Manifest Destiny

Chief Boima
Earlier this week I attended a panel at the UN’s Millennium Development Goals Summit on inclusive employment in Africa with participants that included such high profile figures as Mo Ibrahim, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda.  So what is “inclusive employment”?  Basically to ensure that we develop other sectors of society outside of resource extraction favored by multinational firms and African governments, so the benefits can be felt by everyone.  Because we can and should question the merit of wealthy people sitting around talking about what poor people need, I feel that it’s important to share back when given an opportunity to gain some insight on what our African leaders are thinking.

One constant refrain throughout the panel was the importance of investing in youth when creating these inclusive employment initiatives.

Many people quoted the statistic that soon a quarter of the youth of the world will be in Africa, but it was Dr. Ibrahim who put an interesting spin on that point.  If a focus on youth in Africa takes precedence in its developing economies, we shouldn’t forget the fact that many of the next generation of leaders in an aging Europe will be of 1st or 2nd generation African descent, (don’t forget about the U.S.) and these youth will eventually be the ones controlling the West’s institutions.  What I think he is suggesting is that it is important to engage these youth, so that they can see themselves as being connected to a global community when dealing with the social issues they face today, and nurture them to become globally conscious leaders in the future.

The current historical moment–where we’re all linked up and connected through social media & technology–is the perfect time for a back and forth exchange to happen.  It’s not hard to see that the youth of today are more plugged-in than previous generations, so in order to reach them we have to look at the things they are connecting to.  It is through popular culture that the initial connections with homeland and diaspora will begin to make an impact on the consciousness of the younger generations. For young people (and for those not so young) Hip Hop (and its various derivations) has become a global lingua franca that can instill in marginalized people a sense of community and pride.  If we can connect youth of the diaspora to Africa through the things they are interested in and understand, for example Hip Hop, we can instill in them a sense of pride in their roots and perhaps obligations to their community as a whole.  Since popular culture and media will play an integral role in the formation of those future leaders’ social consciousness, my personal preoccupation with Africa’s image and reception in the West is less focused on how non-Africans see it, but more concerned with how young Africans see themselves and understand the potential of the places they come from.

Which brings me to this video:

This is the work of M.anifest, a Ghanaian born MC based in Minneapolis in the American midwest, who infuses in his work his identity as an African in America.  Minneapolis’ black population has the highest proportion of 1st and 2nd generation African immigrants in the United States, and the third highest numbers of Africans immigrants behind New York and Washington D.C.  It is a place ripe with the potential to nourish a global African identity and M.anifest, with the social analysis, self awareness, and charisma of a leader, is a positive example for young people of the diaspora on how to engage their dual identities.

I also spotted this music video* from Keur Gui Crew over at Africanhiphop.com with the headline “Conscious Senegalese rap is not dead.”

It is a beautifully shot video that carries a strong political message about the centralization of power and resources in Senegal’s capital.  It is a real issue that real people are experiencing right now, and its message is spread through popular music, social media, and technology.  The balance of power and wealth in the world may still very much be uneven, but I can’t help but think that if we invest in the creation of a global consciousness in our youth while creating educational opportunities for them in Africa and the diaspora, then perhaps things will eventually be able to even out.

Here is an interview with M.anifest done by the Africology crew, a diverse group of Africans in NYC doing their part to promote African youth culture using social media technology and throwing events in the city.

M.anifest Destiny, Africa is the Future.

* BTW, there’s an unfortunate tendency of homophobia amongst rappers and reggae artists around the world, and in a society where this tendency goes unchecked or is even encouraged, it tends to shows up more explicitly.  It is the problem of folks like Buju Banton to 50 Cent, and in Keur Gui’s song of social liberation, it strikes a discordant note (notice the reference to “Batty Boys”).

[In image above: Singer Nneka modeling the gear from clothing label Africa is the Future.]

Comments

comments

Boima Tucker

Chief Boima is a Sierra Leonean-American music producer, DJ and writer. He is also the managing editor, podcast host, and music section editor of Africa is a Country.

10 Comments
  1. Very nice! It seems when I bring up hip hop during lecture, my African-born and African American students (usually) avoid the head-butting that usually happens in class.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  2. That first music video is awesome. Mixing Battletoads and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with rap music is a great juxtaposition. I don’t know anything about 2nd generation African American culture but it seems like they are a pretty eclectic bunch, as diverse as the continent that they come from.
    But I’m not sure why you would want to highjack their culture, whether it be Hip Hop or otherwise, to promote an agenda of “pride in their roots” and “obligations to their community.”
    I’d much prefer to allow them to decide for themselves the extent to which they wish to be proud of their roots (or not) and and who exactly they wish to define as “their” community. Perhaps because I am 5th generation European American who personally has no “pride in his roots” (and don’t feel any worse for it), I don’t sympathize with (understand?) the impulse to cling to some supposed diaspora community. Nor do I allow my genetic heritage to define my community. But should I and should they?

