the-africa-issue

Mixed Black African Girl (Cameroonian/French)

I’m a mixed black african girl who grew up and lived most of her life in Cameroon, in Central Africa. My dad is half-white (french) and half-black (cameroonian), and my mom is 100% cameroonian. There’s little to no black african characters in popular fiction, which has always bothered me, and it would be so nice to read about someone like me for once.

  • Culture and food

Cameroon is a country created during colonization, with borders defined by europeans. Because of that, Cameroon is actually made of 200 ethnic groups, each of them having their own language and culture. So the culture and daily habits vary a lot depending on which region of Cameroon you are in. In the big cities, though, everyone is mingled no matter where they’re from. However, so many different ethnic groups cohabiting together often causes tension. There are also a lot of stereotypes about every ethnic group.

I grew up in the central and coastal areas of the country, and I’m Bassa. The Bassa are one of the main ethnic groups in Cameroon. If your parents are from two different ethnic groups, it is decided that you officially belong to your father’s ethnic group. My mother is Bakoko but my father is Bassa, so I’m the latter. When I meet another Cameroonian, two of the first questions we usually ask each other are : What are you (meaning, what’s your ethnic group) ? and Where is you village ?

Villages are very important in the Cameroonian culture. Your village is where your father’s ancestors were born. Even if you’re not born there, you usually have grandparents or great-uncles or family friends living there, and if you have enough money to do so you must regularly visit your village. And usually, when people earn enough money, they send money to their village so that people living there can have a better life, build more houses and schools etc.

Cameroonian food is very diverse, and varies depending on the region. The national dish is Ndolé, a dish made with ndolé leaves, stewed nuts, and meat (fish, beef or shrimps). Other common foods are bobolo and miondo (food made out of fermented manioc), soya (spicy grilled meat on skewers), and plantain. My dad is half-french though, so at home we eat almost as much french food as cameroonian food (crème brûlée, shepherd’s pie, beef bourguignon, A LOT of bread and cheese).

  • Language

There are hundreds of different languages, but the official languages are French and English. Cameroon was colonized by France and England so Northern Cameroon mainly speaks english and central/southern Cameroon mainly speaks french. Most people also speak their ethnic group’s language. I don’t know how to speak Bassa, though, because neither do my parents. When me and my siblings were kids, our dad asked our baby-sitter to teach us, but she could only do so much and I only remember a few words.

  • Beauty Standards

Like most countries, there is a lot of colorism in Cameroon based on European beauty standards. When you’re a woman, the lighter you are, the prettier and more desirable you are considered. Dark skinned women are often mocked and considered not as pretty. A lot of people, mainly women but also men, use dangerous products to lighten their skin. Internalized racism and white beauty standards are very insidious, and a lot of people want to look like white people, including me when I was younger. As a kid I remember wishing i was a pretty blonde-haired blue-eyed white girl like the heroines of the books i was reading. Growing up I stopped wishing that, but I relaxed and straightened my hair a lot, wanting to have long straight hair without realizing that it was still an attempt to look like the ideal version of a white girl. I’m sure that if I had more black female characters to relate to when I was growing up, I wouldn’t have spend so many years hating myself without even realizing I was doing it.

Also, Cameroonians usually consider thick, curvy women to be the ideal beauty standard. But being thin is still an ideal broadcast by the media (especially that american and european media are heavily broadcast and consumed in Cameroon) so most women still diet a lot and go to the gym to lose weight.

  • Clothing

Women wear a lot of skirts and dresses, be it casual or for work. Most cameroonian schools have uniforms and mandatory hairstyles (either cornrows or short shaved hair).

Elderly people often wear more traditional clothes and outfits. The most prominent traditional item of clothing is the Kaba. The Kaba is a long dress made of wax fabric and other materials and is owned by pretty much every woman. The dress looks different depending on the situation : the Kaba you wear when you stay at home is usually very long and very loose, the Kaba you wear during official/formal events is more tight-fitting and stylized, etc.

  • Dating and Relationships

I’ve never dated anyone, but when I was in high school none of my friends ever told their parents they were seeing someone. Having your parents know about and meet the person you’re dating after only a few weeks or months is something that just doesn’t happen (unless someone gets pregnant). It’s when things get serious that you introduce them to your family. Also, a lot of parents would prefer their children to marry someone from the same ethnic group.

Homosexuality is still illegal there, and you can go to jail for being gay.

