What being African means to me.

6 Min Read

I hate being called African before a Sierra Leonean. Before you jump down my throat let me explain. I have always had a problem hearing non Africans talk about Africa and Africans as if we do not have any individual presence. I call a German ,German, French, French and so on (irrespective of race) well before I call them European. I cannot find a way to be African without first being a native of my country.

Bush Africans- photo from wonkette.com

Anyway, I am sat here at 5 a.m thinking what being African means to me.

In the last few years there has been an explosion in debate on how we can solve the problems of Africa. I am as vocal as anyone in these debates but I am sure that we all have our own little examples that in the wider picture NGOs,war corruption etc seem insignificant.

As a black woman from Sierra Leone,West Africa I am deeply passionate about anyone who falls within any of these categories. Not necessarily all at the same time!

Over the last four years I have given up weekends and holidays to teach children from similar backgrounds (aided by a friend who is Indian) to help them get scholarships and bursaries at schools that they otherwise would not afford. I stumbled into this just because as the results were achieved I could  not turn away the ones who called to ask me to help the next year. This has been through word of mouth. I have had to stop this year due to sheer exhaustion of all my weekends taken up by this but guess what a phone call came in last week and I am meeting the family next week! This was not a financial venture.

Another example …..I was in a meeting in the central London a while back. On my way home in the bus I was on the phone talking to my cousin in my native language. A lady sat next to me and seemed to be waiting for me to finish. So I cut the conversation short and it transpired she was from Sierra Leone and completely lost. I was nearly at my stop and I gave her directions the best I could and was just about to get off and I looked back and she was nearly in tears. She had not long been in London and this was her first trip on the bus. She was always in a car. I turned to her and told her to get off the bus with me. Amazingly she trusted me and did just that. I walked her back to my home got my car keys and drove her to where she was going. She has turned out to be someone quite important in our country’s political scene but I did not know that at all.

I am no angel and do not want t come across as giving myself a pat on the back but I suppose that we all have numerous similar stories that show how we bond and care but may see them them as irrelevant. I do and it is the recent post on AID and Africa on here that made me question myself and wonder what I input living out of our continent. So thank you to Tony.

Lastly I am going to do something I have never done before. Add a blatant plug for a fantastic African (I know I have just done what I complain about but that is what it is. Not just a focus on one country)  fashion house…. Bunmi KoKo . Let me say that I have no links personally or professionally with this designer. I am not even sure they will ever know I have done this but I just saw beautiful designs combined with focused hard work . They have currently released 100 limited edition scarves that will also support their show at London fashion week. Please support  by  going on to [email protected] and ask more about this. I have bought some for myself and family. At the very least read a bit more about her. Michelle Obama has ordered a coat from her  recently.

Once again I reiterate this, is no ploy or hard sell, just me being proud to be African, I suppose.

I am a Sierra Leonean, married mother of one who has lived in the UK for over 25 years. I originally trained as a cancer nurse in London. I moved into the pharmaceutical industry after eight years of nursing, went into a variety of sales and marketing roles and left three years ago to become self employed. I am now launching a lingerie line for women of colour to complement their skin tones in the UK and US

Find me @beingU_ on Twitter!

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