Election Fever

As life would have it, every 4-5 years life gets all that much more interesting, especially in Africa. It is election time again in several countries in the continent, not to mention the preparations for elections in 2016. From Nigeria, to Lesotho, to Togo, to Burundi, the continent is a buzz with election fever – From catchy songs, to unique dances, to funny speeches.

As fun as this time is, there always seems to be some form of foolishness to tarnish these entertaining times. I mean while I’m enjoying my daily dose of funny speeches and interesting new election songs, why must I be disturbed with nonsense about the mass arrest of opposition party members, or even senseless killings. We have turned ‘democracy’ into a zero sum game, where the winners have 4-5 years of uninterrupted time to enjoy the spoils of their victory, while the losers go back to their day jobs with some occasional complaining. So, why would anyone want to ‘lose’ power in this sort of system?

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Take Nigeria, my favourite African country when it comes to elections for example. There was so much comedy at the early onset of the election process; from Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s infamous fight with the first family, to mass political defections which were highlighted by the funny events of the Speaker of the house trying to break into parliament while being chased by police. And who can forget General Buhari’s resurrected educational certificate. These are just a few of things that got me hooked to from the start of this process. Look below for one of my favourite examples:

But, I know African politics. I knew it would only be a matter of time before the usual nonsense came back and over shadowed the entertainment. Honestly, I shouldn’t really be surprised; most of the entertainment that got me hooked in the first place had a hint of violence stupidity right at the heart of it. Take Governor Ameaechi’s beef with the first family for example, although it seemed comical at the start, the more it unraveled the deadlier it got.

With the election getting closer and closer things seem to be leaving the realm of comedy and adjusting on permanent seriousness. I thought with the election date originally set for February 14 2015 there was a chance that this election might be peaceful. Valentine’s Day always seems to bring the best out of people – I’ve seen some of the worst jackasses suddenly treating women like princesses on Valentine’s Day- so I thought this election being set on such a day would at least increase the likelihood of peace.

What we have seen in the past couple of weeks has really killed any hope I had –even though it was very little – of a peaceful election. This has even resulted in the elections being postponed until March. I thought Nigerians would have at all cost avoided the madness that occurred in the aftermath of the 2011 election (2011 elections). I get it, no one likes to feel like they are being cheated, or that their voice is not being heard especially in democracy but, why would you allow rich politicians on both sides, who at the end of the day, will go back to their mansions and live in peace while you kill each other in the street.

I really don’t know why anyone is so invested in either of the leading political parties in Nigeria anyways. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been ruling the country since the return of democracy in 1999, and let’s just say it has not had anything to write home about. The current President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has only continued in this line of bad governance. Contrary to what some of his detractors would want us to believe, he did not inherit a perfect Nigeria but, he also has not done enough to address many of the issues he came into office facing- in some cases he has even created more problems.

As bad as the PDP has been it’s not like Nigerians are drowning in choices. Sadly, the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) – which again like 2011 is a coalition of different opposition parties – is nothing to write home about as well. For starters, their presidential candidate lost in 2011 and there is a perception that he is only being put forward as a northern counter to PDP’s supposed snub of the rotational system. Most importantly for all the APC’s talk about the failures of the PDP, it is very ironic that many of the APC’s leading figures are ex PDP officials. And not just any ordinary members but, these individuals were high ranking PDP officials who were heavily involved in the bad governance issues that Nigerians are looking to get away from.

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So, as Nigerians go to the polls on March 28, 2015 I hope they all remember that these elections are nothing to die over. Most importantly, these leaders are not worth dying for. Nigerians should make sure they vote and vote in their numbers to exercise their rights and the rights that many before them died fighting for. However, we must realize that democracy is not just about voting. Voting on March 28 will not solve all of Nigeria’s problems- sadly it probably won’t solve any of the country’s problems. Many of the country’s problems are systemic and deeply rooted in the way society is structured. As such, change needs to start from within the local communities – instead of always looking to the presidency as a one stop solution to all the country’s ills.

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African Football Rant

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So, this past month I have come to the realization that in order for me to improve as a person I need to address and acknowledge some of my issues. I have already started to address my constant procrastination – you can thank this realization for this blog post. But funny enough through this internal search I found that procrastination was the least of my worries. I would probably argue that procrastination causes my biggest issue. My incisive fanatic love for Football (not the not the North American kind, although I do have a soft spot for that violent game- PATS NATION!!!!!!!!) has gotten out of control.

