Have you seen us yet? Ask your countrymen. We are here and we rally for your attention- notice us. Our fists are tightly clenched and elevated in protest.
Have you seen us yet?
Take a moment of your time and recognize us. As you know, we are fighting. We wrestle, night and day- usana ndi usiku- against your perceptions of us. We take your perceptions, tear them to shreds and burn them in our ovens (because fires are stereotypical of Africans).
Ovens. We, too, have ovens.
Sweat and time and hashtags to make sure that your opinion of us is as high as the skyscrapers from which we work. Yes we are here, in high, high skyscrapers. Take a good long look at us.
See that these shiny buildings in which we work are Just Like Yours. That is more than enough for validation.
See that the paved roads that surround these these buildings are lined up with cars. Cars in Africa- don’t you dare exclaim. Africans drive, too.
Take a good long look at our iPhones. Follow us on twitter, instagram, add us on Facebook. #AfricansHavePhonesToo. #AfricansAreOnInstagramToo #TooTooToo #JustLikeYou.
In fact, jot down our numbers and call us sometime. We will answer you heartily- In English, of course- crisply doused in a lighter accent than usual- so that you will see just how well-spoken we are. We are waiting- do you see us?
#AfricansDontLiveInHuts. At least not those of us who matter. We live in big, fenced houses. We have two beefy dogs trained to kill named Lion and Panther- even though we have never seen these animals before. We have said this time and time again- #AfricaIsNotABigSafari. But have you heard us? We sit on our cushioned sofas watching the news.
We have two Cartoon Network watching daughters with neatly plaited hair who go to rich schools and speak in your accents (a feat that we are proud of). They wrestle playfully on the soft sitting-room carpet as we look blankly at your news reports of us. Anger bubbles within as we see your depiction of us.
In your news report, there are street vendors hawking on potholed roads. One of your countrymen stands there, amidst the frenzy of market buzz, squinting in the sun as he interviews a sweating man. This vendor, as he stands in his half-buttoned shirt, a cardboard box of ripe mangoes in one hand, thankfully responds In English- that is something. Even though it is clearly much-too accented to be deciphered without your conveniently placed subtitles. Even though street children with holes in their shorts and grown men with hairs that need cutting stand behind and wave primitively. What a shame- that it is men like these that you will come and speak to when men like us are here, our Englishes flawless, our shiny cars waiting to drive to our air-conditioned offices where you can interview us. Without the need to squint. Without the smell of ripened mangoes lingering in your face as you do.
Angered, we change the channel. We switch to another, where another ‘African’ tribe is under examination for the strange ways in which they live. Our anger is fueled. Do you not see that we are not all like them? That our women are not bare-breasted, with babies hanging stubbornly from their nipples? That our closets are lined with polished shoes and at the very least with sandals? So that our feet are neither as rough, nor our heels nearly as cracked as those of these beasts you show on television. Do you not see that we do not speak in clicks like men raised in the bush? Do you not see that we are civilized? That we read glossy magazines and keep up with the trends? Do you not see that our daughters, in their Hello Kitty pajamas are Just Like Yours, and will one day have a Sweet Sixteen? Do you not see that on Saturdays, they climb on chairs with their mother and learn to bake apple pies out of books with your smiling women on their covers?
Clearly you do not. So once more, we change the channel. This time, we are satisfied. A dark-skinned beauty with a large halo of kinky hair stands in her tailored print-dress as she accepts an award of great prestige from your lands. She speaks with an air that commands your attention. Your people applaud, and we shed a tear. There are no cracks in her heels. Her arms are toned, but only from lifting in the gym- not from lifting buckets of water pumped up from a poorly maintained government installed bore-hole onto her head every morning. We settle into our sofa and we call our house help.
“Coffee,” we say. “And one of those pastries we brought home from work today.” We look on to this woman as she smiles her white smile and speaks in her perfect English. Do you see us now? Does the long train of her gown draw in your attention? Do the images of the rest of them- those sweaty mango sellers, those with their clicking tongues, those who ride each morning in creaky minibuses and let their little pajamaless girls play in the dirt all day- fade away? Do they fade behind her manicured nails? Do they fade into her accolades? Do they fade into the depths of the applause as it resonates in the large auditorium as she walks off the stage?
Do you see us now? We, a handful on this continent, but those who truly matter, and those who embody the only image that is fit to represent dignity.
My bae forever and ever. Please check out and follow her blog. She is a sturdy well of wisdom and awesomeness.
Originally posted on S a n c t i f i e d:
Anyway, here are four things Ilearntfrom my not-so-little episode (which I shared yesterday)especiallyafter God clearly told me to shut my little trashy mouth because He is God. And I am just Alheri.
