Sunday, February 24, 2008

Iron Ladies of Liberia



Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia

There is a growing trend on the African continent and that is women in leadership.
In America for the first time we are seeing the great possibility of the first female President in the name of Hillary Clinton. I am personally surprised that gender is still such a profound issue when it comes to leadership in America.

In Africa we have the impression that women in the western world have full equality with men. This is due to the glamorised impression of the western world that we receive. It was therefore a shock to me on arrival especially in America to learn how long it took for women to get their right to vote. Then upon interraction and being myself I realised how highly insecure American men were. Many I encountered still held onto the traditional gender roles and reminded me of certain African tribes that have specified roles of women, "how possible is this" I thought, "in a first world country?"

Attitudes towards women in Africa vary across tribes. In mine, it is expected of women to be strong anything less is not respectable. They are expected to pursue positions of leadership in the community and on a national level and they are encouraged to be highly educated.

Still, inequalities did exist especially in my parents generation. Due to minimal resources it was preferred to educate the boys than the girls but those who could afford it, educated all. The reasoning was that a girl could ge married to an educated man that could take care of her. The national attitude today is that if you educate a woman, you educate a nation so there are aggressive programs to cater for the girl child.
There is a woman's seat in parliament for every district. ( Over 50 seats).
So did African men just wake up one day and acknowledge that women need to progress or was this always the case in the pre colonial era?

My suspiscion is that it always was that way but new religions and cultures changed the natural course of things. The history immediately before colonialism shows that women in my region led the biggest rebellions against the coloniszers, Germans and British. Some of these women are now dieties one of whom is Nyabingyi who is also worshipped by Rastafarians.

Also when the British established the first schools in Uganda, they were meant for the sons of the Royal clans. It was the Leaders of those clans that donated land and insisted that girls' schools be built on them.
So the continental trend of more and more women taking up positions of power may be a resurgence of old trends and the best solution to Africa's problems.

When I worked in the media in Uganda, I followed some women leaders around and I was amazed at the work they did at the grassroots level. Real change was effected. In my own district where there had been a perenial shortage of malaria drugs, one woman managed to change that around by influencing the women to vote out the district head out of office.

Women are the backborne of Africa's agricultural sector. Its no surprise that in places like Zimbabwe where Agriculture was removed from their control there is a food shortage after the dismissal of the white commercial farmers. Any setup where agriculture is removed from their control is bound to create catastrophic problems and that is why there is food shortages in politically unstable regions.
The impact of AIDS has also seen a loss of food production in hard hit areas.

So with their central role in the economy shouldn't it be natural that they too take the positions in leadership? The Africans tend to think so and that is why one's womanhood seems to matter very little when it comes to vying for leadership positions.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My racist date





When you think you have seen enough, fate hands you another one. I spent the most uninspiring 4 hours of my life last Sunday evening on an impromptu date with a subconscious racist. Why you may wonder did I waste such precious time?

a) I knew this person from a college class we took together. Since the nature of the course involved a lot of debating, I found his intellect quite intriguing and frankly he is someone you can have an in-depth conversation with as along as you stick to matters American and South American. In terms of nationality, he is Latino but he looks more Mediterranean. He credits his appearance to some white ancestry. We have met at the same restaurant before and hung out chatting so this time I thought it would be fun to hangout again.

b) Frankly, Ignorant people that are harmless can be fascinating to listen to as long as you don’t take their ignorance personally. I always find it interesting when people hold such a low opinion of my type based on appearance. So when they express themselves in that vein, it can be entertaining. (Depending on your sense of humor of course. Africans tend to laugh at the most absurd things).

Our discussion was along the following themes and I will break down his opinions accordingly. The elections, The origin of humanity and migration, Interracial relationships, racism, blacks in the US and his own personal sob story.
Okay here we go;

On the Primary elections;

This individual was shocked that the polls in California predicted an Obama win. From his learned assessment, Obama is just talk and high sounding but is not capable of tackling the republicans the way the Clintons would.
( Note he says Clintons i.e., he is voting for both). On the other hand he said he could have told the pollsters the outcome of the primaries in California because he knew that his own people would never vote for Obama and the reason was simply racial.

This particular statement was not racist per say but it shows the nature of his thinking.

On the migration of Mankind to other parts of the world.

Seconding a theory that he read ‘somewhere’.

Africa is a very harsh and cruel environment, so people who had more self esteem, moved from the very cruel environment following the rivers from the Nile into Asia and Europe. Those with even a much higher self esteem moved to the Americas.

According to this theory, Africans have a very low self esteem and while the rest of the world has higher esteem and therefore the overall human worth of the African is less than other people. This person still envisions Africa as one big very hostile jungle!
Okaaaaaaay!

