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Being black and a woman in Africa

Being Black and A Woman.

Written Amanda Marufu


1. Being Black

What does it mean to be black? A few years back I wrote a poem called shame on this topic. 

What does it mean to be black?

To be so overridden with hate of self? 

The state, the pain, the lack of self. 

Is it just another way to be enslaved?

See Africans we fake at pride

We laugh at slogans like black lives matter. 

Think we are so morally above the shame. 

Yet we chase the fame, that paved this game?

Our generation, we are not the same.

Pure voices conquered the bleachers and the fakers. 

Singing black is beautiful. 

Then honey why do you indulge the paint?

See there is beauty in our flaws

The tainted messes, the hearts, the racist.

 The sadist, the teacher, all sun kissed creases

But there is no pride in our silence.

We are no heroes when we are afraid. 

With bullet holes bought from social media

And social fame bought with our soul freedom. 

Call it vanity, but we are a black out masterpiece.

Me, my beauty is skin deep

But i am not more than my skin

I am my skin; i am the jewel of Africa. The symbol of pride, love, of freedom. 

The roar of Simba, modelled after the heavens and I shine.

So why do the words on this paper, question the draft of my own sanity. 

Why do we accept the version we’re sold with no thoughts and no clarity

We ignore the gravity of this war

We ignore the gravity of our silence.

For with blood we fought for freedom

But with shame we’ve lost our mental right to be free.

Growing up I didn’t know I was black. Everyone around me was black and despite having multiracial cousins, it wasn’t something anyone talked about. I never knew it as “being different” or even having different skin tones until I went to high school.

 It happened almost automatically, all the black people on one end and the white kids on the other. 

My first friend was one of the few people who for the first few weeks was part of an interracial friendship. Then the bullying started on both ends. The black kids weren’t happy about it, calling her too white;” a coconut”. The white kids told her best friend that she was too black. Imagine that; being too much of yourself. So much, that you found someone who liked you exactly the way you were. 

Then I started realising that it went even deeper than that. Within the white cliques, the Afrikaner students didn’t talk to the British students. Then in our own little kingdom, there were these concepts of colourism and accents. The better English you spoke the more intelligent people thought you were; the more you could be regarded as of a” higher class.”

 What shocked me was as far as I could tell no one even taught us these things, but as plain as day people were too ashamed to speak in Shona because they would seem ’less cool.’ Yet when the white kids spoke in Shona or sang/played some of the local music, like Zim-dancehall, it was regarded as amazing; even praised as being cool and fun. They were experiencing a culture we weren’t allowed to be proud of, in fear of being too black. 

It amazed, sometimes confused, me how these culture paradigms worked. We often learn about how colonization happened so long ago and yet we remain with the consequences today. I was raised to fear n’angas (traditional healers) and svikiros (spirit mediums), yet I’m constantly surrounded tv representations of magic. When it’s done black people it’s called Voodoo and yet when done on tv it’s light magic. 

The racism in my country is subtle, almost invisible. It’s easy to ignore it and claim we don’t need campaigns like black lives matter because we aren’t facing the immediate threat of a white man holding a gun to our heads. But our oppressor has been shown in different ways. Our oppressor comes in the form of the white saviour. 

During a long talk with my best friend we talked about the fallacy that is helping people who never asked for or needed your help. Yet they continue to come anyway. 

They come and tell us our religions and traditions are evil and then go and practice them as if they are new discoveries. When asked about the very God they forced on us they now claim “he doesn’t exist”. They come and tell us how we require permanent structures and force us not to be nomadic; and then they go on to have summer houses and travel to avoid the cold weather.

There’s so much about being a black person that’s been shrouded in shame that we silently accept and even continue to up hold instinctively. We’ve started to think less of ourselves and to expect what’s done a white person to just be better, of better quality or more intelligent. This is done constantly through the media, entertainment, radio and tv. Subconscious Racism. The smartest way to keep us enslaved.

2. Being black and a woman 

Due to the financial situation in Zimbabwe, I wasn’t able to continue with my education. I was sad for a long time. Sometimes even now although I’ve grown and become successful in my own right, I still am sad. 

One of the things that annoyed me was the ‘consolation’ of, “it’s okay, If all else fails you can always get married.” This is quite a common thing that young women I talk to find relatable. Their parents expect it, even encourage it. Marriage is the ultimate goal. 

I remember sitting in the kitchen and often hearing.  “You don’t like doing chores, manje who will marry you?”, “The way you don’t like to cook, better hope you meet a white man.” 

There was never the expectation that maybe marriage wasn’t one of my aspirations or that maybe my life could amount to more than marriage.

Now don’t get me wrong my family is full of badass women who have done so much and so well in their lives. From becoming doctors, to becoming the very first black female president of her company. The women in my family work hard and they excel. But above and beyond all that, they are expected to come back home and submit to a man. We are taught not to make him feel belittled our success and that he still must hold the power. It is the right thing to do both biblically and traditionally. 

So, some people didn’t understand why I was so bummed out about this school thing. Why I was over ambitious and trying to do so much when all my worries could easily be fixed having a ba and a husband. Yet it’s not that simple. Many people have taken away our right to education justifying it with statements like “we don’t need it” or “We aren’t the providers”. After all, we have the option not to work so why not take it. 

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of single mothers worldwide, at 32%. This is before we account for the high divorce rate of over 55%; and then there’s the risk of becoming a widow. What happens then? Then came the other question: what if you just don’t want to get married? Is that even a possibility?

“Here is what we have to understand about your male counterparts. While we may fake orgasms, they fake finances.

—Suze Orman”

A lot changed for me when I heard this;

I was like what?? 

Yesss!!!! 

Preach to me some more!! 

In the past few years, I’ve heard so many of the horror stories. Husband handles all the finances and then suddenly dies and the husband’s family takes everything. The kids and the wife are left with nothing. 

Wife does all the work but the house and everything else is put in the man’s name to respect him as the man of the house. Then turns out husband is sleeping with the maid and is calling her the woman of the house. Now the woman is stuck working to feed and facilitate her children’s and her man’s children’s educations with wife number two because the house is in his name and she has nowhere to go. 

It’s insanity! 

For me my reasoning was born of trauma. As a child borne of divorce with a father that never raised me. As a woman who has been raped and abused, physically, emotionally, mentally and sexually, there was no way I was going to ever put my financial trust in another human other than myself. Yet without an education and being a woman, my chances of success where even harder. 

“Statistics do no account for the full person.” 

If I told you my story and I told you that I fell into drugs or became a stripper or even ended up committing suicide (which I tried before), many people wouldn’t be surprised. Sometimes we have all reasons to live and survive stripped from us. I often felt like an alien in my own body and even in my community. I felt like an alien when trying to figure out my sexuality. When trying to fight for the right to speak out about my trauma and even simply just finding the space to breathe and live in a world without fear. It’s 2020 and I still flinch when I’m alone and I see a man walking done the streets. I still run if I see a man walking towards me because even though the mind forgives, the body never forgets. Yet I’m alive and I’m living. 

I’m working to counter the effects of media that tells us that we are not enough. Working to create more platforms that let us know that we can aspire to be more than a wife. I’m living proof of black women in power. CEO of three tech and media companies. Creating and leveraging resources for women and young children to help spread access to education.

I am black

I am woman

I am pansexual 

I am more than a statistic

I exist. 

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