  • Home/Family life

My parents are still happily married, and I have 3 siblings. My parents are both close to their siblings, and I’m close to mine. Me and my siblings grew up with our cousins, we were always at each other’s houses. I pretty much consider most of my cousins as extra siblings. We have a very big extended family and every day I discover new distant cousins, aunts, great-uncles etc. My dad being half-french, when I was growing up we sometimes went to France during summer to visit his relatives living there.

In Cameroon, most people who have enough money to do so send their children to study abroad once they’ve graduated high school. I’m currently living in France for my studies, and most of my high school friends are also going to college in France, England, Canada, Brussels, South Africa etc.

  • Identity issues

Despite being only ¼ white, I’m very light-skinned. My siblings being much darker skinned, when I was a kid I thought I was adopted (i’m not, it’s just genetics). Cameroon being a black country, when someone is visibly mixed and light-skinned as i am, most people just label them “white”. A lot of people would refer to me as “the white” and it always really hurt me. My family wouldn’t understand why i was so angry and hurt, they’d say “they don’t mean anything by it, it’s just that you’re light” but the fact is it made me feel like i don’t belong. I’m cameroonian, i’ve lived in Cameroon almost my entire life, i’m black, and still some people see me as “other”, they see me as white. And so for a long time, I didn’t dare to call myself black, I’d say “I’m biracial” or “I’m mixed” instead because I somehow felt like a fraud. But I’m black and not white-passing at all, and I still experience racism abroad (but I’m aware I have a lot more privilege than dark skinned people).

  • Daily struggles

So I’m currently living in France. On one hand, sometimes white people are racist toward me, or just totally obnoxious and ignorant, trying to touch my natural hair and thinking that people in Cameroon don’t have computers or whatever. On the other hand, when I randomly meet other cameroonians and we start talking, they always assume that because i’m mixed i’ve lived my entire life in France and i don’t know anything about Cameroon. And there’s nothing wrong with being a child of immigrants and not knowing the country your parents or grandparents came from, but i know that if i wasn’t visibly mixed they wouldn’t question the fact that i know Cameroon and lived there my entire life.

  • Misconceptions

Because of how the media depict African countries, a lot of people think that everyone in Africa is extremely poor and starving, that we don’t have electricity and internet and that everyone lives in huts. Which is so false. We have rich people and poor people, we have huge modern cities and regular cities and small villages with huts, almost everyone has access to a tv and internet, etc.

  • Things I’d like to see less of

Cameroon and other african countries being depicted as poor unfortunate countries where everyone is starving and illiterate and waiting for the generous white people to save us. What we need is for people to see us as the humans we are, and to allow us to grow in peace.

  • Things I’d like to see more of

Black african characters being written as the complex human beings we are. Shy black african characters. Nerdy and hella smart black african characters. Mixed black african characters who struggle with their identity. LGBTQ black african characters.

  • Tropes/Stereotypes I’m tired of seeing.

The “savage”, “uncivilized” african. African characters who are aggressive, dumb and shout all the time. The poor africans in need of saving by white people.

Read more POC Profiles here or submit your own.

nature.com
South Africa’s San people issue ethics code to scientists
The indigenous people — known for their click languages — are the first in Africa to draft guidelines for researchers.

On 2 March, three communities in South Africa issued their own research-ethics code — thought to be the first from any indigenous group in Africa. Although the rules will carry no legal weight, their authors hope that scientists will feel compelled to submit proposals for research in San communities to a review panel of community members. And the San may refuse to collaborate with institutions whose staff do not comply, the rules warn.

The code was developed by traditional leaders of the !Xun, Khwe and !Khomani groups of San, which represent around 8,000 people in South Africa.

“We’ve been bombarded by researchers over the years,” says Hennie Swart, director of the South African San Institute in Kimberley, which helped to develop the code. “It’s not a question of not doing the research. It’s a question of doing it right.”

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The German Luftwaffe M30 Drilling,

The drilling has been a tradition of high German hunting culture dating back to the 19th century. Based on the german word for three “drei”, a drilling is a three barreled firearm typically with two shotgun barrels and a rifle barrel. The purpose of this is so that a hunter can used the same firearm for small game, flying game, and medium to large game. Typically, drillings were not firearms for the common hunter but the well to do and wealthy, as they were heavily decorated, made with fine quality, and very expensive.

