Mama Visits the deYoung Museum in San Francisco

Image

I have been a huge fan of museums for as long as I can remember.  From big, busy classic favorites like the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to smaller and lesser known museums like the Dapper Museum in Paris.  I love seeing the creativity, history and culture that is displayed in all its forms.

If you’ve been following my blog for any time at all, you probably know already that the Dapper Museum in Paris is my all-time favorite.  This is not because its collection is the largest in the world or because there are rare treasures there.  They do have a beautiful collection of pieces from across the African continent, they do have a charming little bookstore and café; but what they have that impresses me most is information!  For me, it is a great pleasure to see people walk through and learn more about the people and cultures that created the art on display.

Although it’s true that I studied African history, politics and language from some great professors while in university; I must be honest in saying that I have learned so much more since leaving the beautiful campus behind.

I have read stacks and stacks of books, magazines and periodicals over the years; but I must admit that there are two ways that I most love learning about Africa: museums and dialog.

Frankly, dialog is my favorite.  Each person who has shared their personal story with me, each interview I’ve conducted, well, they’ve all taught me so very much about African culture and history.  It is during conversations with Romuald’s beautiful mother from Cameroon, through a question and answer session with Dominic in Ghana or from one of the elders in my own family that I learn the real history and culture of my beloved continent.

But, in the absence of smiling faces and lively discussion, museums are a close runner-up.

I remember going to a museum in Paris which will remain unnamed.  It is hailed as being one of the best in Europe; yet I couldn’t stomach remaining there for over 20 minutes.  There was a lot of art from Africa.  Yet, the vast majority of the pieces had little tags near each piece that read something like this: “Woman with basket. Wood. 19th C.” My very young daughter kept asking me, “Mom, why don’t they know that is from Ghana?”  I was insulted, and deeply so. 

I looked around that museum and counted dozens of families walking through the rooms one by one, interested and ready to learn.  These families though, would instead get an experience that taught them very little.

I guess I’m a teacher at heart.  As much teacher as I am student… lifelong student.  After all, life is about learning, right?  I was so saddened to think of these people planning a day out with their children and of all of the things they could have done, they wanted to come and experience Africa through our beautiful and varied art forms.  Only to walk through a host of rooms which failed to do much except put art on a shelf behind glass.

Now that you know my world view where art and museums are concerned let me tell you this: If you are ever in San Francisco, go visit the deYoung Museum!!  I so thoroughly enjoyed my visit last week.

As an added bonus right now, you’ll get the extra treat of seeing a portion of the Vatican Museum’s religious art on display.  Most of that section contains pieces from a host of islands from the Pacific.  But, there are a few African pieces in the mix.  And, no matter what your views are on the Vatican; you must know one thing when it comes to their art collection: it is incredibly well labeled!  I have never been anywhere and seen such consistent, detailed and thorough informational cards.  The priests, monks and others who collected them clearly knew much about the pieces and the peoples who made them. 

I really enjoyed making comparisons between some of the masks from Polynesian islands and various regions of Africa.  And of course, seeing the African pieces was a treat.

But, even if the Vatican pieces are no longer on loan to the deYoung, you really should visit.  Their collection is large, informative and beautifully displayed.  When you are done, or if you need a break, they have a lovely area to sit and enjoy a meal at the café.  Located in the Golden Gate Park, it is a great environment to take your kids for a stroll or sit alone and read a book that you’ve gotten at the museum gift shop.

Who knows, maybe you’ll run into me there?  I definitely plan on returning!

When you get there, if you see a kind Caribbean gentleman at the front checking tickets, tell him that Mama said hello!

Here is a blog post from an African friend who is simply put a talented and adventurous cook and a great lady to know. If you’d like to enjoy her vegan/vegetarian recipes this Lent… here is where you can find her:

My Burnt Orange

2012-12-16 10.22.43

 

Pray!

