Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Pan-Africanism affecting my Ghanaianness?

It's been two weeks since my last post. I didn't see this silence coming when I started blogging. But what you should know is, I got stories, lots of stories. Last Thursday, I attended a meeting regarding a new NGO set-up to raise funds for students in one district in Kenya. One of the founders has been my Swahili tutor for two quarters. To show that I belonged, I started speaking the little Swahili I knew to whoever would listen. "Why are you studying Kiswahili?" This is the question other people at the meeting asked me. I responded "Marafiki zangu 'plenty' wanatoka Afrika Mashariki" which means 'a lot of my friends are from East Africa'. My Swahili tutor went on to say 'This guy is a Pan-Africanist'. That is a cool thing to hear given my love for Kwame Nkrumah, but is it really a cool description? How are Pan-Africanists seen today? People blamed Nkrumah for concentrating too much on other African countries and he eventually began to alienate his own people. Will being a Pan-Africanist thread me on the same path?

The other attendants at the meeting had learnt Swahili for a longer time than I had. Some were 'white' Kenyans (kids of white missionaries who now call Kenya home). It was no different from my actual Swahili classes. I was like the only African in both of the Kiswahili classes I took, the first one I took had an Eritrean. I am probably not going to spend more than a month in East Africa in the near future (or would I?), I attended the meeting because I felt I had to, because the guy conveying the meeting was my Swahili tutor (who is from Kenya) and besides, it is an effort to help Africa. After that meeting, I 'bocked' the dining hall to grab some 'chow' (food) and hurried home. I hurried home so that I could catch another meeting at the Stanford Law school. This meeting was a fundraiser for a world-class hospital in Nigeria. Why did I attend? I didn't know the fundraisers and I am not particularly interested in health. If I remember the correctly, I was the only non-Nigerian African there. Maybe, I went for the free food; because I did walk away with 5 free T-shirts. The T-shirt reads, "They will suffer no more on my watch". Is it possible to watch over the Nigerians too?

The night before, I had helped a Kenyan move into his new apartment, and actually worked overtime that I ended up sleeping over at his place. Talk of dedication to the Pan-African cause. His roommate who is Nigerian, went to the same college like the double two both of us. You know what's cool about Pan-Africanism? You hang around a lot of Africans enough to figure out our differences. I swear I could tell quite well if some guy was from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, etc if I saw him. I think identifying Habeshas (Ethiopia) is the easiest. I can even identify Rwandans and Burundians. Don't test. Have you noticed the differences in how some people pronounce English words? Take the word 'work' for instance. Ghanaians say 'wek', Nigerians say 'wok' and Kenyans say 'wak'. Get some of them who lived in the respective countries for a long time and put them to the test and I'll be vindicated.

I am trying to remember the last time I attended a Ghanaian event sef. I do know I went to the Nigerian independence celebration party last month and acted like I was a Nigerian; welcoming Nigerians to their own party. Why did I attend this event? I wanted to meet some more Nigerians (someone would say women) in the Bay Area. Up till today, I did see a lot of Nigerians there but I only met a handful of them. I am proud of the negotiating skills I displayed to make sure I paid the advertised gate fee/damage/price though. No one can 419 me. Hey, I also went to see a Somalian rapper perform and a South African choir sing, all because I wanted to support my fellow Africans.

In the midst of closely following the run-up to the Ghanaian election and my favorite Black Stars, I think I may have lost track of being pro-Ghanaian. My services to GhanaThink has suffered, and am wondering what is up with Stanford's own Akwaaba Ghanaian Students Association because I haven't really bothered to find out. I am too interested in Obamamania, which has probably sparked my interest because of its Kenyan angle. Is it possible to strike a good balance between being nationalistic and being Pan-African? Can one be nationalistic and be open to other cultures at the same time? How is that done? Surely, something will suffer abi? You may hear me saying 'wetin dey happen' more instead of 'what dey happen'.

But wait, the great Osagyefo said "Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa". We must celebrate our diversity but we must have a dream tied to it. We must synergize our energies for our common good and a vision that must be defined by our leaders. Pan-Africanism and African unity should not confuse us in our bids to better our lots as Ghanaians or citizens of other African nations. Pan-Africanism should not suffer my love for Ghana or vice versa. We have a lot to learn from each other and share what works and what does not. If we can take interests in foreign things, why not what is foreign and close? We sometimes face a lot of different circumstances, and these differences can educate us.
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