Tag Archives: family

Charlotte Uprising

Usually when I hear a story of another Black brother shot in the States, I immediately feel anger and frustration. But when I heard about what the organized, militant protest in Charlotte, I felt hope. As a Canadian, I often feel helpless but today I scrutinized a few ways Canadians and others in the Diaspora can help our American comrades fighting with their lives for liberation.

 First, we must be with them on a conscious level. We must offer our positive vibes, we must pray for them to our ancestors. We have to separate ourselves from the notion that White Is Right. White, no matter how innocent it may appear, will not and has not suffered for liberation. We must separate ourselves from white ideology and think African unification.

   Secondly, we need to raise funds for our comrades whether it’s just $5 or $10, or $20. Each comrade protesting is taking time from work to fight for their right to live. They may not have a job when they return. They may have dependents. They may need supplies during the protests. It is our responsibility as Black Canadians who are fighting for freedom in North America to aid our comrades who are literally fighting. Freedom for one, is freedom for all. We are one.

   We must spread awareness through social media, alerting other people to their plight and effort. We must show the world we are in solidarity and we must show we are paying attention to the injustices in our neighbouring country.

   Lastly, if some of us are able to do so, we must go to the States and lend manpower and show that the killing of Black people is affecting us internationally. If there is a protest in nearby New York or Chicago you can attend, drive or bus it and attend. We cannot sit like cowards in Canada, afraid to fight and afraid to lend a voice. It is time we turn anger into action.

The White Microscope

   I never fully understood what it meant to be under the White Microscope until I moved, precisely a year ago, to a small, rural Canadian town. Originally from Toronto, the White Microscope wasn’t something I previously experienced because there were a lot of Black mothers before me, and a lot of Black mothers will surely come after.

   But in my small town, to see a Black mother was somewhat of a spectacle where in a town of 100,000 only 1% were Black, according to census. Whenever I left my house, I felt the eyes probing and judging. My son, a typically boisterous 2 year old prone to occasional temper tantrums and toddler behaviour, acts out in public sometimes.

   And I find myself shrinking in horror at any slight disturbance he might incur from crying to unwrapping a Kinder egg at the grocery store checkout. It is not that my son is a terrible child, but under the White Microscope, every action, every splash of chocolate milk on his shirt or stray hair is met with inimical disapproval and reprove. I am not a perfect mother, nor is my son a cherub; and to step out of the house and face the White Microscope is extremely disheartening.

   The  White Microscope may exist for you too. Whether you are a Black employee at a white dominated job, a Black soldier in the army or one of few Black children in a predominantly white high school or university, you will notice the White Microscope. It is there to judge you, shame you or use you as amusing entertainment and hold you up to the Perfect White Standard to show you exactly how you fall short. The microscope might be invisible, but if our colour is the elephant in the room, then it is our leash.

   I’m tired of the White Microscope. I want to leave my house without my hair perfectly poised, praying my son will be quiet and well-behaved at the library or the doctor’s office, and not glaring at him angrily when he acts like a toddler. I really want to glare at you, hiss at you and put you in timeout until you learn we are all imperfect beings, regardless of skin colour, and everyone deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Re-Africanization

   We all know Black struggle. We are aware of the anguish and suffering of our ancestors who were stolen, beaten, burned, lynched, murdered and raped; suffering that still reverberates through our communities today. And now it’s time to re-Africanize ourselves, to relearn and practice what was taken from us as those ships landed on the Motherland: our languages, our culture and ways.

   Re-Africanization is a positive aspect of our struggle towards liberation because this is the part where we begin to pick up the pieces, where we begin to heal and where we continue where our ancestors left off. Re-Africanizing is a powerful undertaking that has political, economical, societal and personal repercussions for the oppressor. They do not want to see us Re-Africanize collectively. They do not want the Afrikan Diaspora to heal and build itself.

    I am on the very beginning of my re-Africanizing journey and I cannot stand at the top of the mountain and preach what you must do to re-Africanize yourself. That is for you to decide individually based on your circumstances. Some people are fortunate enough to go to the Motherland, others are fortunate to live in Little Africa neighbourhoods in their respective cities.

