Are Africans and African Americans being measured by a shorter yardstick?

Gloria Dulan-Wilson

The following is a response to a letter that appeared in the recently published African Executive magazine. I read the commentary and agreed with the brother's summation. Since we are currently wrangling with the issues of the relationship between the 6th Diaspora (Blacks in the US) and Africa I think it extremely important for us to cultivate communications between our brothers and sisters here in the US and in Africa; as well as interact with those brothers and sisters who are here in the US. The excerpt immediately follows my response. Stay Blessed GDW

Habari! and Congratulations on the publication of African Executive.

Thank you for sending me a copy and for this thought provoking article on the ties that bind between Africa and the colonial monsters and former slave holders.

By bind, I mean they have Africa bound and gagged, and African Americans right along with it, in a miasma of bogus rules, lies, trickery and deceit. There is still the perception we seem to have pervasively that "the white man's ice is colder" (Johnnie Cochran) and that our best interests lie with them. Operative word in this sentence is "lie". Because it is a lie.

The fact that African Americans built America - African Americans being those Africans who were kidnapped from Africa and dragged kicking and screaming to serve as slaves in America - is evident of the fact that we can and have produced wonders. Not to mention the wonders that we have as Africans produced on the Continent - the Mother Land.

You see, we have long been under their thumb, from the Brits, Spanish, French and Portuguese who first started the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to the Americans (former Brits) who kept it going well into the middle third of the the 19th century. We have been subjugated to their standards. We have not made the paradigm shift to set standards of our own that would be universally recognized AND ENFORCED by Africans - at home, in the Caribbean/South America and in the US.

What is our criteria, where are our standards. How are we educating our people? Do we have some sort of mass program to help those who are among the most illiterate to learn to read, write, and a skill? Who is to do it and who is to implement it?

Africa was inundated by missionaries who brought in a religion that was basically Anti-African. Africans were considered "heathens" and were subjugated to all kinds of egregious acts. The same thing was happening in America to the kidnapped Africans now known as African Americans - only far worse. Not only were they taken from their homeland hundreds of thousands of miles away so they could not easily return; but their language and traditions were literally beaten out of them. Reprisals such as castration and lynching - not to mention rape and the lose of limbs, selling off of children, were the penalties for trying to hold on to any semblance of African tradition or belief.

No doubt you were enduring similar hardships in your own homeland, as interlopers had now come in and literally taken over your lands and marginalized you.

So do we now need to regroup and recoup? Do you thing we are owed a huge debt? Of course we are. But we are going to have to wean ourselves from having any intimate interaction with european money; we are going to have to begin manufacturing our own goods and providing our own services, regardless of whether or not the eurpoeans buy or value them.

We have to come up with a paradigm shift as huge and as effective as what Japan has been able to do to make them stand up, pay attention, and at the same time gain our own self respect.

Notice I mentioned Japan? Not China - who is only there to exploit Africa - after having been sold a contract for all our "debts" by the US (under Bush). Japan has a very high standard of quality. They started from as low a level as Africa currently faces. They introduced quality control - and made sure it was taught and adhered to from the most elementary and rudimentary endeavor to the most complicated and intricate job. They threw out antiquated methods that did not serve them, and learned how to retool their companies so that they would be able to produce products that were high quality.

Now I'm not going to pretend that the concept originated with Japan. They used to manufacture the crappiest products, that would fall apart before they got off the assembly line. It took a professor W. Edwards Deming, who was actually exiled from the US business industry, to help them make the change. But, oh what a difference he made. Americans were actually going to have this guy killed for his recommendations. He was literally sent to Japan to protect him from angry US manufacturers because he suggested that they build in quality to all their products, and introduce longevity so that they would hold up under any circumstances. American manufacturers, however, were going after "planned obsolescence", so that a product would not last more than 3 years, that would force the consumer to have to replace it and purchase a new one. It was Deming who was sent to Japan after WWII to work with them. Well they listened where the Americans wouldn't. And the rest is history. A Toyota is a better car than a Ford; a Cannon, Panasonic, Sony, or any other product produced in Japan will far out perform those of America, Germany, Russia, France, England - Africa - on any given day (I had a Toyota Cressida that had 250,000 miles on it when I purchased it, and it lasted longer than my neighbor's new car.)