During World War II, the German Luftwaffe (air force) contracted with the firm Sauer & Sohn for 4,000 drillings.  Sauer & Sohn was a firm who for decades had produced fine quality custom drillings for German hunters. The Luftwaffe intended the drilling to be used as an aircrew survival weapon. If a plane was to be shot down, the pilot and crew could use the drilling to hunt for food until rescue.

The M30 drilling featured two 12 gauge barrels and a rifle barrel chambered for 9.3x73mm.  9.3x73mm is a very powerful cartridge intended for hunting large game, particularly effective as a big game cartridge for hunting in Africa. The M30 was issued with with 20 rounds of 12 gauge birdshot shells, 25 twelve gauge slugs, and 20 rounds of 9x74mmR.  It was typically stored disassembled in a crate with ammunition and accessories. The M30 drilling was little different from the custom drillings that Sauer & Sohn had produced for civilian clientele. It featured engraved chambers, an engraved case hardened receiver, a walnut stock, a checkered handgrip, foregrip, and cheek piece.  Indeed it must have been the classiest standard issue firearm in military history. I can’t find specific information on how much the Luftwaffe paid for their drillings, the contract with Sauer & Sohn was under the table, but they must have been very expensive. Today, they sell for as much a $25,000.

I find that I must point out how ridiculously absurd it is that the German’s issued these guns as survival weapons. At 42 inches in overall length weighing 7.5lbs they were large for a survival weapon, taking up a lot of valuable space and weight on an airplane. Compare the M30 to other survival rifles, such as the American M4, which is small, light, inexpensive, and yet probably a much more effective survival rifle. While not as powerful as the M30, it was ideal for hunting small game, and it’s unlikely that a stranded airplane crew is going to shoot a moose for food anyway.

The gun was very expensive, firing ammunition which was likewise expensive and uncommon. If you wanted to argue ad absurdium that the drilling was a good survival rifle because it is versatile, I ask you imagine if the US Air Force issued $10,000 elephant rifles in their survival kits today. So why did the luftwaffe bother with these drillings? It all had to do with Luftwaffe head Herman Goering, who was an avid hunter and among his many titles was Reichminister of Forestry, basically the chief of the German game commission.

Goering believed that if German pilots were every to be placed in a position where they must hunt for survival, then they should be equipped with the finest traditional German hunting weapon available, no expense spared. However, Goering’s dream was not completely fulfilled, as only 2,500 were produced out of 4,000. I imagine this was as a result of excessive cost and waste of resources.

QUEER FEMINIST ACTIVISM IN FRANCOPHONE WEST AFRICA - SHAPING OUR UNDERSTANDING, ISSUES AND PRIORITIES

QAYN’s third Activist School aims to bring together over 30 queer women, gender non-confirming and trans* activists from 7 countries in the sub-region and Cameroon for five days of learning, sharing, imagining a queer feminist movement in Francophone West Africa and Cameroon, and defining its vision(s), principals and priorities. Together, we will aim to:

  • Examine the historical roots of our engagement as individual and organizations through a critical analysis of our different identities, our personal journey towards activism and the state of our current organizing.  
  • Engage in a mutual political education to develop the theoretical and conceptual tools to broaden and deepen our collective action. In particular, pool together our experiences to contextualize our understandings of queer and feminism politics grounded in our everyday lives and activism.
  • Define the essence of our work - by developing a shared vision(s), principals and an agenda to shape the cultural and political foundation of our organizing as a queer feminist movement; define our priorities at national and sub-regional levels; and identify promising practices for genuine collaboration. 

ACTIVISME QUEER FÉMINISTE EN AFRIQUE DE L’OUEST FRANCOPHONE – DÉFINITIONS, ENJEUX ET OPPORTUNITÉS
La troisième Ecole activiste de QAYN a pour ambition de réunir plus de 30 activistes LBQFSF et trans* venant de 7 pays de la sous-région et du Cameroun pour 5 jours d’apprentissage à travers des discussions politiques. A cette fin, les objectifs de cette Ecole activiste visent à permettre aux participant-e-s de :

  • Examiner le POURQUOI de nos engagements à travers une analyse critique et une prise de conscience de notre situation individuelle et collective.  
  • Situer nos luttes dans un contexte plus large en tissant un lien entre l’individuel et le collectif dans le but de collectiviser nos expériences et développer une compréhension commune de l’activisme queer féministe  en Afrique de l’Ouest Francophone.
  • Définir le comment, les valeurs et principes de l’activisme queer, LBFSF et trans* – Se questionner sur les idées de « se mobiliser » et « être mobilisé-e » ; identifier les enjeux clés au niveau pays et sous régional d’une part et des revendications sous régionales d’autres. Définir les valeurs et principes de notre activisme et mouvement.