Honestly, months ago I found myself watching a game between Afghanistan and the Maldives. That should have been my first clue that I had a problem. But, what I have found by examining this so called problem is that I shouldn’t be ashamed but, rather I should embrace this and use my passion for good- hopefully to help me stop procrastinating and WRITE MORE!!!

The ongoing African Cup of Nations (AFCON) has been a God sent. It has allowed me to get in my daily dose of football, without having to resort to academy and women league games. But sadly, the quality of many of the games has been really poor- I guess it hasn’t really been much of an improvement. Don’t get me wrong there have been some great skills on display the past few weeks, even some great last minute drama. However, there have just been some poor finishing, horrible decision making and some embarrassing defending.

This AFCON has truly been a great representation of the state of African football. This tournament has shown the flair and the skill that is so synonymous with African football; and the sheer joy of the players and fans in their colourful dances, celebrations, music, and costumes. (Celebrations)

However, this tournament has also highlighted what is wrong with African football. For starters the tournament was almost cancelled because of Morocco’s last minute decision not to host the tournament -THANK YOU EQUATORIAL GUINEA FOR BAILING AFRICA OUT. This last minute change inevitably brought some organization problems- lack of hotels, stadiums, transportation- that have put the tournament in some bad light. It’s gotten so bad that CAF has been forced to change the location of 2 of the quarterfinals, because of bad pitches and insufficient spaces in one of the stadiums. But, let’s be real it’s not like this is the first AFCON with organizational problems, and many of them have 4-6 years to get ready.

The field has not fared much better, there have been some horrendous play. For all the skills and flair that has been on display at this tournament, there has been a glaring lack GOALS!!!!! Finishing has been atrocious. Most teams have lacked a cutting edge and at times it seems as if teams are playing without strikers because no one on their team seems to be able to shoot. Speaking of shooting, why does every African player feel that it is necessary to shoot from outside the 18 yard box every chance they get?

To make matters worse, the refs have not helped at all in making this a more attacker friendly tournament. I know we Africans pride ourselves in being strong especially when it comes to playing football. I remember my earliest football memories watching neighbourhood defenders praised for their leg breaking tackles. It is clear that the old saying ‘If you miss the ball don’t miss the man‘ has been engraved in the minds of almost every player at this tournament. Sadly, the referees have not penalized these dangerous plays, and tackles that could end careers are met with just warnings by the refs instead of the red cards they deserve.

This in my opinion is the worst thing about African football. We fail to protect our most skillful players. Not only that but, we hurt the development of young defenders, by making them overly reliant on last ditch leg breaking tackles instead of working on their position and game reading skills. Think about this for one second, when was the last time you seen an African play maker? Our local leagues and continental tournaments do not protect skilled players.

Yes I understand football is a physical game. The English Premier League (EPL), which is one of the top best leagues in the world, is very physical; however, the African game makes the EPL look soft. I’ve seen tackles in the EPL land players multiple game bans, and the same type of tackles barely get the refs attention in the African game.

Could you imagine Brazil’s Neymar or Argentina’s Messi playing in Africa? It would be open season on their legs and even their heads. Defenders would take their skill as a personal challenge not to stop them but, to tackle and hurt them. It is no wonder that Africa has lagged behind in producing exceptional offensive talent.

Don’t get me wrong we have produced some amazing attacking players from Abedi Pele to Jay Jay Okacha to even currently Yacine Brahimi. But, these players are very very rare, they often don’t last past the youth levels, and if they do, they are often so scarred that their games are never the same.

The lack of protection for our skilled offensive players in my opinion has been one of the major factors in why African teams have not been able to progress in the football world. Not only has it limited the amount of skillful players we produce but, it encourages bad defending. Of course the increasing number of African players plying their trade in Europe has helped in improvement of our defending but, it has not been enough. You have defenders learning from the time they start kicking a ball that two footed flying tackles are normal and we think a sudden move to Europe will help them. As such, this mentality change needs to start early in the development of our players.

The Football Associations on the continent need to show their leadership on this issue, by changing the attitudes in their domestic leagues and youth development in regards to fouls and reckless tackles. Take my beloved Ghana for example, currently there are real issues with game attendance, and general public interest in the domestic league. What better way to increase public interest than to make the quality of your game better by allowing your most skilled players to thrive.

But let’s not draw out this rant too much. On the bright side the knockout stages of this tournament have been full of exciting drama and some riveting football – even if some of this drama has revolved around some bad officiating.  But, most importantly, my beloved Ghana Black Stars are doing well and have made it to the semi-finals. Here is to hoping we can finally end the 33 year drought and win the cup!!!!