Did the Japanese sell their newly designed products in the America/European market place? Not initially. They actually sold to themselves and each other. They taught each man, woman, child the value of quality and cleanliness. They began to tout to teach other the superiority of their own products, made by their own hands. Not in an ego-trip kind of way. Just in a proud of the product sort of way. They also opened the channels of communication so that a person could make a suggestion for an idea, no matter what their station or rank was; and if it was used they would be acknowledged and rewarded. In other words they got rid of the european standard of hierarchy and realized that every one had a contribution and a value.

The biggest lesson is also that once one person knew how to do something new and innovative, they made sure that everyone knew how to do it, or at least knew about it. Like Africa, Japan has a tradition of celebrating every victory or success, no matter how small.

I also want to applaud those amongst us who have worked diligently to keep the African spirit and history untarnished - Ali Mazrui, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Seiku Toure, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamde Azikewe, Frederick Douglass, Carter G. Woodson, Franz Fanon, among others. We have now to make it part of our curriculum, both in Africa and in the Diaspora to study and learn from and about these great ancestors. I especially want to recommend that you read Franz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" and "Black Skins, White Masks"; Carter G. Woodson's "The MisEducation of the Negro" (they used to call African Americans "Negroes").

One of our contemporary heroes, Congressman Donald Payne (D. New Jersey), has every year presented a forum on African/African American relations at the annual Congressional Black Caucus, held in Washington, DC in September. He brings leaders, businessmen, developers from Africa and the US together to begin impacting the issues in Africa.

Now why am I telling you this? Because we have a multiplicity of challenges: It all starts inside out. It starts with us. It starts at home. The perception the euro/Americans have of Africa is not as important as the perception we have of ourselves. We have to be taught to love who and what we are, while at the same time developing the skills and talents (of which we have an abundance throughout the Continent) while at the same time dealing with the hostile media depiction of Africa. We, by no means should be waiting for them to see us in a better light. We have to see ourselves in a better light.

In reference to the money that has been devalued between Africa and the rest of the world, we now have to decide whether or not Africa is really going to be contiguous nations or an United Continent. We have had the OAU, the AU, we now have to make the U - Unity part - work. We have to decide what our lingua franca (unified language) will be so we can communicate with each other -- that does not mean do not be multi lingual. We just need to pick a language that everyone has to learn regardless of what their mother tongue, or who their colonial monster (notice I never say "master"? - these people were monsters) were.

We have to begin to access and develop marketable skills and creative skills at all levels of our communities. And by all means begin to develop a means by which our cultural traditions are transitioned into modern times, in much the same way the Japanese have been able to do theirs - because we so much of beauty that we have developed throughout the centuries.

In terms of oil, mineral rights, cultivation of our agriculture, development of our own African Automobile (the East Indians have theirs, we need to be developing ours); educational system, banking system - we need a unified currency like the Americans have their dollar bills and the Europeans have their Euro) we need our own so that there is no more of this nonsense of what is valued against what.

And we need a mass training and education program to jump start the training of our people, in much the same way they used to do in the US when they were training people for the Peace Corp - they had a 6 to 8 week program that taught language, tradition, skills, etc. with thousands of participants at the same time, and one trainer. Yes it can be done.

BUT ABOVE ALL, we have to quell all these internecine wars (i.e. Tribal wars); and get those people either on the right side of the line, or incarcerate them until they see the errors of their ways. We really can't afford to be killing each other. Every drop of Black blood is heinous and egregious and against God. We are precious in His sight, and have to be precious to each other. (I keep interjecting that, because if we don't begin to develop that level of care and concern for each other and for human life, we will continue to destroy each other). You do know that the reason the US succeeded so well is that they developed a them (Blacks/Africans/Japanese/Indians, etc.) against us (whites) ethos, and made it against the law for anyone who was non-white to hit or waste one drop of white blood. We have to be as vigilent about Black blood being shed - and we have to stop Black on Black crime through intra tribal wars in Africa, and gang activity in the US.