A la fin de ces 5 jours de travaux, les participant-e-s auront :

  • Défini une notion commune de l’identité queer féministe dans le contexte de l’Afrique de l’Ouest Francophone et au Cameroun.
  • Développer une analyse critique des enjeux qui aliment notre engagement entant que activistes féministes queer, LBFSF et trans* dans le but de renforcer nos revendications et développer des actions.
  • Prendre conscience des richesses de nos groupes, les valoriser, les utiliser et les faire connaître.
  • Elaborer une  charte des valeurs et principes fondamentaux quisont à la base de notre activisme et nos actions entant que militant-e-s et mouvement féministes queer, LBFSF et trans*.

On November 1st 1695, Scotland made a serious bid to enter the lucrative English sea-trading market.

The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies issued a subscription list to stockholders in London. Later known as The Darien Company, £300,000 sterling was quickly raised, but London merchants saw it as a threat to their own East India Company. 

Pressure was put on the King, and the English subscriptions were withdrawn at the behest of their government. Within a year, thanks mainly to the enthusiasm of a misguided company director, Scottish subscriptions brought the capital back up to £400,000 sterling, a considerable proportion of Scotland’s entire wealth.
This was the beginning of the ill-fated Darien affair: all the capital was spent, as ships and many lives were lost in a series of disastrous expeditions to a malaria-infested colony on the Panama coast

Being a Togolese Immigrant Teen in America

Since Togo is in West Africa, these issues focus mostly on that region, and not just the country, although generally when West Africans are mentioned in media or just in general, people like to focus on the familiar: Nigeria, or, less so, Ghana. While those countries are great and there are a large number of immigrants from those countries in the United States and elsewhere, people assuming that’s where I’m from is not necessarily flattering or a good feeling. Nigeria is not the only country in West Africa, just like Ethiopia is not the only country in the East. Please just wait for people to explain where they’re from. 

Community & Belonging: 

While my immediate family did not move to a region in the US where there were a lot of immigrants from our country, that’s generally what others do. My aunt’s family, for example, moved to New York/New Jersey and became close with a large community of other Africans there (not necessarily from the same country). They hold parties or functions most weekends where they get together and eat/drink/party, just lots of people who speak the same language and eat the same foods and know the same people. My cousins who have grown up in that community have a built-in set of friends who may or may not live near them or be the same age, albeit being close. I, on the other hand, moved here when I was 6 and spent the rest of my childhood being surrounded by mostly white children who, as nice as they were, did not fill my need for others who understood me. This is a big thing in African immigrant teens - being understood, belonging somewhere. 

It would have been nice if my family had moved to a place where there were a lot of other children for me to relate to, I might have grown up feeling differently about my identity. As it is, I feel like it’s all on me to explore my own culture again and understand it in different context than I did when I was a kid - I have to learn to cook the foods my aunts do, re-learn my own native language, etc. It leaves me feeling very isolated and unable to connect, a feeling my little brother certainly shares but my cousins do not to the same extent. 

Home & Family Life: 

Generally in African culture, the mother has the final say, but the father is never to be messed with. In my own family, my father traveled for work frequently and therefore wasn’t around for many decisions my stepmother made, but I’ve seen it works the same way in my aunt’s household. 

The mother is responsible for a lot. Even if she works regularly, she has the responsibility of cooking meals, disciplining the children, taking care of all their needs, etc, etc. Often, daughters split responsibility - once they’re old enough to learn, they have to know how to cook, how to clean, how to keep house in general, on top of keeping up with schoolwork. The general consensus seems to be that boys can do that if they want, but they don’t have to, and so often grow up lazier than they would if they had to bear the same responsibilities I, my sisters, and cousins do.

Home life is generally strict, otherwise. Going out with friends like other teens do is/was never an option for older children but seems to be one for younger kids (who are born in the US), a phenomenon that frustrates to no end. Dating is OUT of the question for everyone - from the age of 10 to maybe 16 everyone tells you to stay away from the opposite sex (citing several religious reasons or making up outrageous stories or just pushing school like one might push drugs), until they start to ask whether you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and then whether you are getting married soon. There is no space in between where anyone tries to have a conversation about sex, about how to act around the opposite sex - nothing. They only exist in certain contexts, and god forbid you bring them up outside of those.

