Today I cried. I am not a crying man. But I suspect we were flying over Botswana en route from Accra, when my heart just broke and tears flowed down my eyes. Retching uncontrollably, I am surprised no one noticed. But then the cabin was dark, so I guess I could hide.It was a bitter cry like that of a man who lost a loved one.
Except I was crying for my continent. I really did not understand how it is possible that in the 21st century, With all the information we have at our disposal that there’s still so much strife on my continent. I didn’t understand how can we as leaders in Africa still act like we are incapable of thinking when there are so many of us with capacity to make a difference if only we try. I get it. I really do. Our history, the trauma, the programme, I get all that. I’m an educated man. But I still don’t get it.
The immediate trigger for this deluge was a scene with Lupita Ny’ongo and Madina Nalwanga, where the latter plays her daughter in the movie Queen of Katwe , sees her daughter after weeks of thinking she may have lost her to progress, lost her to shame. As they meet and her only words are: “you are my daughter?” Not as a question. But also not a statement. In the way that an African woman would say it. Joy and relief without words. The level of truth in the build up to that scene I suppose was too much already for my hardened heart.
But it wasn’t the scene that was making me cry. It was the constant analysis and interrogation of seeing the perfect portrayal of modern day Uganda and the reality of this family, the brainwashing , the unfairness of the situation of those that get born on this continent. Many young people, mothers, daughters who have to wake up in the mud because of “poverty”! Oh how I detest that word! I despise that word and have all but banished it from my vocabulary except for moments like this when I want to denounce it and insult it and spit it out of my mouth.
The men walking the streets of Accra, Mbezi , Khayelitsha and Maraquene. They are not useless. They wake up every morning to try something. They sell at the robots, and open scrapyard or join an Uber program with a car with a faulty clutch, driving some annoyed Oga to the airport.
I was infuriated and inspired at the same time. My emotions on a roller coaster. Because I realize that every difficulty is a build up to one’s greatness. But I don’t understand. I don’t understand why when we have elected leaders into positions to negotiate and plan and organize on our behalf, that we still have people having to start at this base of wretchedness. Of course I focus on the elected leaders I suppose because they are an easy target. They are our exercise in abdication. Perhaps our little act at the ballot box is not enough. I know many that read this are probably doing their bit. God knows I TRY every day. And maybe that’s why I don’t understand. Why is it not getting better? Why is there still such strife?
I guess I will have to keep looking a little longer at how this situation changes. I guess I will have to keep doing and improving on the little bit that I do. But after those bitter tears in the sky perhaps my soul needed cleansing. Perhaps it was an invitation to share how I feel about this continent that I love so much. Perhaps it was an invitation to challenge us…you reading this to do a little bit more than you are already doing to create a new baseline for African people. To create a new reality for African youth. Such that as beautiful and amazing and compelling as this work of art on the screen is, that one day a few more years from now it should not be a portrait of our reality. It should instead be a museum piece, the essence of our history and a celebration of how far we have come.
On a lighter note, I encourage you to watch this movie Queen of Katwe. It is based on a real story with an all African cast. It is totally inspiring, well-acted and authentically told. Better still get the DVD and keep it to watch it as a reminder of the work we are called to do all of us. To put Africa in the center of the world where it’s meant to be.