To The African

Photo by Charles Nyiha

To the African father, I can hear you even when you do not shout at me. Saying no to you is not disrespect. That I ask you to think deeply about what you say to Mama is not my being spoiled; it is my way of trying to quiet my mother’s tears. I would like you to come and sit with me sometimes; let us talk about nothing, let us laugh. Papa, be soft, be soft in the ways that matter.

To the African man, do not reduce me to the size of my breasts, behind, the composition of my face; do not watch me so hungrily.

To the African mother, please, please, look at your daughter with love; your son with a sober mind. I hope you will not misunderstand me. 

To the African woman, a man is wonderful, but he is not your completion. The parts of you that you need, you are born with. Stop policing those sisters of yours who have not found a man, as if this is only basic. Do not twist your head to sneer at them for not having that very thing that makes you miserable. Remove jealousy from within you.

Again, African woman, do not so readily accept society’s valuation of you based on your superficial beauty; this is how we limit you. Beauty is a wonderful thing, but it is only a stroke of luck.

To the African daughter, young and bright-eyed. You might want your father to be as awake to today as you are, to worm himself out of the mindset that colonialism injured him with, to look at you more gently. It is right for you to want these things, but we cannot only love people at their best. Be gentle on his calluses, be kind to him, because there are many wars he is already fighting within himself, spare him one more.

To the African son, keep your own mind. The world today is fighting for it, in that music you play loud enough for your friends to hear, in that ascent or descent the tone of your voice is making, in the way something in you does not allow you to look at the girl who excites your mind but not your friends’ eyes, in the way you laugh at things.

To the African anomaly, you come in many forms. You are born in a world intricately layered with rule and sanction. The difficulty is in laying your hands before yourself and realizing they are fine; they will do; that only these can do. Rejection is a terrible thing to have sitting in your stomach—this is how we begin to sell our souls for a kind of love, this is how we contort our bodies into slavery.  Relax into a kind of humility—slowly, gently, nod your head at all of you, and say…yes, yes, but this, and only this is me.

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