Afro Trotter Diaries

AfricanFeminism (AF)

Afro Trotter

Curiousity.
To quell insatiable thirsts
To Explore. Discover. Grow.
Put things in perspective.
Connect.
To respect the wanderlust women screaming within…

Some of the reasons we trot. Sometimes exploring the cities in which we live, other times our neighboring countries and other times going far far away.

Trevor Noah said it best when he said you’ll never regret the money you spend on travel. Of all the money I’ve spent on numerous things in life, the one I never think twice about are the travels. From each of my trots, I’ve emerged richer, taking a part of that place with me, filled with memories and sights that can’t be measured or quantified in monetary terms.

As a woman, travel often takes on different meanings and challenges. I’ve done a number of solo travels and the primary concern from family members and friends is often around security. Why, they wonder, would…

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We’ve moved – to aliben86.com!

Jumah WisdomMusingsImages for PromotingFotosFloetryAboutThank you to all of you who’ve been following posts on this blog.

The blog has now been subsumed into a fully fledged website – that also houses photos, floetry, musings and more as you can get a feel from the above. Please head over to aliben86.com where we’ll be posting from now on.

I hope we can continue to engage and share there.

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Remembering Deedat

“There is no end to what a [wo]man can achieve if [s]he does not mind who gets the credit.”

Growing up, Ahmed Deedat was a staple in the house. We used to have beta max cassette after cassette (do you remember those, they were smaller than the VHS tapes) of his talks, his debates and discussions with theologians and pastors across the globe. His fiery oratory skills kept us mesmerized – even at a young age. Although I didn’t realize it then, I know now that it was because of him that I appreciate Islam as a religion of reason. Why I have no patience for those who say there’s no room to question in Islam – those who preach rote memorization and not a critical engagement and understanding of the Quran, Hadith and all that come with it. Why I understand Islam to be a religion that requires of it’s followers to seek knowledge constantly, to dig deeper and value rigorous and respectful intellectual conversations and discussions. Why I came to appreciate the power of words and the power of articulation and eloquence. Why I wasn’t afraid to debate religion with my teachers in a missionary school where I was the only Muslim in my class for 10 consecutive years. He also taught me to appreciate that to be a scholar or a theologian didn’t mean one couldn’t have a sense of humor. He was witty and generous with his smiles and emotions.

Ahmed Deedat passed away in 2005 at the age of 87 after battling a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to speak, nine years prior in 1996. His life story is incredible – here are a few lessons I glean:

1. A man known for his incredible oratory skills is left in his final years, unable to speak. subhan’Allah. Nothing is forever.

2. The doctors tell him he won’t live after the stroke and yet he lives for nine more years before taking his final breath. There’s no time like God’s time.

3. The unsung (s)heroes. His wife, Hawa Deedat, who stayed by his side and believed in him more than he himself did was essential to him being able to carry out the work he did.

4. Despite a stroke that left him unable to speak, swallow or show expression, he continued to study and engage on these topics until he died. This was how dedicated he was to intellectual pursuits.

5. He is by any standards, undoubtedly an intellectual and a scholar and yet his formal education didn’t go past the age of 16. To be learned doesn’t mean to be schooled.

Sometimes we don’t realize the profound effect someone has in our lives until they’re gone and only with the benefit of hindsight.

May we always question. May we always seek answers and may we never stop learning and growing.

Rest in peace and power Ahmed Deedat.

Words you don’t speak

I can hear the words you don’t speak

Remember there’s a strength that runs through your veins, many generations strong

Conversations with myself
In ten minute increments
Drifts interrupted by incessant
Rings of alarm
Questions asked
In one quadrant
Before falling asleep
Responses made in another
When forced awake

Don’t promise you won’t change
You’re not likely to stay the same

X

On February 21, 1965 this beautiful man was shot down in a ballroom. 53 years later, we still feel the ripples of his words and actions.

Malcolm was an orator, an organizer, a man of the masses. He was a self made intellectual, schooled on the streets and stayed on the streets to lead and inspire others to believe in themselves, instill some pride and self-respect.

He was a man who wasn’t stuck. He wasn’t stuck in his own time, or in his own ideology or in his own beliefs or ways of thinking. He was willing, not only to confront and challenge others – but also himself (particularly previous versions of himself).

His legacy will forever live on.

In the words of Ossie Davis:
”It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us – unconquered still. I say the word again, as he would want me to : Afro-American – Afro-American Malcolm, who was a master, was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a ‘Negro’ years ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that.

…Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves.

…Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man – but a seed – which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him then for what he was and is – a Prince – our own black shining Prince! – who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”

If you haven’t read his biography, and if there’s one book that you must read this week, this month, this year – let it be that one. Here are some excerpts:
https://aliben86.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/excerpts-from-the-autobiography-of-malcolm-x/

And some excerpts from the Spike Lee documentary played by Denzel:
https://aliben86.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/excerpts-from-malcolm-x-the-movie/

Rest in power, peace and paradise X.

You’re forever loved.

