UBUNTU: I am because We are
I woke up with the words ‘organize’, ‘routine’ and ‘Libreville’.
Organize and routine were my action words for today. Libreville because there, begins the Dialogue for Action International Forum. Bringing together an “exceptional group of speakers and participants consisting of NGO leaders, academics and experts from the private and public sectors to identify and address the current global issues facing women today.”
I am excited about updates on this discussion; as I woke up early to ready for what would be coming through on Live Tweets throughout the day to “offer alternative ideas and nuanced voices…(and some feminist fyah to the discussions). *for us, by us* :-)”. Nonetheless, my monkey mind started swinging and I landed on a branch featuring a talk I had seen some months ago in my non-writing/blogging routine days. ‘African Fractals’ by Ron Eglash on TedTalks.
Why would this have anything to do with Libreville and the Dialogue for Action? I’m still connecting it but hear me out so far:
It makes me think of how Africa is selling itself short with so many unclaimed contributions to the world. It makes me think of how women sell themselves short because society is constructed to maintain it as so. It made me think of how, if change is to be effected for African women, it has to include and be lead by African Women; or the whole thing quickly becomes an 18th Century European export plaguing the 21st Century African mind or I rephrase, an 18th Century European attitude dictating to a 21st Century African debate.
Why I connect this lecture and the dialogue happening today is simply this: Education. And, understanding that any dialogue is an education partnership between those who want to have it, those in whose name we are having it, and those whose lives/communities we aim to benefit from having it. And breaking it down to its fractal points creates a network for change in approach, the direction of the debate, and a scalability in the movement not only for the indigenes but also its wider global community. It also spoke to me that perhaps The Dialogue for Africa is already in the blue print of African Fractals, and the societal constructs indigenous to Africa; not those imported from Colonialism, or with the best intentions.
To want to Educate more women is to understand the local systems, and societal structures/challenges in which they live. Clearly. To want to educate more African women is to allow their voice to be heard in the dialogue. Surely. And this is from the girls singing for their equality and expressing in ways of their community, language, history and heritage in mathematics, science – tools to truly empower them that is their own. There is a fragile line to be walked here when we talk of : education on a continent where we battle with ‘light is right’ (and I’m talking skin bleaching); and the weave reigns supreme (and I’m talking false hair extensions here not the natural and magnificent hair braiding techniques of old.) Or, that an Entrepreneurs face is not one represented by a ‘Market Woman’ – I will expand more on this in time. But the point here is, ensure that the dialogue where Africans are involved, includes Africans – grassroots and all walks of life Africans. And for it to be one of dialogue between equals, or it will be no dialogue at all.
I start by stating, I love Alicia Keys. She Rocks.
As I watched the ‘Fallin‘ video – for the millionth time, I started to think about Stereotyping and what this really still means for us all today. For instance, do videos, like the one in this post, of Black men in jail, or on the run from 5-0, or in the process of being cuffed a ‘forever’ stereotype? When do Black Men get a variety of ‘stories’, enough to allow a break in this social conditioning and limiting trajectory, of what they can aspire and/or look forward to as an adult male.
From downtrodden, to incapacitated, to self-empowerment, to New Jack, to Bling – the (unfortunate) OTT display of affluence to establish pride. We, again, have the smart, geeky glass-eyed men coming into the mainstream. For example, Aloe Blacc, or closer to home, Tinie Tempah, who my nephews love, and quite frankly, he is great for boys their age (8 and 3), and older. The point is, opening possibilities beyond the depressing and often dangerous reality of urban (music) living, regardless of colour. If we are really in a ‘new’ age where possibilities are no longer dictated by colour, creed (being a different discussion /dimension altogether) but purely aspirations. Then surely, Class being the standard, is equally disturbing a proposition.
After all, who and what defines the precarious line of class, or for that matter, the acceptable face of it? Is the vast valley of opportunity, mobility and achievement all now simply overcome by where you live, the car you drive, who you sup with, and what you ‘do’? Are we past the laugh at Carole Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, don’t you know) syndrome, or still very much entrenched in it? The new ‘them’ and ‘us’, being class, turns the issue into a post code dictate. Does this then not move the once insidious routine of prejudice, elitism and marginalization into an albeit open, but seriously old school (archaic, even) arena of the ‘have’ and ‘have not’? And even if you do have, how did you get it and how much do you have become a preoccupation. If you haven’t, then shut it and get it, or put up with your lot (read: ‘get out, you’re not our class of person’).
I ponder also, as I watch the video, that embedded within all this new wave, is the good old ‘kitkat’ marketing idea that a Woman stands by her beleaguered Man through bars, and perhaps, now through geeky glasses. The subliminal messages to the independent woman. Independent women generally incensing many a male sensibilities, to herald a cry ‘back to basics’ – Mad Men! (Actually, in this scenario, it would be ‘Mad Women!’). So, are women still being cajoled into how women ‘ought‘ to be, lest we come across as man-hating feminists – Ref Jessie J’s ‘Do It Like a Dude’ – when the reality is usually far more complex than a brush away dismissal of our points of view, ambition and achievements.
Therefore, for all our freedoms, we are still bound and compelled to follow a very narrow set of rules. Unless, of course, we irreverently bypass it ALL and forge our own-stream (*cough* Big Society?) and be damned for it anyway. Clearly, Women and Men, ‘jailed’ in ANY stereotype, will only ever allow a dance to someone else’s tune. So we must make our own music and dance our own rhythms regardless, but together. ‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others’, without the stereotyping.