It is a pun, no doubt, but the point I’m looking to make with that play on words is deadly serious: What is good for the Greek is also good for the Ugandan, I think. I’m sure you will agree with me.
My point, true to the spirit of the age, is captured in a hashtag. Hopefully, it will not remain hostage to it: #BlackLivesGreyMatter.
To make Black lives’ grey matter viral again, a good place to start would be to follow after the order of the following: “Euclid” (very likely an avatar built from the persona of an African woman, Hypatia of Alexandria); and of “Simeon called Niger,” referenced in the New Testament where he is duly acknowledged as one of the select leaders of the Church at Antioch, who commissioned the Apostle Paul; and last but certainly not least of the slave boy from the interior of Africa who rose to become pioneer bishop and Bible translator: Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
With reference to the above, I have just whizzed linearly through Time: from 350 BC to AD 60 and then to AD 1800s.
Back to the present, I can imagine how very easy it will be in 500 years’ time, say, for the history of the persona of the last of the trio, above, to become thoroughly Anglicised, with nothing left of his African heritage for folks to see.
Check this out: When I checked with The Museum of the Bible (MOTB), in Washington, D.C., it was sad but not surprising to learn that they do not have anything on Adjai (how he set down his first written word: his name); zilch on his life and groundbreaking work. Nothing! On a life that is easily as stupendously significant as that of another Bible translator, this time the German reformer Martin Luther.
Any one of The Triad, above, lived a life that is the stuff of legends. Making their story – “our” story –viral must start with “us”. And I just brought to you a hashtag you can get behind, to make it a movement, for change. Much like our very own Ajayi did –despite being subjected to much vilification in the suffocating environment he lived in, a miasma in short. Yet, he would insist it’s precisely because of.
Here’s the simple reason why: Be the change you want to see in the world. That’s a quote attributed to a veritable “mahatma” –Great Soul. His name is Mohandas K. Gandhi. Except it’s not so simple to live by, only to sputter. We all readily grant that it’s for all of “us” to ponder.
Why then do “we” get all finger-itchy to slap it on “them”? Yes, “we” does include you –with your fingers on your black-or-white-or-whatever-colour keyboard, poised to type out a ready retort to my submission.
The Jesus of the Bible says it best for me: “Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
What we believe, we behave; and what we behave is who we get to become. Make no mistake: it is an incredibly horrible thing to be discriminated against, especially as a child. As it’s being driven home to us by the roller-coaster news cycle –it’s now zoomed in on redress, at last, for the ordeal meted out to a self-identified N*gger at Eton –the title of the book he would later write to inform readers of the horrible life he suffered at that elitist British school.
Like I did –in a part of Nigeria that I did life in. All my life. The ‘problem’? It’s far from the navel of my forebears. You probably have as well.
The murder (that’s what I call it) of an African Descendant of Slaves (ADOS) in the United States, George Floyd, has yet again brought to the surface backlash against xenophobia exhibited by one group of the human race against another.
The torrential backlash has been a mixed bag. Like the first word I deployed to describe the sickening state of our world, there’s a synonym for it that I like to call attention to –ethnicism –that the English-speaking world got from the Greeks as well: “ethnos”. Its meaning is ‘nation’ as in people-group. It is the Hausa word “kabila”.
No –that’s not as in the name of the father-and-son successive leadership in recent history in the self-styled Democratic Republic of the Congo; except it’s not far from how they lorded it over their people… which is the way the rest of their ilk have done on the continent as a whole.
To live deeper lives, we must dig deeper into our lives –especially past but also the present. As you will see shortly (or maybe already have), I cannot keep from wondering the sort of conversation George Floyd, an ADOS, and a certain Dilibe Onyeama, an African descendant of slave traders (henceforth known as ADOST), could have carried on between them, had they met.
But those twain strains have somehow been doing so, in a reactionary kind of way. What’s needed is a clarion call to have a “family meeting”, to raise the ante.
“We” need to talk about kabilanchi. That’s “eleyameya” in Yoruba. I’m framing my argument within both “land-gauges”, because I’m defined by both. Both have been veritable sources for my life’s arc and influences.
In case, you’re still wondering what my thesis is, here goes: Discriminating against people on the basis of features visible and invisible, real and imagined, is not exclusive to just one “ethnos”. The times call for introspection, more than anything else.
Xenophobia remains systemic, overtly or covertly, in many places around the world. For example, it’s how things got done where I grew up in Nigeria: Your name shows you’re not from around here; heck, your belief system mandates that we treat you differently as dictated by ours; wait –your preferred mode of cladding your body is offensive to our sensibilities!
Get it –or, need I go on?And so, back to my life growing up, in Nigeria: to get into secondary school, many had to change their names; they were forced to buy local names. I looked up the modifier for name back there: “belonging or relating to a particular area or neighbourhood, typically exclusively so”. Simply put, they were forced to erase their own identity.
I know it happened –and still does –right across Nigeria. I experienced it in Northern Nigeria –and so did a boy named Lamidi in Southern Nigeria, who grew up to become an educator. He was also a popular newspaper columnist in his day. You probably know him as Lam Adesina, a former governor of Oyo state (He died in 2012.)
The children’s writer C.S. Lewis already warned us: “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”When will I (and Lam Adesina) be getting an apology, like Dilibe Onyeama did for calling out bad (make that horrible) human behaviour by xenophobes?
Brace yourself; the following is a deliberately long-winded sentence. Dillibe Onyeama reportedly put up a defense for the irony of his grandfather being one of the Africans who profited and built generational “wealth” from the Transatlantic Slave Trade –easily what made it possible for his aggrieved grandson to attend Eton College in the first place, back then –I shall leave it to you to iron out. It’s a wrinkle in time. And it’s about time “we” make it “our” call.
And here is the simple reason why: “Without history, we are at the mercy of our whims. None of the hopes for the future [and angst in the present, I should add] is unrelated to history” (Selwyn Hughes).
It seems to me that we vilify the cerebral and celebrate the visceral. Well, too much. For us to see change, that state of “our” affairs has got to change. That’s why “we” need, as a matter of urgency, to make #BlackLivesGreyMatter viral again.
*Adeleke “Mai Nasara” Adeyemi is a writer and journalist. He is a laureate of The Nigeria Prize for Literature with his book, The Missing Clock. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree programme at Spalding University in Louisville, KY.