COPING WITH CRISIS THROUGH CULTURE

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I’ve been in sunny Senegal for the past days participating in the UN/AU hosted Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) Regional Meeting for Africa. Their objectives are to raise awareness about the Decade 2014- 2024, increasing engagement of national and regional actors in the Programme Activities, addressing issues affecting people of African descent. Children of Africa, separated and scattered through slavery, possess a type of fortitude best described as a mythical if not magical superpower. Despite the brutal history, we rose up and went on to surprise our captors and their progeny with our great abilities, brought across the water in our minds, hearts and genes in the face of crisis.
Genetic memory is described as “a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time.” Accordingly, remnants such as hair braiding, basket weaving, music, dance and culture have been maintained, though morphed, into modern interpretations of expression that help us persevere and cope with the unimaginable atrocities experienced over the centuries. IDPAD hopes to address this emphasizing recognition, justice and development, the three main objectives of the campaign. The UN approach is “interesting” but the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, former Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, did her best to articulate their concerns and commitment. The meeting organizer from Geneva, however, failed to reflect any form of Africa culture or hospitality in the two-day marathon of meetings. It was sterile, exclusive and limited to mostly presenters sharing history with a splashes of hope and progress verses the realities on the ground that everyday activists, invited from the African Diaspora and the Continent, expected to share.
One bright light was Mrs. Nadia Adongo Musah, Deputy Director Diaspora Affairs, Office of the President of Ghana. A born and bred Ghanaian, Nadia knows the challenges all to well, having lived in North America for many years. She was selected to serve in the post based on her keen concern to not only develop her home country, but to help connect Ghana with her children, many of which were taken away through dungeons in Cape Coast of Ghana via the Door of No Return. Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo launched the Year of Return in Washington DC welcoming thousands of Africans from the Diaspora; relaxing visa policies, providing citizenship and even land for Africans who’ve contributed to Ghana over the years. Ms. Nadia’s presentation was succinct and inspiring as she shared best practices and results of the open arms crusade in the West African country known for its warm hospitality and vibrant culture. The snapshot of success shared by Ms. Nadia expressed Ghana’s genuine concern to connect with millions of Africans wishing to return home. I hope other member states will follow suit, looking to Ghana for guidance.
I would have been remiss if I didn’t share Ethiopia’s successes, namely the recent issuance of Foreign National of Ethiopian Identity cards to hundreds of Rastafarians, most living in Shashamane undocumented for decades, some since the 70’s. Again, the UN and AU missed the mark by not ensuring Ethiopia was represented to share this incredible news,
connecting the dots of the over 60 year old land grant given to the Black People of the West by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, an initiative seeded by Emperor Menelik II shortly after the win at Adowa, arguably a win for the black world. Sadly, as I sat in the meeting I received numerous messages from Shashamane about attacks against the community demanding the ‘removal of the red, gold and green flags as it represented Emperor Menelik II and his poor treatment of the Oromo Peoples’. For the record, this crisis isn’t restricted to Shash as we know. But prayer and positive thoughts and actions prevailed and we hope the love we have for this country and all its Peoples sustains.
The crisis led me to reflect on Bob Marley’s 1979 visit to Shashamane, the Africa Unite concert at Meskel Square in 2005 and the current need to soothe the soul, if even for a moment through his song that speaks volumes, No Woman No Cry. I likened the woman to Ethiopia and the continuous pleas not to cry, cause “everything’s gonna be alright”. Bob sings about the good and bad times, the loved ones known and lost; the meals and moments shared in the most humble yet meaningful circumstances and reminds us through it all “everything’s gonna be alright”. This is how I feel about the state of Black life at home and abroad, “everything’s gonna be alright…”.
Ethiopia’s gonna be alright. I sing in my heart to our Motherland, I plea, I cry for no more blood or tears to be shed, for no more women to bandage or bury their husbands or sons as we find better ways to reconcile history towards a better future, addressing the concerns of especially our youth.
I close with an abridged version of the lyrics of the famous anthem, for comfort.
No, woman, no cry no woman no cry,
I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
Observing the ‘ypocrites
Mingle with the good people we meet
Good friends we have, oh, good friends we’ve lost
Along the way
In this great future, you can’t forget your past
So dry your tears, I seh
No, woman, no cry
I remember when-a we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire lights,
A log wood burnin’ through the night
Then we would cook cornmeal porridge,
Of which I’ll share with you
My feet is my only carriage
And so I’ve got to push on through
But while I’m gone
Everything’s gonna be all right
Everything’s gonna be all right
So no woman, no cry
I say, oh little oh little darling, don’t shed no tears
No woman, no cry.
Everything’s gonna be alright.

Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.