My Change is Better Than Yours!!!

OK!!!!!! Let’s get this out of the way before I begin…….. Yes I have been slacking. Yes I have neglected this blog. BUT, I have been keeping my mind busy, mainly reading interesting articles, and doing what I do best – starting meaningless arguments on social media to challenge the way individuals think.

So, while slacking and neglecting my wonderful blog, I stumbled upon and interesting post by someone (the person’s identity isn’t so important). So, the gist of the post was about how bad skin bleaching was, and how they could not understand why anyone would want to bleach their skin.

I found myself nodding in agreement while reading this post, and I was not alone, the likes and comments of support were flying in from all angles. But, of course I didn’t like the status or comment. Yes, you read right although I agree with the general premise of her comments I couldn’t find it in me to publicly show my approval of her message by liking or commenting on the status.

And no, I was not afraid of the backlash I would face from the bleachers or any associations that might represent them (And yes there is an association for everything these days). The major reason for my reservation about the ‘greatness’ of this status was who was actually writing it. I know I know that it’s some sort of fallacy when arguing- but, let me explain before you judge me.

So, the poster was telling readers how bad it was for black women to chemically alter their physical appearance and how she could not understand why anyone would want to. I agreed with the central theme of the post but I could not wonder why she of all people would be against chemically altering your physical appearance.

She herself had been for many years chemically altering her appearance. All signs in her updated pictures showed that she was currently chemically altering her physical appearance. So, how was the form of chemical alteration she was so against in her post, different from the one she was doing to herself. It seemed OK for her to celebrate her chemical alterations (mind you many of those who were in support of her post, where also the same individuals who could be seen celebrating her chemical alterations), while in the same breath condemn another individuals choice to do the same exact thing (chemically alter the physical and natural characteristics of their appearance).

So, for one to categorically state that something is wrong while on other hand doing the same thing in most societies and context would be seen as hypocritical. But, on this issue it seemed like the same standard was not held or applied. Many individuals who I know in most normal instances would call out any form of hypocrisy seem to either willfully ignore or support this.

Maybe I was looking for something that really was not there, or maybe I just wanted something to complain about in an effort to find another excuse to neglect this blog. Remember I have a tendency to pick random meaningless arguments on social medium (don’t worry I will address this issue another time). But, the more I thought about it the more I realized that we as a community had subconsciously accepted this hypocrisy. To think of it I have never heard anyone address this issue… what a golden opportunity!!

I know by now you are wondering what the heck am I talking about, and what is this awful chemical alteration that we as a society have come to accept. If you haven’t figured out by now the protagonist in our story had a perm. OK!! I know I was a bit dramatic with all the talk about chemically altering her physical appearance…

…But think about it for a second and let it sink in!

What does one do when they bleach their skin?

What does one do when they perm their hair?

Both processes involve using manufactured chemical products to change the physical appearance and characteristics of one’s body. Both processes are said by those who partake in it to enhance their beauty. Although, beauty is extremely subjective many individuals have tied their physical beauty to how light their skin is and how straight their hair is. As such, bleaching one’s skin and straightening one’s hair have become the by-products of this craze for instant beauty and acceptance.

But, as my story showed, we as a society have not viewed these two processes in the same light. Rightly or wrongly, we have consciously and subconsciously demonized skin bleaching while excusing perming as a necessary aspect of maintaining black beauty. Many have sighted the ills of skin bleaching and even those that do it have been forced to do so almost in silence (well at least in the African community these days).

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The health risks of skin bleaching have been well documented. Skin bleaching products on contain the active ingredients hydroquinone and/or mercury; bleaching creams have been linked with the disfiguring condition Ochronosis, marked by the darkening and thickening of the skin, as well as the appearance of tiny dome-shaped bumps and greyish-brown spots. These health concerns were even used as the underlying reason for the US FDA proposed a ban on skin-lightening creams without a prescription back in 2006.

Even in the United Kingdom, the amount of hydroquinone allowed in retail skin-lightening creams has been limited to just 2%, but demand for these products means there is a ready unofficial market for stronger potions. Ironically, skin-lightening creams are often a misnomer since after discontinuing use, normal sun exposure can make you darker than before. Women can then become psychologically addicted to creams and over years destroy not just their complexions but, also their health and self-esteem.