God > Alheri. Forever has been. Is. Forever will be.
Grace is NEVER earned– Godalreadyloves us to infinity- nothing can make Him love us more or less than He already does. Infinity no upper or lower boundaries, it is the be all and end of all. Similarly, we cannot earn the grace of God by what we do (or do not do). When we pray for people, or do good things for them, we are not torely on them for appreciation. We cannot wait upon peoplefor our motivation. We do things because God says we should, and notto win the admiration or praise of others. We cannot earn the respect of others by what we…
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Perhaps The Present has been rendered a beggar, a pauper in rags with arms upstretched in desperate hunger. Your pockets are heavy with three manners of currencies- Time, Gratitude and the most valuable of all, Attention. But ever-too-often, when you dip your hands in, as The Present sits waiting, a glimmer of hope in her eyes, your charity is misdirected. You would rather keep your coins for one more deserving, you say. Alas! If only you knew, the beggar you wait for is growing inside her. If only you knew, that the seed of life planted in The Present rendered her expectant. If only you knew that by feeding her, you feed the one that you await.
Too often, we toss her withered body to the dogs when we fail to stop and feed her.
She is pregnant with meaning, with dreams, promises and desires- with The Future. And The Future will only grow if we gift her Time, Gratitude and Attention. Her offspring is annulled when these three- reserved for what is to come- are withheld.
For she, too, was once a babe, growing malnourishedly in her gone mother, Past. And when Past birthed her, she died to become a bitter memory. And when she was birthed, her infancy was agony.
So feed her.
Gift her the Attention, for with it, the cravings that the Future she holds brings can be purchased.
Gift her the Time, for with it, her weakened bones are strengthened, and there is life in her again.
Gift her with Gratitude, and direct this to her maker, for only He knows where this is to be invested.
Let Trust, Faith, and Hope be the only things you kept tucked in your pocket- for they are the only things that The Future needs that you can give.
First, a simple acknowledgement;
That to romanticize the idea of following one’s heart is folly.
(A dose of awareness is called for.)
And now, a handful of realizations;
That to put a lid on those dreams and ignore them altogether is agony.
(And agony burns.
It wakes one up at the oddest of hours.)
That to deem, in the name of practicality, dreams that could one day leave important dents in the world a waste of time is tragedy.
That to call The Dreamers fools, and The Dreams unsound is spiteful.
That to fear, for the fear of the fears of the masses about your fearless longings calls loudly for courage.
And Courage is easy. And Courage is tough.
And Courage is seeing those fears but imagining alternate realities.
And Courage is insanity.
And Courage does not have to rub the status quo the right way.
And Courage shifts, and Courage shapes, in ways that Normal doesn’t.
And many times, Courage is the companion of One’s Own Truth. The divinely deposited.
And Truth is Liberating, truly.
Decide to undecide the things decided in the midst of fear.
Decide to mount on the wings of Courage and soar into the heights of your dreams- to hoist the sails of Courage and sail into the albeit turbulent waters of your calling(s) [Because Discovery]
Undecide The Usual
Feeling the need to pray, I got down on my knees and I asked God to reawaken. The parts of me that once booming with life, fell into a comfortable slumber. I prayed that He ignite my heart once more. I told him of the constant distraction on my mind. That looming thing that I cannot name that stands in the way of my focus on Him. That competes for His attention. That would rather escort my mind to any place other than thoughts of Him.
My prayers weren’t loud. No sweat was sweated. Tears were shed, but only a couple of warm ones that glided down my cheek and were gone as fast as they came. I didn’t concern myself with memorized exaltation. There were no IWorshipYous, or ThankYouForYourFaithfulnesses, ThankYouForWhoYouAres, ThankYouForYourLoves, PleaseForgiveMeForMySinses…
My prayer was rather unprofessional- on hunger. My prayer was on need. Conveyed simply with everyday vocabulary. My prayer reminded me of His promise to draw closer to me when I draw close to Him. It was the whisper of an ache to thrive and truly live. For the abundant life that he promised, and for which I long.
I am aware, anew, that living without living in Him, is not living at all. A thought came to me. To stop holding my dreams and desires tightly in my clenched fist, hidden behind me as I step into God’s light. As if to keep them away from Him. As if he is the snatcher and shreader and burner of dreams (and as if these are tasks he executes while he laughs fiendishly). As if those dreams aren’t more precious to Him than they are to me. As if they aren’t His.
To be engulfed in His love, renewed by his presence, strengthened by His joy and in tune with His Spirit- THIS is Living.
I have had to sit myself down many times and realize that I don’t need to break a sweat to convince God that I am worthy of His love.
