Eurweb.com *Former “Suits” star Gina Torres is making history as the first afro-Latina creator, producer and star of a network series. Her new show “Pearson” is a spin-off of …
ThinkFest 2019 ends this Sunday with a talk entitled: “Vacations for Liberation? Bermuda, Black Tourism and the Global Politics of Traveling while Black”. Historian Dr Theodore Francis will discuss the ways in which the Black diaspora addressed the problem of segregated travel and highlight Bermuda’s central role in Black tourism and the island’s industry’s connections […] ( Click to read the full article )
American Black Film Festival first global series will take place between September 27 and 29 THE AMERICAN Black Film Festival (ABFF) will make a historic entrance into the UK later this month, staging the first instalment of its Global Film Series in London.
The supermodel’s global charity gala will raise vital funds in support of young people from disadvantaged communities in her hometown NAOMI CAMPBELL is bringing her global charity gala Fashion For Relief back home to London on Saturday 14 September to raise vital funds in support of young people from disadvantaged communities.
The England manager has said he will speak about the matter with players ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier GARETH SOUTHGATE has said he will talk with players about how to respond to racism if they encounter it on the pitch. The England manager is set to meet with the team ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria in October to discuss how to deal with any racist abuse.
I’ve been reflecting on this “go back to your country” thing.
For me, I am fortunate enough to not have experienced outright racism related to being an immigrant.
What I have experienced as recently as today though is being singled out for my accent.
It is a very strange experience because I don’t have a heavy accent, and so I forget I have traces of British and Kenyan accents until people point it out.
This feels like being jolted out of a dream. The American dream, if you will.
And for some reason it hurts. I can’t explain why but it just feels like it creates distance between me and the person asking me.
Accents are supposed to be invisible.
You are not supposed to know you have an accent until you travel. But if you have grown up your entire life hearing:
“Do you have an accent?”
“Where is your accent from?”
“Do I detect an accent?”
“I can’t quite place your accent where are you from?”
It creates a permanent feeling of being a foreigner in your own home.
I’m a US citizen but yet I’m constantly reminded that I’m “from” somewhere else.
No matter how much you try to assimilate or integrate or become “American” you are reminded that you are just 98% there and you will never make up the gulf that is the 2%.
I love when people ask me about Kenya. I can talk all day long about my other home and country. But asking about my accent feels very invasive. It’s another way of saying “you’re not from around here are you?”
I know people mean well and I try to answer with as much grace as I can.
But my advice for those of you who want to comment on someone’s accent, maybe wait until they talk about their heritage first. That’s a good rule of thumb.
To know me, is to know that I am Kenyan-American. But let me be the one to bring it up proudly first.
Taiye Selasi’s piece, pretty much inspired the very creation of this blog. Here it is in its entirety:
by Taiye Selasi
It’s moments to midnight on Thursday night at Medicine Bar in London. Zak, boy-genius DJ, is spinning a Fela Kuti remix. The little downstairs dancefloor swells with smiling, sweating men and women fusing hip-hop dance moves with a funky sort of djembe. The women show off enormous afros, tiny t-shirts, gaps in teeth; the men those incredible torsos unique to and common on African coastlines. The whole scene speaks of the Cultural Hybrid: kente cloth worn over low-waisted jeans; ‘African Lady’ over Ludacris bass lines; London meets Lagos meets Durban meets Dakar. Even the DJ is an ethnic fusion: Nigerian and Romanian; fair, fearless leader; bobbing his head as the crowd reacts to a sample of ‘Sweet Mother’.
Were you to ask any of these beautiful, brown-skinned people that basic question – ‘where are you from?’ – you’d get no single answer from a single smiling dancer. This one lives in London but was raised in Toronto and born in Accra; that one works in Lagos but grew up in Houston, Texas. ‘Home’ for this lot is many things: where their parents are from; where they go for vacation; where they went to school; where they see old friends; where they live (or live this year). Like so many African young people working and living in cities around the globe, they belong to no single geography, but feel at home in many.
