The Revolution Will Be Tweeted: Why It's Not Enough To Talk The Talk

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted: Why It's Not Enough To Talk The Talk

Today's Pan-Africanism and the parallels between #BlackLivesMatter and #ThisFlag
18
views

Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Biko and Huey P. Newton. Robert Sobukwe and Malcolm X. African liberation movements and the American civil rights movement, and their corollary of Black Consciousness have mirrored and borrowed from each other for years, forging connections between the US and the continent that most people either aren’t aware of or choose to ignore. Kwame Nkrumah, in his vision for Ghana's independence, borrowed a lot from Marcus Garvey's thoughts on Pan-Africanism, which were in turn taken on by many African countries in their independence movements. Over time, however, Pan-Africanism has been diluted and taken on multiple meanings. Politicians like Thabo Mbeki called for “economic Pan-Africanism,” leaders like Robert Mugabe and the late Muammar Gaddafi sought “political Pan-Africanism” and the proponents of the Negritude movement engaged in what one could call an “intellectual Pan-Africanism.” The point is, ideals of Pan-Africanism have intertwined black people everywhere for a long time, and this has not always been for the better.

In our day, social media has become a platform for the sharing of content, ideas and movements. There’s a new kind of black experience, where we - via Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the like - are connecting with each other, and with this hyper-exposure we’ve been forced to grapple with ideas about what it really means to be black. Siyanda Mohutsiwa in her TedTalk coined the term “social Pan-Africanism” to indicate this sense of interconnectedness, particularly on the interwebs. And although she meant it in a distinctly positive sense, the flip-side is that “Africa” ceases to be a real place with real people, and instead becomes a romanticised, exoticized entity.


We latch onto this new version of Pan-Africanism without stopping to think about its implications. Festivals like Afropunk try to cash in on this new sense of shared identity, and artists like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar embrace it in their music videos and performances, all the while refusing to tour on the continent or really try to gain an understanding of all the symbolism they like to employ. This has often erupted in heated debates, such as the whole debacle aboutBlack Americans appropriating African culture sparked by Zipporah Gene, which tend to spiral unnecessarily into oppression Olympics. Most recently, however, this issue has been apparent in the parallels between the #BlackLivesMatter movement and movements on the continent like #ThisFlag.


#BlackLivesMatter has been a force to be reckoned with for a while now. Sparked by outrage at the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012, the movement has been bringing awareness to and resisting the modern day genocide against black people in the United States. Protests against police brutality and systemic racism have gained so much traction that #BlackLivesMatter has received solidarity from all over the place - including the continent.


Ryan Lenora Brown interviewed South African students for an article in the CS Monitor, and wrote about a student activist who said “We are lamenting the same pain we are feeling with them. We are here to send the message that black lives matter everywhere in the world.” Africans have taken on the Black Lives Matter movement, in the spirit - I would argue - of the social Pan-Africanism that Siyanda Mohutsiwa speaks of. The problem, however, is a profound lack of reciprocity.

The #ThisFlag movement of Zimbabwe was born in much the same way #BlackLivesMatter was - it’s a movement of the people, protesting unjust systems that have been in place for too long. Pastor Evan Mawarire, “through his social media movement... has been backing a stay-away campaign this month to protest about perceived corruption and economic mismanagement” (BBC News). When police arrested him on trumped-up charges and he was likely to disappear mysteriously into the bowels of the judicial system, when police were beating old women in the streets for carrying their flags, when people were assaulted for staying home from work in protest, Zim Twitter’s outrage spilled into the streets and held the justice system accountable for its actions, ultimately resulting in Pastor Evan’s release.


Africans all over the continent, frightened for loved ones and angry at the state of affairs, jumped onto the hashtag, raising a complete ruckus. But there was a blanket of silence from African Americans. In the week of the climax of the #ThisFlag movement, I would scroll through my Twitter TL and nobody outside of people directly affected was talking about it. Ditto with Facebook. Ditto with Tumblr. I was perplexed. Where was this Pan-Africanism that African-Americans were so defensive of in the cultural appropriation conversation? In the Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar conversation? In the Afropunk conversations? In the wake of all the solidarity received for the Black Lives Matter movement, where was the solidarity for Zimbabwe?


Pan-Africanism is about more than just wearing kente headwraps and knowing a couple of words of Swahili. Pan-Africanism is about more than just the intellectual traditions of the 50s and 60s. Pan-Africanism is about more than just lip service. And while it’s spiralled into so many different tributaries and taken on many different meanings that we’re all still trying to figure out, showing up for each other is the first step.

So if you’re willing to talk the talk, please be willing to take the first step with us.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

Popular Right Now

An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
162934
views

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

First-Generation Kids of Brown Parents Are Bridging the Gap Between 'Traditional' and 'Modern'

Speaking as a first-generation child of Indian parents, it's going to be a rough and rocky road for us all.

83
views

I didn't realize or think about what it would be like being the first generation in my entire lineage to live in a country other than India. It just never occurred to me that this was a bigger deal than I thought it was. Yes, I would be living on the opposite side of the world than most my family members, such as my grandparents. But growing up in this country with parents that grew up in India, this is more than just a geographical distance between my family members and I.

My parents left India and came to the United States to ensure that their children (my brother and I) would have more opportunities and live a better life. That kind of transition is definitely not easy because they had to abandon their home, their language, their family, and their country to come to a completely foreign land. It required a lot of struggle, sacrifices and a hell of a lot of courage to do this. And I am forever grateful.

But in a way, this is going to be a way more difficult path for my brother and me, along with any other first-generation children of Indian parents. Not in the sense that we will have to uproot our lives to move across the world, but we will have to face a lot of societal and traditional issues. Right now, it seems as if we don't necessarily belong anywhere. We are different from the other people our age whose families immigrated to the U.S. hundreds of years ago. But we are also different from our parents because they cannot relate to us and we cannot relate to them.

While our parents grew up in a land where things are done a certain way and traditional rules must be followed, it is a little different for us. Growing up in a "melting pot" country where there is diversity of race, religion, and thoughts and ideas, we are constantly exposed to new things.

We were always given the freedom to think and say what we believed and wanted. We have a lot more room for expression than our parents or grandparents ever did. But even though our parents came to this country and were exposed to these thoughts, they stuck with the beliefs they always grew up with because it is a part of their identity. For us, it's a little different because we grew up and surrounded ourselves with all kinds of new people and thoughts.

As amazing and expressive it feels to have this freedom, it also makes it more difficult for first-generation kids because we are going to have to stand up to tradition and introduce these new ideas to not only our parents to all of society. These ideas include dating and love marriages, the extent of religious beliefs and our own faith in God, how to raise kids, distribution of responsibilities in a family where both the husband and wife work, etc.

Our families have done things a certain way for generations and generations, and for the first time, this is going to be disrupted. There is going to be a change in tradition, a revolution. And it's going to be us first-generation children of Indian families that are going to have to bridge the gap between "traditional" and "modern." It's going to be a difficult road, but in the end, it will be worth it because our future kids will have a more open-minded family and society to be a part of.

Related Content

Facebook Comments