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Being born and raised in America, a world that millions dream to escape to, I found myself as the complete opposite, I think for many years, I always wanted to leave and find myself.  Having argued with my teachers for many history classes that the history they were teaching as it related to american discovery and african american relevance in particular was always tripe and incorrect. We are given a nice glossed over version of what life was really like during chattel slavery, abolishionist movements, post slavery, jim-crow, segregation up to our holy savior “affirmative action”.

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Yet being black in america felt too small, after all my ancestors suffered to be simply “american” something we still have not really achieved. Just read the news daily, everyday, black american’s disparity against white americans, black, this white that, in every single mode of transaction, getting a house, getting a job, getting a loan, having health, having money, having poverty is all in black and white just look at the penal system in america and who is more housed than anyone else. To be american you don’t have to know anything about american history, you don’t even have to care who marched to Selma, who died on many plantations and who hung from too many trees in the South. There’s no need to know such notations in today’s america. No need to care about the native americans who still today, have very little to account to the country that used to be theirs. So for my sake, being Black had to be more than just sitting next to a white person, eating in their restaurants, going to their movie theaters and working in their corporate/government offices. It had to mean more. Many are content with this, but I was not. I felt homeless in an america that had no identity, no culture, no essence and no fertile crescent. It was an empty shell of all it used to be. My heart longed for Africa, despite all the stories and pictures of war, poverty, destruction, famine, and disaster. The pot bellys, constant flies, and porridge eating became the consistent image on my tv screen, never anything of positive daily life. We in america were stained with this image and this image is consistent.

In 2003 I took my first trip to the continent, at the age of 33, I had not ventured too much far before, other than Jamaica. And even visiting that caribbean country made me feel more at home than I ever felt all my years living in america. So going to Africa, in particular, The Gambia was the next step in completing the triangular trade from where many of my ancestors had voyaged from. It was momentus, as my expectations of Gambia were low, I still had that mind set that everything and everybody in Africa was “poor” but if you looked really closely, there were plenty of “poor” in america too.

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It was my first visit to the motherland, that prompted my attention to the fact that, Africa is moving forward, they are not stuck in the past of colonialism, slavery or even the negative news about the continent daily.  I found an African people who were savvy, modern, yet traditional.  A strongly vibrant culture, language and musical energy that I had never seen or felt before.  I found a level of communication that was one of dignity and humanity.  Yes, I felt more human in Africa than I had ever felt in America.  I had to put all my low expectations away, because I was profoundly surprised at the amazing amount of beautiful homes, pleasant spaces and opulent beaches that the Gambia beholds.

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I didn’t see any empty bellies, nor did I encounter people living on the streets, its not to say I didn’t see poverty, however, you see people fighting that poverty every day with the way they hustle, work and maintain their independence.  As well, I saw Gambians from the Diaspora returning home, investing in their country, building compounds and operating businesses.  I found my home, and upon my first visit, I knew, this is where I wanted to be.   Interestingly, seeing my people was only the half of my inclination to move their, but I have to say I was just as intrigued by the many whites or europeans I saw living there, and in my mind, I was like, if they can do this, I damn sure can!

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