They (read: we) are Afropolitans – the newest generation of African emigrants, coming soon or collected already at a law firm/chem lab/jazz lounge near you. You’ll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes. Some of us are ethnic mixes, e.g. Ghanaian and Canadian, Nigerian and Swiss; others merely cultural mutts: American accent, European affect, African ethos. Most of us are multilingual: in addition to English and a Romantic or two, we understand some indigenous tongue and speak a few urban vernaculars. There is at least one place on The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Ethiopia), a city (Ibadan), or an auntie’s kitchen. Then there’s the G8 city or two (or three) that we know like the backs of our hands, and the various institutions that know us for our famed focus. We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world.
It isn’t hard to trace our genealogy. Starting in the 60’s, the young, gifted and broke left Africa in pursuit of higher education and happiness abroad. A study conducted in 1999 estimated that between 1960 and 1975 around 27,000 highly skilled Africans left the Continent for the West. Between 1975 and 1984, the number shot to 40,000 and then doubled again by 1987, representing about 30% of Africa’s highly skilled manpower. Unsurprisingly, the most popular destinations for these emigrants included Canada, Britain, and the United States; but Cold War politics produced unlikely scholarship opportunities in Eastern Bloc countries like Poland, as well.
Some three decades later this scattered tribe of pharmacists, physicists, physicians (and the odd polygamist) has set up camp around the globe. The caricatures are familiar. The Nigerian physics professor with faux-Coogi sweater; the Kenyan marathonist with long legs and rolled r’s; the heavyset Gambian braiding hair in a house that smells of burnt Kanekalon. Even those unacquainted with synthetic extensions can conjure an image of the African immigrant with only the slightest of pop culture promptings: Eddie Murphy’s ‘Hello, Barbar.’ But somewhere between the 1988 release of Coming to America and the 2001 crowning of a Nigerian Miss World, the general image of young Africans in the West transmorphed from goofy to gorgeous. Leaving off the painful question of cultural condescenscion in that beloved film, one wonders what happened in the years between Prince Akeem and Queen Agbani?
One answer is: adolescence. The Africans that left Africa between 1960 and 1975 had children, and most overseas. Some of us were bred on African shores then shipped to the West for higher education; others born in much colder climates and sent home for cultural re-indoctrination. Either way, we spent the 80’s chasing after accolades, eating fufu at family parties, and listening to adults argue politics. By the turn of the century (the recent one), we were matching our parents in number of degrees, and/or achieving things our ‘people’ in the grand sense only dreamed of. This new demographic – dispersed across Brixton, Bethesda, Boston, Berlin – has come of age in the 21st century, redefining what it means to be African. Where our parents sought safety in traditional professions like doctoring, lawyering, banking, engineering, we are branching into fields like media, politics, music, venture capital, design. Nor are we shy about expressing our African influences (such as they are) in our work. Artists such as Keziah Jones, Trace founder and editor Claude Gruzintsky, architect David Adjaye, novelist Chimamanda Achidie – all exemplify what Gruzintsky calls the ‘21st century African.’
What distinguishes this lot and its like (in the West and at home) is a willingness to complicate Africa – namely, to engage with, critique, and celebrate the parts of Africa that mean most to them. Perhaps what most typifies the Afropolitan consciousness is the refusal to oversimplify; the effort to understand what is ailing in Africa alongside the desire to honor what is wonderful, unique. Rather than essentialising the geographical entity, we seek to comprehend the cultural complexity; to honor the intellectual and spiritual legacy; and to sustain our parents’ cultures.
