FOR THE LOVE OF ‘BLACK’

A friend of mine was once asked, “If you had to add one more face to Mount Rushmore, whose would it be?”

For those of us still struggling to catch up, you might have seen the 2003 comedy, ‘Head of State’ starring Chris Rock. Nearing the end of the movie after Mays (Chris) had won the presidency, there was a shot of his face hewn into a massive stone structure beside the equally sculpted faces of four former American presidents. That is Mount Rushmore (picture below) – without Chris Rock of course. It is a historic structure in America forever remembering the feats of four great past American leaders – George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).

Mount Richmore

So my friend thought for only a second before saying that the one face he would have added to Mount Rushmore is that of Nelson Mandela.

I completely agree with him. Nelson Mandela preached forgiveness, resilience and freedom to South Africans at a time when the ideals sounded hollow to them. And with love, determination and immense sacrifice, he showed his people how. As I read Timi‘s piece below, I wondered what emotions would be going through Mandela’s mind if he were alive now to witness the waves of xenophobic hostilities sweeping across his beloved South Africa.

I wondered and I came to a conclusion – shame.

FOR THE LOVE OF ‘BLACK’ – by Timilehin Osunde

Xenophobia

Okay, this is coming some days behind. But it has got me thinking for days on end, this South African issue of hostility and violence towards black foreigners – XENOPHOBIA, they call it.

This one video just leaves my stomach unsettled. You are walking home after a hard day’s work in a foreign country; someone walks up to you and hits you in the face without any prior altercation or exchange of words. That leaves you dazed for some minutes sitting on the hot tarred road with vehicles whizzing past. You’re still in confusion when another brings a building block meant for construction and hurls it at you and you hit the ground in shock, in pain. Then a young man still wearing his school uniform decides that your lying on the ground looks good for a trampoline practice and chooses to use you for his sport.

A man, a human being suffered this fate. One can only imagine what would have been racing through the mind of such a poor soul. He probably just ended a call to his wife back home in his country or even a sick parent back in his village. He probably just promised to send them a little out of what he struggles to earn in harsh, uncertain conditions.

I didn’t want to join the list of people who have had to remind South Africa of their dark times and how other African nations lent a helping hand. While these sibling African nations could have looked the other way, they did not because they identified with the South Africans on many levels of value. The first of these levels is the colour of the skin which I right now so want to believe goes beyond the surface covering.

There are a whole lot of others on this values’ list which we cherish as a people, a continent, and a ‘race’. Yet, for whatever reason, South Africa has subtly over time chosen to act the odd one out (personal observation) since the apartheid era ended. This nation has in so many tiny but significant ways sent subtle signals that they do NOT want other Africans. They could have voiced this stance a long time ago, and it would have made life easier for the many ‘foreign’ Africans who have continued pushing across their borders.

I know some Nigerians who have had the ‘poor luck’ of visiting South Africa and have not had anything good to say about the reception they get. Maybe this goes for some other African countries as well save a few but again, maybe this issue reaches far deeper than what is happening right now; maybe it is more of an African disease than a South African flaw. Maybe our leaders need to start working on the value system of each nation on this beautiful continent, maybe our ideologies are flawed in Africa, maybe that student in the school uniform on his way home needs to understand the value of life, be it that of an insect or a human.

Maybe the so many unions across the continent with the apex African Union need to re-strategize on workable, possible ways to avert future occurrences of such hostility in the many states that make up Africa. Some of the objectives of these unions have been written to include; achieving greater unity and solidarity between the member countries and its citizens, defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of member states, to accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the members amongst a whole lot of others. Maybe these objectives need to be effected before the whole issue spirals down the drain into a messy mass.

So many maybes…

Now it’s the turn of Nigerians to hold a rally on this xenophobia matter somewhere on the Island in Lagos soon and that leaves one with the question what next after that.

I would like to put a hold on my thoughts at this point to avoid going round in an unending cycle of heartbreak. As humans living in Africa, when we choose to leave our home country to either visit or do business in another African country, all we ask for is security and a sense of belonging. It really is as simple as that.

God bless Africa!

Timilehin is a journalist, a communications and social media expert with the Weed Science Centre at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

LETTER TO MY NEXT

A major beauty of the blogging world is the ease with which we writers can connect, in the blogosphere. I very recently made the acquaintance of one fellow blogger, a lovely young woman by name of Titilola – I try ever so hard not to call her ‘Tits’. 🙂 Titi passed on to me the blog address of yet another blogger, Tolu, whose posts hit real close to home for me.