After enjoying a lovely fat Tuesday evening with friends, Lent is upon us. What is Lent? Without going into too much detail, it is the 40 day period that leads up to Easter. During this time, people may choose to forgo something that means a lot to them, whether it is some type of food, a favourite TV show, blogging (never!), Facebook (Lord have mercy!) and so on. I do not remember the last time I took part in forgoing anything for Lent, but this year, I have decided to give up meat.

Yes, meat. But look on the brighter side, I have a lot of vegetarian dishes to discover and share, and if you have been keeping up to date with my Facebook page, you would have had a sneak preview of my meal trials. For me though, it is not just about INDULGING in vegetarian food…

View original post 34 more words

It’s Africa Day… So, What’s the Big Deal?

Today is Africa Day.  OK, so that probably means something to planners of prayer vigils, ribbon cuttings or planners of ceremonies in those big white buildings that many Africans only enter if they have to deal with the administrative offices in capital buildings throughout the continent.  But what does it mean to those of us who are average everyday Africans?  What does May 25th mean to a child sitting in the classroom in Kampala or to an African woman heading off to work in Johannesburg so that she can provide for her family?  What is Africa Day and how does taking the time to celebrate it in some little way affect the lives of millions of Africans and non-Africans across the planet?

I am not sure if you know this or not; but if you take the time to search a bit, you will quickly learn that there is a day dedicated to all kinds of things: The International Day of large green dogs, of tornado survivors, of chocolate, of butterfly catchers…. OK, maybe I made up a few of those; but the list is endless.  So, why bother writing about this day and not others?  Well, here is why I think it matters:

Africa Day began on May 25th, 1963 as a celebration after 30 (of the then 32) independent nations of Africa sat down to form the Organization of African States.  The headquarters, it was decided, would be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Next year will mark the 50th year since it was founded.

Some refer to Africa Day as “African Independence Day”.  This is because it was the first time that leaders of African nations met free of colonial powers.  We all know that African nations gained independence one by one and that we’ve even recently welcomed new members of the African Union, such as South Sudan.  But, this was a first.  One of those monumental events that is second only to a nation’s individual independence from colonial powers. If you talk to a village elder, they will likely remember the day with joy.  It was the symbolic unification of Africa.  It was a declaration to the world that we were free and that we would begin to work together toward the betterment of all Africans.

Fast forward now, to today and its 53 member states: Africa is still rife with problems, many of them incredibly serious.  We still see extreme poverty and diseases such as malaria, AIDS and others still threaten the future of our children.  We still see tyranny (only now it’s most often done by the hands of Africa’s own sons).  We have so much to work on that for those of us who are in the business of helping Africans live healthier, safer and more prosperous lives; well, it feels overwhelming at times.

BUT… the reason that I took a few minutes today to celebrate is this:  I am an African woman.  I am a woman proud of the continent of my birth.  I am most proud of how far we have come.  You see, I have children who only understand our sad and sordid past as something they’ve been told, something they’ve read or seen in documentaries or books.  For them, Africa is a continent rich in resources and people.  It is a place where women like our friend Janet from Uganda can build a great future for herself and her son through her talents and hard work.  It is undoubtedly a vast land of squandered resources and opportunities.  But at least those opportunities do exist for so many.

Africa in 1953 was someone else’s property.  It was, in major part, a land of oppressed people who were treated like animals more often than like people.  It was a place where children were denied education in order to keep them down.  It was a place where many good leaders were deposed because it was feared that they would continue to do good for their people.  It was a land detached from its roots and the wisdom of its ancestors because the European powers knew that our history was rich and our ancestors were wise guides.  So, languages were outlawed, freedoms extinguished and rights removed.

Today, we have a long list of problems to solve.  Every child does not yet have the true opportunity to flourish in the way God intended him to.  And, unfortunately, in many countries my brothers and sisters are living under the heavy hand of dictatorships which aren’t renounced formally by the very organization that we are celebrating today.

Yet, here I live, free to talk about it.  Here I live in the West as a proud African woman who has been able to get an education, network with hundreds of others who love my continent as much as I do, to see a full house when I am invited to speak or set up an exhibit at a museum.  You see, all of those things are success in my book.

