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K is for Kenya

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Masai Herdsman by Frances Simpson of Kenya

I bless the rains down in Africa.  ~Toto

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Kenya. I visited there in 1984, my son in tow. It was a dream fulfilled. Over the years as I grew in awareness about the African continent, the TV images in my conscious mind that flourished as I grew up began to be uprooted. For me, Tarzan, the Ape man, (most famously played by Johnny Weismuller), who was a loin-cloth wearing, animal-leading, jungle-yodeling white man who saved “the darkies” from themselves was run off the “dark continent” by a 1970s shift into black consciousness that brought me into a wide-eyed amazement about who I was, and from where I had come.

Too, I’ve been thinking about Kenya these days because I’ve been thinking about my son. I took him to Kenya when he was 6 years old ostensibly to connect with his African relatives. His father is a Kenyan. He has family there. These days, as I think about what feels like open season on black men in America, I think that Africa might be a welcome refuge to him (and to me). There is the sense of being in a kinship with others who look like you. There is a sense of reclaiming some of the African history and culture which was lost over hundreds of years through American slavery, While contemporary Africa certainly has its own problems, not the least of which are often perpetuated by the neo-colonial governments that inherited the seats of power after the colonialists left, still there is something to be said for being seen as a person because you exist, and not as less-than those around you. Yes, in Africa there are ethnic divides, corruption, financial struggles, health and food shortages, problems of development and modernization, but there, also, is the feeling of home.

Inheriting a history which has included the bondage of one’s people, a country built on the backs of the despised, the disparagement and erasure of one’s humanity, all these things have made me long to experience something more.  I am tired and weary of the beat-down by ignorance and institutional racism that in the 21st century is still blatant, and truthfully, shows little signs of abating, as I speak.  Dr. DuBois* probably did not imagine that the problem of the color line would filter into the 21st century.

Africa has its problems, sure. But I long to be free of the burden of hatred based on skin color that is still the province of the USA. I long for a place where a black man is ok and stands on level ground because he can be seen as simply a man. His skin color is not held against him. In Africa, I still dream a place where he can imagine what it is like to have a culture, a history, a humanity.

These days I am thinking about Kenya. I long to see her people, feel her rhythms, again. I want to see what she is now. I long to relax and feel free to be more of myself. I want to go home.

Yes, I’ve been thinking about Kenya.

*W.E.B. DuBois




© 2015 Egyirba High All Rights Reserved

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