I was brought to think about my life as an African in the Diaspora a few weeks ago after I had an unvited engagement of words and looks with a Black American woman in a store, much like the restaurant incident scene in the African Booty Scratcher film which reminded me just how much of a Restless City I truly live in- depicted beautifully without the awful pain of the angst in the grittiness of it as poetically told by Nigerian photographer/filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu.
Here I was minding my own business waiting on the line to pay for my tank top; there was a heavy set Black American woman and her friend behind me already going on between themselves about why the man in the store kept looking at them like they were going to steal something. The heavy set woman coughs without covering her mouth and I feel the sprinkle of unwanted sickness in the air behind me. I turn around and gave her the look of ”really-so you couldn’t just cover your mouth”. She was not pleased with this look and proceeded to loudly tell her friend “Did you see that, did you see what she just did to me” as she went ahead and mimicked my gesture. I turned back to her, looked at her and just shook my head like here we go. She didn’t take well to that either & proceeded to threaten me by saying “keep it up and catch yourself getting a beat down”. I proceeded to shake my head and laugh because she had no clue that she had the wrong woman today and that that big mouth- be the loudest voice in the room -threaten with physical violence- Basketball Wives ratchet style intimidation behavior was in no way going to work with me because as Star Jones’s twitter hashtag to put an end to this type of madness goes #EnoughisEnough. There was no way this woman was going to see that she did anything wrong and possibly take any personal responsibility for her actions which induced my reaction, and there was no way I was going to allow her to intimidate me into submission even if she is three times my size with a whole lot of mouth.
That day I was going to be David to her Goliath, but with no physical violence in standing my ground in being able to walk into a store and make a purchase without having to be coughed on, intimidated and threatened by another human being just because she felt like it, was having a bad day or hated her life and therefore felt the need to take out her anger and frustration of her situation on me. I proceeded to just ignore her but she had already worked herself up about how I so called disrespected her by not being pleased with her coughing on me, so she went on to be the loudest mouth in the shop saying “these people come into this country from other places and they don’t know how to act”. I wanted to roll on the floor and bust out laughing at the idiocy of her statement under the circumstances, but I looked too damn good and was on my way to meet a friend for dinner so I just turned around laughed coyly and said ” So this is your country?” in a thick Ghanaian accent, which I totally don’t have on a regular basis particularly since I was born in New York but raised in Ghana as a baby; however at the times when these moments call for it, I bring it out proudly in full force since she had already ignorantly put me in the immigrant box without knowing anything about me- I guess based on my “exotic looks” clutching my fierce leather and raffia bag made in Burkina Faso, West Africa- even though technically I was just as American as she thinks she is. This is why I called her a Black American in describing her and not an African-American because obviously she wanted nothing to do with Africa nor did she respect Africa in anyway because to her I was just another immigrant in “her country”. She all of a sudden had nothing to say about my statement on whether this was her country that I was in, but now her friend in an effort to protect her in her foolishness instead of urging her to just squash it as a friend who knows better and is looking out for the best interests of a friend would do- decided she was going to have something to say as well. She looks at me and proceeds to say “oh she thinks she is better than you because you are poor”. Once again I wanted to roll on the floor in laughter of hearing such idiocy that made no sense to me whatsoever since I don’t know how I would know she is poor unless I just chose to stereotype her by her behavior and looks, nor how I would think I am better than her when we were both on the same line waiting to make purchases from the same store. I went on to purchase by item and walked past her as she went out of her way to try to bump me – which I just laughed , shook my head and told her that I hope that made her day because if she took it any further I would have had her immediately arrested.
When you act like an animal, you deserve to be caged no matter your race, gender, socio-economic class, sexual preference etc. because as human beings the one empowering trait we have above animals is our cognitive skills to know right from wrong and to not just act out without thinking about the consequences of our actions-which seems to be lost to many particularly in this day and age of glorified violence/bullying on reality TV- particularly amongst women where there never seems to be any consequences- which is far from reality.
This took me back to many years of my own and many other Africans’ experience in the Diaspora, particularly when it relates to Black Americans and other Blacks in the Diaspora who have this unmitigated low self esteem, lack of self love and respect factor that automatically somehow makes them think Africans and others feel as if we are better than them just because we choose to carry ourselves differently with a type of dignity and self respect that is so called “foreign” to many. The struggle to make it outside of Africa for Africans is often even harder than to make it in Africa, but for most Africans failure is not an option because none of our lives are our own because we build ourselves up to build up our families, villages and nations- As the saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child” and each one of us willingly or unwillingly carries that pride or burden with every move in achievement that we make, so the least of our life problems are thinking that we are better than other Blacks in the Diaspora, but we definitely strive to be better Africans in representing our continent and nations while in the Diaspora as to not be lumped into any negative stereotypes -which we do feel we are better than!
These African filmmakers and actors beautifully and simply tell the stories of everyday life of everyday Africans in the Diaspora caught between the very fine balance of our two worlds that are often as much different as they are the same in many aspects of life, struggle and the constant pursuit of attaining happiness in our African Dreams. Please checkout these films and support the Global African film industry that is burgeoning from Africa to the Diaspora.
Directed by Andrew Dosunmu, RESTLESS CITY tells the story of a young man surviving on the fringes of New York City, where music is his passion, life is a hustle, and falling in love is his greatest risk. African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement will release the 2011 Official Sundance Selection in theaters, beginning April 27, 2012.
AFRICAN BOOTY SCRATCHER the short film by Nikyatu Jusu.
Prom nears and things seem to be spiralling out of control for the typically composed ISATU. In this coming of age story,West African tradition conflicts with American idealism and Isatu is forced to reassess her alliances.
Bronx Princess By Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed
Rocky Otoo is the Bronx-bred teenage daughter of Ghanaian parents, and she’s no pushover. She is a sassy high-achiever bound for college. With freedom in sight, Rocky rebels against her mother’s rules. When their relationship reaches a breaking point, Rocky flees to her father, a chief in Ghana. What follows is captured in Bronx Princess, a tumultuous coming-of-age story set in a homeland both familiar and strange. Her precocious — and very American — ideas of a successful, independent life conflict with her father’s traditional African values. Reconciling her dual legacies becomes an unexpected chapter in this unforgettable young woman’s education.
Prince of Broadway is the story of Lucky and Levon, two men whose lives converge in the underbelly of New York’s wholesale fashion district. Lucky, an illegal immigrant from Ghana, makes ends meet by soliciting shoppers on the street with knock-off brand merchandise. Levon, an Armenian-Lebanese immigrant, operates an illegal storefront with a concealed back room where counterfeit goods are showcased to interested shoppers. Lucky’s world is suddenly turned upside down when a child is thrust into his life by a woman who insists the toddler is his son. While Lucky copes with his new domestic dilemma, Levon struggles to save a marriage that is falling apart. The seedy side of the wholesale district is revealed through a journey that continually confronts the interplay between what is fake and what is real.
Set in the shadow of the Flatiron building and soaked in the colorful bustle of Broadway, the film is as much a brutal drama as it is a tender comedy. Shot in a fast-paced guerilla style that is akin to the hustler lifestyle, the film reveals the lives of immigrants in America seeking ideals of family and love, while creating their own knock-off of the American Dream.
Interesting discussion of the Uncomfortable Truths