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B Flow: 10 Things I Love About Zambia

Musician & gender rights activist Brian Bwembya, better known as B Flow, tells us his 10 favorite things about Zambia.

In our '10 Things I Love' series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country.


For this new installment, musician and gender rights activist Brian Bwembya, better known as B Flow, tells us his favorite things about his home, Zambia.

ZAMBIA — Two years ago, OkayAfrica got to know B Flow closely when he joined our editorial team for a few months as part of President Obama‘s 'Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative.'

He's now continuing his music career and using his songs to advocate against gender-based violence and educate youth on HIV/AIDS.

B Flow will be playing NYC, D.C., Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh this month, check out all information and tickets for the concerts here, and read Brian's 10 Things I Love About Zambia below.

It's a haven for peace

I'm proud to have been born in a country that has no history of war and genocide. Zambia is known as "Africa’s haven of peace." We believe in resolving our misunderstandings amicably without resorting to violence and turmoil. When Zambian citizens are unhappy about something, they never react in a violent manner. If they have to, they will stage peaceful protests without breaking any property. On the political front, we're one of the few African countries that have had the most peaceful transitions of power from one leader to another.

Our female leadership

Since 2015, Zambia has had a female Vice President, Inonge Wina. This is good because it gives more women inspiration to take up leadership roles. It’s also great to note that Zambia is recording an increase in the number of women leading various civil society organizations, government departments and corporate entities. The nation is beginning to appreciate the fact that women are equally capable of driving its development process, and more women are now pursuing male dominated careers.

Our 73 united tribes

Zambia has 73 tribes, yet we are very united. We're not the richest nation but we can at least afford a smile compared to many rich countries that have everything, but their people are sad, stressed and divided. The game of football is one of the things that unite us. When we meet at the stadium, one would think we're all from one family. Our bond is further strengthened by what we refer to as "tribal cousinship." Traditional cousinship entails that a person from one particular tribe can joke about a person from another without expecting them to get offended. Since 1964, our motto remains "One Zambia, One Nation,’’ which was coined by our founding father and freedom fighter Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.

Talented young musicians

Gone are the days when young people waited for the government to create jobs for them. Many of us have discovered our talents and employed ourselves and others. Zambian musicians are now getting international recognition. Roberto and Mampi have toured most parts of Africa. The group Zone Fam recently won a Channel O award, Ruff Kid won a BEFFTA award, and Slap Dee has represented Zambia at the MAMA Awards. The growth of the industry has benefitted me too. Zambia has given me my shine, I can proudly brag that I am the first and only African artist to receive an award from a sitting U.S. President and to headline at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, yet I come from a country that a lot of people in the world don’t even know exists.

Traditions remain strong

The world has become a global village, and Zambia appreciates the changing global trends, but we have proudly preserved the most important elements of our culture. Zambian women and men still wear Chitenge, the traditional Zambian dress. With the growing fashion industry, Zambian fashion designers such as Kamanga Wear, Fay Designs, Kutowa Designs and many more are now designing clothes made out of the local Chitenge material.

Since time immemorial, we have continued to celebrate our traditional ceremonies. Young people’s respect for elders is still an important part of our culture. We've been taught to regard every elderly person as our mother or father, so we respect them and they respect us. At every state function, there's always a traditional dance group comprising dancers dressed in indigenous Zambian outfits, singing traditional music and playing the traditional Zambian drum, Ing’oma. While we appreciate Western instruments such as electric guitars and pianos, we still play our own marimba, which produces rich sounds that come out like a blend of piano and drums.

Nshima

Some countries call it pap, others call it fufu, we call it Nshima. It is our staple food prepared by mixing corn meal and hot water to form a thick porridge that can be eaten with relish such as beef, chicken, sausage, fish and vegetables. Like football, Nshima unites us. You need to visit a Zambian family or restaurant to see how we eat Nshima like we are in fellowship.

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Tourism

With good publicity, the Zambian tourism industry will become one of the biggest sources of foreign exchange. We are blessed with various waterfalls countrywide. One of the Seven Wonders of the World is the Victoria Falls which is situated in Livingstone, the tourist capital of Zambia. We're also blessed with copper, a mineral known as the pride of Zambia.

Music For Change

The birth of the #MusicForChange movement in Zambia has made me love this country more because it's given me hope and confidence that our children and future generations will not grow up watching and listening to stuff that can influence them negatively. I love the fact that the nation is gradually embracing a movement whose ultimate goal is to ensure that our society is liberated from immorality and social injustices. I love the movement because, for a long time, the music industry has been characterized by the production of music that promotes feuds or ‘beef’ among artists, lack of proper artist management, dominance of songs that objectify women and lack of professionalism among artists.

Vibrant festivals

In Zambia, there are many traditional ceremonies which celebrate the vibrant and colorful culture and history of a diverse nation. One such festival is the Kuomboka, which means “to get out of water,” celebrated by the Lozi people of Western Zambia. It marks the ceremonial journey of the Litunga (the Lozi king) from his summer home in the flood plains to his winter residence on higher ground. The king travels on a large wooden ceremonial barge and the spectacle involves massive war drums and around 100 or so paddlers wearing headdresses, sometimes featuring a piece of lion’s mane and skirts made from animals skins.

Warm Welcomes

After touring across four continents in the last seven years, I've never seen a country as hospitable as Zambia. Zambians don't look at visitors as enemies but as global neighbors. It’s unbelievably amazing how Zambians offer greetings to strangers that they meet on the streets of our lovely cities. I've seen the friendliest people in Zambia.

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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

100 women 2020

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Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

This list is in no particular order.

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Darkovibes

The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Sarkodie, Cassper Nyovest, Elaine, Darkovibes, Stogie T, Phyno, C Natty, and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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

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

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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