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Africans need to get better at telling their own stories? How? Who will listen?

by on July 24, 2010

 I was really intrigued by Ory Okolloh’s presentation on Ted talk, though I have heard of her and her movement before I didn’t take a deeper look at Ory’s mission and the success she’s accomplished on a deeper level. I think this is due in part to my own personal background with efforts to aid or support the continent in various ways. Being of Nigerian decent and going to an undergraduate college (Tufts) that was very big on international education and relations, it was very easy to find opportunities to make a difference. I had assisted two of my very close friends with Pan-African panels, symposium and efforts to educate and participate on improvement efforts that would aid countries in Africa (specifically Ghana and Liberia) that would welcome this kind of support, however in many instances this was not the case, unfortunately many organizations my friends and I worked with had typecast us as just Americans looking and lacking understanding in the country and the way things were done, despite our background. What I noticed from situations like this is that many African descendent Americans really began to focus their efforts on establishing communities in America very separate from their home countries (or parents home countries) because of this non-inclusive feeling and treatment.

One of the topics Ory spoke about was that African born Americans should get involved and tell positive African stories beyond disease, poverty and tragedy. But how? And who will listen?  Is there a way to balance the feeling of being an African and an American and be taken seriously? I don’t know the answer for sure but what I do now (maybe because I am older) is that you can’t take it personally, you still help and you still get involved and it doesn’t have to have this underlying “I am a country man too” kind of feeling in order to  care and have that same level of commitment to the improvement efforts.

Awareness and opportunities are no longer far from our reach, with the dominating presence of blogging, many African writers, journalist and activists are using blogs to spread more than just the typical stories about countries in Africa to the world. Some of the most popular Kenyan bloggers include Ory’s the Kenyan Pundit and Juliana Rotich’s Afromusing, a blog on renewable energy efforts in Kenya. These bloggers are bringing important issues to the forefront of news stories around the world and making them as relevant as the poverty stories. Though both bloggers are African natives, Juliana lives in Chicago. I realize you don’t have to be there to prove you care.

To take what Ory said and use Swahili Wikipedia as a first step to getting involved and encouraging and engaging more native Swahili speakers as well as Kenyans and Kenyan Americans to participate. This can be done using social media tools to build that bridge and actually accomplish connecting this diverse community to one common goal.

An effective approach can include some of the following:

1.    Launching a Facebook page titled: “Swahili Truth” with the purpose to provide content to the Swahili Wikipedia page, encouraging all native speakers of the language to take part in contributing, updating and regulating the page.

2.    Motivating Kenyan descendants in the states to take an interest and utilize their own personal twitter accounts and blogs to encourage friends, readers and followers to take a personal interest in improving the Swahili Wikipedia page.

3.    Engaging active communities at colleges and universities to get involved and lead the work to improving the Wikipedia page.

Building a community takes time and a commitment to engaging people by finding a common interest. Utilizing social media tools that are relevant is the best approach but most importantly gathering people around a social change issue can be the best strategy to making a connection.


From → Kenya

One Comment
  1. I found your post tremendously insightful about the idea that sometimes members of the diaspora of a nation can feel alienated from it by those who might unintentionally (or even intentionally) “typecast” them as lacking understanding. This is likely an issue in many international marketing efforts but I enjoyed your personal take on it as well as your admission that you may not necessarily have an answer for this. You had the right approach in trying to offer one potential solution, though the suggestion of the Swahili Wikipedia only seemed like a short term approach and one that might also exclude non-Swahili speakers. Still, your post raised an important subject and one that goes well beyond the confines of social media in its importance. (5)

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