Finding My Voice

The undergraduate experience, for me, was most
exhilarating. I LOVED my course and was excited to amass all the knowledge
given access to me so that I can go home and ‘be the change I wanted to see in
the world’. I was a development studies major, whom, all her life, wanted
nothing more than ‘to help’ – to dedicate my life to serving others.

Being in that learning environment constantly reaffirmed why
I was there – that I would become someone great. Class after class, year after year deep, passionate fires
were constantly being sparked within me, anthropological fires, environment and
global warming fires, fires for geopolitics, fires for the diaspora – there were
so many things I wanted to talk about, exchange views with people from
different backgrounds and just delve into the depths of all that there was for me and 'my people' to know. 

 It always struck me,
however, that the people telling these histories, about the East African slave
trade, about different links between my mothers tribe and fathers tribe, and
about the history of how the biggest market in Dar Es Salaam got its name–were
not, the people that should having
been telling these histories, they were not ‘my people’. I began wondering if
these were the histories ‘my people’ would tell if I were to go home and ask
them. Why didn’t an African ever tell me this history? And if my
case is unique (having lived abroad all of my life) do ‘my people’ know these
histories?

 My best friend (who is my sounding bored and voice of reason
for all my wandering ‘fires’) and I would spend days trying to debunk these
questions and seeking further clarifications and insight.

 Our curiosity soon fuelled us to want to know whether our
peers, people who’d go to the same parties or ex-classmates also had these
thoughts. Deciding that starting a blog was the best way to get our voices out
there, the blog was set to be ‘Africa’s Wake-Up Call’.
Its goal was to bring light to issues important to the African people, yet that
they may not have had access to knowing. More importantly, we wanted to inspire
discussions and the want for Africans to want to speak about the issues that
they don’t think they are qualified or even allowed to have opinions on.

This endeavor lasted no longer than 6 months however, because
I stopped writing about my  ‘fires’. I
wasn’t able to commit primarily because life outside of the digital world was
more important. The second reason, also linked to why ‘other commitments’
seemed more important, is because while we received a great reception upon first
launching it, it didn’t seem like our peers from Tanzania were interested in
the issues we had to post.

 So, I stopped writing. Because I was just a girl who was
whispering into a vacuum hoping that people would hear me over today’s top
forty, or where Beyoncé travelled for the summer – which is
so loud and so familiar, but so unimportant.
 And this is perhaps part of a bigger
discussion we need to have about why we are more pre-occupied with tv series
and fashion and the on goings of “other” cultures? Are we tuned to believing
that what is ours is not cooler and more interesting?

 What I didn’t realize and what is important for you to take
from this is that I must want to make noise and support the noise being made by those
trying to start conversations that are not being had regularly. We, and I say
this to myself first, must shout. Not only
should
we shout but we should
want to shout.
I stopped writing because I didn’t want to shout. I didn’t want draw any
attention to what I was saying because what I was saying wasn’t normal. And
what isn’t normal takes a lot longer to train the ear to hear.

 As I go into my postgraduate I understand that helping
people and being of service to others isn’t just about the poor and hungry. It
is also about contributing to the
need
for my history, my culture and my story to be carved out as normal, cool and a ‘hot topic’. We need to recognise the 'fires' within ourselves and to get excited about learning about our rich past, and use that to be powerhouses today and forever ever.



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