Tag Archives: African people

London, March 7, 2010

20 Jun
Deutsch: Das "Jewel-House" im Tower ...

“Jewel-House” in Tower of London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we visited the Tower of London.  The usual tourist pomp and cirumstance.  The knights, the kings, the wars, the weapons, Tudors, Elizabethan, House of Gloucester, blah, blah, blah.  Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating history: the period clothing, actors, London does it BIG!  Then I went to see the Crown Jewels……

My heart wrenched as I walked through the long lines with video of the “precious” Crown Jewels.  The stones were absolutely beautiful, yes, but when the parade, or corral, of tourists began at the Hall of Maces, I realized I was looking at millions of dollars of pillaged resources.  I counted 8 maces until I couldn’t take it anymore dating to the 1600s.  Solid gold and….IDENTICAL.  Did each monarch REALLY need his/her own mace?  Doesn’t it fit more with tradition to use the same one each coronation?

By the time I actually got to the jewels, visions of a raped Africa clouded my appeciation for the grandeur of royalty.  The pure golden christening basins made to drop dribbles of water on a baby’s head (who doesn’t know the difference) who happens to be royalty?  THOUSANDS of MY ancestors were raped, tricked and enslaved (I add in 2012 often by their own) so that the Prince of Wales could have his christening oil land on gold?!  Foolishness as my mentee would say.

Imperial Great Britain showed her face early today.  Today on Day 2, I feel unmistakably AFRICAN.

I found that after that ordeal, my conversations drifted back to either the glory of African peoples or the atrocities they or I have faced being Black.  Was it subconscious or purposeful?  Most likely, a bit of both.  Trying to assert a particular type of identity for myself in order not to let it wander back to the anger of the vaulted jewels stolen from my land in order to perpetuate the violently asserted power of the monarchs here.

Yup…unmistakenly AFRICAN today, “no hyphen, no hype!”  If I could remember the name of the sister I heard say that in a poem, she’d get a high five AND dap right now.  Tomorrow, I am going to the British Museum…tomorrow may not be much different from today…

Will my unapologetic African womanness keep me from appreciating art?

To the margins…in order to push it center

10 Jun

English: Hospital of Bahia, Salvador, Bahia, B...









As my time winds down here in Brazil, there is a burning question that I cannot seem to put at ease:  Of all these wonderfully beautiful Black people, where do they live?  I have not seen a Black person leave any of the ritzy homes around this hotel?  I see them in the streets.  I see them heading somewhere when they leave their jobs at the end of the day.  But where are they going?  Why haven’t we been able to see those neighborhoods?  The program’s title does include “Afro-Brazilian Heartland.” Where is the heart of this land?

The program of which I am participating is wonderful in terms of exposing us to various aspects of Bahian culture: the African roots of food, dance, religion, music…..but what about where the Africans planted their roots?

The other day, we had a scholar on environmental justice talk to us about about the concept of environmental racism in Bahia.  Aside from wonderful information about that (I encourage ALL people to read up on it, we might learn a thing or two about our own society), she showed us some maps of Salvador….demographic maps. Salvador is 77% Black (I think I said 85% in another blog, here is my correction), many of whom live in substandard conditions around the city.  I urge you to do a quick internet search of Salvador, look at the images that come up, and point to where those areas “around the city” are located in those images.  I am almost positive you will not see them.

I visted Saramandaia neighborhood (what we Americans would call a favela).  To get to this neighborhood, we had to park the van and walk through and up very narrow streets.  With all the twists and turns, we probably walked about 1/2 mile above where we parked.  This neighborhood, although visible by the main roads, is not accessible by the main roads.  Here in this visibly invisible neighborhood above the city, I found where the Blacks (that make of the majority of this 77%) were living.

Saramandaia was and may still be considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Salvador.  But if I go back to the environmental racism lecture, the reasons may be similar to whythere is  Black on Black crime in the United States.  My brother -in-law says (paraphrasing) “there’s nothing worse than a man who thinks he’s got nothing to lose.”  What do we tend to do when we think we have no options and no way out?  We fight back with whatever is closest, sometimes, that’s our own.

But there is hope for Saramandaia.  There are a group of men who grew up in the neighborhood who are giving the children other options.  Grupo Cultural Arte Consciente.  Look it up.  Learn about it.  Share it with a friend.  Why?  Because too many people come to Brazil and will never have the desire nor the opportunity to visit the favelas.  They will remain, hidden from the tourists, and pushed aside by the state.  Environmental racism:  Because no one in a favela has the money to own the  land in which they live, the Brazilian government will not fund programs to ensure that there is public sewage and solid waste disposal.  So long as nobody knows about them to help them with land rights, it will never happen.

Afro-Brazil is the pulse that drives tourists to flock to its land.  The pulse of samba, the pulse of the cuisine, the pulse of the vibrancy that is Brazil.  But the coracao (I know, no accents) of this pulse is pushed to hills, by way too expensive property and a desire by mainstream society for the true Afro-Brazil to be heard but not seen.


I want to expose the heart.  So we can watch it beat.


Boa noite!




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