How did we get here?

We hear it almost daily: there is no better time to be alive than right now. Whether it’s Macleans magazine, or the smooth-talking Leader of the Free World, we are being told that regardless of our race, gender or sexual orientation, it’s far better to be alive right now than at any other time in history. That being born a millennial in the West is a choice we would make again and again, if we could choose. I’m not so sure.

From the rise of Donald Trump, to Islamophobia, to Brexit, we see insurmountable racist rhetoric sweeping through Europe and North America. I find myself asking: how did we get here?

So much bloodshed, so much pain – but still – so much progress. At any other time, I might try to conjure up the hope that things are getting better, but today, we are being killed in these streets. Today, the murder of black men by police has become as commonplace and mundane as Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi hearings.

Enough is enough. Stop killing us. Black lives matter.

BLM

** Update: I have since read about the shootings of several policemen in Dallas. Violence is never the answer. Hate begets hate. Love conquers all.

Advertisements

African Girl in the Prairies

Hello friends! I trust you all had a pleasant and restful holiday. Mine? A riot in the best way possible. While I had been out to Calgary twice before, this year an adventure to Saskatchewan was in the cards. Allow me to chronicle the journey:

1. Meeting Bram in Montreal

Reunited and it feels so good

Reunited and it feels so good

It was great to hang out on the old stomping grounds for a few days before heading west. Bram worked everyday, so I had time to engage in meaningful, personal projects (Frozen, Grey’s Anatomy and House of Lies). I also paid a visit to McGill University, which had been my home for four years. Unsurprisingly, everything had changed and I set off an alarm trying to enter Redpath Library by what is now an emergency fire exit.

Cue: “She doesn’t even go here!

2. Flying to Regina

Landing in Regina, SK

Landing in Regina, SK

Bram and I flew to Regina to meet up with his dad. We all then drove one hour south to Weyburn to visit Bram’s grandma, Mabel. The first thing I was struck by in Regina was how small and quiet the airport was. I suppose being African has brainwashed me into thinking the capital of a territory, province or country always has a busy, nice airport. False.

Nevertheless, I went about trying to blend in, despite not seeing a single black person in the airport. We met up with Bram’s dad and went to pick up our bags. That’s when it happened. My seemingly flawless assimilation strategy blew up in my face when a broadcaster from a local radio station approached to ask me a few questions about “visiting Saskatchewan for Christmas.” It was pretty funny. I laughed a lot as I tried to explain what I was doing in the prairies. She seemed genuinely interested in what an East African girl was doing on her way to Weyburn, SK. It was an amusing experience for all.

3. Weyburn, SK

Mabel is 95 and pretty remarkable

Mabel is 95 and pretty remarkable

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Mabel. Not only is she surprisingly sharp for 95, but she is a pretty hilarious person. She is social media savvy, with Facebook being her platform of choice. I made sure to upload and tag this one of us.

I was also able to spend time with Bram’s aunts and uncles from Saskatchewan, who were all exceedingly warm and lovely. Special shoutouts to Brenda and Rena! I hope to visit and ride the combines in the warmer months.

On the second day, we visited the family farm in Oungre which is close to the North Dakota border. I was surprised by how little snow there was even though it was freezing. I was even more surprised by how flat and unpopulated most of the land is. I know a certain Tanzanian man (cough, my dad, cough) who would have had a lot to say about that.

I didn’t see any black people in Weyburn, but I did see a Filipino lady – score!

The first oil rig I've ever seen

My first oil rig!

Flat lands as far as the eye can see

Flat lands as far as the eye can see

4. Christmas in Calgary

Driving to Christmas Dinner

Driving to Christmas Dinner

Calgary Zoo

Calgary Zoo Lights

I had a wonderful time in Calgary. The weather was not too unforgiving, the food was plentiful, and I got to see more of the city than I had before. It was great to spend time with Bram’s family. Given that most of the initial awkwardness from last year has worn off, I’d say we are making the appropriate strides. Special thanks to Curtis & Johanna for your phenomenal generosity. I get teary thinking about it. Also, thanks Patrick for the DavidsTea swag. Sippin’ on some prime vanilla chai as I type this. It was lovely to meet up with Calgary friends, old and new.

5. New Years in Toronto

NYE 2014

NYE 2014

We made it back to Toronto just in time for NYE. I’m not a new year’s fan, but I appreciated being able to spend it with my favourite person and some of our friends. I’ll be doing a post about my 2015 convictions (not resolutions) in the days to come.

Happy new year! Stay tuned 🙂

I Wish I Were White

token

I vividly recall having this thought for the first time at the age of seven. I had fallen in love with a popular white boy in my Grade 2 class. As the months progressed and my friends and I shared our crushes, it became apparent who everyone thought should marry whom.

Whitestone School prided itself on being a model for post-colonial Zimbabwe. Black, Indian, coloured and (mainly) white children all attended school together, united by their mutual respect and shared values of nondiscrimination. As we sat side by side in our favourite tunnel in the playground, we reflected on our chosen soulmates:

“Mandi and Nicholas

Chantal and Jonathan

Megan and Jack

Susan and…Nyasha”

“Nyasha?” I asked the ring leader. “I love Jonathan, not Nyasha. I want to marry Jonathan,” I announced defiantly. “Well you can’t because you’re black,” she said matter-of-factly. “You can marry Nyasha instead.” That was it.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t know I was black before then. However, the incident was the first time I became aware that this thing, this “blackness” could prevent me from being equally considered for opportunities. As the years went on, this disconnect manifested itself through fantasy and child’s play. My sister and I donned brightly coloured head scarves that we called our “hair” and fought over who got to play with the blonde, blue-eyed barbie. My parents responded calmly and began buying different kinds of dolls. When my dad returned from a work trip with one black and one brown barbie, my sister and I spent the night fighting over who got the lighter-skinned one. As the younger sibling, I won and named my “Indian” barbie Monique. Although she was not white, she was lighter than me, and I knew that meant she was better.