For us, being African must mean something. The media’s portrayals (war, hunger) won’t do. Neither will the New World trope of bumbling, blue-black doctor. Most of us grew up aware of ‘being from’ a blighted place, of having last names from to countries which are linked to lack, corruption. Few of us escaped those nasty ‘booty-scratcher’ epithets, and fewer still that sense of shame when visting paternal villages. Whether we were ashamed of ourselves for not knowing more about our parents’ culture, or ashamed of that culture for not being more ‘advanced’ can be unclear. What is manifest is the extent to which the modern adolescent African is tasked to forge a sense of self from wildly disparate sources. You’d never know it looking at those dapper lawyers in global firms, but most were once supremely self-conscious of being so ‘in between’. Brown-skinned without a bedrock sense of ‘blackness,’ on the one hand; and often teased by African family members for ‘acting white’ on the other – the baby-Afropolitan can get what I call ‘lost in transnation’.
Ultimately, the Afropolitan must form an identity along at least three dimensions: national, racial, cultural – with subtle tensions in between. While our parents can claim one country as home, we must define our relationship to the places we live; how British or American we are (or act) is in part a matter of affect. Often unconsciously, and over time, we choose which bits of a national identity (from passport to pronunciation) we internalize as central to our personalities. So, too, the way we see our race – whether black or biracial or none of the above – is a question of politics, rather than pigment; not all of us claim to be black. Often this relates to the way we were raised, whether proximate to other brown people (e.g. black Americans) or removed. Finally, how we conceive of race will accord with where we locate ourselves in the history that produced ‘blackness’ and the political processes that continue to shape it.
Then there is that deep abyss of Culture, ill-defined at best. One must decide what comprises ‘African culture’ beyond pepper soup and filial piety. The project can be utterly baffling – whether one lives in an African country or not. But the process is enriching, in that it expands one’s basic perspective on nation and selfhood. If nothing else, the Afropolitan knows that nothing is neatly black or white; that to ‘be’ anything is a matter of being sure of who you are uniquely. To ‘be’ Nigerian is to belong to a passionate nation; to be Yoruba, to be heir to a spiritual depth; to be American, to ascribe to a cultural breadth; to be British, to pass customs quickly. That is, this is what it means for me – and that is the Afropolitan privilege. The acceptance of complexity common to most African cultures is not lost on her prodigals. Without that intrinsically multi-dimensional thinking, we could not make sense of ourselves.
And if it all sounds a little self-congratulatory, a little ‘aren’t-we-the-coolest-damn-people-on-earth?’ – I say: yes it is, necessarily. It is high time the African stood up. There is nothing perfect in this formulation; for all our Adjayes and Achidies, there is a brain drain back home. Most Afropolitans could serve Africa better in Africa than at Medicine Bar on Thursdays. To be fair, a fair number of African professionals are returning; and there is consciousness among the ones who remain, an acute awareness among this brood of too-cool-for-schools that there’s work to be done. There are those among us who wonder to the point of weeping: where next, Africa? When will the scattered tribes return? When will the talent repatriate? What lifestyles await young professionals at home? How to invest in Africa’s future? The prospects can seem grim at times. The answers aren’t forthcoming. But if there was ever a group who could figure it out, it is this one, unafraid of the questions.
Meet Michael Otieno, The Kenyan Entrepreneur Cashing In On Water Hyacinth.
“Lake Victoria is in a sorry state because of the hyacinth, we are trying to do something about it,” Michael Otieno tells me as we walk into his business premises in Mambo Leo, Kisumu county where he makes paper from the stubborn weed.
Otieno is the founder and CEO of Takawiri Enterprises Limited. Established in 2006, the enterprise produces unique handmade stationery and craft items from water hyacinth. Some of their products include folders, envelopes, notebooks, seasonal cards, gift bags, and paper lamp shades.
“I am trying to offer a sustainable solution to the hyacinth problem. The government has tried to eradicate it without success. The weed is endangering some fish species such as tilapia by drawing oxygen from the water and blocking sunlight.
“The fish numbers have declined and access to the lake hindered because the weed clogs the lake making it difficult for fishermen to navigate,” Otieno says.