If I were alive in the early period of the 1900’s, I’d never have been able to dream of moving freely and being treated not just equally; but having my knowledge and love of Africa actually be respected by those in the Western world. 

As far as I’m concerned, Africa Day is a way to celebrate not just our independence from colonization; but the many, many steps we’ve made towards that future that we all dream about.  Something tells me that our ancestors might not have planned for it specifically, or even had an idea to dream the details… but they are certainly happy looking down on me sitting here on the other side of the planet drinking my cup of fair trade African coffee while typing my appreciation for all of their sacrifice; so that I can spend the rest of my life giving back in ways that makes me a future ancestor who is worth her weight in salt.

Africa I love you.  Ancestors I appreciate you with my whole heart and soul.  God, please allow me to be a good neighbor, friend and the kind of person that makes non-Africans know that good things come from my beautiful continent.  And above all, let me grow to be an even better servant so that one day, our grandchildren can see me as an ancestor to be proud of.

Happy Africa Day everyone!

Love,

Mama

Fellowship Programme for People of African Descent (via Sir Nigel’s Journey…)

I don’t subscribe to many blogs (let’s face it, we’re all busy people!) But, Sir Nigel’s is one I really enjoy. This one came across my desk this morning and I thought it was worth sharing with you.

You probably know by now that I am a big supporter of education in whatever form it comes. I also think that working “a la Africaine” to support each other through networking is one of the things that we do best. So, to all of my readers who might benefit by this opportunity, or those they might know who could benefit… be sure to stop by and thank Nigel for the information too. He’s a neat guy and he’s working hard to improve the lives of some of his Zimbabwean countrymen (and women).

If you missed Nigel at Mama’s Round Table last year; you should take the time to read it!

Keep up the good work Nige! We’ll be looking forward to your next interview where you catch us up on your successful endeavors in a country dear to our hearts.

Love,
Mama

 Deadline: 15 June 2011 In the context of the International Year for People of African Descent, the Anti-Discrimination Section of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is launching a Fellowship Programme for People of African Descent from 10 October to 4 November 2011. The Fellowship Programme will provide participants with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the United Nations Human Rights system and it … Read More

via Sir Nigel’s Journey…

My silence explained… (via Sir Nigel’s Journey…)

Last year, Nigel was a guest at Mama’s Round Table and promised to keep us updated on his progress after moving back to Zimbabwe from the U.K.. Its been a couple of months since his move home and now he’s found the time to tell us what he’s been up to.

I found his blog post an interesting reminder that day to day life often puts politics into perspective, even if politics does greatly influence one’s daily life in the end.

Thanks Nigel! And keep the updates coming 🙂

Love, Mama

I haven’t blogged properly in almost 2 months now. And if you’re wondering why the silence – sadly and unfortunately I wasn’t kidnapped by ‘’Mugar-be’s Firing Squad’’ as reported on SKY News late last week! I simply took some time out from writing to fully appreciate and familiarise myself with my ‘new’ surroundings. I’ve moved back home now and I’ve spent the majority of my time settling in, spending time with family, networking, adjusting to my … Read More

via Sir Nigel’s Journey…

10 Things You Can Do to Help Africa Today

Lots of people ask me what they can do to help Africa and Africans.  After all, the general consensus (thanks to mainstream media) is that Africa is falling apart at the seams, right?  It is my hope that at least a few of these things will help you to see that although Africans, in general, have many challenges facing them; there is also another side of Africa that is important to remember as well.

So, I’ve decided to come up with a short list of things that anyone can do to help Africa at large.  Here we go:

1-      Pray for us. I know that many people say that when they can’t come up with anything else to do in life, they pray.  I mean, it’s the way that they do something when they feel their hands are tied and they don’t feel that they can do anything else “more constructive”.  I’d argue that it’s usually the best place to start.  I am not going to give you a prayer to say or tell you how to talk to God.  Perhaps for you that is done in a temple, a church or maybe out in a field full of wild flowers sitting and appreciating nature.  I don’t think the surroundings matter much, and the words are probably a detail too.  But, spend a few quiet moments thinking about Africa and focusing on what good things you would like to come to her people.  I’m sure that if nothing else, it’ll help you remain focused and open to opportunities as they present themselves.