However, we do not see these concerns over chemically straightening one’s hair. Although the perm creams are applied to the hair, some may inadvertently be applied to your scalp through sloppy application or by accident. These creams are made up of a highly potent ammonium thioglycolate chemical solution, which can be irritating to some users and cause itching, redness, burning and peeling. As well, because of the strength of the ammonium thioglycolate in the solution, many find their hair texture changed after using it. Ammonium thioglycolate can dry out the hair, leaving it brittle and more susceptible to breakage. The only way to fix this problem is to grow the hair out and cut off the damaged portion.

To top it all off perms in general are an illusion and provide a temporary ‘fix’ much like skin-lightening creams. Chemical perms appear to make Black peoples’ hair look straightened; but, the reality is that even with perm people still must still press their hair with a heating tool (flat pressers, etc.). As well, some perm users realize that their hair is cracked and damaged and then wait patiently for new hair regrowth to replace the damaged hair. However, some may find that the chemicals have actually inhibited new hair growth.

Despite the parallels between skin bleaching and hair perming, ‘we’ as a community and/or society have treated these two processes very differently. We have demonized skin bleaching and have concluded that those that do that are evil and must in some way hate their black skin and as a result, being black. On the other hand, we do not feel that those that perm their hair hate their natural hair or that they hate being black.

I know many of you are saying that I am being a bit over the top and over reaching with this comparison. I know you are probably thinking to yourself, ‘I don’t perm my hair because I hate myself; I do it because it’s hard to maintain my natural hair.’ And I have heard this argument many times; simply maintenance is the sole reason for perming one’s hair, so we cannot equate these two processes, especially since bleaching one’s skin is evil and stinks of self-hate.

But, I strongly believe that we can equate these two processes. Both of these processes unnaturally change the natural state of a once natural appearance through various chemical processes. Both processes change the physical appearance of a natural body part to something that it could never be like without chemical help. For example, I hear many people try and equate skin bleaching to tanning. But, ask yourself this, can your skin lighten just by sitting in the sun, or abstaining from the sun? I know that abstaining from the sun would reduce the chances of one getting darker; however, I have yet to see enough people lighten the natural state of their skin by just abstaining from the sun for me to believe that this is natural. I also have yet to see anyone argue that skin lightening is even possible through a natural process. The same can be said about changing the texture of one’s hair through perming.

For argument sake let’s accept that maintenance and time management are the reasons why one would chemically alter the physical appearance and characteristics of their hair; why must the new hair that is now more manageable look European/Asian (honestly anything that is not African)? Why have we accepted without question that Europeanized hair is the way to go when trying to manage, protect and/or grow our African hair? Like I told a friend a while back, no one who bleaches comes out and says I am bleaching because I hate myself and I want to be Caucasian; they will simply say they want to look better and this is the same with many people who chemically alter the appearance and texture of their hair.

I know that the root causes that lead to the prevalence of these two practices are wide and far but, until we as a people are able to honestly address these two processes openly we will continue to miss the opportunity to address them. Slavery, colonialism, societal acceptance, peer pressure and media coverage have all played a role in the need for young black girls from all over the world to seek a change to their natural appearance.

We have never been taught as a people how to take care of our hair and have come to accept permed and straighten hair as more manageable and aesthetically beautiful. As such, when one wants to go natural and stop perming their hair, it seems like more work; and in some cases it is, because now you must learn how to care and maintain your natural hair on your own.

As well, we have demonized many of our own natural characteristics, especially our hair and skin. We often use insults such as, nappy hair, dark skin, black like tar; all why not subconsciously understanding what we are doing to our own self imagine. The world has made it such that black people cannot feel beautiful or comfortable in our skin. The media constantly bombards us with images of beauty that look nothing like us. But, black people have taken it to another level by feeding into these stereotypes and insulting ourselves by using our natural characteristics as some sort of badge of dishonour. Furthermore, there is a deep seeded inferiority complex that has to be killed and I see it slowly happening with the natural hair movement and the campaign against bleaching etc. I hope we can keep on this track because someday I will be blessed with a daughter and I think it would be a responsibility of mine as a father and to help her in discovering how beautiful she truly is.

You Are so not My Co-equal (Christian Version)

A few weeks ago I wrote about a video that has been going viral amongst Ghanaians. The video shows the Ahafo-Ano South District Chief Executive (DCE) arguing with an anonymous hospital worker, who chuckled during the presentation of his speech at a function held in honour of the director of the Mankraso Hospital.

