I’m Not Black, I’m Coloured – Identity Crisis at the Cape of Good Hope
First, I need to thank Cedric McCay for bringing this video to my attention. He is a great person and I was trying to learn French from him, but I failed miserably. Cedric is an advocate to “Embrace culture, Serve humanity. 1914. Share Africa’s wisdom. Enjoy God’s gift of Life. Bilingue et intéressé par les événements en Afrique et en Caraïbes!”.
I encourage everyone to watch this video. It has affected me personally because being an African-American who lives in Cape Town, South Africa, I am understanding the social dynamics of this country and this coastal city.
I arrived in Cape Town, South Africa in June of 2012. I was excited, nervous, and curious to be moving to my third country.
I love it here in Cape Town, South Africa! You can certainly be successful here! It is interesting to see how much of the Black South African population follows the American hip-hop community. I am treated well. They ask me questions about Rick Ross, 50 Cent, and other artist. People will call me, “Obama”, while I walk down the street. I have to admit that was interesting for me.
However, in the beginning of my arrival, I had an interesting time because of the racial dynamics in the country. The black South Africans would just look at stare at me. Most were extremely friendly, but I did have a few that just gave me a dirty look. I didn’t understand the situtaion. I asked a good friend that I met in South Africa about the situation that I described. She stated, “Oh! You didn’t know? You one of us! You are Coloured”. She further stated that she new I was an American once I started to talk.
My mistake in this lesson was that I applied my knowledge of race and identity from the United States of America and applied the ideology to my situation in South Africa. Big mistake by me, but I learned from it.
As humans, we all desire to be part of a group or identity. South Africa is a great country and it has deep roots in regards to Race & Identity. This movie was made in 2009 and things have slowly changed, but in my opinion, the Identity crisis continues.
So check this video out (Click on the image)!
In the event, the link doesn’t work. The link is: http://vimeo.com/23617382
I saw this on The Reunion of Black Family World Wide facebook page. It is so empowering and inspiring I had to share:
Mwalimu Baruti: Gounding With My Daughters
Our story is a phenomenal record of Afrikan women. No other women have been so loved, coveted and envied for their strength and elegance.
Their lineage determined whether a man could be pharaoh. The world’s first divinities were female. The world’s first female doctor, Preshet, who was a “chief” physician, was a Kemetic woman. The world’s first ruler of an empire, Hatshepsut, was a Kemetic woman. The warrior who, even after Europeans tried to break her spirit by kidnapping, torturing and beheading her sister, relentlessly led the Angolan armies in a fight against the enslavement of Afrikans and the Portuguese onslaught for four decades, a woman so feared by her white enemies that she was called “The Black Terror, “was a queen named Nzingha. The warrior queen named Sarraounia militarily defended her people against Islamic invasion at a time when states all around her were submitting to this forced conversion and relinquishing their Afrikan spiritual traditions. Queen Candace led her troops in battle against the invading forces of Augustus Caesar. The remains of the world’s oldest human belonged to an Afrikan woman named Amargi (misnamed “Lucy”).
The list of your accomplishments on the Continent alone is endless. Many are the names and deeds we will never know but can surmise because we know Afrikan women. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that our ancestral mothers’ social position as equals with our ancestral fathers led other people’s men, afraid to lose their patriarchal privilege, to suppress and brutalize their women to keep them from aspiring to what Afrikan men accepted as normal for Afrikan women.
In being themselves, ancestral Afrikan women had no difficulty taking up arms with their men against invaders. On the Continent, they commanded armies, served as guards, spies, guerrillas, foot soldiers, archers. They became responsible for keeping the oral ourstorical record when the men were carted off to slave on plantations and mines. On the Kemetic Ocean, during the Middle Passage, they did no less. They were the eyes and ears of our revolts. They dealt with our enemy as their men did.
Enslaved or quasi-free in the western hemisphere and elsewhere, they did no less. Time and time again, they conducted enslaved Afrikans out of physical bondage. Harriet Tubman, in looking back over her life and thinking about the hundreds of Afrikans she had freed from the physical bonds of our enslavement, reflected on how she “could have freed thousands more if they only knew they were slaves.” Sojourner Truth, making the point that Afrikan women did the work that supposedly only men were capable of, refused to accept being defined down to the level of european females. Her cogent question of “Ain’t I a Woman?” still rings as a wake up call in our ears.
Standing tall alongside the likes of Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune and Fannie Lou Hamer, they withstood insults, taunts, water hoses, dogs and bullets. They spoke truth, regardless of consequences. They more than earned the honor of being named “first teacher” and nurturer.” These various acts made them neither less than nor more like men. None of these responsibilities negated or confused their womanhood. They defined it.
You are the daughters of these incredible mothers who gave birth to humanity, to cultivation, to civilization. You are the inheritors of a legacy beyond the imagination of most. So, young sisters, you must recognize who you are in order to see and begin to fulfill your responsibility as a woman of Afrika. Only a clear understanding of ourstory, through our people’s eyes, permits this. Any other interpretation, anything less, fosters confusion.
