How does one summarize the past few weeks. It's been a whirlwind of activity. From meeting Grammy winning artists to shaking hands with the President of the most powerful nation on Earth. For me, this experience felt like Cinderella at the ball and right now it's past midnight. I'm back in my work clothes and the fancy dress has disappeared. The magic's gone. I'm left holding a glass slipper though which are the memories and lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This was meant to be an academicesque article with things I have learnt (which is what the masses want and need to read) but I thought I'd first have a feels article. Process the swarm of thoughts in my head and gain clarity that writing oh so beautifully provides.
It's taken me a week to finally write this conclusion. When I was told that this fellowship changes you, I didn't believe it. I was very skeptical. What can happen in 6 weeks that can dramatically alter one's personality, their life path?! Nothing, I thought. Alas, I have changed and dramatically so. I wonder though if it is the change that had been anticipated by the initiators of this fellowship. I travelled thousands of miles to be shown and learn about the great America, which I have but the important learning for me has been about Africa. I travelled all this way to learn that my home, my motherland is truly home. We have a proverb in my language that says that a child who has not travelled praises his mother as the best cook. I have travelled and I still maintain that my mother is the best cook. Being lumped with fellows from 17 other sub-Saharan countries has done more for me than any class, television station (I hate you international media for misinforming me so tragically my entire life) newspaper article could ever do for me.
Living with people who are deeply in love with the continent and doing amazing things to revive it has been ridiculously amazing. Stacey who's radically changing the status quo of education in South Africa, Funmi and Sindi who want every single African child to fall in love in with reading and are doing everything in their power to get material, African centric material to these children. Dami, who was my roommate(fine babe, sha) and Tino changing the graphic landscape on the continent. Pixar and Co better watch out for these two. Tania,Thabo and Nina disrupting finance and investment. Munya,using tech to make sure there's more African content online, showcasing the intense creativity of Africans. Selly, ridiculously awesome fashion designer. Tsonam and Fanana, running Tech companies that will be the forerunners of the African tech industry. The media guys and girl; Abdallah, Napoleon and Lepang striving to make sure that African voices and stories are heard, loudly, clearly but most importantly authentically in media. I was challenged. I was and still am in awe. I was inspired. By their passion for their work and their deep deep love for the continent.
I find it funny that I went to America to become more African. I now see my continent as the West sees it, a land of opportunity. It saddens me that we it's citizens do not. It broke my heart to read of the thousands dying at sea trying to cross into Europe yet Asians are flocking to Africa like moths to light.
The best thing that this fellowship has done for me is to inspire love and passion for my work. Whatever work it may be. And that all labor has dignity. Where do I go from here?! To work, to hustle, to grind. It's like someone has poured gasoline on the fire that I already had for my startups. I am anxious to get back and get moving. So much to do, so little time. And as for the newly massively re-ignited pan-Africanism, I believe that Africa is not poor but it is poorly run. And that has to change, somehow. Africa is not just rising now. It's always been rising. It's the cradle of man-kind. We had organized kingdoms, trade systems long before the explorers/ missionaries interrupted our rise. I read recently from someone on twitter that they wished Africa had a strong immigration policy before we let Europeans land on our shores hundreds of years ago. Instead, we pitied, welcomed and fed. And then we were ravaged. We are still recovering from that and we will recover. We will rise. Let this quote from Martin Luther move you like it did me.
"In your life's blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth, and your own somebodiness. Don't allow anybody to make you feel that you are nobody...However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle for freedom and justice."