures. More specifically, my research straddles the areas of sustainable global health governance and the role of business and non-business actors in changing health institutions. I am the editor in Chief of the Hilltop Post, and I am also on the editorial boards of Critical Perspectives on international business and Foresight - The journal of future studies, strategic thinking, and policy.
Join us on www.hilltoppost.eu and follow us Twitter, LinkedIn) as we co-create and nurture science-based innovative solutions for global Africa and the world. We seek to reach out to the global African family and allies to contribute their intellectual quota and resources in creating a new African reality. The Hilltoppost is about dialogue between academia and society on burning issues and grand challenges. We practice intellectual activism. Welcome, all ye who want to walk the talk!