Well… if you have any type of attitude that does not promote your personal growth or allow you to ooze out your positive energy, dear reader, something has got to go! It applies to anyone, whether you are black, white, yellow, pink or as this description sums it up beautifully… diversely African; a shift in your attitude could be the difference between everything going your way or it all going wrong for you.
We have all heard the expression, “Maybe it is because I am black”, a statement which quite recently put Lewis Hamilton in the headlines for all you F1 junkies. Did you get a chance to witness that moment? And when you heard those words, did you cringe because young Louie dared to share his views, and down right frustration, in front of such a high profile media arena? Was it wrong for him to share that view? Well, do you know what? I am here to declare to you today that maybe that excuse is tired! It is just plain boring and dramatically in-appropriate… that is… to folk who are not black or unable to relate. It is such a personal experience. Now, before you hurl your thoughts out to me in protest of my ideas, which, truth be told, I put out there in the most candid of fashions to generate the maximum amount of response possible (could you tell?), please just hear me out.
It was just a few months ago that I really started to feel black. I mean, I am a black woman, there is no two ways about that, but I had actually reached a point where I was black and depressed to be black. Everything that happened around me was suddenly because I was black. I had managed to put on a bad black-ittude, and you know what, it was very pitiful! I remember walking into a new wine tasting shop back in February. It was the opening day, and the main attraction to new customers was the chance to get free wine tasting all day. Well, this is what I was told when I approached 2 blokes who were making finishing touches to the shop before it opened. I could not hold back my excitement as I congratulated them for bringing a new and exciting twist to my local town centre. Saturday came and I packed my troops to head to the new spot.
Ding! 3 black women enter the shop. No, I guess we were not dressed in our best attire; it gets a bit tiring to think about heading to your local town centre in couture on a Saturday morning. We started to look around and no sooner had we done that, we were approached by a shop hostess, I would say in her late 40’s early 50’s, very slender and smart, with her neck clad in a Louis Vuitton scarf. I suddenly felt as if I had to explain our presence there. I told her with much enthusiasm about how I had heard of the grand opening from the 2 staff, and really wanted to show my support of the new shop, and especially indulge in the free wine tasting. She then began her clinical presentation of how the shop operates.
“Yes, you do get to taste your wine before you buy; however, this free tasting comes with a £10 taster’s club card, allowing you to taste up to 5 wines.”
OK. That was not a problem; I just wanted to enjoy my experience. But no, she went on to emphasise how much should be paid, stressing how expensive £10 must be for the privilege to taste their wines. She did go on to mention they had other more expensive cards which permit the tasting of their more expensive wines. I nodded my head in acknowledgement and expressed a lot of understanding of her statement with the intention of saying, “Well, I will have one of those then.” But the lady went on and on. I tell you, I felt as if there was no one else in the world that could have gone on to over emphasise a simple fact; “No, it ain’t free!” The woman did not even attempt to make the sales pitch of, “So how many cards would you like to purchase to get on with your experience and potentially purchase some good wine?” or “How would you like me to show you some of our favourite wines?” No! There was nothing like that, and at this point I had lost any desire to indulge myself and spend my money in a shop where, forgive me for admitting it, I felt unwelcome, and it was because I am BLACK! There! I said it! Unfortunately, this “black-ittude” lingered for the rest of the day and unfortunately, I allowed it to ruin a potentially top notch Saturday. Lose the “black-ittude” folk and move on.
There are countless other stories like this or even worse. How many professionals out there feel that they are not permitted to shine, but instead, must dig their heads in the sand, and aim with all their might to be seen but definitely not heard, sometimes it is even better not to be seen? And you cannot talk about it to anyone else but another black person as it is taboo to even mention it. And if you do not experience this fear, or the disease that is having a bad “black-ittude”, then my friend, you are free to be yourself.
In any case, is the excuse tired, or is it just a heavy burden to carry? Whatever it is my friends, refuse to retreat into the hole that black-ittude can dig out for you; it can completely shatter your confidence. I know, it is easier said than done. I normally go about my business not giving a second thought to my essence being reduced to just a colour; I am simply me most times. Sometimes, you just cannot help but be reminded that you are viewed as a colour. People have said to me, “I remember a time when coloured people were not welcome in this place, how times have changed.” Or “I left South Africa because you black people are getting all the jobs” (and I am not even South African, funny that the statement was not that this person left South Africa because they were white).
