The Gentrification of Black Pain and Cross Continental Conversation by Well Meaning White Folks is Hella Problematic
So the reason why it is not only insulting and offensive but inexplicably beyond reprehensible to imagine a young white male brokering any sort of cultural conversation between Africans on the continent and Africans in the Americas is very simple. In order to explain the egregiousness of this malady, allow me to first tell you a story.
Why would I rely on the grand children of my oppressor to dictate my engagement with my motherland? Evey part of that narrative is completely disgusting.Duron chavis – founder of happily natural day
While I was in my late twenties; due to the work we had invested in up to that point – I was invited to London with a contingent of Africans from here to go talk about identity with Africans “across the pond” as it was denoted. This was an entirely African run endeavor. The sponsors of my trip were black and from here. I went with black businesswomen and men. At the time, Carol’s Daughter founder had not sold her company; she was there. Organic Root Stimulator had not sold their company; they were there. Erykah Badu was booked to perform (and I had something to do with that because I had been working with Yvette Smalls who had been her hairstylist and I just passed the contact along) Janine Bell went with me, Marci Walker out of Baltimore went to and so did Messiah Ramkissoon‘s mother. We were going to a black run event; stayed in Brixton, London which is equated as Harlem of London. I stayed with a black woman business owner in a loft apartment and it was black excellence before hashtags. You get the point. It was black. Blackity black, black with black on top.
Upon arrival in London, at the event; Adornment London – we were scheduled to speak on a panel featuring Erykah Badu (see below) but were also given booth space to sell our wares and promote our endeavors. I at the time; was a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association founded by Marcus Mosiah Garvey. So I brought books, and newspapers (I took products from Nadira Chase’s Adiva Naturals product line) and other items to promote that work as well as Happily Natural Day (see below). I was enthralled by the diversity of blackness. I mean I never experienced anything like it since. Blackness from across the Diaspora, all in one place by the thousands. Literally. Thousands upon thousands of Africans from every corner of the continent, Carribean and the UK. As I reminisce upon it; it sends chills up my spine.
While tabling; I got into two conversations. I want to tell you about both because I consider them exhibit a) and exhibit b) as to why I would never let the progeny of my oppressor serve as an intermediary to my family across the pond.
As I navigated the space where my booth was, of course, because of the wide array of red, black and green and marcus garvey iconography and because of my work I was engaging in numerous dialogues. Some with Africans who did not even speak english – but my RPS gifted 12 grade French allowed me to even navigate some basic conversations with folks – who just based on Marcus Garvey ALONE – connected immediately with me and though the language of emotion, smiles and broken je ne’ parle francais _ je parleAnglaiss je’m appellee Duron, I made new friends. More often I engaged bilingual brothers and sisters – and one conversation is forever embedded in my soul – in so much as I think it speaks to our cultural holocaust in the deepest way.
Three African sisters, one from Madagascar and her sister and another from Cote D’ voire and I were talking and I asked where they were from and they were happy to tell me their country of origin. None of them said they were from London even though they lived there. Subsequently; the question was posed to me – to which I replied I am from Virginia in the United States. To which the sister from Madagascar replied; “No…where are you from” in a way that was gentle but probing not in an insulting way but more inquisitive than anything. I stuttered “um, Richmond, Virginia – I really don’t know much further beyond that because of slavery.” Her sister and she both gave me these looks of sympathy. And I have to be honest; I felt bad about. i felt embarrassed. I felt angry. I felt like I should explain how my ancestors had been raped by white men and women, and bred and sold across the country, and lynched, and experimented on and packed in the hull of a ship and because we were declared property nobody kept records of where we came from exactly. My cultural lineage- my line to the continent had been taken from me by white people.
But I didnt have time. Or maybe I did and I was just stunned by how I felt in that moment. I explained that slavery had happened and the whites had burned the city of Richmond down after the civil war and there weren’t any records. The sister in the most helpful way suggested doing a DNA test to see where I may be from. I remember agreeing and the conversation topic being switched to something less invasive. I felt naked. Honestly, I felt shame. I felt pain. I felt loss. Deep and profound loss. I recall a lump forming in my throat about it.
Before I go any further. I don’t need you to console me about this moment. That moment was an epiphany for me in many ways. I am glad I felt that pain because it pushed me to go deeper into my story and it bolted me deeper into this work in a new way because I felt in that shame, in that anger – that something had been stolen from us. Ripped away before we had a chance to hold it. Our birthright had been snatched by this wicked evil madness called Western civilization. By the ancestors of white people. And no; I lay no blame at the foot of Africans in this neoliberal attempt to justify white slavery by saying blacks sold blacks into slavery. We know that CHATTEL slavery and African slavery are two different universes altogether – google is your friend.
Something had been stolen from us. I felt that missing part intimately in that 10 minute conversation. i looked for the space where that pride in who my ancestors beyond slavery would be and I couldn’t grab it. They existed. But I knew not thier names, their cultural traditions, their point of origin, nothing. So when I heard about this white male trying to broker a conversation – one that in all ways are necessary for our collective healing as a people – I am furious that he would even imagine himself as qualified to take leadership in that regard. He has no right. And the fact that he thinks he has a right is part of the imperialist mindset of passively racist whites who beleive they can culturally appropriate each and every aspect of every indigenous culture and exploit it on their summer break as they missionary position benevolent mind fucks on the realities of black and brown people who because of the compromised position will gladly take the money because shit – we gotta get paid even if the payer is problematic as we prostitute our cultural heritage for the cheap thrill of someone on vacation?Hell. Fucking. No.
The second part of this story; please beg my pardon for being so long winded, starts with me deciding to stay at the event after the panel and after everyone else in my contingent had decided to head home for the night. I had money for a cab I figured I would just take one back. However, I got to talking to some brothers and sisters from the London contingent of the Uhurui Movement and instead, they agreed to help my get back to my accommodation by bus which was way way cheaper. They did this on the strength of my UNIA-ACL membership, the conversations we had about the movement and just the vibes we had kicking it that day. So again, the idea that we as African people need white people to broker any type of conversation across the continent for us is complete and utter bullshit. We don’t need any middle men. We got this. We know what time it is when we see each other and we are smart intelligent purpose filled people both here and there on the continent and if ANYBODY thinks we need neoliberal white multinational saviors – they are on the wrong side of history. No. We will not be party to the gentrification of Africa. Breh.
Thank you for reading this missive. Just say no to Richmond Revealed. It is a fraud and black people don’t need white people to be middle men to our brothers and sisters on the continent.In this digital age, there is absolutely no reason why Africans here and Africans there can’t connect. To presume otherwise is paternalistic and also opening up the threat of neocolonial and neoliberal aka gentrifiers into the continent. Why would I rely on the grand children of my oppressor to dictate my engagement with my motherland. Evey part of that narrative is completely disgusting. My brother Diallo Sumbry takes these trips regularly. I know many others who are repatriates to the continent. My brother Cashawn Myers has built schools and farms in Africa. There are many ways to connect that do not require a white male from midlothian va doing a summer project on his way to Harvard for a masters degree to hold our hand. We are not babies. We dont need him or them to connect to our brothers and sisters on the continent. All we need is us.
Up you mighty race; accomplish what you will.