He regrets that the local community who depend on the lake for their livelihood are bearing the brunt of the invasive weed.
“During the December holidays, many people went out of business because there was too much hyacinth. Tourists were coming in for boat riding but the boats could not navigate. People were unable to pay rent and school fees for their children,” says Otieno.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2014, he came third in the Green Innovations Awards, organized by the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND). He also earned a spot in the 2017 National Science, Technology and Innovation week, where he showcased his products. According to NETFUND, Takawiri Enterprises has managed to control over 20 tons of the hyacinth.
So passionate is this budding innovator that he is convinced his project could eradicate the hyacinth in less than a year while creating employment and conserving the environment by reducing the number of trees used in papermaking.
However inadequate resources to scale up his business continue to challenge that conviction. But for a man who never thought he would own a business of his own in the first place, he remains hopeful.
Born in Nairobi, Otieno moved to Kisumu where he joined Kisumu Boys High School in 1997. He wanted to be an accountant. Barely two years later, his dreams were shattered when his parents were unable to pay his school fees.
Disheartened and out of school, he reluctantly took his uncle’s advice to train as an artisan at the Kisumu Innovation Centre of Kenya, KICK (a charitable organization until 2002). His uncle was a painter at the organization.
Otieno joined KICK in 1999. He learned to make woven furniture from hyacinth and papyrus. The training was free and the organization would pay weavers 600 Ksh (about $6) per chair. Trainees would receive half of the amount and the rest would go to their trainers.
It was not long before his dexterity caught the attention of his boss, Mr. Muchilwa. He began to nurture the young man’s talent. He would give him orders directly. This meant Otieno would no longer split his pay with his trainers.
After learning that he had dropped out of school, Mr. Muchilwa adviced him to go back.
Having saved some money to pay for school fees, Otieno went back to Kisumu Boys High School in Form 2 in 2002. He continued to work at KICK during the holidays and over the weekends.
Unfortunately, he says, his boss’ contract ended a year later and most operations at KICK were halted. He could no longer work at the organization as a part-timer. This dented his prospect of finishing high school.
Although he missed many classes because he would be sent home for school fees most of the time, he managed to sit for his high school exit exams in 2004. He reunited with his former boss who had established his own paper making microenterprise at his home.
“Mr. Muchilwa adviced me to join him to learn more about paper recycling. He trained me in blending waste paper with hyacinth fiber. After working with him for 3 years, he advised me to start a business of my own.” says Otieno.
Although he was skeptical of going it alone, he embarked on getting equipment. He bought a small trough, a pestle, and mortar.
“I was not clear about what to do. I was young at the time and trying to venture into business for the first time. But l had nothing else to do, l decided to do it anyway.” Otieno says.
He began to manually blend waste paper and hyacinth from his residence in Migosi, Kisumu, producing business cards, book covers and envelops. The process was labor intensive because he lacked the necessary machines.
After the NETFUND awards, he received some seed money from the agency which enabled him to fabricate a calendaring machine and a pulping machine. This enhanced the production process greatly. The agency also supported him to undertake a one-year business course.
With the seed money, he also rented a 0.25ha piece of land in Mambo Leo, Kisumu where he moved the business. He also added gift bags to his line of products.
One of the major challenges Otieno faces is the inability to produce in bulk. He operates on a made-to-order basis. He regrets failing to secure business contracts with companies who wanted eco-friendly packagings when the ban on plastic bags came into effect in 2017.
“At the moment we can only make 200 pieces of paper per day. Once we get the pulp, we make the paper manually but there is a machine that can give us up to 3000 pieces of paper in a day,” says Otieno.
For now, with 5 permanent employees, Otieno makes Ksh. 60,000 on average per month. He believes he could make up to Ksh. 100,000 per day once he acquires the necessary machines. By mechanizing the entire process he says, he will be able to hire more workers and expedite the eradication of the hyacinth from the lake.
How it works.