Reading through Tolu’s work, all I could think was “I could have written this”. It wasn’t just about his words, stories or anything in particular, it was just a feeling about most of his posts, an intense feeling that ‘my pen could have done this’. I have posted my favorite of them all, which also happens to be his last post, below.

Check it out; maybe you will see what I mean for yourself…


 

LETTER TO MY NEXT

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Dear (Insert Name Here),
I hope this missive meets you in good health. I’m sure you’re already making some conclusions about me just by reading this but let me assure you; I am not a geek, neither am I a weirdo nor am I jobless. I am just a guy who has been let down so many times that I’ve lost count. I know you don’t quite know me yet, we probably have only mentioned each other a few times on Twitter and liked each other’s pictures on Instagram but I know you and I know we’ll be the best of friends in a little while.
I see us having a pretty amazing relationship, but before that can happen I’d like to give you a few pointers as to the kind of person I am so you don’t misinterpret my gestures.

First, I am unashamedly sapiosexual. The fact that you’re reading this is proof that I’m attracted to you not only because you’re beautiful but because you’re intelligent. I love ladies that challenge me and I’m very sure you’ll be worth the chase. Let me say however that so long as we’re together, my ‘Sapiosexuality’ is turned off. Nevertheless don’t take the fact that I love challenges too serious because as much as I love challenges, I hate trying too hard. I can be very persistent with ladies but when I don’t see changes or ‘Green lights’ as I like to call them, I move on.

Second,

I am a romantic. A young boy with an old school attitude. Yes I exude the ‘cool guy, playboy, all chicks man’ aura but trust me I just want to love and be loved back for who I am. Beneath the tough exterior is a little boy begging to be loved, I hope we last long enough for you to see this side of me. I am the ‘Good Morning, Good Night’ text messages kind of guy, (Yes I’m old fashioned) but I know you can handle that because if you couldn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this. I love surprises even though I act like I loathe them with a passion, I am a spur of the moment, spontaneous, ‘ life is too short’ guy so pardon me if at times I spend lavishly albeit foolishly on you. I won’t try to woo you with money or material things whatsoever so if you’re expecting such, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’ve learnt the hard way that a guy shouldn’t be too forthcoming about his financial status to a lady who isn’t in love with him or has agreed to date him. It is bound to be a problem in the nearest future.

Third, I love my Mum to death. I don’t think this needs further explanation. I just love that woman with a passion that is unparalleled. You cannot and must not compete for her affection with me. I promise to love you with the whole of my being but please do NOT try to compete with my Mum, you will FAIL.

In conclusion, I want you to know that this is not a love letter, you’ll get that when the time comes. It is just my way of ‘putting it all out there’. There are a lot of things I feel you should be prepared for when it comes to being my girlfriend but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Just know that I am definitely, irrevocably, helplessly attracted to you.

P.S: Another important thing is that I love writing. After God, my Mum (Family), Food and Music, writing comes next. You’ll be receiving a lot of messages, emails, DM’s from me. I just love putting how I feel into words. This is probably the Tenth or Eleventh missive I’ve written since our first interaction ever. I hope I don’t come on to you too strong that you’ll be scared and decide to place me in one of the many zones you ladies have for guys nowadays. I don’t really function well in any zone except the ‘Friends with Benefits’ zone. So let’s leave our options opened for now, and enjoy each other’s company till we get to the next stage. Have a beautiful week ahead.

Without wax,
Tolu Oke.


 

This was his LAST post, I wrote, not latest. Tolu was a serving youth corps member when he died in a car crash on the 17th of July around Ibadan, a mere 30-min drive from where I had served myself. You can read more of his posts at http://www.toluoke.wordpress.com.

“It is not how long we live that matters; it is how well”

Rest in Peace, brother.

 

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

Brothers and Facebook

You have been ignoring it, refusing to believe it. Ever since your dad called from Lagos two days back with the news that Ekwe had gone missing, you have refused to admit that you are indeed worried. It was a morning call; dad always called in the morning these days – not so early that you are deeply asleep but early enough that you still feel the strain of your erection against your drawers. When you took the call, you – as had come to be the tradition – connected your earpiece to it, stuck the foamy bits in your ears and dropped the phone beside your head. With your eyes still shut and your hand loving the rough hairs on your chest in a habitual dance of dawn, you prepared to listen to the litany of the latest wrongs your brother had done.

