Saturday, June 29, 2013

Elizabeth Catlett's "Sojourner Truth," 13th & K in Sacramento Vandelized

I hadn't known there stood a regal representation of what must be one of our true champions for justice, Sojourner Truth, whose Ain't I a Woman, inspires many to date. Catlett, an artist par excellence who made her transition last year, completed this monument to truth and justice and righteousness in 1999. Vandelized in January, just weeks before Obama's entry into his second and final term.

Here in East Africa, folks are still jazzed about a black president, perhaps because he's is also Kenyan in ancestry (smile).

Marcus Books in San Francisco threatened with closure, the oldest black book store on the West Coast, and now this. I am not sure what to think about this country "tis of thee. . . sweet land of what? for whom?" Yes, this is a land where our fathers died, mothers cried and entire communities sighed and resisted.

We have to continue to resist and rebuild monuments such as the one Mrs. Catlett created. Ours is a legacy which we have to continue to lift up with buildings and institutions and monuments.  If pyramids are being flooded in Sudan along with the antiquities and treasures, then certainly the attack is also present in the Pan African Diaspora, specifically America.

On April 28, 2009, Isabella Baumfree became the first African American woman to be memorialized with a bust in the U.S. Capitol. Cicely Tyson recited the speech: Ain't I a Woman, and the First Lady Michelle Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made comments. See

If we do not, we will eventually be no more. See the wonderful article about Mama Truth and Mama Catlett here:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 16, 2013

The Blues

What do I call this, ADS or African in the Diaspora Syndrome? Why is there no collective move, especially in the more industrialized Africa, like Ethiopia where folks –I thought were more conscious, to connect with those of us who have been away for five centuries?  After all, the Organization for African Unity was founded here and still has its offices here on the 50th Anniversary of what is now known (since 2005) as the African Union.
If this is the Pan African Century why isn’t there more of a move to include those of us in the Diaspora in a tangible way?

Perhaps the philosophical plan excludes those of us outside continental Africa? Heads of state do not constitute the people. If I don’t know about it, for all practical purposes most Pan Africans in the San Francisco Bay Area don’t know about it.

Green and white, in the opposite order are what seem to count, that and the Christian church. It’s not, welcome home my sister; it’s not who are you my sister; it’s not what have you been up to for 500+ years my sister. It’s not that, nope, it’s let’s go to the ATM so you can pay me my sister.

Granted there are linguistic barriers, but hell, I had to save a lot of money to make the reverse transatlantic route back here. It took a lot of time and effort to get here. I had to even bring work with me. So, granted, I would have liked to study more and learn the language, however, I really had no brain matter space left to fit it in. Now that I am here, interested and eager, no one is interested in this Pan African woman unless I make all the overtures and of course have my checkbook ready.

I have made calls to folks; texted—unfortunately unable to email, with now responses from the sisters I met. Haben has responded with regret.
I wanted to visit the drop-in center which my dollars support when I first arrived and I was told there was no room in the van or taxi.  Since then I have been running and today is Sunday; folks are with family and friends and I am neither (no sorrow just a fact).

There was no orientation when I arrived to the neighborhood –dos and don’t, how safe is it? Useful information like what buses go where. What the money means. People speak in paper Birrs; however, there are coins too I discovered yesterday (smile).

Two weeks ago when I really needed Internet, no one told me an Internet café was just up the street. 10 Birr an hour with a printer; pretty good deal too. Instead I stressed and then went to the Hilton, where the Internet cost money when I could have gone to the Jupiter Hotel and had a fresh mango juice and listened to live jazz or went to the golf club and used theirs for free. I found this all out yesterday evening –I could have even used Skype.
To go anywhere from the Betel Guest House one has to pay for the entire day, $50 US as if $50 grows on trees and Americans have Benjamin Franklins falling from their pockets—this is the cost if one uses Guest House services. I was going to have to rent a van today, what a wasted resource to run around. I decided I’d save my $65, the air and the planet too and skip the last minute must sees.  As we drove to Bahar Dar from Gonder, I wanted to offer rides to the folks along the way hitchhiking.

Next time, I will ask someone to connect me with a nice bi-lingual taxi driver, with a fee I can negotiate. Did I say next time? Yep, I did because I am not going to judge the entire country by this one experience in Betel at the Guest House.

Better yet, I could get a taxi driver of twos numbers and a college student who can run around with me for a fee.