Simply because you are being exposed to ourstory you are very privileged. And privilege carries responsibility. With it, you accept the difficult and humbling task of learning and teaching others so that your generation’s liberating mission can be fulfilled and correctly passed on to future generations. It is because of your privilege that you have an undeniable responsibility to your ancestors, those around you, and those yet to come.
There is nothing so powerful as a young sister who knows who she is, who stands proudly on the shoulders of her ancestors because she knows she is the culmination of their wisdom and spirit. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman warrior in training who has studied her own before and above all others, and interprets reality and society out of that truth first.
Happy Birthday Angela Davis!
While preparing a barbecue in the crowded picnic area of İzmir’s Eşrefpaşa district, they sing old Turkish pop songs and eat Turkey’s indispensable picnic food: stuffed grape leaves cooked with olive oil.
As in any typical Turkish family, the men are preparing the “mangal” barbecue while talking about soccer matches or recent political developments. The heroic acts of their grandparents in the War of Independence also feature prominently in discussions. The old women chat with one another and wear headscarves, as do most older women in Turkey.
Who are these people? Mehmet, Ali, Ayşe, Rabia, Arzu, Emine, Hatice and Hüseyin, to name a few. Everything is typically Turkish except for one detail: They are black. Afro-Turks, as they prefer to be called, are the descendents of African citizens of the Ottoman Empire. They have come together under the African Solidarity and Cooperation Association (ASCA) to revitalize one of their oldest traditions — a holiday celebrated by their grandparents: Dana Bayramı, or the Calf Festival.
According to Deniz Yükseker, a professor in Koç University’s department of sociology, gave a speech on the culture of Afro-Turks during a conference held at Ege University. Dana Bayramı was celebrated from 1880 until the end of the 1920s. “Leaders of the Afro-Turk community, known as ‘godya,’ used to collect money in order to buy a cow. On the first Saturday of each May, they sacrificed this cow. Failing to make this sacrifice would cause draughts, according to popular folklore,” Yükseker explains.
She adds that in those years, Dana Bayramı was celebrated in İzmir for three weeks. Things have changed over time and this year’s celebrations only lasted two days. On the first day, Yükseker presented at the conference on the history of Afro-Turks and a photo exhibit prepared by Özlem Sümer showed snapshots from daily life as experienced by the community. The second day saw a large picnic at which Boğaziçi Gösteri Merkezi and Ege University’s Music Band performed. Melis Sökmen, a famous jazz singer whose grandmother is from Ghana, joined the band and gave a small concert.
During this year’s Dana Bayramı, the focus was on having fun and a cow was not sacrificed. “Some of our friends said that it would be fine to sacrifice a sheep, but maybe next year,” says ASCA Chairman Mustafa Olpak. He points out that Dana Bayramı used to be an opportunity for their ancestors to have a family reunion. The festival served as a venue at which members of a family dispersed by slavery would come together.
Gülay Kayacan, who works for the History Foundation, an institute that researches and publishes articles on Turkish history, says that some of the Afro-Turks are descendents of slaves who used to work on farms or in houses. Slaves working in agriculture were concentrated in areas where cotton production was high. It is for this reason that most Afro-Turks today live on the Aegean coast and some in the Mediterranean region.
“Some 10,000 slaves, black and white, were brought into the Ottoman Empire every year. During the constitutional monarchy period (1876-1878), slavery was abolished and former slaves settled in areas where they used to work. Some of them were even given land by the government,” Kayacan says.
Kayacan is the coordinator of the History Foundation’s “Voices Coming from a Silent Past” project, supported by the European Union Commission Delegation in Turkey. She underlines that their oral history project aims to form an archive that will aid in researching the cultural, economic and social status of Afro-Turks today and to place them in the mosaic of history. To this end, the foundation is recording the personal histories of the Afro-Turk community.
“Unfortunately, most of the elders of the Afro-Turk community who could remember the stories of immigration and the cultural aspects of the community have passed away. Written documentation is also scarce, so we are trying to preserve this undocumented past before it is too late,” Kayacan says. According to personal accounts collected so far, the ancestors of Afro-Turks came from various countries, including present-day Niger, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kenya and Sudan. In fact, the Embassy of Sudan sent a representative to participate in this year’s Dana Bayramı.
Kayacan also notes that some of the descendents of former slaves remain poor. Educational opportunities for them have been scarce and they are generally not property owners. The number of Afro-Turks graduating from universities is below the national average and most women tend to be agricultural workers if they live in villages or housewives if they live in the urban areas. The women that have found opportunities to become educated work as mid-wives or nurses.
Not all or the Afro-Turks’ ancestors were slaves. Some came from the island of Crete following the Lausanne Treaty, signed in 1924. This treaty called for a population exchange between the Greek Orthodox citizens of the young Turkish Republic and the Muslim citizens of Greece. Most of the black on Crete were Muslims, so they were subjected to this population exchange. Like many others who were moved through this population exchange, they settled on the Aegean coast, mainly around İzmir. Eighty-year-old Emine Konaçer’s mother and Olpak’s family were among these immigrants.
Konaçer’s mother spoke only Greek, which explains why Konaçer is bilingual. She and her husband have four children, including Mehmet Konaçer (48), a physical education teacher.
