Ancestral Lines

There is a woman in Somalia
Scraping for pearls on the roadside
There’s a force stronger than nature
Keeps her will alive
This is how she’s dying
She’s dying to survive
Don’t know what she’s made of
I would like to be that brave

She cries to the heaven above
“There is a stone in my heart”
She lives a life she didn’t choose
And it hurts like brand-new shoes

Hurts like brand-new shoes

There is a woman in Somalia
The sun gives her no mercy
The same sky we lay under
Burns her to the bone
Long as afternoon shadows
It’s gonna take her to get home
Each grain carefully wrapped up
Pearls for her little girl


She cries to the heaven above
“There is a stone in my heart”
She lives in a world she didn’t choose
And it hurts like brand-new shoes
Hurts like brand-new shoes

Pearls – Sade

For years, I have had to endure the dismal ignorance of a great many people concerning Africa & Africans. From high school history books, I learned of Africa through the eyes of the colonizer that did not sit well with me. Surely, there is more to this story, I thought; but owing to the lack of contrary views on this point where I grew up, this void & its’ echoing questions persisted until I went to college. It was only then that the story unfurled in its glory and tragedy.

Some of the debilitating & pernicious lies that continue to rot and blind the minds of many are:

(1)Africans are prone to kill, maim and rape one another
(2)Most Africans are poor, diseased and malnourished
(3)Africa has no history to speak of
(4)Most Africans are by nature corrupt, hostile and hedonistic
(5)Africans are generally less intelligent than most and nothing will become of their uncivilized state
(6)Africans practice a primitive form of religion…

I can go on & on about these negative and uneducated portrayals of Africa, but for the sake of brevity, I will dash away these faulty lens & attempt to sketch an Africa in a clearer, more accurate way–the Africa of laughter, of joy, of originality, of improvisation, the Africa of legend, of story-telling, of playfulness, the Africa of brilliant colors, the Africa of generosity, the Africa of wisdom, of proverbs, of divination, of paradox, the Africa of ingenuity, and surprise, the Africa of magic, of faith, of mystery, of a profound knowledge of nature’s ways and the secret cycles of destiny

Africa’s current woes can be traced back to European colonialism and subsequent neo-colonial pillage and plunder, often at the hands of local ruling classes who serve as de facto proxies to foreign capital/governments (with the U.S, Europe and now ascending China serving as the Grand Puppet-Masters). Before European contact,ancient civilizations of Egypt, Ghana and Mali among others – some of which grew over 5000 years ago – made enormous/untold discoveries in science, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and architecture long before they were known in Europe. Africans had crossed oceans by the time Europeans made their first journey to Africa and some of the European visitors to Africa recognized that these societies were just as advanced (oftentimes more so) than their own.

How do you justify the enslavement of another group of people? Deny their humanity and erase them from history which is what the Europeans did from the beginning of their conquests. And Africa is still reeling in the aftermath as it has yet to recover from this demonic legacy –Europe’s progeny (as well as Oriental Asians though with a milder touch)have picked up the baton to continue on this trajectory of pillage and plunder in very sophisticated ways beyond the eyes of most. Here are a few ways this is happening right before our very eyes:

(1)IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment policies
(2)Corporate profit-laundering, capital flight & offshore infrastructures
(3)Phantom aid, unfair trade, distorted investments and the continent’s brain-/skills- drain.
(4)Abusively powerful ruling elites with incomes derived from foreign capital accumulation.
(5)The dearth of truthful images and historical context in the media and other institutions
(6) Corporate-based aid

(How a continent, so stupendously rich in natural resources with a potential to be entirely self-sufficient & thriving, can be brought to its knees begging, is beyond words ).

What undercuts all of this is the fact of AIDS/HIV which is ravaging many families across Africa, especially in southern Africa. This is a catastrophe beyond the primitive pale of prejudice, disconnected individualism/ethnic pride and unreflective judgements–we are in this together! Even though this catastrophe (HIV/AIDS) is not disconnected from what I’ve been discussing, this is not an area where fingers should be pointing, however justified–this is a human cry from people suffering & it affects everyone on this lonely planet. We are ALL Africa’s children–Black, White, Asian and all the derivatives in between. Out of Africa, our common ancestors, in their wisdom and need, ventured out to seed & populate the entire world. We owe it to our Motherland to get her story RIGHT! More importantly, at this present juncture, we all need to honor & uplift our Mother and help her in her time of greatest need in a spirit of compassion & clarity of vision/purpose.

I end this on a positive note in the music of the great Senegalese musician,Youssou N’Dour, who is a shining light on a dark, moonless night guiding us on our way back home. Indeed, it is worth remembering that our (i.e humanity’s) ancestral home is in the Rift Valley (between Nairobi and the Red Sea) and if it were not for Africa, we would not be here at all.



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