When the Chips Fall

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What Africans are Learning from the Pursuits of Men like Dr. Martin Luther King

Hey there people! It feels like ages but I am so glad that I got an opportunity to share something on this sensitive topic. First and foremost, Happy New Year, or as we would say in my country Baraka za Mwaka Mpya Kwenu (Blessings of the new year to you all)!

As the first post on my blog, I want to set the pace for a series of thought-provoking and inspiring pieces throughout the year. This is the first of many that I hope will get the world thinking a little bit more of my voice as a member of the black-African community.

For a long time now, people of African descent have been identified every now and then as “African”; a clear example of this is seen in it’s use as an adjective to describe members of the black community who reside in the US, naming them “African Americans”. As okay as it sounds, it isn’t the full story surrounding the terminology.

African American is not necessarily a substitute for the indicator of people group. Black is the race, African is related to the continent and as such does not make an excellent substitute for the truth. Our identity is black. The question then remains, why do we escape it so?

I was privileged enough to hear from people who have had negative encounters with some people from other racial backgrounds and what they have observed is worth noting. One of the first things that they observed is that black is associated with the worst things imaginable (think about it a little bit…’black plague’, ‘black coal’, ‘black sludge’). I’m sure you get the point. It is very hard to associate oneself with that word…and what seems to happen is that these negative connotations associated with the color itself are somehow pasted onto those whose skin is labeled black or dark (note the words used). This is how Africa itself gained its identity as the ‘Dark Continent’…not a cool name.

But should we run? Martin Luther King Jr showed the African American community–no, scratch that!–the world! That race does and can never determine one’s contribution to society (content of an individual’s character supersedes the color of one’s skin). It is on this very basis that black as a color has over the years been associated with cool, hip, fun and stylish…and it is on this very basis that my fellow black people ought to realise that there is hope for our people. Not because of change of use of the word black, but because of the potential of the black community to be more (so far I feel like we have been up to a lot of “doing”). We are either getting hyped up about immediate wealth/riches or clinging to titles or forms of power.

In us uniting and working together, we can show the world what we are made of as fellow citizens of the world and coequal members of the human race. Africa is probably the richest continent but we underestimate it because we underestimate ourselves. Racial slurs and awful history has affected us negatively and it doesn’t matter whether you were born in Africa or in the West…we’ve suffered but here we are. It’s about time we own our identity as one people and stop bickering and allowing divisions of no consequence to destroy us.

We know pain, we know labor and we know intelligence. How can we let divisions reign in our midst…we are one! All other races ought to work together in like fashion and help destroy the chains that have kept us in fear.

In Jesus’ words, let us love one another…

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BLACK PANTHER: THE MOST UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO BLACK THEOLOGY

God works through me, the same as you. There is no feat I achieve that you are not capable of.”

-Black Panther

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As fascinating and as unexpected as it may sound, the Black Panther is indeed a very important figure in comics. This exception of the Black Panther does not exclude other significant black superheroes of authority and influence such as the Blue Marvel. But, the Panther takes first place because he came before the rest. His impact on African American thought was revolutionary. At a time when the African American community battled with self identity, Marvel Comics showed that they could rise up to the occasion and create a character who would be the image of African Americans. The Black Panther, though unassociated to the group that went by the same name did something unimaginable. It not only changed how African Americans saw themselves, it also demonstrated that though they originally hailed from Africa [which had been christened the ‘Dark Continent’ in the sixties], that they and their homeland were not so ‘dark’ after all.

In a manner that must have stunned DC readers at the time, the Black Panther was a point in and of himself. Unlike DC’s Cyborg, the Panther was not a sidekick, he was his own authority. He has remained, since the time of his creation, a king, a genius of Marvel’s top cream, a superhero and a priceless contribution to the Avengers’ team on panel. Now, here’s where some of you may ask some questions like, “Wasn’t Marvel just trying to capitalize on a present issue to earn some extra income?”. The answer, a resounding “No”, here’s why; Stan Lee had pointed out that he did not like his character being ‘shadows’ of the so-called ‘main hero’ because he felt that they took something away from this main hero. He later on went to state that he would not do to any of his characters what DC had done to Batman’s Robin and subjugate them.