While both parents are home, though, they expect to be catered to and obeyed. Generally my father will call me downstairs for tiny things like getting him the phone and dialing a number for him, or giving him the remote, etc, while my stepmother stuck to bigger tasks like getting food ready or whatever needed to be done that she couldn’t do. 

School & Friends

When I made friends at school, sleepovers were never a thing I could have - my parents didn’t want something to happen to them and be blamed for it, or vice versa - and so my social life ended when I got the school bus, generally. I regret not pushing more outside of my circle, though at the time I felt it wouldn’t be worth it if I moved, if they didn’t understand my family, or if I could never hang out outside of school. It’s become a bigger issue in high school, especially being a senior, because most friend groups are fully established and generally frightening to try to assimilate into. So now that I live with my sister and could go out, it’s not even an option - I’ve isolated myself to the point where I’m the hallway-friend - I know lots of people and eat lunch with them or work on projects with them, but I’d never text them or follow them on instagram. People asking about friends is a touchy subject - I can say I have friends, but I can’t produce them for you, isolating me even more, in my own mind. 

Language

Because of European colonization, most African countries’ official languages are French or English, which tends to surprise a lot of Americans - who only remember history back to the Emancipation Proclomation (which they really believe freed the slaves). Regardless - I do speak French, demi-fluently, at least. Immigrant kids tend to have spoken 1 or 2 languages (one European and one of their own dialect) before they arrived in the US, and their parents may have chosen to speak only 1 of those languages, or none at all to encourage them to learn English faster.

This wasn’t very much of a problem until recent years for me. When I was six I spoke French and Mina (the language of the Ewe - my ethnic group), but since only French was spoken at home, that’s all I can really speak now, even though I do still understand Mina. Because of this, whenever I go home to visit people tend to make fun of me calling me “La Americain” or whatever, but the biggest problem is with my own parents, who made the decision to only speak French at home. Now that I’m almost an adult, they complain that I can’t speak French as well as I’d like to or speak Mina at all. All this does is make me angry and hurt - I feel that if they really cared they’d be more understanding of my losing my language, but generally immigrant teens I know just make a quiet resolution to learn on their own.  Even if they don’t, language (or, the lack of), is never really talked about beyond aunts and uncles asking you whether you understand what they’re saying and then, if you don’t, their lamenting that you don’t. 

Impersonally - there are many dialects even within a single region in a country. I understand the Mina that my stepmother speaks but not that my father or mother speak, which means we often converse in a strange mix of French & English, with them occasionally talking at me in Mina. 

Read more POC Profiles here.

2

Ok Tumblr we need to have a little talk. This is called the Hamsa; it is a religious symbol and cultural symbol for those who are Jewish, Arabic, Hindu, and from Northern Africa. So here’s the issue way too many people who have no connection to these cultures or religions are getting them tattooed or wearing clothing that have the Hamsa on them. I’m sorry to tell you folks, but the truth of the matter is what is being done is culture appropriation and extremely wrong.  

bzfd.it
2016 Was The Year Black Lives Matter Went Global
Activists for black, brown, and indigenous rights around the world have adopted the Black Lives Matter slogan alongside homegrown movements against racism and police brutality.
By Susie Armitage

2016 was the year Black Lives Matter went truly global.

The US-born movement has spread as far as Brazil, South Africa, and Australia, where activists have taken to the streets and social media in solidarity with the victims of police killings. They’ve adopted the “Black Lives Matter” rallying cry to amplify homegrown movements and calls for racial justice — and used it to point out what they say is a hypocritical approach by the media and power structures in their countries.

“French media are able to see colors in other countries and write in a story headline that a black person was killed by the police in the US, but they are not able to do that in France,” Fania Noël, the coordinator of Black Lives Matter France, told BuzzFeed News.

International connections between civil rights and anti-colonialist movements aren’t new. But as a global phenomenon, BLM and offshoots like Native Lives Matter have fueled momentum and helped smaller groups connect and be heard. US organizers are approaching their work with a global lens. The policy platform developed by the Movement for Black Lives has been translated into Spanish, French, Arabic, and Chinese, and endorsed by Canadian activists who see it as a model.

BuzzFeed News spoke with activists in France, Brazil, Australia, Canada, the UK, the US, and South Africa on the issues local Black Lives Matter activists are focusing on, how they’re working together and how they see the future of organizing amid the global rise of far-right white nationalism.