West African Chronicles. On the subject “Speaking”. If you were raised in the south, you were taught to “speak”, when you encounter another brother or sister. Big Mama insisted on it. And as I’ve grown older and seen more of this world, context has been added to her words.

The first bit of context I encountered was doing my trip to South Africa & Swaziland back in 2005. We were told to announce ourselves when approaching others or their homes, with the greeting, “Sawubona”. Yes, it mean hello and goodbye, but it also means, “hey, I see you…”, “I acknowledge you.”, “I respect your person-hood”

Likewise, during our recent trip to Senegal and Ghana, they too practiced the same custom.

And we carry on this practice, even now, in this land an ocean away from the land of our ancestors. Especially, in spaces where we are few in number. Even if it’s just the nod, that brothers give one another. Or the smile that sisters share when they encounter one another in these spaces. Yes, it’s a sign of respect. But it’s more than that in the space we now fill. It’s an acknowledgement of a social contract, that if things go left, I got you. Big Mama knew that our survival in this strange land relied upon this unspoken contract. But it is my earnest hope that one day, people of every shade, will see and accept our shared humanity. For in truth, our survival as a species, depends on us looking out for one another.




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