Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Post 100!

I made it to 100! Just shy of 3 weeks till my exile in Vietnam is over. I think anyone who has been in exile, whether a self-imposed metaphoric prison or forced detainment in a cell, can agree you have a lot of time to think or read or write, or design or to do something more constructive since watching television may not be an option. During my two-year exile I've found more time to read more books, especially those in the Bible, and watch movies with a different perspective. My new perspective prompts me to do research and through that research I always find information that relates to my current situation.
For example, I've seen the movie ALI with Will Smith, 50 thousand times, but there was one particular time I watched it that prompted me to do research on Ali and his fighting legacy. I guess I needed more, because I felt the movie focused too much on his political activities in NOI, and less on his career. This is when I discovered the phrase "Thrilla in Manila" was reference to his fight against Joe Frazier in Manila, Philippines. And all this time I thought it had to do with Phillipine-American war.

So today I had the pleasure of watching The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 .
Its an interesting amalgamation  of video footage taken by Swedish reporters, because they were curious to know what was going on in America in regards to the fight for freedom, the rallys, the riots, and the systematic oppression of Black people. It was fun to watch, because as an 80's baby, its hard to believe how hard life was "back in the day". Especially for us children of parents whom were strong enough and smart enough to keep it moving and live their lives in peace and productivity, not peril. Sometimes this meant moving out of a predominantly Black neighborhood into a "safer" suburban environment. So growing up in lily white Green Bay, Wisconsin I can truly say I do not know what it's like to be involved in a rally, sit-in, or hear a church bombing. But my mother made sure my brother and I knew our history. Anyway, as I was watching the movie it got me thinking about a conversion I had yesterday, Saturday night. I attended a bar-b-que hosted by my South African friend. I guess ZA's love to bar-b-que! She invited her new South African friends over. They brought South African sausage, Boerewors. It's kinda like bratwurst, but a bit dry. While waiting for the food, I got into a serious conversation with a grey-eyed ZA regarding ancestry and cultural lineage. I told him I would love to know about my African ancestry, and he proceeded to tell me about his Estonian-German heritage. However, since raised in South Africa, he has no desire to be or feel connected to these cultures. Long story short, he posed the question of,
Q."You know, I see how African-Americans have separated themselves and created their own culture, isn't that good enough?" In other words, why try to find the connection to a culture that I don't know much about and don't have any evident contemporary cultural ties to?
A. Because my history did not begin with slavery. Because in America I am not "American" I'm "The Black girl". Because, it's not soo much that Black people want to separate ourselves, it's that we were forced too, just like we were forced on slave ships and forced into slavery in foreign lands, the government systematically tried to force us to be drug addicts, stupid, and broke, SO since no one asked me or my ancestors whether or not we wanted to take part in the making and building of the history of one of the most "powerful" countries on the planet, I think I have a right to say I want to know my true heritage that was essentially stolen from me.

Any who, of course watching this movie also prompted some research. Did you know Stokely Carmichael was married to Miriam Makeba? And, unbeknownst to me Miriam Makeba is from South Africa. How many times have I heard her song "Pata Pata"? I'm sure some American ad agency has also bastardized it in a television commercial during my childhood. :-) 

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