What was the point of my post? Yes, I put my hand up, if it were up to my naughty side, I would have wanted to push your buttons and potentially add fuel to a fire that may already be burning in your heart, but that is not my intention. I want to give out a positive message of encouragement friends. Losing the bad “black-ittude” is about finding the courage to move on from negative situations that may have happened to you because of your appearance. How do you deal with it, express that frustration and let it out? There is a time and a place for everything. Lewis Hamilton’s remark caused headlines, he was angry and it may not have been the best place to express his true feelings, but that is Lewis. It will blow over after some time. Some people I do admire for handling the “situation” very well is none other than Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. They have poured out their hearts countless times in books on experiencing injustices due to their skin colour. Remember Michelle’s potential room mate at Princeton? Her mom objected to her daughter living with Michelle because she was… well… not white. But during his presidential campaign, not once did Barack Obama retreat and attribute all the negative publicity and political bashing, even as the US president, to him being black. (I must thank my loving husband for sharing this thought with me). So be encouraged dear friend and hang tough, there is victory for you in the end. Never allow negative situations to get you down. Cry about them for 5 minutes, then wipe your tears, move on to the finishing line and win your race.
I am sure you might think this is an odd topic for Africaontheblog’s (AOTB) first year anniversary post. But I picked this topic because, yes, I admit it, I am one who chooses topics that are not the easiest to discuss or could land me into hot water given a different audience. That is just the beauty of being a part of the AOTB community. This is a place of freedom of expression, acceptance of diversity, and a place where you can simply put your ideas out there. This is a place where you can promote a positive message today, tomorrow and in the years to come.
I felt so honoured when I got the invite to write AOTB’s 1 year anniversary post. An honour I feel I do not deserve at all as I have been MIA from AOTB for much longer than I would have liked. Well, there is no excuse for being away from such a vibrant community for so long, but if we are ever able to FINALLY get together and organise an AOTB drinks event, I will definitely have a few stories to share. Today I faced the challenge of breaking my “blogger’s block” with a post that will attempt to capture the essence of AOTB’s experience in cyberspace. And audience, I pray that you have enjoyed the topic. I conclude with a personal walk down memory lane in honour of the year that has brought us to today, AOTB’s first anniversary.
I first came across AOTB when a friend of mine published one of his posts on the site. I began to read with intent and followed other posts and in doing so, I started to get to know the people in the engine room of AOTB. These are the writers or bloggers at the heart of AOTB who keep coming up with great posts. I suddenly found myself flung into a world on the internet that gave new meaning to connecting through social media. I discovered people who were passionate about Africa centred topics such as tourism, fashion, food, family life, cultural diversity, romance, ICT, business, social enterprising, economic development, politics, poverty, wealth and mostly uplifting, celebration and promotion of gender equality. And this is just a handful of the variety of topics we get into discussing. The best thing about getting introduced to the blog posts and getting involved in the discussions is that I was free to express myself and not hold back. It felt as though I was totally doing this with people like me, who shared the same interests; like sharing good conversation with friends over a glass of wine and smooth afro beats playing in the background.
Dear friends, that’s what AOTB is all about; sharing passions, ideas and experiences. Whether you are a philosopher, an established and world famous writer, a politician like Barack Obama, an inventor, in business or simply in search of a place you can call home on an ever increasingly influential medium such as the internet, AOTB welcomes you. And if you are a shamelessly hopeless romantic on all things Africa, like me, AOTB is definitely the online community which could take you to your happy place. Read current and past posts for a bit of inspiration. Join us as a regular blogger and use this space as your spring board of encouragement. And please, you do not need to be black to be a part of Africaontheblog, better have a change of your “bad-ittude” no matter what walk of life you come from and join in the conversation with people who love Africa.
Happy anniversary Africaontheblog! I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you and may you grow from strength to strength and success in the years to come. Now how about some drinks?