  3. @justinkraus
    im really fascinated in the line of questioning you take- and i find it comes up again and again whenever non-marginalized peoples are confronted with efforts oriented towards marginal groups. the logic is essentially- hey my people dont need this- so why do yours. it always reads as kind of played though- its basically a bootstraps type argument. but i read a little bit of devils advocate in your comments- you really dont think we should work to instill “a sense of pride in [young ppls] roots and perhaps obligations to their community as a whole.”

    I dont think its “highjack”ing to work with a community to instill values in young people. If anything is hijacking its coorporate, white owned media empire that preaches an economic rubric of self worth, a misogynist social structure etc etc. Not that coorporate content needs to be “conscious” backpack rap- but yo lets be honest- this model does need to be hijacked! It’s atrocious for youth of all races- its dope that for so many young people in the states people of color are now role models- but real talk- you want anyone to take ethical pointers from jeezy and 50? obviously this logic can lead to some scary places- and it kind of straw mans my position- but its imperative that people question youth about the media they create and consume. money is a powerful magic and its intoxicating allure blurs all boundaries- stepping in and providing a framework for positive creation- thats not hijacking- thats fulfilling your ethical obligations to your community and the future of all people.

    ” Nor do I allow my genetic heritage to define my community. But should I and should they?” Thats cool and progressive dude! This is a good question- but I dont think your in the same position as 1st and 2nd gen african/american youth- your views of europe probably wont be shaping how the continent is dealt with by foreign entities… im in reading Boima correctly above- the reason it is important to educate these youth and instill a powerful understanding about the legacy and possibility of africa is that they will most likely be the next generation of decision makers (due to their connections to home) to decide the fate of the continent along with their counterparts still on the continent.

    i think what your getting at fundamentally is whether boima is pushing a conservative agenda and fixed notion of african-ness and african diasporic community- im guessing hes not- but he should answer that himself. to have respect and obligations to your diasporic community isnt about circling the wagons- but pride and respect.

    (but yo B- you should write some time about how almost all my african friends in highschool had parents that told them not to kick it with black kids)

    hip-hop is a channel that we understand speaks truth. thats why it should be utilized. us young people hear the real in hip-hop. because of that- its an open channel that be programmed any which way. other channels- school being the main- are blocked… and for good reason given the history of fucked up education for marginalizes groups in the us.

    i for one am all for utilizing any resource in any way that is constructive and creates community and pride.

  4. Whoa! Thanks Tally for that elaborated response. You make some good points. I’ll think on that post suggestion.

    @Justin: I personally believe that everyone regardless of background should have pride in who they are, and carry with that a social awareness in how they are connected to other places. I don’t see how I’m suggesting to hijack or force anything on anyone. I agree that people should be able to decide for themselves. I’m saying we should open up the possibilities of pride and awareness for a marginalized community through the mediums that they already engage with. I don’t believe those channels exist in mainstream Western dominated culture. Also, I didn’t mention anything about genetics, but if I implied that somewhere please point it out.

    In your case, maybe you don’t feel connected to Europe in any way, and that’s fine. I personally have European roots that were cut off because of conscious decisions made by my great grandparents, but we all have roots and a community somewhere. I happen to have roots in both the American Midwest, and the West Coast of Africa, so the culture of those two places helped shape my identity. Whether you identify with a certain, city, region, or country where you or your parents were born, those are your roots, and engaging with them in a socially conscious way can’t be a bad thing, especially if that culture is often misrepresented and misunderstood.

    @Caleb what do you mean exactly?

  5. @taliesin

    I completely agree with you that corporations spend a lot of time hijacking (to use my own word) various cultural forms in order to promote their agendas. And I think we should, as you do, rightly denounce them for it. But they are not the only ones. Which is exactly why I am sensitive (perhaps overly so?) when it looks like other groups are starting to use the same tactics. Ends do not justify means.
    As to pride and respect, there are many aspects of an individual’s identity that he/she can draw pride from. One’s heritage is one of them, but I don’t see why it should be privileged over any other aspect.
    But you do hit my point on the head when you state that I am probing to see if there is some covert conservatism in Bioma’s post.

    @Bioma
    You state that people “should, regardless of their background, have pride in who they are…” But, as with your earlier statement about “roots” and “community,” I think this line of reasoning moves too fast and is ultimately freedom inhibiting. First, “who they are” and who “their community” is, are not simple objective realities that they must either accept (and be proud of) or reject (and become “coconuts” or whatever). People (should be able to) decide “who they are” and who “their community” is. And actually from what I see in those music videos that is exactly what they are doing. The incredible culture diversity of the content of that first video likely mirrors the artist’s own life. He is selectively choosing from the incredible diversity of inputs that he has been exposed in his lifetime and putting them together into something that is eclectic, new, original, and frankly awesome.
    If he needs to be proud of something, he needs only to look at his own work. And if he has any obligations, it is “to thy own self be true.”

  6. interesting post. boima, have you listened to Ghana-to-BK’s ‘Blitz the Ambassador’ {embassy.mvmt.com –> opened for the roots/talib at celebrate brooklyn + public enemy at summerstage} or Congo-to-Belgium’s ‘Baloji’ {http://www.baloji.com/blog}…suggested listening!

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