I posed some interesting questions about how we often equate age and ‘position’ with respect in Ghana and Africa as a whole. I alluded to the fact that we as a people must challenge some preconceived notions of respect and authority.  After writing that piece, I questioned if I had been too hard on those in ‘power’ in Africa. In consult/consultation with some friends, I felt maybe I had generalized and had used the comical outburst of a serial verbal abuser to prove a point I had wanted to share for years.

On some level, I knew that it was too easy to use this one angry politician’s rant about how important he was to generalize about ‘leaders’ in Africa. In a private conversation with a friend after I posted the blog he challenged my perspective on this issue. He vehemently argued that what I wrote could not be the norm in Ghana and Africa. In his estimation, of course there are ‘crazies’ in every society who used their power and authority to demand respect.

On the surface, his point made sense! It was logical! There are plenty of politicians from all over who abuse their power and feel that they are owed respect solely based on their age or position. But, of course I knew better! I told him that he should just wait because in no time another ‘leader’ on our dear continent would prove my statements true.

It did not take long for my prayers to be answered. One can say God works in mysterious ways. In a weird twist of faith it took a ‘man of God’ to confirm my earlier hypothesis about leaders in Ghana and Africa. And in my opinion this ‘Are you my co-equal’ moment was definitely more outrageous considering it came from a man who is a leader of an organization which prides itself on humility.

So, here is the not so funny story. This time around, Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams boldly proclaimed that people who cannot match his achievements in life are not qualified to criticise him. The Presiding Bishop and General Overseer of the Christian Action Faith Ministries (CAFM) burst forth with that comment midway through his Sunday sermon when according to him, certain members of his congregation hurled judgmental looks at him, as he narrated a story about how a rich Nigerian man depended on his (Duncan-Williams’) prayers to get round his insomnia.

And with these ‘innocent’ looks his congregation had unknowingly touched a nerve with the ‘man of God’. So, the Archbishop seeming to take a page out of the DCE’s book and responded with some venom, at what he perceived had been some disrespect from his congregation. In other words his congregation was not his co-equal.

“You can look at me anyway you want to look at me and you can have that facial expression…with some of you I can look at your countenance and I know that you don’t agree with me but I will not apologise and stop preaching it. I’ll preach it. Your countenance [doesn’t] move me at all. You don’t know where I’ve come from. Please give me a break. You don’t have to agree with me. It is my opinion and I’m entitled to it’, he fired back at his alleged critics mottled among the congregation. Until you’ve been where I am and you’ve done better than I, you are not qualified to criticise me so don’t overstep your boundaries.”

And it did not stop there!

“Before you can sit down there and try to subject me to your logic and to your philosophy, ask yourself, what have you accomplished in life? I have 300 people on my payroll that I pay every month with IRS, SSNIT and other benefits just in this auditorium alone apart from other places; I oversee over 2,500 churches affiliated with Action Churches that are under my command. You, you haven’t accomplished anything. Just because you’ve been to some school, you can sit down there and you think you have the right to criticise somebody…please give me a break.”

Well of course touching on the amount of money he was worth was not enough, the Archbishop had to remind the rest of the common people in his congregation that they were truly not on his level.

“That’s the problem in society. Everybody thinks they can speak; I’ve been to school so I can read and write so I can just talk so you talk. Talk is cheap. Do something with your life. Affect people. Every day I feed over 220 drug addicts including 160 orphans, I feed them three times a day and I never complain. Over 250 people on scholarship roll and we pay scholarships every term without complain…and I carry all those responsibilities on my shoulders. And you, you don’t even have a child. You are not even married. You haven’t even paid the school fees of one child before and you have the audacity to contend with horsemen when you can’t even fight with footmen.”

So, according to him, non-achievers and under-achievers are not qualified to criticise him period. What made this funny situation sad was that all the things he boasted about were things that the same congregation he was lecturing had in many ways paid for directly or indirectly. Think about it, he boasted that he pays 300 people every month, yet forgot that the money he made from the church was coming directly from the individuals sitting in the stands that he felt the need to lecture.

Now I am the last person to tell another man what he can and cannot boast about. However, I find that at times we Africans take this boasting thing a bit too far. If you want to tell non-achievers they should not criticize because in essence they are not your co-equal, then you should STOP TAKING THEIR MONEY.

How can individuals not be qualified to criticize you but, are qualified to fund your achievements? From a ‘man of God’ who supposedly was able to build all these achievements single handily, one would think he would have the wisdom not to directly insult the same individuals who are funding these great achievement of yours.