I haven’t had much to eat here, which is ridiculous considering their “fasting meal.” Everyone knows what this entails yet I have this awful rice with vegetables –carrots and cabbage and onions daily for two weeks—well it’s not awful, it’s just plain and tiresome.

I get spinach when I bring some home. However it is cooked while I am out of town, four days before I can eat it. I am glad I didn’t get sick last night, since electricity is really iffy here— I ask for honey and ginger but I don’t get it.  I bought some last night. I also have to buy my own fruit, otherwise I would literally starve.  In the country, their crop cycle differs from Addis, which means I can’t find mangos and bananas.

When we go to the local tea shop yesterday afternoon to have a meal, the waitress doesn’t speak English, although she understands chai for tea and cappuccino for coffee and chips for French fries. This is what we order. I am limited on what kinds of junk food I can eat, so for me, the French fries and potato chips I buy at the corner store suffice. I hope the food is a little more substantive in Tanzania.

I wanted to get to Shashamane yesterday and to the African Union Building to see it and to get a doll and some music and to see the National Park and to an Orthodox Church. Oh well, maybe next time with Helen’s father I can go to a church one Sunday morning. That would be fun. He seems like a nice man. I would love to stay with them. I also wanted to walk around the old city—which has the first hotel built by King Menelik II. This king sported a do-rag under his crown (smile).
When I get back to Lalibela, I’d like to connect with my tour guide there, Destaw, and when back in Bahar Dar, boat owner Rasta. I still want to see the falls even if it is a pitiful figment of its former pre-dam grandeur.

One of the residents here, Deirdre from Ireland, has a new three week old baby girl named Sara. She will be back to Addis in six weeks to pick her up. The baby’s new dad’s birthday was yesterday. Perfect gift for the family and just in time for Father’s Day.
I don’t feel like going to the Internet café, but I better get moving. I need to email Sister Charlotte and print out her instructions for Arusha, Tanzania.

These posts are not in any particular order. I started out in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then flew to Arusha, where I am now. It took two days to get here from San Francisco with a stop in Washington, D.C. where I was in January this year.

I signed up for Sheba Miles with Ethiopia Airlines. They haven't kicked in yet, but they are making lots of money on me this trip. I just read in the Arusha Times about which flies between Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar for $20. I spent $256 or so for a one way ticket next week. I am going to get a ticket to come back on from Dar to Kilimanjaro.

It flies a lot of places. Maybe I might fly somewhere else (smile).

Happy Birthday Sister Wanda

I touched down in Arusha Monday, June 17, 2013, and it has been a quiet peaceful transition into a new decade. UAACC surprised me with cake and song and a really cool dance party on my birthday Thursday, June 20. The kids and I traded dances as they taught me some traditional moves which I hear looked pretty right on. Brother Pete looked out his door and wondered at my age, when he saw me get down like the youngsters (smile).

Arusha is certainly home for Africans in the Diaspora thanks to the work of this couple and also folks like Geronimo ji jaga, whose presence is felt daily as people from the village fill containers with water from the well he dug many years ago.

One can't take a step without "karimu" or welcoming smiles and handshakes from friendly neighbors and from folks on the street. Today, I was tourist. We went to the market where I bought some cloth and an English newspaper, ate roasted corn, which was yummy, and I bought several classic Swahilli films. They sound fun. I will have to let you know (smile).

Several folks have come and gone. A professor and his sons are visiting now from Ghana via Dar. They return to Dar tomorrow. They went on a one day safari. Tomorrow, Brother Pete and his wife and son and granddaughter and daughter-in-law are going to the Ngorugoru Crater. I will miss them on their return. I will still be on safari myself.

Never a dull moment for sure. Everyone is really nice. One can hear music and laughter all the time. The children, all 21 of them are so sweet. Today there was a savenger hunt and all of them got prizes. I don't know how they found the hidden parcels so quickly but they did.

Bullet, the retired farm horse wanders around the UAACC village. He always seems to decide he wants water when I am washing clothes in the children's yard. So I just let it run for him. Today, I decided to try and see if my clothes dry faster on the outside line or inside. We shall see.

I am never hungry for dinner if I have a late lunch. The cook is pretty phenomenal. I haven't eaten this well in a long time. There is always fruit which is nice--mangoes and bananas. Avocadoes rain from trees which surround the Red Onion, but I haven't had one in a while with breakfast or dinner. Hopefully, they will come back.

There was okra this afternoon, but I couldn't eat it as it had tomatoes in the sauce.