Only he hadn’t stopped at wrongs this time, he had run off. You started to pay attention at that point, your eyes opened and your hand on your chest froze. Your dad recounted the events of the day before and ended by repeating it. Ekwe had not spent the night at home and nobody had seen or heard from him since then. What about his phone? Dad had taken it just before he skipped out.

You remember how unworried your father had been; little brother had slowly evolved into a mean thorn in the flesh. He sinned against all the dogma of the quintessential Christian family mum and dad had built and never seemed to even want to change. And oh, he wasn’t so little anymore. He was 18. He was not worried, your father had reiterated, he was sure Ekwe would resurface once the money he left with got exhausted. You agreed with dad, the gruff in your voice deepened with sleep and a ‘manly’ fearlessness you intentionally inserted.

It has been five days now. And in those five days, you have called your distant step-cousins who he had developed an affinity for from the last trip to the village. The boys were just Ekwe’s type – showy braggarts with no depth and plenty of blingz. So they had clicked. They listened mute while you bumbled through several awkward attempts at camaraderie and conversation. In tones as flat as your attempts had fallen, they zipped you off – no, they did not know. You have also called his friend from secondary school, the one who swore his new girlfriend had made him see the light. He had taken to it alone though, Ekwe’s eyes were apparently too sensitive for the ‘Christian’ light. He too did not know where Ekwe was.

You want to call some more but it dawns on you – not for the first time – that you hardly know any of his recent friends. Since you left home for the university three years ago, the brotherly bond had grown thinner and thinner. And as you moved from semester to semester, the realities of life had loomed larger and larger before you. And you had bothered less and less about Ekwe and his aruruana, as Ego calls it. Ego is your older sister; she’s married with three kids. There’s just the three of you and she believes, like your dad, that your brother is best left on his own to realize the folly of his actions from their bitter results.

And every time you chat with her on BBM, you concur. You sound all ‘manly’ and unconcerned, you say “he is a fully grown man, he can cater for himself”. But when you put down the phone, you are not so sure. You remember all those times as a kid when Ekwe would do something silly and you would – after beating him, also silly – flirt with the idea in your mind of him dying and leaving you an only son; a motherless only son.

On those occasions, you imagined he got run down by a car in the streets or a bare electric wire fell on the bike bringing him home from school. You imagined you would run out to the streets when you got the news, and you would stare at his lifeless, (mangled or fried) body for a few moments. Then you would blink twice so that one tear – and one alone – would fall off, after which you would turn around and walk home. Very like a man. Then when he was to be buried, you imagined yourself walking up slowly but steadily to his grave, a spade in your hand loaded with moist red earth. This time you wouldn’t cry, only sigh very deeply and loud enough for the people nearby to hear, before dumping the dirt on his wooden casket and walking away. Also like a man.

The memories come back to haunt you as you sit at your computer looking through Ekwe’s facebook profile. One part of you is glad your mum died all those years ago, it would break her heart the things Ekwe is…was doing. The other part of you wishes she were here so you could lay your head on her lap and confess to her that you do not want to be an only son. You do not want your brother dead. And there is nothing manly about the tears you shed every night when you lay in your bunk bed.

A friend buzzes you on BBM and you remember the friend lives in Lagos. Before you can stop yourself, you ask him if he has seen your brother, that he is missing. Your friend says no, he doesn’t even know what your brother looks like. So he can see what Ekwe looks like, you type in Ekwe’s facebook name and stop yourself just before you hit send. You stopped because you remembered that Ekwe’s pictures on facebook make you feel ashamed. He has semi-nudes with ladies of mostly advanced ages in different compromising situations, and he has pictures displaying the dragon tattoo on his biceps and some with captions like ‘Smoke weed today…save a life’.  They are not pictures you want any of your friends to see, they all know you are a solid Christian brother.

You tell your friend that you will send him pictures. When you check, you realize that you have no pictures of Ekwe on your phone. As you browse through his facebook albums for any pictures that will not shame you, your breath comes slow and heavy. And an ache builds in your chest, blurring your vision of the laptop screen. You have never done drugs but you’re fairly certain this is how it would feel if you had barbiturates flowing in your veins.

You find some okay pictures and you send them off to your friend. Then you pack up and lay down on your slim hostel mattress. You turn one way, then the other, and back the one way. Right on time, the tears burn through your corneas, sear your lids and slide out the corners of your eyes. You sigh a heavy sigh; it will be another very long night.