2-      Learn something new about the continent today.  I genuinely don’t think it matters what you learn.  This might sound odd; but I sincerely believe it.  Perhaps you are an art buff, love all things tech or are an avid gardener.  Take the time to read an article which talks about your interest as it relates to Africa.  I’m sure that a simple online search with just a few words like “potato plants in Africa” would render much more information than you expected.  This will engage you in a way that you are already interested.  Frankly, all of the heavy political reading isn’t always needed; and it isn’t interesting to everyone.  Just learn more about Africa’s diversity.  Walk a path other than the “another famine” “more civil unrest”… kind of thing.  You’ll also come very quickly to understand that knowing a little about Africa doesn’t have to feel like a chore.  There are a million different ways for you to be engaged with such a massive continent after all.  The more you know about Africa and her people; the more informed your choices will be concerning what is best to do to help later when an opportunity arises.

3-      Share what you’ve learned. Just talking to your friends, family or coworkers about Africa in a way they don’t expect is a great way to serve as an ambassador.  I think you’ll enjoy the look on their face when they realize that little bit of information they never thought of as being related to Africa.  When you step out of those keywords that are used to talk about such a diverse, dynamic continent, (namely: safari, drought, starvation, coup d’état, poverty, development); you’ll see quickly that people are really happy to hear something positive or interesting that relates to Africans.  Discussing a new artist’s debut in a gallery in Johannesburg or talking about the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed of dog might just open their eyes to another face of Africa.  People who know about our continent are more likely to find ways to act as goodwill ambassadors the next time they hear negative or untrue things being said about Africa, right?

4-      Buy African. You might be surprised to know that in simply changing your morning regime and making your cup of coffee or tea yourself can actually significantly impact the lives of African farmers.  Maybe you could switch the coffee at home or ask your coworkers to toss the $5 per day that they usually spend at that large coffee chain on the way into work into a jar that you can use to buy a pound or two of Mama’s fair trade coffees or teas?  This would allow them to enjoy some superior quality coffee each morning (they’ll never want to go back to the “other stuff” once they’ve tried our freshly roasted, fair trade coffee!)  Plus, you can make an impact which will make you proud.  Not a coffee or tea drinker?  That is OK too.  There are hundreds of other ways to help through African products such as gift baskets, clothing as well as supporting African musicians or filmmakers.  Buying African is so much better for the continent than making donations to large organizations which use too much in administration costs and too often don’t make the long-term impact you are hoping will occur.  After all, it allows Africans to feed themselves through their hard work!

5-      Visit Africa. You don’t have to want to go on a safari to find something wonderful to do in Africa.  One of the greatest newer ways to visit the richness of the continent is through environmental tourism or cultural tourism.  There are tour operators in South Africa which can take you and your family on a trip to important places in Apartheid history or to get to know more about its diverse ethnic groups and their history, culture and arts.  Or, you could go to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda or Ghana to learn more about the cultures there through the eyes of the people who have lived in the region generation after generation for thousands of years.  Talk about a living history lesson!  Of course, supporting local economies through responsible tourism allows Africans to build better communities and nations.  Sounds like a good deal for everyone involved, if you ask me!

6-      Can’t travel quite that far? Then visit Africa locally. I completely understand that international travel isn’t for everyone.  Or, maybe you would love to go; but you just don’t have the budget, health or ability to go.  I have an alternative for you: visit a museum, festival or other outlet that highlights African art or culture.  You might not be from Vienna, Austria where every October they have Africult; or you might not be living in San Francisco, New York or London, where you can visit African art galleries and museums.  But trust me, if you take the time to search “African culture” and the city closest to you; you’ll find that there are lots of opportunities for you to see art, dance, festivals and other events centered on various African cultures.  The more support groups and organizations like this may receive, the farther they can spread their message.  I am convinced that especially where children are concerned, one of them may one day be the adult that discovers, invents or creates something that makes the lives of Africans better… just because they had an experience in their youth that sparked an interest to learn more about African people, animals or culture at large.