To stop trying to earn, or buy, or deserve God’s Love. To understand that His love is not to be purchased. His love is not dished out when I do good works. His Love is not a matter of what I do or don’t do. His love is not rationed. His Love is deep, and it is wide, and it is true, and steadfast, stretching to the highest of heights and going even to the ends of the ages.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Grace does not oppose effort, but it does oppose earning.” His Grace is not to be earned. So receive it, douse yourself in His love. Accept it and live life abundantly in it.
Understand His Grace. Understand that in its very nature, Grace is weird and unfair and crazy and illogical. Understand that it is a vastness into which you can plunge with all your fears, and doubts and questions and confusions and inadequacies. Understand that it’s an expanse where you can fall freely, where none of these have to be hidden. Understand that Grace is that place where you can fall and know that you will ALWAYS be caught in His love.
So stop fearing. Stop thinking God’s allergic to you, and all the complexities that come with you. Stop thinking that God does not occupy all the places your mind wanders off to. Stop seeing God as one who will take your life away, and dull your living.
Stop thinking there are prerequisites to His Love. Stop defining God through the eyes of men, and seek to see Him with your own eyes. What a tragedy to never know His beauty because someone else’s understanding of Him got in the way.
If you are weary, know that He loves weakness- his strength is perfected in it.
If you are at the end of your wits, know that when he’s trying to be a fool, he is wiser than man’s greatest wisdom.
So stop trying to do God’s job for Him.
Stop trying to clean things up that he took care of already.
Stop trying to be worthy of His acceptance.
Stop feeling guilty.
If you are like me, and have grown up hard in that church game, something happens to you. Something happens when you’ve grown up hearing bible stories. When you’ve grown up going to church every Sunday. When you’ve grown up singing Jesus Songs and reading Jesus Books and going to Jesus Camps. The stories lose their wonder. The books lose their depth. The Camps lose their meaning. It becomes routine, and it becomes religion. And it breeds questions. Questions that you fear asking, because “God knows,” and “operates in mysterious ways”. Because you’re busy having it figured out.
You start to wonder how much of this truth you claim to have is really yours- how much of it you own. You start to wonder if yours is true salvation, or if it’s a loosely-fitting hand-me-down faith that you have on. You start to wonder why some of the worst people you know are Christians, and how some of the most love-joy-peace-patience-kindness-goodness-faithfulness-gentleness-and-self-control embodying people do not know Jesus. You start to wonder why there are so many politics in the church, why praise team members can’t wear pants, why church mothers cringe when they hear that a seventeen year old has a boyfriend. You start to wonder why Jesus, in many, looks so unattractive.
You start to wonder. And wander.
You start to wonder, and on some days your wonderings are bottled up and kept simmering- bothering you as you sit in church, struggling to listen to the sermon. Other times, you loosen the cap and they float out aimlessly, levitating in the expanse of confusion and fear.
You wander, and your wanderings take you places where there is comfort. Where you are okay with just being. Where maybe it’s okay not to pray for a little while. Where maybe you feel a lot imperfect, and not so on top of your game as you used to. You wander because frankly, the things inside of you right now have become a little messy, and it’s a mess God can’t live with, but you can deal with, so maybe it’s best to be apart.
There is a story Jesus told. A father and his son. A son who didn’t feel he wanted to be with the father any more. A son who upped and left, taking all his treasures, to live his life, free of his father’s rules, free of his father’s work, free, free, free. A son who later returned, broken, and in need of his father. A weary son at a distance. Broken, and coming home. His father saw him far at a distance and he ran to his son. Threw him a humongous party and everything. As if he had never left. As if he had never upped and left to live his life, free, free, free. As if there was no mess in his heart that was just a bit much for The Father. As if it wasn’t best that they were apart.
I’ve gone through my little droughts. My spells of questions. But one thing I have learnt is this, “What good are questions if they ask for no answers?”
I’ve seen this Jesus that multitudes claim in a very few, but in the few that I’ve seen, His light has shone so bright and lovingly that it leaves me convinced that yes, this is the path for me. And yes, I want to know him for me. That yes, my walk may look different than most. That yes, some rules may be broken. And yes, I, too, am accepted by the God that I worship. So hello brokenness. Hello surrender. Hello questions, walk in and have a seat, and have long back-and-forths with Jesus.
I haven’t blogged about Jesus in a while. My walk with Him has taken some very interesting turns. The bottom line, however, is that more than ever, I am cognizant of how held I am. I cannot come away from this truth that I believe in. I feel so held. As if no matter how far my heart or mind may wander, there in God’s arms, I remain, held, held, held. As if God has me tightly clenched in His fist. To be quite frank, considering the weird aliveness I feel when I am in God, its the perfect place to be stuck.