I started having dreams about the older version of myself. She was smart, successful, tall and…white. Back up a second, what child dreams about growing up to be white? Perhaps one who had been obsessed with Michael Jackson and thought people could magically grow up to be a different race. One day, puzzled by this repetitive dream in which I took centre stage at the MTV Music Awards, my long brunette hair flowing down my back, a twinkle in my (blue) eyes and a firmly gripped microphone ready to serenade the audience, I asked my mother if I could be like Michael Jackson. She laughed enthusiastically and said luckily, I would be black forever.

token 2

I’ll give you $10 if you can spot me in this photo

Somewhere along the line I moved to Toronto: a hub of multiculturalism. A city as diverse as sugar is sweet. I became much more comfortable in my blackness and began to believe it was more than okay.  I noticed in Canada an excessive politeness where the topic of race was concerned (read: “I don’t see race, I just see people” and other pathetic arguments). I saw a willful ignorance about race politics and a need to make comparisons to its failing neighbour, the US. Meanwhile, similar injustices are happening on our very own Canadian soil.

When the grand jury delivered its verdict in Ferguson, many in my social circle expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision not to indict Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown. Many ask us not to focus on race, but rather class when examining issues like the militarization of the police. Whatever the case, it reified the sentiment that many of us have been fighting not to internalize all our lives: black isn’t good, therefore black lives don’t matter. 

Earlier, I read a powerful piece on Medium about white supremacy and the privileges afforded to white people. While I am not an advocate of “white guilt”, I believe white people being involved in meaningful racial dialogue is crucial. I have many friends and acquaintances who do not engage on these issues, not because they don’t have opinions, but for fear of being branded racist at the extreme or horribly misinformed at the very least. To that, I say we welcome and need your participation. If you are worried about how to begin, try THIS APPROACH before choosing not to share your views.

Most days I love being black. I love my dark skin and my newly natural hair. I am proud of the short, afro-haired, black woman I have become. When society shows us we are not worthy and the system meant to protect fails us miserably, it can be hard to believe in our worth. In times like these, I call on a personal favourite and I rise

THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

It’s Nov. 6th, which means my favourite time of year is fast-approaching. With that said, I know it’s important to be inclusive. Who am I to assume everyone celebrates my favourite holiday as religiously as I do? Regardless, I can’t help but count down to………..NOV. 15th: the first Love Actually viewing of the year!! 

**FAVE SCENE** #younginterraciallove #biased

Every Nov. 15th,  I begin regularly watching Love Actually to ring in the festive season. This means from Nov. 15th onwards, I watch the film (bi?) weekly until Christmas. It’s crucial to begin this marathon in mid-November lest one suffer Hugh Grant/Colin Firth-fatigue before Christmas Eve (AS IF). Also, can we talk about how Thomas Sangster aka Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones still looks EXACTLY THE SAME? Christmas Eve is the pinnacle of the W network’s Love Actually showings. I always know I can count on them. It is also the day when other people are most likely to want to watch the film with me, validating its essential place in our lives.

In anticipation of this event, I have loaded up on rhubarb chai and will be listening to this mashup, which I think you should all check out:

 

SEASON’S GREETINGS

x

How To Be In An Interracial Relationship

1.  Visit each other’s hometowns

snow2    bramtz1

I don’t like winter. In Zimbabwe, winter meant a high of 17 and a low of six – yikes! While dating someone from Calgary has its perks (still waiting for them), its gorgeous weather is not one of them. Here is a photo of me making the most of an arctic day. In contrast, my significant other (SO) enjoys a beautiful day on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania). Which would you prefer? Nonetheless, it is awesome to take in each other’s lived experiences.

2. Be engaging despite feeling awkward

token3   token

If you have an SO, chances are their family gatherings are enough of a struggle. Add the elephant in the room and prepare for a legitimate hoot. Honestly, I enjoy these situations more than your average person. Everyone is tiptoeing around trying not to overdo it. Give enough attention, but not too much, lest the guest feel uncomfortable. I find it both fascinating and hilarious. Your job is to be friendly and engage even though you may be out of your element. I guarantee everyone’s praying you are having a good time. Do yourself a favour and just relax.

3. Embrace the differences

susiehat bramkanga

I know what you’re thinking. Wearing a kanga (traditional Tanzanian wrap) cannot be equated with wearing a winter hat. Or, why is winter a recurring theme? Couldn’t I find a photograph of myself doing/wearing something more Canadian than a trapper hat? That’s neither here nor there. I have an XXL-sized head that looks awful in hats and the key message here is: step out of your comfort zone. Embrace each other’s cultures and rock them fully.

4. Create a photo of your potential baby using this website.

baby

We all know everyone in an interracial relationship is in it for the scrumptious, mixed baby they may have one day. Look at her (him?). How positively terrifying does (s)he look? You’re welcome.

Godspeed and keep me posted along the way. I’m sure I’ve equipped you well.