Those Who Hold Up Half Our Skies

As today, May 25th marks Africa Day, I’ve seen many posts about the heroes of this continent. As is often the case, the names that were mentioned were predominantly, if not all, male. It reminded me of being at the 8th Pan-African Congress in Accra in 2015 and feeling the same way – this sinking feeling that half the stories are not being told.

Below are my thoughts and reflections from that day, which unfortunately are still relevant.

Where are those who hold up half our skies?!
Often forgotten, without whom the sky would’ve fallen?

All morning, we heard the high-level dignitaries pay tribute to pan-Africanists. I didn’t hear one female name being mentioned. Is it that we have done nothing for this movement? Is it that our contributions are meaningless? Or is that we are invisible? That we have been removed, or were never included in the collective memory and public imagery of Pan-Africanism? For those who would ask me who those women are, the list is  by no means exhaustive, but here are a select few that I would like to acknowledge and pay tribute to:
Amy Garvey
Winnie Mandela
Graca Machel
Amina Mama
Ama Ata Aidoo
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
Miriam Makeba
Angelique Kidjo
Maya Angelou
Mable Dove Danquah
Taytu Betul
Adelaide Caseley-Hayford
Bibi Titi Mohamed
Fatoumatta Toure
Funmilyao Ransome Kuti
Gambo Sawaba
Muthoni Likimani
Thenjiwe Mtintso
Djamila Bouhired
Taytu Betul
Wangari Maathai
Charlotte Maxeke
Albertina Sisulu
Audley Queen Mother Moore
Louise Thompson Patterson
Thyra Edwards
Bonita Williams
Williana Burroughs
Sallye Bell Davis
Grace P. Campbell
Charlene Mitchell
Rahima Moosa
Emma Mashinini
Ruth First
Lillian Ngoyi
Sophie Williams

And countless others – often forgotten, who mobilized for Africa’s liberation, challenged
enslavement and colonization in defiance of imperialist, patriarchal culture and for a complete liberation of Africans – fighting multiple forms of oppression, domination and exploitation.

Interconnected Struggles
As Samora Machel and Thomas Sankara remind us:

Revolution & Women's Liberation
None of us are free until we are all free. This is in line with the emancipatory nature of the pan-Africanist vision. We must not buy into a hierarchy of oppressions, but rather collectively fight the multiple forms and systems of oppression and exploitation that keep us subjugated. Systems such as patriarchy which ensure women and girls are dispossessed and under siege every day, that ensure they are unsafe in their homes, streets, schools and places of work. How do we convey to them that their lives, and their dreams matter to us? That we will be their dream keepers, as Langston Hughes proposed, and will wrap their dreams and heart melodies in blue-cloud cloth and protect them from the too-rough fingers of the world?

We must recognize that ‘the struggle for Africa’s liberation and development is also a struggle for women’s liberation, gender equality and gender justice.’ Until we realize the interconnectedness and inseparability of our various struggles for justice; including gender, economic, environmental and ecological, and social justice; our movements will remain fragmented and our progress as a people will be stifled.

Power
If we thought the task ahead of us unsurmountable, Malcolm X reminds us: “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”

Toni Morrison, in reference to another system of oppression; racism also warns us of distractions that will derail us: “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you from explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is
necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

Let us not get distracted.

Compassion – where is the love?

A comrade reminded me that at the heart of Pan-Africanism is love, a compassion for humanity – the ‘sympathetic apprehension of another’s suffering as intolerable’. Perhaps Che said it best when he said:

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

Similarly, Malcolm X summed up his ethos towards the end of his life: “I have had enough of someone else’s propaganda. I am for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I am a human being, and as such, I am for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

May this be our politics – one in which love for one another, for humanity, for the continent, for the movement, for the earth and its inhabitants trumps our love for power, prestige and privilege.

A luta continua.

Sources and for further reading:
Pan-Africanism & the Women’s Movement (African Women’s Journal, Issue VI)
Feminism & Pan-Africanism (Feminist Africa Journal)

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We’ve lost the last vestiges of our humanity

‘What makes it even more unconscionable, more horrific is that they’re being blamed for their own deaths – there’s a deliberate, systematic campaign to blame the victims….

Let’s put things in context. It’s very disingenuous to say no nation will accept being shelled by rockets…it’s the other way around, it’s exactly the other way around! No nation can accept to be imprisoned, besieged by air, by land, by sea and being starved and deprived of the most basic requirements for decent life….no nation can accept to be treated like defenseless canon fodder’ – Hanan Ashrawi

May we always remember Rasul’s words paraphrased:
“If one of you sees something wrong, change it with your hand; if you cannot, then with your tongue; if you cannot, then with your heart and this is the weakest [level of] faith…..there is no part of faith behind that, not even so much as a mustard seed.” – Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)

Take action.
Join the BDS movement.
Add your voice calling for a military embargo of Israel.
Demand that  companies who are contributing to the death, destruction, oppression, occupation and injustice to stop doing so.

