Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Power of images and the Black America I knew growing up


The one and only -Florence Griffith Joyner


Images are so profound. Even the cliche, a picture says a thousand words does not accurately depict the power of images.

I have heard tireless times from AAs that Foreign blacks buy into the negative images of AAs and so come already prejudiced. Speaking for my generation in the interior of East Africa, I grew up when we had one state owned TV station. Our foreign news came via radio from the BBC world service, Voice of America (which never caught on) And Canal France (No one spoke French).

Most of our local TV programs where propaganda programs by the government. The foreign programming in Television that we got came from, suprisingly, Germany's then national TV, Transtel Cologne. For entertainment we had German crime shows and comedy ( yes, germans have a sense of humor) and the occassional sports coverage, mostly athletics from different parts of the world.
Saturday after noon we had the infamous Jimmy Swaggart then for American Sitcoms we had Good times, The Jeffersons and Different Strokes. I think I just covered the whole TV guide.
We considered the blacks in the TV programs as our tribe mates who lived a nice life very far away in Muzungu land.

The most influencial images came from the black athletes. There was one Russian, Sergei Bubka the pole vaulter, that also had an impressive spirit.



Other than that, I was fixated on the black athletes. Carl Lewis, Both the Joyners,and others whose names I can't recall. Is there a greater female athlete than Florence Griffith Joyner? I believe that was the golden age of athletics.
There was not much information out there about them but I remember seeing people with an uncrushable determination and being inspired. These people I believe gave me the determined spirit I needed to survive the wars that plagued our region then.
These were the Black Americans I knew, not the Shaniquas and Tiniquas of today.

Even today when I am faced with a challenge, I visualize those athletes, I see their braveness, their refusal to succumb, their determination to win against any odds. I can never thank them enough. I have been inspired by books written by authors of all backgrounds, but those black athletes racing and jumping hurdles, literary and metaphorically will always rank first.

In my preteens I was good at the 100 and 400m races but upon entering secondary school I met girls that were faster than the wind. I gave up running and took up Tennis and played competitvely but due to lack of resources that dream died a natural one. In Tennis I was mildly inspired by Martina Navratilova. Then the William sisters came way too late but I am still inspired by their fight in a world that will never accept them, yet with as much dignity they can master they still go out and hit the balls.

This whole post was inspired by one single image, the kind of image that not only speaks thousands of words but hits you in the gut. I will let the image speak for itself. Its Jesse Owens at the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics.More on Jesse


Jesse Owens on the podium after winning the long jump at the 1936 Summer Olympics