17 Books to Devour

In no particular order, some books that have left me feeling inspired, hurt, moved, blessed to be able to read and left in me an insatiable thirst to keep devouring and consuming. Much gratitude to the authors who wove together such beautiful stories.

1. Dust, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
A bit of a difficult but worthwhile read. Set in Kenya – telling of the politics of greed, but also of love, kinship and the search for truth, no matter how painful it is…

2. A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines
A very painful but powerful read. Set in the US in the 60’s.

A black man in the South of the (not-so-united) States of America finds himself in the middle of a shootout in a store that leaves one white man (store owner) and two black men dead. His own defense describes him as a ‘hog’ to the jury who sentence him to death by execution. The story is of another black man, an ‘educated’ black man, a teacher – who is tasked with turning the convicted into a ‘man’.

A book about deeply rooted injustices, but also about seeking and reclaiming dignity, love, resistance and triumph.

Read here for excerpts of the book which stood out to me.

3. Homegoing
I’ve never read a book where each chapter (all 20 of them) introduces a new character and a new generation. Spanning a number of generations and traversing two continents, the author manages to tell an incredible and very personal tale of slavery and what is passed down from generation to generation – both figurative and literal.

4. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
My best friend and soul sister wouldn’t stop raving about this particular book. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it and confess it wasn’t an easy read but it still makes this list because it’s written in such a unique way and has an intriguing storyline.

5. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

This was a truly beautiful, funny and poignant read. I read this on my phone through the kindle app and would read late into the night snuggled into bed – soliciting laughter at all hours and making family members wonder if I had gone loco.

Just as he is on stage, Trevor’s wit, street smarts, intellect and insight came out in his storytelling. You will have so much respect for him and his phenomenal momma after reading his story and his life journey. He’s talented on many fronts – my only complaint would be that it seems to target an American audience. Trevor, you know there are countless of us here on the continent who still consume your content voraciously. Don’t forget us. Otherwise, I’m already looking forward to re-reading it!

6. Blood Brothers

A fascinating back story to the friendship, brotherhood and fallout of two incredible men – Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali. It’s a story of conviction, camaraderie, black pride, love, alliances, discoveries, deception and pure history. It’s also a telling story of human beings turning on each other…Especially when blindly following a figure to the detriment of the cause. A must read.

7. Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selassie

Taiye keeps us engaged from the first page to the last. About love, family, shame and the lengths to which we’ll go to cover it, betrayal, abandonment and redemption.

8. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri

A collection of short stories. Jhumpa has a way of making ordinary stories extraordinary. Each story is it’s own, taking you deeper into the craft of Lahiri’s mind and imagination.

9. The House Girl, Tara Conklin

A fascinating and intricately woven tale centred around two women separated by close to 200 years. One enslaved and the other, a corporate lawyer pursuing a reparations case. A story about the pursuit of freedom, truth, redemption, purpose, ancestry and a life worth pursuing.

Definitely worth a read and even a reread.

10. Letter to my Daughter, Maya Angelou

This was amongst the first books I picked up in a long while. I had almost forgotten how beautiful it is to read. To get lost in another’s world and to relate to a reality that is separate from ones own by decades, oceans, miles, circumstances. But to still be able to experience a multitude of emotions while at it, laughter and joy, anger and sadness, beauty and triumph.

11. Born on a Tuesday, Elnathan Jonathan

Elnathan Jonathan’s debut novel. Unputtdownable. Very relevant, raw and real.

12. I can’t make this up, Kevin Hart

I’ve always loved Kevin Hart but reading this book made me respect and appreciate him and his momma so much more. His drive, work ethic, hustle, persistence, wit and groundness deserve much respect. A good read – highly recommend.

13. The Fishermen, Chigozi Obioma

A heartbreaking story of what can unfold and break what seemed like unbreakable brotherhood bonds following a prophecy. Dark and raw – difficult but a worthwhile read. Amazing particularly considering its a debut novel.

14. We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo

I loved the way NoViolet writes and undoubtedly thinks. A story of Zim told through the eyes of young kids and one girl in particular who ends up in the US after ‘change’ disappoints. A great read.

15. The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen

An intricately woven tale of history, (mis) representation, pride, nationalism, love, friendship and shifting allegiances in times of war. Brilliant story that transports the readers from Vietnam to the US and back.

16. Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty, Alain Mabanckou

I was curious to read this book considering Mabanckou was my former professor and had won numerous literary awards but I had yet to read any of his books. This book is a depiction of life, love and politics from the eyes of a young Congolese boy, Michel. A beautiful and easy read.

17. Animal Farm, George Orwell

It was only in December 2017 that I managed to read this classic that has been translated and taught and studied the world over. I found myself getting increasingly distraught at the events that unfolded – as well as some of the characters and their blind faith in the face of the rewriting of history and narrative. It’s so telling that decades since he wrote this book, it rings true in so many ways and is a warning for the pitfalls we must avoid as a people.
Even if your pick is not in this list, pick up a book people, and get lost. And get found.

