One Mixed Race Man’s to Africa from America
I am traveling to Africa, specifically Kenya, for the first time at the age of 46. As a Black American rustling with the history of slavery, current relations of Africans with their United States counterparts, nature, and tourism, I have many questions about this visit. When first traveling to any place, the first thing I do is create a music playlist for the destination. Developing a playlist for me entails looking for local artists along with some of my favorites that have a similar vibe to the local artist. The key to this playlist is the Hip-Hop selections from several local artists. For better or worse, what once was a genre started, performed, and owned by Black Americans has become a global phenomenon. Much like most of globalization, Hip-Hop’s journey worldwide is complicated. So maybe this would be an excellent time to define Hip Hop. The term Hip Hop refers to the culture of MCing, DJing, Breakdancing, Graffiti, and Knowledge.
These five pillars get their origins in New York and, more precisely, the Bronx. DJ Kool Herc began spinning records at parties, and between sets, his father’s band played while he was a teenager in the Bronx in the early 1970s. What started as a way for poor, underprivileged Black youth to express themselves and relay their life turned, like most things in the United States, into a capitalist venture choosing winners and losers and giving out the culture to other races and heritages all around the world. While some Blacks found stardom and revenue, many others did not find any relief than the pride of creating a new art form and a way to make life in America tolerable. As Childish Gambino said, “This is America,” so the outcome of something black folks started only to be taken out of their control isn’t surprising.
The culture spread to Latin youth until all races wanted a piece of Hip Hop. What is surprising is how much Hip Hop has changed over the past forty-plus years. The most concerning trend for me is the lack of knowledge of where the culture started and the people at the music frontier. People across the globe are appropriating the culture while at the same time discriminating against the people who created the culture they love so much.
Whenever I see someone other than a Black youth participating in Hip Hop, I can’t help but wonder if they would be the same ones to cross the street from a black person, clench their purse, or display any other racist behavior towards the very people they are trying to emulate. While many do not do so to undermine the exact knowledge, they are trying to represent unintentionally. Many are just out to exploit the culture for their revenue purposes. All one has to do is scroll through Tic Tok to see examples of the good and bad of globalization of Hip Hop.
So why do I create a playlist from these other cultures if all they are doing is exploiting Black people? As I said, Hip Hop and globalization have a complicated history, and while there are some definite negatives to Hip Hop’s exportation worldwide, the good may outweigh the bad. Hip Hop has allowed youth worldwide to communicate their existence to their community and the world. So when trying to absorb the culture of any travel destination Hip Hop is always my first stop.
It is not a secret most Africans don’t identify with the struggles of Black folks here in America. The divergence in our past, along with the struggles faced during colonialism and the current state of affairs, leaves some vast chasms in each group’s point of view. The racism Black folks face in America is unique to the struggles Africans face with their history of colonialism. I’ve seen enough Youtube and Tic Tok posts of Africans complaining about when American Blacks come to Africa and more than enough Africans telling Black folks how to deal with racism in America to say there are some cultural divides. Yet, there are many commonalities as well. Many of the foods Black folks created in America have roots in Africa. The bright colors, jewelry, dances, and spoken word originated in Africa. Even break dancing has roots in Africa.
So did Hip Hop just return home in its journey around the world or do Africans owe some homage to its American roots? Furthermore, does respect of the origins even matter anymore?
These are just a couple of the questions I have when I think about the conversations I would like to engage in during my journey. The next in my travel checklist is to find some movies set in my host country for the plane ride. At first glance I thought I was going to be stuck out with a bunch of movies about safaris or the “noble savages.” I was happy to find potentash.com and their recommendation for 5 movies that will not disappoint.
The other medium I seek out is books. This has proven both exciting and depressing as I found many selections from authors offering many points of views. So what would be depressing about that? Well many of the books were either from white colonialists point of view, highlight the trouble history of the content, or dealt with the troubling relationship with Africans and it’s natural resources. All books I have interested in reading but as a writer of creative fiction I also wanted to find some books from my favorite genre’s of mystery, thrillers, suspense, even some fantasy would do. Before you write in with a list of the few books that have made best sellars,let me be clear I am talking about up and coming authors and older books I hadn’t heard of before. Kenya buzz.com didn’t disappoint with a list of 22 must read books including Walenisi by Katama G.C. Mkangi who dreams up
“Dzombo is accused of forgery and public incitement, he is sentenced to death by being launched into outer space by a rocket that is supposed to kill him. Instead, he ends up in a utopian world where social justice and democracy prevail. The novel challenges us to explore and imagine new ways of navigating an unjust world the ideology of wale ni sisi na sisi ni wale—they are us, and we are them.”
Stay tuned for my next post when I explore Kenyan art and cuisine before getting into the social issues I am so curious to learn.