Arts + Culture

The Afro-Diaspora Guide to Surviving America’s 45th President

Are you an African immigrant worried about Trump? Here are 4 tips for surviving and perhaps even thriving these tyrannical times.

Are you an African immigrant? Are you anxious about President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants? Do you worry that your American dream will not manifest? Do you worry about that sibling, cousin or friend who asylum claim was rejected, and they were ordered removed? If your nerves are rattled by the increasingly nativist sentiments sweeping across our Western host countries, rest assured, you are not alone. You do not require preternatural attributes to survive this moment in the life of a flailing empire; after all, there are those among you who have survived circumstances that in some ways makes this moment feel like a dress rehearsal for a tragicomedy.


Yes, I am talking to you, close and distant survivors of the wars in Angola, Biafra, and Mozambique; you, exiles of Mengistu, Bokassa, Doe and Amin; you, who fled apartheid its wars on the front-line states; you, former lost boys and girls of the Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone; you, who grew up under the menacing stare of Eyadema, Moi and Biya; you, who still carries the burden of Nkrumah’s shortcomings; you, who rather flee than worship in Bongo and Mubarak’s altar; and you, refugee of the post-Mobutu Great Lakes wars.

This guide on how to survive America’s 45th President is for you.

A Cheap Remedy

You, the Afropolitan having stomach cramps that this administration’s policies might disrupt your next trip to dance to DJ Bantu Futurist spin the latest Afropop at Juju lounge somewhere across the Atlantic. Well, if a protest blocks that next flight, treat yourself to nature’s cheapest remedy—laughter. Even if you didn’t grow up watching The New Masquerade, the popular Nigerian Television Network sitcom, which ran in the 1980s, go on a treasure hunt on YouTube. Then play a game of trying to imagine the current administration as a less fictive reincarnation of Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo, alias 4:30’s household. Assign each of the president’s men to your favorite cast members. Who in this administration will make an ideal Jegede Sokoya? Are there any similarities between Clarus Mbojikwe and Steve Bannon? Play a game of trying to cast Ovularia. Who Chief would have bombed in the strife-filled Africa of the 1980s; Mobutu, Savimbi or Botha?

Music is a weapon.

Unfortunately for you, laughter alone might not suffice to sustain your sanity in this moment of infinite news cycles, status updates, and trending topics, and their accompanying reminders of an impending armageddon. Fortunately for you, the African musical pantheon is overflowing with enough material to sooth your frayed nerves in this age of resurging nationalism in the metropoles—as the pre-independence generation folks would say. Dig out Prince Nico Mbarga & Rocafil Jazz’s Aki Special from your proverbial record crate. You’d be amazed how platitudes like this life is wonderful over a funk beat can relief from that creeping feeling situated somewhere between angst and anxiety that overwhelms as you scroll down your Twitter feed. But if banalities cause you melancholy, and the kind of mental constipation that makes you want to reach for a Fela record, put C.B.B (Confusion Break Bone). Listen to it until you feel dizzy.

Chop Broke Pot

But you and I know that you can’t sing and dance our way out of these uncertain times in your host country without plenty of food in your stomach. You, the non-Afropolitan (which I just made up) who eats a plate of water-fufu and eru, washes it down with some Heineken, then less than an hour later, attacks a plate of garri and egusi soup without shame, this is your moment to eat yourself out of anxiety. Life is short, and everything about this administration makes it seem like it could be shorter so as you hustle your way through the day, week, and month to keep roof over your head, Western Union transfers, college loan payments, consider this lesson attributed to the Ewe; when the snake is in the house, one need not discuss the matter at length. Instead of using that mouth of yours to grumble about matters of which you have no control over, put it to good use with some eba or injera; fill it with some mbuzi mchuzi or jollof rice, and live your life like there is no tomorrow. In his poem "Be Drunk," Charles Baudelaire writes; "as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish." Dear African, be drunk on food!

Stay Woke

Eventually, you’ll have to wake up from the food induced nap to face an administration, which in less than 100 days has demonstrated it will never cultivate your friendship; that is unless you reside in the sunken place and are content to live there. If you aren’t, this is the moment to invoke your inner Eshu; trust me, you’ll find yourself in contexts that would require you to become Anansi. Like the tortoise of old, you’ll have to learn to know when to crawl, and when to retreat under your shelf. Nonetheless, stay woke.

Kangsen Feka Wakai is a Washington, D.C based poet, journalist and writer. Find him on Twitter @Kfwakai

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Cover of Isha Sesay's 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'

'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'—an Excerpt From Isha Sesay's Book About Remembering the Chibok Girls

Read an exclusive excerpt from the Sierra Leonean reporter's new book, which offers firsthand accounts of what happened to the girls while in Boko Haram captivity in an attempt to make the world remember.