7-      Play a game. How about playing a game online where you test your African geography?  This way, the next time you hear or read about Namibia, Guinea Bissau or Zambia; you’ll know where they are.  We all know how important geography is to current events and history.  People often are in conflict due to natural resources and borders.  And, knowing where all 53 African nations are will help you understand the people of Africa and their needs better.  Who knows, maybe it’ll prompt you to volunteer to teach local school kids more about the African continent?  Knowledge is power, right?

8-      Eat, drink and be merry.  Now here is a fun way to incorporate Africa into your daily life: food and drink.  Did you know that South Africa makes some incredible wines?  Kenya, Eritrea, Malawi, Togo and many other African countries produce some superb beers.  And whether you drink alcohol or not, you can certainly find an African restaurant near you.  I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love Eritrean or Ethiopian food for example (OK, so maybe I’m a little biased 😉 If you are in the Los Angeles area, the Nyala Restaurant is an excellent choice and comes very highly rated by most food critics.  And no, I don’t have any affiliation with the owners… I just love good food!  How is eating a great meal with your friends helping Africa?  Well, since a great number of Africans use their success in the West to support their families “back home”; so supporting them, often means supporting those in their native country as well.

9-      Ask a question. If you are wondering about something, be it big or small, concerning Africa… ask! I don’t know everything; but I do have a fair number of resources that I can tap to find the answers to most questions concerning Africa.  Feel free to contact me here on the blog, on Twitter, or via email.  NEVER hesitate because you think that a question is “too simple”.  Just ask and know it is my greatest pleasure to try to help you find the answer.  Besides, you can be sure that if you are wondering the answer; there are certainly many others who have the same question too.  You’ll notice on the side of my blog, there is a Questions and Answers link.  Check there and you might see an answer which inspires you to start a project, plan or movement to help Africans in one way or another.

10-   Focus on the good news: In just three clicks of the mouse: 1… 2… and 3… you can find three excellent resources for getting a daily dose of good news from Africa.  Focusing on the good news, instead of all of the challenges and obstacles is a healthy reminder that we can accomplish anything our hearts desire.  It helps us dream and without dreams, there can be no improved reality.  Dreaming is an important part of helping us to build a better future for ourselves, our villages and the generations to come.

I hope that you will try to incorporate at least a few of these ways to get to know Africa better and help her people.  I’m confident that as you learn more about this magical continent, its history, cultures and people; you will be inspired to learn even more and help in one way or another.  Remember that as much as we do need financial assistance, support with trade opportunities and advocates… we also need people who believe in our ability to build our own future.  Seeing what we have already done will inspire you to know that anything is possible in Africa.

After incorporating some of these 10 ways to learn more about and to help Africa; I recommend that you take the time to read this post which I wrote a few months ago.

I look forward to hearing any of your ideas now! How other simple ways would you recommend for people to engage Africa and Africans?

Love,

Mama

Rethinking the Season

The hustle and bustle of Christmas is in full swing.  Last minute shoppers are out in numbers… grumbling, complaining and grabbing whatever they can find on store shelves.  Anything, absolutely anything would please them more than working through their dreaded lists of who to buy for this year.  And frankly, who could blame them?  After all, it isn’t a very friendly scene out there sometimes.  That tends to happen when people are in a place they don’t want to be, and for all the wrong reasons.

I’m always left wondering “Why?”  Oh, and I don’t mean “Why do you wait until the last minute to shop?”  That question is too easily answered after all: procrastination 😉

The one thing which really grabs at me each year (and more and more as the years pass in fact) is: Why do people insist on offering gifts to people they have little contact with? I keep hearing phrases like “I have no idea what he likes!”  Or, “I know she is going to get us something; so I have to find something she might like.”

I can’t help but think to myself: If you don’t know someone well enough to know what they like, WHY on earth are you spending your time, energy and money offering them a gift.  Let’s face it: it isn’t as if the gift will be heartfelt or sincere.