- Hyacinth is cut into small pieces before it is dried in the sun. When the weather is not conducive for drying, the weed is boiled for 3 hours.
- Waste paper is added. The mixture is crushed to produce pulp before adding wood glue to bind it.
- The pulp is put into a trough filled with water.
- The mixture is sieved. The A-3 size sieves are put in the sun to allow the residue to dry, forming paper.
- The paper is then passed through a calendaring machine where pressure is exerted to it leaving it smooth and foldable.
CALIFORNIA (March 16, 2019) The Afropolitan Shop today announced new features to give black men and women around the world an opportunity to make a living online.
In an ambitious plan, the online company launched a 6-week online course to train black entrepreneurs to enable them to start and run sustainable, black-owned businesses from scratch.
“You don’t need to have a business to enroll. My job is to help you start and launch the business of your dreams.” said course coach, Beverly Lwenya.
When she created a blog in 2007 to share African stories and images with the black diaspora, Beverly had no idea that her blog would evolve into a sustainable online business. Today she makes decent returns from her blog-turned boutique-The Afropolitan Shop where she sells African handmade accessories. To build on this success, this Kenyan-American woman is adding The Afropolitan Academy to her brand to share her business insights with other black women around the world.
The course, called How to Build Your Own Global Afropolitan Brand That Sells, is designed to equip anyone from those who are just discerning whether to start a black-owned business to those who have already started on their business journey. The course will give them the skills and resources they need to double their growth and amplify their impact in their communities while expanding their influence in the black diaspora.
The program will see participants acquiring strong marketing skills and proven ways of building and maintaining customer loyalty.
Participants will gain a better understanding of social media-particularly on how to use platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to connect their brands to the global market.
Learners will also be taken through effective ways to attract mainstream media coverage, particularly with international news outlets. By submitting their businesses to international news organizations, they will connect with the Black diaspora easily.
After completing the 6-week course, participants will join a global mentorship and social network dubbed The Afropolitan Academy where they will gain lifetime access to the tools and resources necessary to bring their business ideas to fruition.
“You’ll get two phone consultations with me every month for 30 minutes and 4-days of e-mail access per week. I’ll also be giving you a video call to track and assess your progress,” said Beverly Lwenya.
About Beverly Lwenya.
Beverly is a seven-year veteran in the online business space. She is a Shopify and Facebook Ads expert with marketing skills from leading institutions in both the private and public sector.
About the Afropolitan Shop
Afropolitan is a fusion of the word “African” and “cosmopolitan” and represents sensibility, culture and a worldview.
In 2007, Beverly created a blog called the Afropolitan Network to highlight stories and images of the African Diaspora. Later, she expanded the blog into an online boutique called The Afropolitan Shop.
The Afropolitan Shop is now a global brand specializing in designer handmade accessories. The shop aims to celebrate African designers and artisans for their prolific and imaginative handiwork while giving them access to the global market.
What is an “Afropolitan” business?
In 2005 Taiye Selasi wrote the article “Bye-Bye Barbar” where she coined the term “Afropolitan”.
My life changed after learning that term.
As a Kenyan born, British, and American bred woman, I realized that finally there was a word to describe my third culture experience and also my hopes for how I engage with the world. And I didn’t have to choose one or the other but could hold both my rich African heritage with my American and British upbringing. Tayie notes in her article:
“Ultimately, the Afropolitan must form an identity along at least three dimensions: national, racial, cultural – with subtle tensions in between.”
A way of viewing the increasingly interconnected world of the African diaspora. I started my business The Afropolitan Shop and soon realized that there was a perception that “Afropolitan” meant a sort of neo-colonization of Africa. A one-way engagement that only distributes culture and finances from Western countries to Africa.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I see an Afropolitan brand as one that originates from someone of African descent anywhere on the globe. That frees the term from being tied to any one particular region.