This is one of my all-time favourite songs;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
I’ve never been a great follower of tradition. When I am to bow, I stand up tall. When I am to avert my eyes, that is when they flick from side to side, taking the view in inch by inch, giving me away. When I am to keep my voice low, it rings loudly.
When I am to like, I love with a fire in my soul. When I am to sob, wails scratch their ways out of the back of my throat. When I am to sway, I dance with a madness that would leave you concerned.
If I were to follow tradition, my soul would sit quietly and abide by the rules. My life would flow slowly in the channels carved out by tamed forces. My tears would stay closed in, welling and welling, but never drawn out. I would be the breath never breathed out. The sky never flown in. The ocean that stretched on and on- perfectly still and unmoving.
So that no ships would sail.
There was a woman behind me on my trip to New York city who does not know what Netflix is. I had no idea that she was there, sitting behind me, looking at another lady in a seat across the aisle from me. The lady across from me was hispanic, 30 , maybe, with her jet-black hair tied tightly in a bun at the top of her head. She sat up straightly, I remember, because I saw her and thought how I should, too. She held an iPad with a cracked screen in her hand, and she was watching something on Netflix. We had only one common thing, this lady and I- the fact that we were unaware that the lady behind me was watching her with a curiosity.
As we neared New York city, as trees became buildings, and wooden structures morphed into high concrete and glass that sought to kiss the sky, the lady across the aisle received a phonecall. Hastily, she clicked on the cracked screen of her ipad several times, until the picture froze- a woman running out of a building calling out to someone. She answered the phone.
She had left her baby in Springfield with her family, she said into the phone.
She couldn’t take him to work with her as she cleaned hotel rooms, she said into the phone.
She had a new job and this time she was bent on keeping it, she said into the phone.
Her family agreed to keep him until she could secure childcare, she said into the phone.
Then, Netflix resumed, but only for a few minutes. Her phone rang again.
How are you, baby, she asked into the phone.
You having fun? she asked into the phone.
Spanish into the phone.
I will see you soon, baby, she said into the phone.
More Spanish into the phone.
Okay, baby, let me talk to Grandpa.
Spanish into the phone.
Back to Netflix, but before she could press play again, an “Excuse me” from the woman behind me (the sort of an “Excuse me” which said “I have been waiting to talk to you between your calls and Netflix.”)
“What are you watching?”
It’s a movie called (I can’t remember), she said.
“Oh, I like those actors.”
A mildly disinterested but still polite chuckle and a Yes.
“What is that device you are watching on?”
It is called an iPad…
On went the conversation, with the mother of a son she was hustling for educating the eavesdropper on the ins and outs of Netflix and iPads.
There I was, mildly amused at the thought that most back home would not believe that an American did not know what an iPad was. Hede!
While I am on this, I have remembered. Tchuzi kaye. There were some teenage missionaries that visited my friend’s church some years ago. One of them, Ivan, a freckle-faced boy with piercing green eyes, mentioned Reese’s Candies. Puzzled, we inquired about them. What sort of candies were they?
“Oh my God, you don’t know what Reese’s Candies are?!”
No, Ivan, we do not. I wonder what Ivan would say if I had not known what an iPad or Netflix, were and asked him. Anyway, tchuzi over.
I won’t lie, it’s silly, but I internally chuckled when the lady explained about these things. I chuckled and thought, my cousin Nelia in Suntche village does not even know what an iPad is. And I know that upon learning the fact, what, with her Africanness and all, the matter would inspire a pity-tinged tone by any such Netflix/iPad educator. As if life is somehow bleak without such technological advances. Because obviously, on account of her Africanness, it would be owing to the fact that she is so ignorant.
On went the conversations and I laughed to myself. At how our not-knowing some things as Africans serves to reinforce our plight. Confirms our lowliness. But tell me, since when was not-knowing synonymous with ignorance? Not knowing iPads on my side of the world is a tragedy, my friends. Take a moment to pity the not-knower. Not knowing an iPad as an American is simply an opportunity to be explained-to.
Chonde, don’t hesitate to speak up if I am reading too much into this.
“I should buy The Netflix for my television.”
Yes, she said, with a tinge of suppressed laughter. Me I was laughing, yo. “The Netflix.” “Buy.”
Can I just say, my darlings, that I Cannot, Even?
Can I also say, like my cousin wrongly would, Palm To Face?
The bus was arriving a the station at this point, and the journey was coming to a close. I was anticipating meetings ahead of me with certain people, and my mind ran away to thoughts of them before I could eavesdrop more. But now I am reminded of it. It’s funny.
I just thought I would share that.
Gilmore Girls (on “The Netflix” awaits).