On interracial dating.

Blacks in America due to history carry their aggression and it is in their demeanor. Why would any man have to put him self through dating a black girl when there are plenty of others? Also he would not like to have to go to a club with this girl and have all the menacing black thug like men in the vicinity! Not worth it!

Here I had to tell him that he is talking in stereotypes and that there are blacks in America of all social types. He concurred and gave me an example of the wife of a former Secretary of state, who didn’t have the “typical” black girl attitude and look.

He said that he is fond of the smiley ‘Nigerian’ type blacks and went on to give an impression of a smiley imbecile like Stepin Fetchit. He affirmed that those are the types of blacks he can get along with. Nice and jolly.

The only thing missing in his little theatrical act was black paint and lipstick.


Some humor

He tapped into his humorous bone by creating scenarios on how Africans try to trace their ancestors. This is a bit offensive so watch out. It went something like this.

“So when Africans get together to do their family tree, do they go , ‘oh, we are descended from Erastaramus , Aristarums, Erectarumus etc?’ (as in Pre Homo Sapien humanoids!).

Now, I have a wacky sense of humor but here I had to engage my racist fire wall in order not to get offended. Unfortunately he thought I found it funny and he came up later with some spear jokes.


The Civil Rights movement

He explained how the achievement of the civil rights movement is mainly credited to blacks yet Jews played a major part. And most whites that were part of the civil rights movement were Jews. According to him it should have been named the Human Rights movement ( Big difference)
The gospel according to my date.

On racism;

Whites have an innate inferiority complex that is acted out as white Supremism and used to oppress the rest of humanity. Evidence of this can be seen from the days of the crusades to the present. ( I am sure there are many minorities that would like to believe this).


What was I doing through all this? I am not sure. If you have been through life experiences like wars and a lot of craziness, some things just go over your head. I was tolerant of his ignorance because I saw it as harmless to me as an individual. May be I should have countered him more, but what difference would it make? So I just sat, watched and listened and now blogging about it. Would I hang out with this person again? Most likely just see what else he can come with.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An American tells the story of Rwanda - RWANDA RISING




Andrew Young reknowned Civil Rights activist and former American Ambassador to the UN has added another accomplishment to his resume, film maker. This is no ordinary film. Mr. Young has been intimately involved with Rwanda for a while and decided to produce a film on the country that he has come to know too well.

Personally I am touched by his initiative to show a truer picture of a place only associated with the worst. Also I am impressed that we are now beginning to see a diversity of Americans trying to do good for Africa, which helps counter the publicity craving celebrites that have turned Africa into their image bathroom.

Rwanda Rising is a documentary film produced by Andrew Young and was released late 2007.

PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW, JOHN HOPE BRYANT and THE SILVER RIGHTS MOVEMENT.



With the housing market crush and anxiety around the economy there are many of us that cannot make out the heads or tails of what is going on. And this is what is now commonly refered to as financial illetracy affecting the majority of minorities. The market crush is being blamed on Sub prime loan borrowers who are financially illiterate.

Some of us are recent immigrants and just simply getting by. However if you live in America with its economic structure, shouldn't everyone acquire more than basic financial skills? As a result of the rampant financial ignorance that is not limited to the lower classes, there is a growing demand by civic leaders and advocates calling for the provision of financial literacy to all. One of these is John Hope Bryant, who refers to his advocacy as the Silver Rights Movement.

(For this semester I am taking Finance 002-Investments and would encourage anyone that feels challenged in financial knowledge to take this basic course).

His website;

John Hope Bryant

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Black farmer



Another beautiful story of someone fulfiling their own potential.

Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, The Black Farmer (Wikipedia)

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones (born c. 1957) is a British businessman, farmer, founder of The Black Farmer range of food products, and prospective Conservative Party candidate for the Chippenham constituency for the next general election, due no later than 2010.

Career
Emmanuel-Jones was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, but in 1961 he moved with his parents to the United Kingdom. They settled in Small Heath in Birmingham, where he was one of nine children living in a small terrace house.


Another indepth documentary on The Black Farmer Now this is a must watch because it shows race relations in Britain. Unfortunately the Embedding code is not available so you have to copy the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAhEwipDTac&feature=related

THIS IS UNBELEIVABLE! STEPHEN WILTSHIRE, a beautiful mind.




STEPHEN WILTSHIRE, The Human Camera


In Brief, as relayed by Wikipedia

Stephen Wiltshire MBE, (born April 24, 1974) is an architectural artist who has been diagnosed with autism. Wiltshire was born in London, England, to West Indian parents.

