The Kenya Forum | Made In Africa - Is An African-American Child African? - The Kenya Forum

January 22, 2022

Summary

The African child in Africa was not something they could champion, no more than I could, fresh out of Kenya, champion the African-American child in America.

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Made In Africa – Is An African-American Child African?

Made In Africa – Is An African-American Child African?

Mona Ombogo tackles a big debate

Heritage. Culture. Birthright. Ancestry. Origin. We are often caught up in those words, but what do they truly mean? A child is taken away from its home, shipped across the ocean in chains, forced into slavery. Many generations later, their outlook on the world, what they stand for, how they identify themselves has changed. But who are they, really?

This conversation around the child of African descent has been dissected for generations. Black British. Black American. Afro-Caribbean. African-American. Is there a correct way to identify them? More importantly, why do we think it’s necessary?

What am I passionate about as a black person?

I studied in the University of Tampa, Florida. My first semester coincided with Black History month. Being one of the few black people in the university, I was quickly roped in by the African-American fraternity. They were putting together a show for Black History Month and needed participants. My good friend, Ms. London, African-American, asked me to do a performance with her. It got us into the limelight, because the fraternity was always on the lookout of new students who could help drive the minority agenda in the school.

At first, I was ecstatic to be included in what seemed like a great course. But then, I sat in on a meeting and I realized, my concerns as an African child, straight from Kenya were very different from the concerns of my African-American colleagues.
They talked about championing the struggle against racism, looking for equality in positions of power. They talked about police injustice, crime, oppression. Some were angry. Some were disillusioned. Some had that audacity of hope.

After being silent for most of the meeting, someone turned to me and asked me what I was passionate about as a black person. I thought hard and wanted to give one of these big answers to match the big issues that were being discussed around the room. Then, I opted to go for my truth, no matter how simplistic it sounded.
“Hunger”, I said.

I got strange looks. But I had already committed my statement and now, had to qualify it.

“Where I come from, one of the biggest problems is basic needs. Food security. Hunger. A safe roof over a child’s head. Access to infrastructure. Education. That’s what I am passionate about.”

There was general silence, then one person said, they understood. Those were important things too. They were, but not at this sitting. The African child in Africa was not something they could champion, no more than I could, fresh out of Kenya, champion the African-American child in America.

In the end, I didn’t join any Africa-American focused groups, I felt I didn’t have anything to contribute. My viewpoint of the needs of my world, at that time, was too detached from their viewpoint of the needs of their world.

We were young, inexperienced. Looking only at our immediate concerns, we failed to see what connected us.

Is Africa still really their ‘motherland?’

Today, if I were to sit in on a meeting about Africans, no matter where they hail from around the world, I’d have a very different opinion. I’d probably see the similarity of our challenges. Recognition. Equitable resources. Equitable governance. Security. Generational wealth. Education. An equitable chance for the actualization of our dreams and visions.

So, can we from across continents meet on common ground? Can we understand each other? Claim each other as brethren? Is an African-American child African? Is Africa still really their ‘motherland?’ Does the same blood run through our veins?

I don’t think it should matter. I think what speaks louder is championing courses that unite us; for the disenfranchised to be heard, for the invisible ones to be seen, for those who start at a disadvantage to be raised up to an equitable playing field. For dignity. For hope. For greatness.

Yet, I feel these unifying issues should transcend heritage and simply be looked at as human concerns. These unifying issues should matter, not because we are black or African, but because we are human. Period.

Human needs. Human security. Human equitability. Human education. Human identity. Human greatness. This is where we need to get to. Across the world. Across cultures. Across race. Across origin. Because it is our common humanity that will transcend all else.

African American. Black British. Afro-Caribbean. African. Nigerian. Somali. Kenyan. Luo. Kikuyu. Kamba.

Human. That’s our collective origin. It should be enough.

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