You can be an Afropolitan with an Afropolitan brand selling in China, Chile or Chad! The African diaspora, estimated to be about 1.3 billion people worldwide (that’s 1 out of every 5 people! ) is by no means a monolith, but a community connected by its common starting place: Africa.
Africa is Rich
Eric Osiakwan in his TEDx Berkeley talk, coined an insightful term “KINGS” of African economy which is an acronym for Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana Nigeria, and South Africa. If you are from one of these countries you are specially positioned to lead the African economic boom.
But even if you’re not from one of these countries, but still reside in Africa, there is hope.
One of the best ways for Africans to start a profitable business is to do so online. This will exponentially grow your audience from your neighborhood or city to the world.
I can’t stress that enough.
There are people all over the world searching for products and services every day that are available in Africa. Why not sell to them?
The three most revenue-generating ways to start selling to the global market are:
- Stat an online shop and sell physical products
- Sell digital products such as an ebook, online course or videos
- Start an African online coaching business and access global clients
So whether you’re from Angola or Zimbabwe–you can get started creating generational wealth that will stay in Africa and build your legacy.
African Americans in the Diaspora
The next biggest community of Africans are in the United States. When it comes to business, black women in the US are the fastest growing group of business owners! That’s quite a feat in the home of capitalism. Whether they are selling goods or services, intellectual property or influence, the black community in the US is continuing to demand curated and catered products particular to their needs.
I dive deeper into this in my online course specifically made for black entrepreneurs who want to make money online and reach a worldwide audience. Learn the method that’s helping millions to make money online.
This is where an Afropolitan business comes in.
From this point of commonality, namely being of African descent, come shared needs that we have yet to tap into. These skills and resources are traded in the global market at a premium value.
There is no reason why more Afropolitan focused business can’t exist to meet this demand. For what they’re worth and more.
I started crocheting to make toys that people can use to speak into the lives of children and pass a blessing to them.
These beautiful, stitched Rafiki Dolls are from Umba Creations started by Kenyan Wangari Kamau and her collective of women seamstresses. She explains, “Each toy comes with a set of blessing cards which the parents or guardians can use to bless their children on a daily basis. The hope is that the kids will keep these dolls and pass them on to their children or others and say ‘these blessings were spoken over me.'”
We all know how historically difficult it has been to find dolls of little black girls and boys. Now they are more accessible than ever. If you have or know a child, this would be the perfect gift.
I hope you’re all enjoying the new month. Well, have I got a story for you!
*Pulls out chair*
Wellllll, for about a year now I have been wondering how to best utilize the The Afropolitan Shop (TAS) blog. As you might now TAS started as a blog in 2006 called The Afropolitan Network, which highlighted afropolitan stories from around the world. It still remains a passion of mine to publish and share culturally relevant snippets from around the globe about black culture. That’s why I’m going to be rolling out a brand new blog this month.
I’m really excited about this, because we’ll be sharing interesting snippets from every corner of the Afropolitan globe. My small team of 2 volunteers (I pay them with hugs and love hearts ❤ for now!) and I will still focus on fabulous African fashion and design, but will also branch out into the world of music, art, literature, religion and much more! With the common theme of uniting Afropolitan stories and ideas from the people doing the talking. So sit back and enjoy the new look! If you have any questions or suggestions for stories feel free to email me at: email@example.com
We love Yuna! She was just in LA and according to my sister, she was awesome. Here’s one of my favorite songs “Live Your Life” perfect #fallanthem
You’ve probably heard about or read this book already. In any case it makes an excellent addition to our first installment of Bookworm! Check out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new book Americanah. Here’s an excerpt:
“She scoured Nigerian websites, Nigerian profiles on Facebook, Nigerian blogs, and each click brought yet another story of a young person who had recently moved back home, clothed in American or British degrees, to start an investment company, a music production business, a fashion label, a magazine, a fast food franchise. She looked at photographs of these young men and women and felt the dull ache of loss, as though they had prised open her hand and taken something of hers.”