I am amazed and touched by his story because it sends a very important message about the potential of human beings. I have an autistic nephew that looks remarkeably similar to Stephen Wiltshire.

Stephen Wilshire's site

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Africa's tree Mother








One on One with Dr.Wangari Maathai

This is a very intimate interview with Dr. Wangari Maathai the first African Woman ever to win a Nobel Peace prize for "her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace".

She is also known as Africa's tree mother due to her efforts in saving the enviroment whose activities have led to the planting of over 30 million trees.

I found this interview particularly interesting because first of all, she is a villager and does go on into detail about village life.

I did not know much about her story but after this particular interview, I felt like I had known her all my life.

One particularly interesting aspect is that she came to the United States at the height of the Civil Rights movement and she gives her perspectives on her experience as an African villager. Very fascinating.

Also though disturbing to western sensibilities, she has an interesting view of polygamy having herself grown up in a polygomous house hold.

Her narrative of her divorce is quite interesting, her husband's grounds for divorce were that she was too strong headed.

Well atleast she is planting trees for some of us.

This White man sure can dance!

Who said White men can't dance.

Am I the only one in the world that likes Bush?



Wait, Bush has a challenger. Atleast he is better than Giuliani, or so he thinks!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is Europe growing a conscience?


APOLOGIES FOR SLAVERY

There are some very interesting happenings in the relationship between Europe and Africa. I am not a political scientist so I won't even pretend to have a complete grasp on what is happening in this perpetually tragic interaction. In recent years we are seeing some key European voices show empathy and at times apologise for the crimes committed against Africa and its people by their nations.

Following below afew excepts of some noted "apologies".

The big question is, now that these people are acknowledging the wrongs, what next?

"It is right that this anniversary is being marked today here in Ghana's Elmina Castle, the scene of such inhuman abuse, and in cities across the UK - in Liverpool, Hull, Bristol and London which played their part in this deplorable trade.

"It is an opportunity for the United Kingdom to express our deep sorrow and regret for our nation's role in the slave trade and for the unbearable suffering, individually and collectively, it caused."
He also paid tribute to the "courage and conviction" of those who campaigned to end the "vile trade" including former slave Olaudah Equiano, church leader Thomas Clarkson and MP William Wilberforce.


Tony Blair, Former British PM


“FOR me the humaneness of our world is linked with Africa’s fate. Isn’t it a question of Europe’s self-respect, in the light of our own foundations, values and history to show honest and generous involvement in Africa?”

The man who uttered these lofty words is German President Horst Kohler.

The German President just visited a region in Northern Uganda and South Sudan that has been devasted by war for over 20 years. And these were his words on his visit.
“The purpose is always to give hope to the people. Germany got help in order to recover from the Second World War and that is why Germany is also committed to help others who are recovering from war.

To round off the these quotes is an article on a dramatic apology from a descendent of the first slave trader.

Four centuries ago, his forefather achieved notoriety as England's first slave trader.
Thousands of kidnapped men, women and children were sold like cattle - if they survived being packed onto ships so tightly that they could not lie down.



Now Andrew Hawkins has made a dramatic gesture to atone for his ancestor's actions - kneeling in chains in front of thousands of Africans to apologise on behalf of his family.
The 37-year-old youth theatre worker is a descendant of Sir John Hawkins, an Elizabethan sea captain who began centuries of British involvement in the slave trade.



He travelled from his home in Cornwall to The Gambia in West Africa to try to make amends in front of the country's vice-president, Isatou Njie Saidy, and 25,000 of her compatriots.
The father-of-two joined a group of Europeans who took part in a procession while bound in chains before kneeling and offering their apology.


"I apologised on behalf of my family," he said yesterday. "I apologised for the adults and children taken.

"Then there was a long pause and we really didn't know what to expect - it was very nerve-wracking.
"They could have said 'We don't accept your apology, go away', and we were ready for that - it would have been understandable.
"But the vice-president came forward and accepted the apology very graciously. She offered her forgiveness and then came forward and took the chains off. That was entirely impromptu and very moving."
The trip earlier this month was the latest in a series of similar gestures organised by a group called The Lifeline Expedition aimed at achieving reconciliation between Europeans and Africans.
"I recognise that it's a small, simple act to say sorry - but it was a handful of people who started the slave trade and the ripples of their actions caused evil throughout the continent of Africa," said Mr Hawkins, who lives in Liskeard.
'One of the most memorable things I've ever done'
"I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It was one of the most memorable things I've ever done.


"It was a learning experience. You see just how deep the wounds left by the slave trade are.
"As someone with family links to the slave traders, it was a very difficult thing to see the consequences of their actions.