   Some Afrikan people change their slave names, others are comfortable simply adding an African name to their existing name such as “Kwame Michael Button” or “Oke Janet Brown”. If African names sound strange and unpalatable to you, ask yourself as to why. Other people wear dashikis, geles,  asa okes, Bantu knots and Senegalese twists or henna. Some people are reacquainting themselves with African deities, music and dance. Others read books on ancient African history. A few people are even learning a West African language like Asanti Twi. I cannot imagine this is easy.

   We, in the Diaspora, have been cut off from our roots and origin, and it is up to us to educate ourselves for liberation and re-Africanize ourselves which should come naturally as part of our being. Re-Africanizing is about celebration, recovery, discovery and healing. It is not a foolish thing to embark on because once you have knowledge of self, the next step is to apply it.

Goodbye Slave Names!

   I decided to go to Service Canada last week to begin the legalized change of my French slave name to a West African name. I searched long and hard and found new African names for me and my 2 year old son who is of African-Iranian descent.

  I chose Nomolanga Achieng Eksenwe for myself because Nomolanga Achieng because it is Zulu for “sunny” and I’m an optimistic, cheery person born in the middle of summer. I also chose it because “Achieng” which means “sunlit” is reminiscent of the warm, chocolate brown skin I have. I chose the last name Eksenwe, which is a well known last name.

    My son’s new name Chilongola means “firstborn son” and his middle name Masego means “blessings”. I feel our African names are not just a powerful way of reclaiming our African identity that was stolen away, but of defying the racist social control that exists today. It is a constant reminder of our Blackness, our heritage and history. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone we encounter from colleagues, school peers and strangers.

    I have rid ourselves of the continuity of the Blanchette, Riviere and Dangleben slaveholding families that held dominance over my family for over a century by their French names. Therefore, what we achieve will be Black excellency, not that of our oppressors. They cannot bind us with their stamp no more.

I Ni Ce!

I ni ce! I ni ce means “hello” in the  Bambara language of Africa, spoken primarily by Malians (people of Mali). My paternal family that was enslaved and brought to Roseau, Dominica in the West Indies comes from Mali. Many people from Dominica (the original name of the  isle being Wai’tukubuli’ meaning “long is her body” in Kalinago” come from Mali, Guinea and Senegal in West Africa.
Since deciding to legally change my slave name to Nomolanga Achieng Eksenwe and my son’s French name to Chilongola Masego Eksenwe, I’ve begun to learn more about the rich history of Mali from the Mali Empire to present day traditions and customs. I know I cannot continue the African legacy of my ancestors “Davis and Celestine” without acquiring the knowledge to teach myself and my son Malian culture including the Bambara language, which is surprisingly easy to learn.

Just as Chinese-Canadians or Indian-Canadians practice some cultural aspects of their native heritage (as well as aspects of Western culture, inevitably); I too, want to teach my son about the rich ancient history of Africa from Menes and Thebes to Queen Candace of Ethiopia and Queen Tye.

   My family has ridiculed me about my newfound Black consciousness which begun ironically, in a rural White town I moved to where I clung to a wise, white Rastafarian woman with boundless knowledge of African and Black culture as well as four, beautiful Black Rastafarian children she has that are homeschooled and taught real Black history and critical thinking. It was her who lent me books on ancient Africa and encouraged me to change stubborn Westernized views about myself and my people. In the process, though I have much to learn, I have learned to be even prouder of being African.

   With the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which, with a Black son, has sparked my interest and who I hold solidarity with, I began to read the works of Angela Y. Davis, Assata Shakur, Huey P. Newton, bell hooks, Frederick Douglass and others. This furthered my knowledge in racism and sexism and also helped me to see that my people are not just oppressed and without hope. We have fought long and hard since we were removed from Mother Africa. We did not readily accept slavery, we brave men and women and we continue to fight oppression and systemic racism today. So, I say, hello, to all my African brothers and sisters and to all our brothers and sisters because we are of one race: the human race. Unity and peace is what I strive the world, and self-acceptance and self-love of my Blackness is what I strive for in this blog.

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