Thursday, March 04, 2010

Kenyan Surprise

Yesterday morning, I was pleased to meet a young Kenyan man where I work out. He is in town for a conference on micro-finance, an activity whereby loans are made to very small businesses/individuals in developing countries, like Kenya. I have known many Africans, but this man’s features stood out cleanly and most candidly. I said to myself, now this is an African!

Anyway, after pleasantries, I jump right into asking how he has ‘found’ the US, on his initial visit. His observations got right to it. To start, his sight-seeing consisted of one place, the University of California, Berkeley. No Golden Gate Bridge. No Chinatown. No Fisherman’s Warf, just Berkeley. The man had education on the brain, and reinforced why African immigrants are such high academic achievers on US soil.

Second, he was amazed at the infrastructure of the US. The roads; traffic lights; light/electric poles; sewers; sidewalks; everything! He thought it was glorious to have so much. I could relate to his jubilation, as I remember my first visit to Jamaica, where you are jolted by the lack of everything, especially the weekly trash pick-up.

More seriously, he said that in his mind African-Americans lacked an ‘uplifting cultural identification’. He felt that, no matter where he went in the world, being a Kenyan would support him. Anything that he assimilated from the world would only be a welcomed addition, and could never change who he really was deep down.

Lastly, he said that African-Americans do not see the opportunity around them. “It’s everywhere!” He lamented that Kenya cannot make cell phones, but can only use them. In the US, he said anything is possible, if you are willing to work for it. He also said the bad US economy was forcing many Kenyans to return home, but they were returning with capital they had accumulated.

He gave me his email address and I said I would keep in touch. What a lift to speak to this young man.

James C. Collier

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15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The man had education on the brain, and reinforced why African immigrants are such high academic achievers on US soil."

Yeah, that and massive affirmative action set-asides. Probably more deserving of them than native-born blacks, too, when you think about it.

James C. Collier said...

If you can't say something positive, then stupid will have to suffice.

La Coccinelle said...

Child of over-achievers over here. I would attempt to describe my understanding of this African Diaspora.

My grandfather, in Cameroon was a doctor back in the sixties, most specifically an OBGYN. He was trained foreignly. My grandmother was an elemantary school teacher.

My mother has had three careers: Pro-basketball player for Cameroon's Women team in the eighties, has the equivalent of a Master Degree but because of the racism in these Educational institutions they refused to recognize her qualifications when she arrived in the US so she started a new nursing career a decade ago. The same discrimination makes other educated minorities have to get jobs like cab-driving or offering 'janitorial' services.

My father busted his behind to score a scholarship at the University of Arizona in the early 60's. He earned a PhD in Economics.

My point is that they all emphasized the importance of education as the salvation of African people of all origins.

Most educated Africans expect that their children would get an education abroad and return to Africa to reinvigorate and integrate back in African society but that does not happen frequently, if at all. The first generation of children would integrate into American society and their parents, after having provided a source of income for the family back home, usually retire in Africa.

The reason why is that young people do not see a future back home because most of these African countries are being run by uneducated brutes too ignorant, absolutely incapable of grasping the magnitude of the damage they've laid on our Continent. Not to mention, life abroad is a whole lot easier...in a healthy economy, that is.

Tribalism, division has ripped each country apart, all our resources are being depleted by foreign companies and the money goes in these dictators' pocket. When civil employees have worked for months without pay and people are starving, these bastards own hotels abroad and have garnished Swiss bank accounts.

Colonialism has left my parents' and grandparents' with a substantial scar: all of our cultural history is being dulled down, our mothers' languages aren't being passed down to us because in America there's no need to speak Bassa and Ewondo (our tribal tongue) mythos is not being passed down because it's all been demonized by Evangelical missions on their quest to world domination. Religion is now being used as another excuse for african people to persecute one another.

I can understand this man's fascination with the West but not all that glitters is gold. All the intelligent folk are fleeing Africa. And after they get their education they don't want to go back. They stay.

And the whole time they're up here, they bemoan their situation and wish to return to Africa. And most of them do, only when life has too become inconvenient up here. Or they want to retire in warmer climates.

James C. Collier said...

La Coccinelle: You said, "All the intelligent folk are fleeing Africa. And after they get their education they don't want to go back. They stay." It has been this way for 50,000 years and nothing is more responsible for the continent's plight than this continual 'brain drain' of the brightest.

Anonymous said...

"In the US, he said anything is possible, if you are willing to work for it."

This is one of the many problems with working class solidarity in America, people believe there is such a thing as 'class mobility' in the US, when in fact it is one of the most unequal societies on the planet with rich getting richer and poor getting poorer at an alarming rate. This idea of 'getting out of the ghetto', something that is constantly presented to us as an aspirational goal by the media (you think 'bitches-and-bling' style hip-hop gets played on MTV because its good? nope, it is played because it advances the interests of the bourgeoisie) has encouraged an individualist mentality among the poor that stops them from organising and opposing the desires of capital in the vain hope that they will one day be one of the bourgeoisie.

Attitudes of the working class need to change. Don't aim to get out of the ghetto, aim to make the ghetto better.