“When I was young, our neighbors would sometimes speak in Greek on our street in Ayvalık and I used to shout at them: ‘Citizen, speak Turkish!’” he says. At the time, the Turkish government had launched a program calling on all citizens to speak only Turkish.
Mehmet Konaçer enjoys dancing the traditional folklore dances of the Aegean area and he performed a dance for the crowd at this year’s Dana Bayramı.
As with every teacher, his students coin nicknames for him. “They first used to call me Clay [after the famous African-American boxer Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali]. But nicknames come and go. As other blacks become famous, the nickname my students choose for me changes,” he says.
Konaçer is married and has two children. As is the case with multiracial children, they take on the features of both parents. This is the case with many Afro-Turks as the small community has many interracial marriages. Some Afro-Turks are blond and some have green eyes, like Konaçer’s cousin, Hüseyin Hançer.
Being “different” has, however, also led to discrimination. The society at large holds many misconceptions about Afro-Turks.
“Our interviews show that Afro-Turks living in villages do not feel discriminated against. They are not labeled as the ‘other’ or excluded. In a village, everyone has known one another since birth. Cities, on the other hand, are a different matter altogether, though Anatolia is still a land that is able to absorb a variety of cultures,” Kayacan says.
Ayşe Sözer, a young Afro-Turk, says that Turkish society does not have a racist approach, but that sometimes the Afro-Turk community does experience “exaggerated interest” and social discrimination from society.
“I am asked many odd questions; for example, some ask if I get whiter by taking baths. Sometimes people stare at me and end up tripping or bumping into a pole. I have learned to not get angry at people, but when I was at the university, my roommate left our dorm room because she said she was afraid to live with someone that is black,” Sözer says.
Sometimes people have a hard time believing that Afro-Turks are Turks. On one occasion, Sözer was shopping in Denizli and the shopkeeper, mistaking her for a tourist speaking in perfect Turkish, tried to complement her by saying she speaks Turkish better than him, a native Turk.
Not being considered a “Turk” can at times be problematic. Most Afro-Turks live in the Aegean region, famous for human smuggling. This has cast suspicion on the Afro-Turk community.
Locals in the Aegean region also have some superstitious beliefs about “black people.” Some believe that if they see a black person and pinch the person next to them, their wishes will come true. Sözer recalled one case in which two ladies pinched each other upon seeing her. She was understandably upset. “I told the ladies that if they really wanted their wishes to come true, I also had to pinch both of them! They accepted and I pinched them very hard,” she says, laughing.
Another superstition some hold is that the kiss of a black person can bring luck. “When I was small, I was asked to kiss many girls because there was this superstition that if a girl does not get kissed by a small African child, she would not find a husband,” Olpak says.
Apart from being the focus of some superstitions, most Afro-Turks say they have never been humiliated or discriminated against by the society. However, overcoming prejudice while looking for someone to marry is not as easy as one would hope. Kayacan notes that sometimes the family does not approve of their son or daughter marrying an Afro-Turk.
Afro-Turks are often called “Arabs” in Turkey. They also refer to themselves as Arabs, at times. This has led to a situation in which “Arab” means “black.” Ege University Professor Ahmet Yürür explains. “For the Turks, Africa was only the northern part of the continent: from Egypt to Morocco. This part was of course under Arab influence. Turks were never really interested in the south of the continent. This is why this community has come to be called ‘Arab,’” he says.
Yürür suggests that Turkey can build bridges between itself and Africa with the help of Afro-Turks. But even establishing an association was difficult, Olpak says.
“Our people did not even know of the word ‘association.’ They were suspicious at first, but in Turkey, all ethnic groups have solidarity associations except for us. We had some difficulties at first because we lived in a closed society,” he says. This is not to say that Olpak is pessimistic. The Dana Bayramı is evidence that the Afro-Turk community is being revived.
Olpak has authored two books: “Slave Woman Kemale,” which tells the story of his own family, a slave family from Kenya that lived on Crete and had to migrate to Turkey, and “The Shores of Slaves,” in which Olpak presents a collection of stories by other Afro-Turks.
“I am a third-generation Afro-Turk. My grandparents were slaves. The first generation lived through the sad events, the second generation tried to forget and deny these events, but the third generation wants to know what happened and how,” Olpak says, adding: “We are black and we are from here. We are a part of this rich Anatolian culture and we are ready to make an effort to be noticed by the society. I believe that in this way we will be able to contribute to the tolerant culture of this beautiful land.” Olpak has a wish for his community: to celebrate Dana Bayramı on the national level one day as a festival of tolerance.
“500 Years Later” is the title of an independent documentary film directed by Owen ‘Alik Shahadah, written by M. K. Asante, Jr. released in 2005. Crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, poor education, inferiority complex, low expectation, poverty, corruption, poor health, and underdevelopment plagues people of African descent globally. 500 years later from the onset of slavery and subsequent colonialism, Africans are still struggling for basic freedom. Filmed in five continents, and over twenty countries, 500 Years Later engages the retrospective voice, told from the African vantage-point. In 2010, the sequel Motherland was released.