I don't know what we're going to do about the hand-picked "leaders" we've been saddled with in different parts of Africa - but we can no longer allow puppets to run - ruin - the country. This is the 21st century - the era of the internet, cell phone, etc. We now can communicate with each other instantaneously - in ways we have never been able to before. With that said, we should never have a situation where we are not able to update each other about what's up. WE can actually put together whole educational programs; business systems; trade programs via the internet and work together. Likewise, when you have such technology, it should also be possible to inform and alert people when they are being subjugated to a straw dog, bought and paid for by a european backer to prevent them from moving forward. So there should be no deaths over an election. Just re-vote. An informed people won't willingly elect someone who is detrimental to them.(but that's a discussion for another day - we have been blessed with Barack Obama, and with that I think now all things are possible - so I'm an optimist for our future elections in Africa).

You were, of course, to call into question the measures euro/Americans are using against Africa. In America they actually said that African Americans were to be considered 3/5 of a man - in other words they never credited us with being whole or fully human. So to denigrate the Nigerian dollars; the products of Africa, African leaders has been going on since 1619 when they brought the first slaves to the US to work the plantations euro/Americans were either too lazy or too ignorant to work.

Time for a paradigm shift, and that's where I see your line of question leading to. I truly hope the rest of our brothers and sisters in Africa and the US are now listening and are ready to roll up their sleeves, make the sacrifices and get the job done.


Indices on Africa: Do they Hold Water?
Ejike E. Okpa II Dallas, Texas Commented:

"It is unfortunate that African leadership is trivialized using a scorecard developed by NMG - publisher of the East African Magazine relying in part on Mo Ibrahim Index and others to assign value. While I understand this type of scoring is to enlist and elicit reactions, hopefully positive by/from those who are at the bottom of the barrel, I find it dubious and suspicious. With Africa having some odd 53 nations all having various issues occasioned by former colonial lineages and continued remote control and Africans sheepishly toeing the lines of their former master, internal and intra-ethnic challenges, a parliamentary or congressional form of governance, population spectrum spotting wide and diverse expectations, and finally, religion - all foreign, it is basically a wide and wild guess to think this sort of ranking is objective. What keeps disturbing me is how African themselves have bought into same unusual formula the West and their donor masters have often used..."

"I unequivocally condemn the flight of stolen wealth making its way abroad. The dependency of African nations on foreign investment while refusing to aggressively improve their local economy leaves the nations impotent and overly dependent. Take the case of Coca Cola announcing that it will invest about $12b to expand its operation in Africa over the next 10 years. Africans jump up to that and dance. But consider this for a second: The value of the investment is only about $1.2b every year amounting to about $1.02 per African on the continent per year. And if one were to factor in the present versus future value of money, it may even be less. The way and manner the West gives $1 and tells $1,000 stories especially with Africa, makes Africans think what they get from the West is more valuable and crucial than what they can give themselves from internal efforts and production...

I guess the aftermath of slavery and colonialism that made the indentured servant believe whatever the master gives is more useful, continue to demean and devalue the African. Until Africa shakes itself off and effectively weans herself from foreign dependency especially on things that tend to further weaken their resolves to emerge from within, Africa shall forever and there appears no end in sight, be the ridicule of every nation and people on earth. The NMG ranking while it tells a story and points to areas of weakness, it must be discouraged. If corruption is identified as a bane for effective development, AU should issue a resounding resolution condemning such and going ahead to set up Anti-Corruption regime within its initiatives to curb and curtail this ugly conduct. The conduct and practice of leaders having homes outside of their country is a shame and sham. "

The African Executive - P.O. Box 135-00100 G.P.O. Nairobi KENYA Phone: 254202731497 - Cel: 254733823062 - Fax: 254202723258 - Email: editor@africanexecutive.com - Website: www.africanexecutive.com

There is an old saying: If no one else will save you, save yourself. (don't ask me where it came from, because I don't know). We all have a lot to say about Africa because we love her and we are pained to see that in the 21st century there are still efforts to stand on our necks: We all have a role to play in the future of Africa. We each can make a contribution of our time, talents, intelligence, love, money, creativity. Start with what you have and you'll be surprised how it all comes together. Africa has sent its brightest and best abroad to study and learn, now we need to make sure that what they have learned is shared and spread throughout the continent so all benefit. Then the measure of our increased greatness will be incomprehensible.

Gloria Dulan-Wilson

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