Saturday 15 May 2021
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Black American culture and its influence on African identity.

Every February, Americans and black Americans in particular take time to reflect and celebrate achievements of their community and also pause to recognize and solidify the role of African Americans in the history of the United States. The media has been an instrumental driver in painting a very narrow experience of black culture the world over. Black American culture has often been framed as predominantly violent, poor, dysfunctional yet aspirational for many young black Africans.  Due to the ubiquitous nature of media crossing borders, norms and cultures Africans have for a long time looked to the United States of America to help frame the identity of our young people specifically. The extent to which it is beneficial remains open for discussion but the fact remains when America sneezes, Africa catches the flu.
The mighty dollar
Black Americans are painted as having a desire to become rich or get money the easy way. Drug dealings, theft or some sort of activity that is considered as illegal appears to be the narrative that blankets the black wealth attainment. It seems like Africans have adopted similar forms of thinking.  The number of students that drop out or do not complete high school has increased on both the American and African continent.  Without an over simplistic analysis of the US criminal justice system which is privately managed, prisons are inundated with the influx of youth. The structural issues such as intergenerational poverty, lack of access to quality education and inadequate skills continue to drive the dollar out of the black community.
Both America and Africa are known as the continents of music and phenomenal dance routines. Yet, there are still musicians on the African soil who attempt to personify the western forms of entertainment, the question is why? However, in recent years Africa has truly been able to get a name for itself in terms of music and the beauty of its sound. This is partly due to African musicians doing collaborations with big American musicians such as Neyo featuring Diamond Platnumz for example.  To an extent, Africa is gradually moving away from the love of western music and learning to appreciate its own.
It is imperative to note that framing of black expression continue to be tied within the sports and entertainment fraternity and less on the intellectual achievements. This is because black America has been portrayed only through the lenses of music, sports (American football), acting and talk shows. With that said, some Africans have adopted a similar mentality of only desiring to do music, modelling and other forms of supposedly glamourous forms of work with visions of grandeur. However, the reality that theses spaces are volatile and unpredictable are further shunned by the amplification of social media.
As post racial societies looking for black role models there are few whose work is amplified. Media distortions to the lived experience of people leaves much to be desired both for Africans and African Americans. The issues around economic and social disparities normally take a backseat in the framing of these issues. When these realities are consumed by young Africans it can start to create a warped sense of reality.
It is imperative that we celebrate and appreciate our heritage and African identity and move from American influence. We need to come to a point where we stand say “I am African” with so much pride and not feel behind like “a third world” that we have been labelled to be. As a collective we need to reinvest in celebrating black excellence in all industry and raise the profiles of diverse black influencers which is what black history month aims to do. Furthermore beyond black history month the stories,experiences and impact of the contribution of the black communities needs to be integrated into the fabric of history and our storytelling.
Buddy Muundjua is an aspiring Chartered Accountant while Steven Harageib is a Youth Activist; Rebranding and Changing the narrative of Africa.

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