Anonymous said...

"you think 'bitches-and-bling' style hip-hop gets played on MTV because its good? nope, it is played because it advances the interests of the bourgeoisie"

I love how people just throw around these conspiracy theories without feeling the need to explain them at all. It's just taken for granted that some "them" is acting nefariously toward "us". MTV programming controlled by a cabal of bourgeoisie-interest-advancing overlords? It all makes sense now!

Anonymous said...

"It has been this way for 50,000 years and nothing is more responsible for the continent's plight than this continual 'brain drain' of the brightest."

But isn't "the continent's plight" the whole reason for the 50,000 year exodus? Cause and effect, JCC. I mean look at La Coccinelle up there whining about how rough black people have it in America but is she going to move back to Africa? Complaining about foreigners changing her home country, for God's sake! What can you do with such blatant hypocrites?

La Coccinelle said...

@ James C. Collier

I went to elementary school in Africa and we were taught about the Kingdom of Mali, The Kingdom of Benin, The Kingdom of Ghana, all these vast history that has been buried under centuries of oppression, and my brothers didn't.

Because history books told me in high school that slave traders showed up and found nothing more than a primitive civilization and this fallacy is still perpetuated.

Ignorance is what is, in my belief, keeping all black people down. I want to believe that education is the strongest weapon and the only weapon we have but the truth is everyone with a brain that remained in Africa were chased out, had to run for their life (such was the case for my father) or were killed.

People are dropped from helicopters for opposing the status quo, one possible presidential candidate in a country I'm afraid to mention could do nothing as his toddler son's head was split open with a machete in front of him in his own home after militia was sent to give him a message.

In the same country, there's a Laguna in the middle of the city that reeked so bad after a demonstration ended in bloodshed and more people 'disappeared'. The bodies were fished out after a while. Rape as a weapon of fear...newborn to old ones no one's safe.

The people able to leave Africa are escaping a real threat, and violence is an everyday occurrence.

But when one's crime is being more educated than the people in power and wanting to change the status quo and being face with people whose greed is only surpassed by a complete lack of compassion, the only thing left to do is run.

I believe that Africa is going through its own Dark Age right now and the foreign enterprises being run out of there are definitely profiting from our misery.

Hopefully Enlightenment is at the end of the tunnel. But Black people have to regain their faith in our continent.

James C. Collier said...

Anon4:28, Yes. To get more specific, Malaria is the single biggest driver to the drain. Sickle-cell is the scientific emphasis to this. No one's fault, just is. The fact that my ancestors were enslaved is all the more reason to bust my ass in the land of opportunity, so their suffering was not totally in vain.

Frank said...

@La Coccinelle

"I went to elementary school in Africa and we were taught about the Kingdom of Mali, The Kingdom of Benin, The Kingdom of Ghana, all these vast history that has been buried under centuries of oppression, and my brothers didn't.

Ignorance is what is, in my belief, keeping all black people down. I want to believe that education is the strongest weapon and the only weapon we have"

That's a really interesting point. I was only just reading an article that attributed black-on-black violence to self-hate, which stems from how our African-American forbears were miseducated about their past in Africa -

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/133121

I think you have a good point there that ignorance really does breeds disunity. It's the whole divide an conquer tactic that slave masters used to convince slaves of their inferiority and thus prevent rebellion.

@James C. Collier

"The fact that my ancestors were enslaved is all the more reason to bust my ass in the land of opportunity, so their suffering was not totally in vain."

I totally agree.

La Coccinelle said...

Anon4:28 must have missed Reading Comprehension 101. Yet another reason why an education is necessary to convey one's point in a clear and concise manner.

Being an Internet 'gansta', misinterpreting comments and making sweeping generalizations under the cover of anonymity is just another way ignorant people impede the author of this site and its readers since my interpretation of this site's goal is to open an intelligent dialogue between people of all races and varying opinions.

I suggest that if Anon4:28 expect nothing more than mudslinging, there are plenty of places available on the Internet for that type of interaction.

Anonymous said...

La Coccinelle you are a smart young womans at 21 yrs.

What peeves me is how some of those who were born in Africa are selling out their fellow country men and that includes the village Chiefs. It is so sad. And, yes there are those in the so called AA community doing the very same thing.

However, most other cultures are not selling their people out at such high rates and for some of those of other races they are taking advantage of AA/A self- hate. I am so tired of the self hate.

ann

sungod said...

to a point tis true what ur writing...as i (and many other bruthas born in amerikkka) our culture has been obscured to us by shay whitey das the reason behind "uplifting cultural ID". Many dont realize the opportunities we have because stagnation is all we feel and see. How can one see hope when in most areas predominated by Blacks there seemingly are none??

Nimo said...

That young man's focus on his purpose for being here and his cultural pride is so accurate of many young Kenyans. I realize that this is a completely unenlightening string of words but I must utter them nonetheless- Yay for Kenya!:)

Anonymous said...

I wonder what your excellent young friend would think of how some blacks think doing "right" is doing white and something to be avoided....

Such as in the Georgia school case.

High time to make that type of thing a hate crime just like all the other similar crimes.....