Death, dying and waiting

So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith. Quran 3:139
—-

It’s the oddest thing
Discussing funeral arrangements
For one who has yet to breathe his last

And waiting, breathless
For news of his last.
When at least, he’ll be at peace. And rest.

Convincing oneself
Mourning is selfish
He must rest now.
In a better place,
Away from the cruel hands of this world
Surrounded, insha’Allah, by the fragrance of jannah

Praying.
Fervently
Over. And over. And over.
Losing track of where one ends
and the other starts
Not sure what to pray for.

Settling on this:
May our endings be beautiful.
And peaceful

La hawla wa la quweta ila billah
Inna lilahi we ina ilayhi rajeeun
To Him we belong and to Him we return

unfinished thinkings: justice as afterthought

We have not finished thinking…..

ku[to]starehe

Is it justice that Michael Dunn will go to prison for shooting a 17 year old because that young man played his music too loud and was black? No, it isn’t. Justice would be if black kids stop getting shot.

-Aaron Bady, Waiting For

in the wake of many happenings, i have been thinking incomplete thoughts about women and justice.

oscar pistorius killed reeva steenkamp. yesterday, justice masipa sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment, with a minimum sentence of 10 months.

following the sentencing, #thingslongerthanoscarssentence was trending on twitter. many, many people are not happy with judge masipa’s leniency.

many, many people have been demanding justice for reeva steenkamp.

the loss of life can’t be reversed. hopefully, judgement on sentence will provide some sort of closure for all concerned.

Judge Masipa

does justice look like five years in prison? does it look like ten? twenty, or forty or a lifetime?

justice…

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No such thing as the future

Agi and her six year old nephew

Agi: Do you think I can be a writer? Do you think I can write a book?

Ezu: yeah, you just need paper.

Agi: so you think I can do it?

Ezu: yeah, I can do it too.

Agi: OK good, I’ll do it.

Ezu: so, are you going to do it today or tomorrow?

Agi: umm, in the future

Ezu: There’s no such thing as the future.

Agi: what do you mean?

Ezu: you can’t press a button and go to the future like in the movies.

The wisdom of kids is something we must heed to. Raw and real. Things we often forget as adults. 

31

Today, on the 31st, I turn 31.

Following 30 lessons over 30 years posted this time last year, here are thirty-one lessons learned over the years and reminders for the years to come insha’Allah:

1. Put the Almighty first, always.

2. Don’t dignify nonsense. Regardless of its source.

3. It’s scary. Jump still. Headfirst.

4. Some things can be bought with money. Don’t let your dignity be one of those. Or your sanity.

5. You’ll be surprised at how unimportant something is when it doesn’t happen and the world doesn’t crumble. Don’t sweat it. 

6. Your capacity to come back after being beat down is much more than you imagine. Believe in it. 

7. Don’t allow your worth to be measured by others. Something so important shouldn’t be at the whim of anyone other than you.

8. Be kind. Most of all to yourself.

9. That thing you think is undoable…go and make it happen. It’s possible.

10. Master your mind. It’s more important than any other organ in and out of your body.

11. Bring all of you. Every part. Even when you think it’s not appropriate. No entity or person is worth only pieces of you.

12. Failure is good. It keeps us humble and grounded. Keep at it.

13. Games are essential. Play them often.

14. Laughter keeps you young and fresh. Laugh and do so out loud. Unapologetically. 

15. Exercise not only your body but your mind. Linked to #10.

16. Be present. Wherever you are, with whoever you are, be there and nowhere else. Multitasking is an overrated skill. The true skill we must master is the skill of presence.

17. Know your limits. Don’t compare your limits to others. Our bodies are built in a way that we know when enough is enough. Respect that.

18. Appreciate that everyone has differing value systems, ways of thinking about and understanding the world. A hareri saying goes: an kut khunu baytee, jenam khunu bayteenta. Asking for people to be like you is asking them to be crazy. Require of no-one to be crazy.

19. Allow people to be who they are. Expect of them and yourself nothing more or less.

20. Listen. Even to words unspoken.

21. Chase the sun. Sunrises and sunsets are daily miracles that most of us miss, either because we’re asleep or because we’re not alive to the beauty around us.

22. Seek storytellers. Travel is also possible through their tales.

23. Stop making excuses. Stop hiding behind the pretence of ignorance or bewilderment. Own your actions.

24. Declutter. Constantly and consciously. Our homes, our offices, our lives and most importantly our minds.

25. Use the best of what you have today. It’s only now that we own. Everything else that we get beyond now is extra. 

26. Find and breathe beauty. Even in the most mundane.

27. Fear none but the Almighty. Ultimately it’ll be just you and Him.

28. Devour knowledge voraciously. Read. Listen. Absorb. Share. 

29. Document as a way of preserving culture, history… Recipes. Duaas. People. Places. Moments. Keep #16 in mind as you do this.

30. Make time for the things and people that matter. Be both selfish and generous with your time. Discern carefully how and with who you spend precious time you’ll never get back.

31. Love wholeheartedly. Yourself first.

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