This is an extremely interesting article from my college friend whose blog I subscribe to at Connecting the World. He poses that the disconnect between African-Americans and Africa is more propaganda than anything, and in a twist of popular thought, he uses NYC native rapper Nas’ own recollection to show how motherland Africans look down on African-Americans. He suggests that the media develops a stereotypical negative lens on Africa and therefore ‘African-Americans’ know nothing out of this misdirection.
I for one, totally reject the terms ‘African-American’ and also ‘West Indian’. See more in this documentary short I made with some Rasta youths in Jan 2008
Check out Josh’s blog on U.S and International society and politics at Connecting the World- http://worldpolitics.tumblr.com/
Why Rappers Are Allergic of Africa
By Joshua Khan
New York- Black History Month is the time of the year where people of the African diaspora reflect on their roots and their history. A lot of Blacks read literature, watch programs, and host community events, but apparently visiting Africa might be off limits for a while. In a conference late last year, rappers Pharrell of the Neptunes and Nas explained to reporters why rappers don’t visit Africa.
When referring to Africa, Nas had this to say “You never going to have much security, so I didn’t bring much I just bought one person with me and I bought my jewelry if they (Africans) are going to take it, it’s theirs anyway (referring to diamond trade).” Nas also stated that many lies were told to African Americans regarding Africa as well as many horror stories. Pharrell went on to say that he was surprised to see wealthy Africans when he first performed in Durban in 2008. “It was interesting to see people who look like us and have a lot of money as well” said Pharrell. Nas also said that the disconnect between Africans and African Americans are immense and that Africans needed to prove to African Americans that it’s safe to come visit Africa. Nas said when he visited Nigeria the conditions were so dire, he nearly shed a tear. “There’s no connection what so ever, there’s a lot of work to do and it’s beyond hip hop” said Nas.
So how bad are the conditions in Africa? Is Africa really this continent that lacks hope and is troubled by many myths that our media likes to impose on us? Well sure countries in Africa have issues that need to be addressed, but then again what nation is free of problems? For example, Botswana a Southern African nation, sports one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. From 1967-2008, Botswana’s growth rate has been steady at 9% and was and still is one of the highest in the world.Since the global economic crisis, Botswana has still managed to average a 4% growth rate, which is higher than the United States (1.7%) and Japan (3%). Botswana has worked hard to improve infrastructure and in fact, Botswana boasts some of the most developed infrastructure in Africa according to the U.S. State Department. Botswana has also been a leader in combating HIV/AIDS in it’s country by reducing mother to child transmission of the disease to under 4% and providing antiretroviral treatment to 93% of those in need of treatment. Botswana also has a 85% literacy rate among both males and females.
Contrary to what Nas or Pharrell may think, there is no disconnect between both Africans and African Americans. Resources are abundant in both communities, but due to bureaucracy, inefficiency, and inequality, both groups fail to reap the benefits of their resources. America is the wealthiest nation in the world, yet 20% of it’s children live below the poverty line. The education system favors charter schools and standardized testing, which is failing mostly Black and Latino students the most. Roughly 80% of children in Alabama cannot read or perform math at their own grade level. Botswana sports higher growth rates than the United States and provides it’s citizens with healthcare, something Americans have been waiting for. Botswana even hosts higher literacy rates than some states in the United States. Africa has it’s share of problems, discrimination among ethnic lines, corruption, and poverty, but struggle is equivalent to the same meaning whether in Ebonics, Creole, or Swahili. The media has done a good job of distorting news from Africa, for instance constant coverage of rape in the Congo, a civil war in Sudan, and famine in Sub Saharan Africa. But when it comes to covering progress in countries such as Botswana or Equatorial Guinea, such coverage is non existant.
Africans and African Americans need to realize that more binds them together than what rips them apart. It’s not fair for ego maniacs like Nas or Pharrell to demand that Africans prove something to them in order for them to perform or visit Africa. I think there needs to be more humility and that attitude is probably the reason most Africans look down upon African Americans, which is how Nas felt. I don’t see Bono from U2, Brad Pitt, or George Clooney requesting demands to go to Africa. In fact it was last month, George Clooney contracted Malaria while helping those in need in Southern Sudan. But Malaria, poverty, and crime is probably what scares most rappers from visiting Africa in the first place. That’s probably why 200,000 people in Nigeria will go see Bono and less than 100,00 will go see Nas live in concert. Comments like if they take my jewelry so be it, it’s theirs anyway isn’t a good comment to start with, in order to thraw frozen relations between the two groups.
Prominent African Americans such as Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, James Brown, Muhammad Ali, among others have had the privilage to visit Africa in the past. I would of have been surprised to hear the same comments that came from Nas and Pharrell come from the mouth of those figures mentioned above. I think this generation of artists, athlete’s, and other prominent figures could learn from their ancestors from the past a thing or two about humility and the importance of knowledge of self. Nas and Pharrell are symbolic for what our nation and our communties stand for today, this attitude that self is more important than anything or anyone else. This attitude is probably what prevents us from learning about other cultures and even our own roots. I think Bob Marley had it right when he said that in this bright future, you can’t forget your past.
* All statistics above are courtesy of the U.S. State Department and The Children’s Defense Fund.
By Joshua Khan
Check out Joshua’s blog on U.S and International society and politics at Connecting the World- http://worldpolitics.tumblr.com/