Off To The Motherland...
Several thoughts are running through my mind as I buckle my seat belt and prepare for the 15-hour plane ride that lies ahead. Although I have never traveled to Africa before, I hope to feel a connection with the Coloured and Black people of South Africa. I hope that in spite of our physical separation, we are able to bond through our common struggles. I look forward to experiencing the beauty of the land and feeling the warmth of the summer African sun. Africa is the place where civilization began, it is my ancestral home.
Yet, as I visualize myself amongst my people in a land that once belonged to my family, I cannot help but notice that the majority of the people who are on the plane to South Africa do not look like me. I am immediately reminded that the South Africa I am going to is a South Africa that was once colonized, that has suffered through apartheid, and that is still fighting to end struggles of inequality as a result of European settlement. It is where my people were snatched, dehumanized, and sold. Nonetheless, this is our Africa. Despite enslavement and oppression, the essence of who we are persists throughout the diaspora.
I can’t help but admit that as I share this plane ride with majority white people, I feel a sense of entitlement to the place that we are traveling to. This feeling stems from the fact that the only reason white people make up the elite 1% of South Africa (while the country is majority Black) is because of the brutal force of colonization. Pre-European settlement, the land belonged to us. Now the people who should own the land do not. The people who should enjoy the natural resources of the land do not have access to it. I am privileged to have an experience that will affirm my rebellious existence in areas that have been, and continue to be, white-dominated.
As I am thinking of the resiliency of African people I become hopeful. Still, I am dismayed that it is so common for Black Americans to view Africa as a foreign place across the pond with nothing to do with us, or buy into preconceived notions formulated by Western media. It isn’t right that many Black people in America will never get the opportunity to travel to Africa, including the respective places from which their ancestors once called home. Traveling to the continent with other Black students is symbolic of occupying physical spaces that have been strategically and systemically inaccessible to people who look like us. As I embark on this journey, I will have the opportunity to go back and reclaim the spaces that I, as a Black American of African descent, have been denied. I persist in my efforts to transform those areas in honor of those who do not have the resources or privilege to do so themselves.