In Solidarity and Struggle,

The Lion’s Daughter

Necessity for the Revolution

‘The Emancipation of women is not an act of charity,
the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude.
The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution,
a guarantee of its continuity and a precondition for its victory.’

-Samora Michel, 1973

I Get Out

Lyrics for Lauryn Hill’s “I Get Out”

I get out, I get out of all your boxes
I get out, you can’t hold me in these chains
I’ll get out
Father free me from this bondage
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must change

Your stinkin’ resolution
Is no type of solution
Preventin’ me from freedom
Maintainin’ your pollution
I won’t support your lie no more
I won’t even try no more
If I have to die, oh Lord
That’s how I choose to live
I won’t be compromised no more
I can’t be victimised no more
I just don’t sympathize no more
Cause now I understand
You just wanna use me
You say “love” then abuse me
You never thought you’d loose me
But how quickly we forget
That nothin’ is for certain

You thought I’d stay here hurtin’
Your guilt trip’s just not workin’
Repressin’ me to death
Cause now I’m choosin’ life, yo
I take the sacrifice, yo
If everything must go, then go
That’s how I choose to live

That’s how I choose to live…
No more compromises
I see past your disguises
Blindin’ through mind control
Stealin’ my eternal soul
Appealin’ through material
To keep me as your slave

But I get out
Oh, I get out of all your boxes
I get out
Oh, you can’t hold me in these chains
I’ll get out
Oh, I want out of social bondage
Knowin’ my condition
Oh, is the reason I must change

See, what you see is what you get
Oh, and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Oh, I don’t care if you’re upset
I could care less if you’re upset
See it don’t change the truth
And your hurt feeling’s no excuse
To keep me in this box
Psychological locks
Repressin’ true expression
Cementin’ this repression
Promotin’ mass deception
So that no one can be healed
I don’t respect your system
I won’t protect your system
When you talk I don’t listen
Oh, let my Father’s will be done

And just get out
Oh, just get out of all these bondage
Just get out
Oh, you can’t hold me in chains
Just get out
All these traditions killin’ freedom
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must change

I’ve just accepted what you said
Keepin’ me among the dead
The only way to know
Is to walk then learn and grow

But faith is not your speed
Or you’d have everyone believe
That you’re the sole authority
Just follow the majority
Afraid to face reality
The system is a joke
Oh, you’d be smart to save your soul
Oh, when escape is mind control
You spent your life in sacrifice
To a system for the dead
Oh, are you sure…
Where is the passion in this living
Are you sure it’s God you servin’
Obligated to a system
Getting less then you’re deserving
Who made up these schools, I say
Who made up these rules, I say
Animal conditioning
Oh, just to keep us as a slave

Oh, just get out
Of this social purgatory
Just get out
All these traditions are a lie
Just get out
Superstition killing freedom
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must die
Just get out
Just get out
Just get out
Let’s get out
Let’s get out
Knowin’ my condition
Is the reason I must die
Just get out

Nairobi, are you that place?


Are you that concrete jungle
Crumbling under the weight of
Maneuvering, manipulative matatus
Where passengers are shuka’d at whim

Are you where darkness whispers sweet lullabies
Or where lights play dirty tricks

Where money is mobile
And glass ceilings tower as high as KICC

Where freedom is plastered on bus stops
And injustice deeply rooted
Into territorial boundaries

Where few attest their tribe is indeed Kenyan

Where tusker runs like maji

Where unga is revolutionized
And revolutions are most definitely not televised

Where radios relentlessly relay well kept secrets

Where the rain commands the city
And payday drives traffic

Where the likes of Kibera & Sinai make way
For the likes of Karen & Spring Valley

Are you the capital of thieves and robbers
Or a mega polis of IT geeks, business gurus and self made men

Where every pocket is packed with dreams
But not every dream packs pockets

Tell me, Nairobi, are you that place?

© Nebila Abdulmelik, February 2012

WHO?!

Today, September 28, marks RIGHT TO KNOW day. As part of my right to know, and yours, I would like to know who…

Who assassinated freedom
And buried it 10 feet under?

Who wrongfully convicted justice
And incarcerated it indefinitely?

Who orphaned peace
Scarring it eternally?

Who crippled progress,
Handicapping it permanently?

Who overthrew hope
And replaced it with fear?

Who paralyzed love?

Who?!

©Nebila Abdulmelik, Sep 2011

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