Below is an excerpt from the seventh chapter in Sierra-Leonean journalist and author Isha Sesay's new book, "Beneath the Tamarind Tree," the "first definitive account" of what took place on the ground following the abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014.

Continue on to read more, and revisit our interview with the reporter about why it's important for the world to remember the girls' stories, here.

***

"We should burn these girls!"

"No, let's take them with us!"

"Why not leave them here?"

The men were still arguing, dozens of them trading verbal blows while Saa and the other horrified girls looked on. None of the men seemed particularly troubled by the fact that the lives of almost three hundred schoolgirls hung in the balance. Amid all the yelling, the girls had been divided into groups. Each batch would burn in a different room in the school buildings that were aflame just a few feet away. Tensions were escalating when a slim man with outsize eyes suddenly appeared. Saa had never seen him before. Like many of the insurgents, he too looked young and was just as scruffy. But when he spoke, tempers seemed to cool for a moment.

"Ah! What are you trying to do?"

"We wanted to burn them!"

"Why not take them with us, since we have an empty vehicle?"

His suggestion triggered a fresh round of quarreling. The same positions were expressed, and the newcomer continued to calmly repeat his idea of taking the girls with them, till he finally got his way. The girls later discovered his name was Mallam Abba. He was a commander.

"Follow us!" the men shouted.

None of it made any sense to Saa. Why? To where? As the insurgents shuffled her out of the compound, she felt as if her whole life were on fire. All Saa could see was the ominous orange glow of flames consuming every one of her school buildings. With every step, the fears within her grew. She struggled to make sense of the competing thoughts throbbing in her head. This isn't supposed to be happening. The insurgents had asked about the boys and the brick-making machine; they'd systematically emptied the school store, carrying bag after bag of foodstuffs and loading all of it into the huge waiting truck. With everything now packed away, Saa had thought the insurgents would simply let the girls go home. After all, that's what had happened during their previous attacks on schools—they'd always let the schoolgirls go, after handing out a warning to abandon their education and strict instructions to get married. Saa had simply expected the same thing to happen once more, not this.

She scanned the crowd of faces surrounding her; the creased brows and startled expressions of the others made it clear that everyone was equally confused. Whatever the turmoil they were feeling, they kept it to themselves. No one said a word. Saa fell into a sort of orderly scrum with the men corralling and motioning her forward with their guns, each weapon held high and pointed straight at the girls.

Saa and Blessing moved in unison, along with the hundreds of others, snaking along in the dark through the open compound gate, past the small guard post usually occupied by Mr. Jida, which now sat empty. Yelling came from nearby Chibok town. Saa could smell burning, then heard the sound of gunshots and people running. It was bedlam.

Just beyond the compound walls sat a crowd of bushes. As she and the men moved out into the open, Saa felt their thorns spring forward, eager to pull at her clothing and scratch and pierce her body. Careful not to yell out in pain, she tried to keep her clothes beyond the reach of the grasping thicket with no time to pause and examine what might be broken skin.

Saa retreated into herself and turned to the faith that had anchored her entire life. Lord, am I going to die tonight, or will I survive? Desperate to live, unspoken prayers filled her mind and she pleaded, repeatedly, God save me.

She was still praying as they walked down the dirt path away from the flaming school. The shabby-looking men with their wild eyes gave no explanation or directions. They simply motioned with their heads and the sweep of their rifles, making it clear to keep moving. As the reality began to sink in, Saa felt her chest tightening. Her heart was going to beat its way out of her body. But she couldn't allow herself to cry or make any sound. Any kind of display would make her a target, and who knew what these men might do?

The insurgents walked alongside, behind, and in front of her; they were everywhere. Every time Saa looked around, their menacing forms filled her view. Initially, all the girls were steered away from the main road and onto a rambling path overgrown with bushes; the detour was likely made in an attempt to avoid detection.

Parents lining up for reunion with daughters (c) Adam Dobby


***

This excerpt was published with permission from the author. 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree' is available now.

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The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Wizkid, Stonebwoy x Teni, Thabsie, Sampa the Great and a classic Funána compilation.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

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Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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South Africa has Ruled that Spanking Children is Now Unconstitutional

The judgement was unanimous.

Back in 2017, the South African High Court ruled that it was illegal for parents or guardians to spank their children i.e. use corporal punishment in the home setting. The ruling arose after a father allegedly beat his 13-year-old son "in a manner that exceeded the bounds of reasonable chastisement". Today, the Constitutional Court has upheld the High Court's 2017 ruling and declared that the spanking of children is a violation of the constitution.

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Nigerian Women Have Taken to the Streets to March Against the Serial Killing of Women

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