"Hopefully a handful of people can now be the beginning of something good."
While there they also visited the village of Juffureh where Kunta Kinte, the central character in Alex Haley's novel Roots, is said to have been born.


"We went there to ask forgiveness from the village elders," said Mr Hawkins.
"At first they were reluctant to give it, but as we shared our experience of the tour and how it had affected us, they accepted our apology.
"I think they wanted to see an emotional connection from us, and to see that we had gone there in humility."


Expedition leader David Potts said: "We do not think there has been a really sincere apology from Europeans to Africa and we want to do our part in trying to redress that.

"The trip to Gambia was an amazing experience, and one of the highlights of the expedition. Andrew made a huge contribution and it was great to have him there."

Next year the group is planning to do a walk between London, Liverpool, Bristol and Plymouth to mark the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade.

Tony Blair has refused to say sorry for slavery in the past, largely because it could trigger demands for payouts from African countries, but pressure is expected to mount as the anniversary approaches.

Mr Hawkins said: "I don't think we learn enough about our participation in the slave trade in this country and the consequences that has had in Africa.
"We need to face up to that, and next year might be a good time to do that."

-----------------------------------

It would be interesting to see this kind of gesture in America.

Full story




Saturday, February 9, 2008

VILLAGERS, I bring good news!

First off, villagers, it has been quite a week. Many of us have been embroiled in cyber battles. Some worth it and some not.

Since most of us are students and the school period has started, it would be wise to practise some enegy conservation, avoid battles and minimize conflict. Some wars are inevitable as we see some insurgents resurfacing. But still keep energy conservation in mind with the ultimate goal of school in mind.
Enough of the village brief.

And now onto the good news;

People, things are looking up in the field of transportation. I will briefly state our history of transportation.
From this,



As you can see this is very limiting and often we met various challenges especially with loading.




See what I mean.

We are lucky that some French men a long time ago invented the bicycle and since we started getting bicycles in the village, life improved tremendously. For example, we no longer needed to walk 7 miles to school and our day to day chores were eased. A bicycle could comfortably serve the needs of a family of 10.

See below as the bicycle is put to good use.


This is a sister taking her siblings to go see a military helicopter landing, very fascinating stuff.

And now to the greatest news.

While some other places in Africa are in conflict, progress is being made else where. Our dear member of Parliament Hon. James Akena has decided to improve our means of transport even further.

In keeping with the program of those that voted him into the position, he has come up with an ingeneous idea. He purchased small engines from China that can power bicycles. Now that is not all, he has converted the little Engine's fuel consumption by mixing a local gin called Waragi with gasoline. He is working on getting the percentage mix to 80/20.
Waragi is made from Sugar cane, corn, casava and some other abundant crops. Meaning that transportation is going to improve tremendously.


To prove that his bicycle works, he rode it from his home to Parliament. A distance of about 10 miles. Now that is impressive. That is what all legislators should be doing, bringing progress to their people.

Now the whole bicycle coverage is also a roundabout way of informing those WM who like BW, that some standards have to be met or surpassed.

For example TBT, when you take Labellevie, donkeys are so yesterday.


My recommendation is below, that is unless you can come up with something better.

The Hero Power is IT. The Passenger seat and side mirrors are sold separately.
This should be strong enough to carry a weighty couple like you (at 6'4) and Labellevie with her ample behind.


The wonders of the bicycle.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

BEAUTY


Beauty?


Below in an a link to an archive program on BBC's radio 4 hosted by Melvyn Bragg.

Considering that most BW at the moment are beginning to question the enforced standard of beauty, I find this program a must listen, especially for BW. I found it extremely insightful on how the Western standard of beauty came about and how that same standard is basically set by those with the power.

Enjoy.
Looking forward to discussions on what people consider beautiful.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Villagers do it again!



Nicholas Tamale and Dorothy Namusisi had top scores. They both scores 9 in 8 subjects. ( 8 in 8 being the best score) No doubt they are among the top 10 among roughly 70,000 students. (These two went to an urban school)

Something fundamental is happening in the field of education in my country. The O level results are out and boy are we flabbergasted! The distict that is home to one of the most 'primive' tribes ( by western standards) beat the whole nation in having the most candidates in Grade one. For the American, this is the equivalent of hearing a little town like Vidor, Texas sending man to Mars. Seriously!
O level exams are taken at the average age of 16 and they determine where one goes to high school which in turn makes it possible for them to go to University.
The winning region is home to many tribes however the majority are the Karimojong.
How 'primitive' is this tribe? Remember the running around naked stereotypes? They fully fulfil this one. Cattle rustling in neighboring Kenya is their favorite pass time and they don't burry their dead. They throw them out in the wild. Atleast the last I heard ( This may be a locally made stereotype!).