At a time when comic books themselves were seeking relevance, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics were on the right path. Seeking to create characters of substance, and relatability; meaning that the selling point of the characters would not be on their power or abilities but on their diverse personalities, weaknesses, challenges and ability to ‘rise up’ as it were after being knocked down several times over. This, if I must say, is a strength. And as recent comic news is showing us, Cap’s history has been re-written. He is now a triple agent and a HYDRA project?? Anyway, many fans are a bit confused about this reveal but this story is bound to be one that may lead fans to respect the Captain even more. Some of you might be skeptical but watch this space…

Now, to the issue at hand, Black Theology and Black Panther’s contribution to the same. Black theology has had a very powerful influence on American society as a whole. Be it loved or hated, it is a force to reckon with. Seeing the likes of Martin Luther King Junior, pardon me, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. springboard the revolution in the U.S. that shook the very core of the rest of America we got the best comparison to the Black Panther character. We got Barack Obama, an educated African man who made African American history through his dual heritage as a Hawaii-born black man. It’s this point that makes me respect Marvel; they looked into the future by being great analysts of the present. I speak and express myself in these posts as a young African man of black descent and I have grown up reading comics. Not only do I love them, I relish their perspectives on several events. As an African theologian, I am thrilled to see the parallels that can be made from the comic book/fictional realm and the realm of theology. If some of the greatest ministers advised other preachers/theologians to hold a paper in one hand and the Bible in another, then comic books qualify right there near the newspaper.

Kudos Marvel on bringing the character to the big screen in Captain America Civil War!

“The more different we are, the more we find that we are the same”

-Chinese Proverb

TEARS OF A SISTER: THE POWER UNSUNG

WHY THESE WOMEN ARE MORE THAN JUST BLOOD, THEY ARE GOD GIVEN EXAMPLES OF STRENGTH

“She’s my sister, break her heart I break your face”

-Unknown

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Why we have these treasures in this life, we shall never truly know. One thing is for sure though, they are here for a reason. I don’t know about you, but I have one and I would love to appreciate mine as well as every other sister out there with this post. There is much to learn from your wit and wisdom, your love and your insight, you are more than a relative, you are an adviser, a friend and a source of joy to us all. I doubt that many can disagree with this one fact; sisters rock! If you doubt this, well, I hope you’ll take a keen look and see it for yourself, she is a gift.

This is a personal story, I know it’s kinda easy to say all sorts of wonderful things about one’s fellow family member without demonstrating how she earned her respect and praise. As way to demonstrate my praise, I want to be clear and dedicate this to my sisters, Bertha ‘Kaka’ and Sharleen. Both of you are walking wonders. How you have been with me and supported me all this while, I shall never understand. For never giving up on me, I am truly indebted to you. Keep being such shining examples of what it means to be women of influence and impact. I believe you both to truly be embodiments of the feminist ideals┬áthat your hero, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks of (wherever you are, Chimamanda, I hope you are hearing this! You are a sister too so this article is for you).

When I was going through a cycle of my life as a guy, a cycle of low self-esteem, self-doubt, fear…just to name a few, I didn’t have many people that I could count on. There weren’t many people who knew me that well to support me and help me up on my feet and help me become who I am today. Being the first child in my family from both my paternal side and my maternal side to study theology, I had my share of challenges from the very start. I never though much of it initially, but until I went through a long stormy season that rocked me to my core, that’s when I truly understood. Dealing with a calling in this day and age is not easy, sometimes it feels easier to fall away and be someone else–which is exactly what I sought out to do during this dark period in my life.

Trust me, it may not seem like it right now but having that one family member, especially a sister (even that one cousin/family friend), helps. It’s even much better, several times over, if she prays; that is the one thing that astounds me to this day. For when I began to push people away, when I began to act different, when I no longer so my call as being of any worth, my sisters understood and stepped in to pray for me as well as provide counsel. And it was at this very time that I realized that I was merely falling short of the example I had been since the beginning. I did not see it myself until I got out that I sank real low. I wanted to be ‘that’ guy, the kind who could go out, the kind who could be ‘a ladies man’, the kind who could say all the right things but not commit to them. Yeah, ladies, gents, that was me. If you are at this point disgusted at this, I do not take offense, I was filthy, an ingrate.

There are many things guys like me go through, especially ministers and its largely due to one’s own insecurities. Lead a mega-ministry, but be weighed by an equally mega blemish. It is not unheard of. I, do by no means intend to belittle my actions, but intend to make it clear through this story that I am a human being with numerous faults and that I fess up to them and own them. Because of my sisters and their support, I have been able to find my way back to the Lord. I am not fully perfect but I cannot let a day go by before praying for these mighty women of valor. Kaka, Sharleen…I honor you. May the Lord increase, sustain, guide, nourish, provide and hunt you down with his favor and blessings always!

Sisters, we might have grown up with them, but we don’t know what the word means until the crisis comes. May I sincerely be blessed with a wife of such mettle as you.

In tears, I write this. I honor you sisters around the world. Keep making a difference, especially in the lives of your fellow siblings.