African Culture in the Diaspora- Part 1: Exploring Culture

So a few days ago I was having one of my usual innocent discussions with the old man- my father. You know the typical discussion where I purposely bring up and press on a topic that I already know his stance on. Usually, my stances on these issues are not what I may actually believe but, rather another opportunity for me to get him to challenge some of his predetermined ways of thinking.

As such, I went into this particular conversation with premeditated plan to cause some confusion and get the old man to finally admit that he was outwitted by me and that in this instance he should evaluate the way he has been doing things and change it. But, little did I know that he was more than ready for me. I am guessing the fact that I had tried and buttered him up for the past couple of days tipped my hand. If I did not know better I would argue that he had done some preliminary research and was over the phone notes in hand, trying to destroy my plan to frustrate him.

I won’t bore you with the details but, the discussion centered on why Africans- and most specifically Ghanaians- do things a particular way. The premise of my argument was that some things were out dated; and especially as someone who was educated and has lived in the ‘west’ for so many years like my old man, why certain customs were so dear to him. What he rather eloquently kept pointing out was that these things were simply our culture, and more importantly he was very proud of our culture and intended to apply these cultural norms in his life no matter where he lived.

I tried my best to point out how ridiculous some practices can be even if you tied to ‘our’ culture. But, as I stated previously, the old man was ready for me! For example, I asked him what if culture told him that on every Sunday he must wear shorts. Would he be inclined to continue to follow such a custom in the deep of Toronto winter, solely because it was part of his culture?

At this point I felt I had the debate won, it was a checkmate, the old man had been tough this time but, I had shown him that I too could outwit him and think on my feet. But, the way he sighed before answering this question let me know that he indeed had been ready for me today. He calmly, answered you know in our culture when you attend a funeral men usually wear ‘ntoma’- coloured cloth wrapped around the body somewhat like a toga. I conceded this point! He continued by asking me simply do we not have men in our Ghanaian community who wear this in deep winter in Toronto?

My silence was almost deafening. I knew he was over there rather pleased with himself for showing the young boy that he still had a lot to learn. But, almost out of pity, he explained that he understood my point, and that sometimes we do tend to continue practices that are outdated. But, I still had many questions that I knew we had little time to address. So, we called it a tie and I resolved myself to come up with better examples of what I felt was truly outdated in our culture- and of course most of these shall be subject of the rest of this series on culture.

Why

But what is culture? And why do we hold so dear to these abstract concepts that we ascribe to be culture? What about us as Africans and humans in general that makes us hold so strongly the things of the past? Why are some of us so quick to exclude others from society, banish our own children, and even in some instances kill in the name of preserving culture?

Culture is basically the way of life of a people. It is the social and religious structures and intellectual and artistic manifestations, etc that characterize a society. Every group of people has values the DOs and DON’Ts that are better learned by living with and observing the people of that particular society interacting with one another. Obviously, some behaviors that are acceptable in one society could be an abomination in another.

Generally, culture is defined as, the behaviours and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. As the emphasis is placed on behaviours and beliefs in the present tense, I often wonder why many groups- especially Africans- often emphasize the past when referring to the present or future. This definition by all accounts implies that culture is a living and breathing thing that is not necessarily stuck in the past but, rather defined and developed by those who are presently participating.

On the other hand, tradition is generally defined as a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. The emphasis placed on the past is not what bothers me but, rather how we have in many instances let this connection with the past dictate our current cultural practices.

What I find is that many Africans- myself included- tend to confuse the concept of culture with that of tradition. In many instances we use both words synonymously. Although, at first glance these two concepts are similar, there is a very big difference that troubles me when individuals use these two concepts interchangeably. And this is what I find happens often when there are outdated cultural practice. We hold onto it and argue the point that ‘it is something our ancestors have done for so many years’, and thus, must be kept in the name of culture.

If one may ask, are these norms and practices- that we often keep solely on the basis that they were passed down from generation to generation- necessary in today’s modern era? Mind you, I am not making a blanket statement that all cultural practices must be done away with; or that all traditional customs are not relevant in the era we live in today. Rather, what I want to emphasize throughout this series is that we must not be afraid to challenge some of the cultural norms we have in our society. Most importantly we must be willing to change those norms that no longer fit with our new way of life, especially as Africans living in the diaspora.

Are there any cultural practices that you question?

Why is African culture continually viewed in the past tense?

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