Karimonjong Dancing

It is common for people in haste to say,"we can not wait for Karamoja to develop", reflecting their perceived backwardness.

What appears to have happened is that in the recent past there has been alot of humanitarian work by foreign charities in turning these people from Normadic to an Agricultural life style. Finally someone succeeded in selling the idea of education and they bought into it and now they are kicking the behinds of those that had long established reputations as being "educated".
I never doubted these people's abilities, in the urban schools, though poorly represented, they were always the brightest. They made it to fields of Engineering, Law and Medicine. However it was known that however highly 'educated', on return to their homeland, they were required to take their clothes off and revert to their cultural ways. This made everyone believe that they would never "develop". And now they have kicked our butts.
There are multitudes of lessons to learn from this, one of which is, never underestimate another human being!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What is appropriate wear for a wedding?

Too revealing a dress?

Why dishonour your host

The following article ran in my country's daily news paper. It is hillarious because of the cultural gap I now see and differing values having been in the states for almost five years. I have become desensitized to stuff that people back home would consider crazy. I would like to hear your views on these attitudes and what you consider appropriate attire for a wedding function as a guest.


LAST week, one of my favourite artistes, Ragga Dee, finally got married. I had expected him to wear something similar to his comic costumes but he chose a formal cream suit. This set the mood and style of the wedding. It was glamorous and most guests did not disappoint.
But as always at such functions, there are those who, in their efforts to either impress or cause a stir, get it wrong. Ragga Dee’s wedding was no exception. Some P.Y.T.s (Pretty Young Things) chose this moment to expose their ‘wares’. Some turned up in very skimpy clothes while others wore extremely high slits.
I wonder whether they did this out of ignorance or whether they were out to ‘fish’ and impress the opposite sex. Married women were among those who dressed inappropriately. Single women may be forgiven because they are out shopping. Rather than proving your sexiness, overtly sexy clothes at a wedding are always misunderstood. A revealing dress on a married woman might make people think she is not getting enough loving at home. Therefore, exposing too much thighs and boobs might be seen as a desperate attempt to rekindle a passion that is long dead. The thing is, whether a woman is married or single, there is no need to expose all you have as if you are up for sale.
Even ladies of the night have the decency to cover up at weddings or not to turn up at all.
There is no need to create an impression of desperation or poor judgment.
Wedding etiquette is such that all attention must be on the bride (never mind the groom). Any attempt to draw attention away from the bride is seen as a malicious move even if this was not your intention. You just wanted to wear your favourite or new outfit but wore it to the wrong function.
Below are some tips ;
-Do not wear white because it competes with the bride. Cream, ivory or pale pink would make good alternatives.
- Club wear and overtly sexy clothing do not belong to a wedding. So do not wear high slits, mini hemlines, plunging necklines and cropped tops even if you want to impress your man. Cover up, keep him intrigued and undress later when you are alone.
- There was a time when black was only worn to evening or night weddings but these days more and more people are wearing it to day weddings. However, sequins and heavy beading are totally out of place at a day wedding.
- If you know the colour the bridesmaids are wearing, do avoid it but if you do not, do not feel bad if it turns out you are wearing the same colour. You cannot possibly coordinate with everyone in the bridal entourage.
- Do wear something feminine and appropriate, out of respect for your hosts.
- If the invitation does not specify the formality of the event, use good judgment to select an outfit. For a daytime wedding, try a suit in pastel colours (lilac, pale pink, light blue, pale green, etc.) or a floral dress in soft fabric. If it is an evening event, go for simple glamour in a little black dress.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a real Strong Woman

Meet Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala current Managing Director of the World Bank who almost became the President of the same bank after the scandalous resignation of former President Paul Wolfowitz.

It is Ironic that Mr. Wolfowitz resigned after investigations uncovered unethical conduct on his part only to almost be replaced by some one from Nigeria.

As we all know Nigeria does not exactly have the best score on Transparency International's corruption index.

She is the first woman ever to be appointed Foreign Minister and later on Finance Minister in Nigeria and possibly the whole of Africa.
During her administration she managed to substantially reduce Nigeria's foreign debt and restructure the economic system while aggressively tackling corruption by bringing former untouchables to book.

She was educated at Harvard University (A.B. Magna Cum Laude 1977) and earned her Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In women like her I see hope for the future of not only African children but the continent as a whole.

Any woman that can attempt to take on corruption in an African state has the ability to lead any where.