Let me say it directly and succinctly: Obligation gifts are not what the season is about.  As difficult as it is to believe, (insert sarcasm here): you should never offer a gift to someone unless you mean it.  Sounds ridiculous when you say it like that probably; but its basic wisdom really.  I’d bet that any mother anywhere around would tell the same thing to her child.

Quite a number of years ago, I decided that no matter what others did, I would forge my own path.  OK, for those who might have known me as a child, this is probably no surprise.  *laugh*  But I have to say that where gifts are concerned, it is a freeing thing.

TThree wise menhis year, I offered gifts to some of my neighbors; but not to others.  I didn’t overextend my budget to “make it even”.  I didn’t concern myself with who might be offering me a gift this year and who might not.  And I’ll tell you why: Christmas is for Jesus.  When that baby lie in the manger and those kings traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles to have a glimpse of Him, to pay homage to Him, to show Him how much they cared.  Our offering of gifts is a reminder of what those kings did for the baby Jesus.  They didn’t make that journey for just anyone, they made it for Him.  So, it seems counter-intuitive to me to insist on offering a gift to every person you have talked to this year, right?

I’ve got another little secret to divulge: I love Christmas!  I love the lights, the parties, the decorations, the carols… I love it all.  But I love it because I have found a renewed sense of what Christmas is.  But, part of the reason that I can love it is because I’m not stressed out by who spent how much on whom.  I offer my heart to those I care about.   But, isn’t that what we are supposed to do in life?

As the New Year starts, make a new habit.  I don’t mean a resolution that you’ll be vigilant about for two weeks only to forget by February.  I mean make a new habit, a lifestyle change of sorts.  When you are baking bread for your family, bake an extra loaf for a neighbor.  When you see that “little something” that you know your co-worker will enjoy, wrap it and give it to them… just because.  Mail a card to your grandma, (yes, a card… NO email!), to tell her how much you love her.  Do things for people when they least expect it.

I promise you that if you do create this habit, no one will be counting how many gifts you offered them at Christmas.  Because they will know that you have them in your heart all year.  Then you can enjoy next Hanukkah or Christmas like I do: stress free.  Instead of spending your time trekking around in the cold winter weather spending yourself into debt; invite those you would have bought gifts for over to share a great cup of coffee or something you baked with some fair trade chocolate.  Spend the time with them,  laugh together, relax together and just enjoy the season.

If someone does pop in with a little something for you at the last minute, just say “thank you” and mean it, sincerely.  But instead of feeling guilty and keeping count; use it as a reminder that you’ve kept your habit all year long and that you might have affected that person in a more profound way than you thought.

Now, go enjoy the season! And that, dear friends, is an order!

Love,

Mama

NEW version of MamaAfrika.com is on the way…

February is Black History Month and Mama Afrika is taking advantage of this to unveil her updated version of her website to the world!

Join us on our countdown to the unveiling… exactly 2 weeks to go!!

Until then though, join us here for a weekly article concerning Africa. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the role of the diaspora in the building of Africa’s economy. Anyone with views on the subject can chime in early by posting their ideas here.

Blessings,
Mama

Why NOT buy that t-shirt for Africa?

Go into your favorite shop and pick up a t-shirt which has some catchy little phrase telling how important it is to “Save Africa”. It sounds like a wonderful idea after all. I mean you like the t-shirt, its in a color that looks great on you and you’ll get to tell all your friends about how you helped feed the poor in the process.

We at Mama Afrika sell goods to feed the poor; so it would only follow that we would love the idea. But when people ask me about it, I tell them what they might not have considered before deciding on their most recent purchase.

If the company offers a donation with the purchase of your cell phone, tennis shoes, t-shirt or other product you normally buy; it seems logical that it is better to buy that one than not. Heck, why not even talk ourselves into “needing” the new shoes so that we can help?

Well, lets start at the beginning: the vast majority of those products are not made in Africa. Africa makes textiles though, so why not? Well, if the company producing the t-shirt can buy them from a factory in China where the workers have no rights and are paid a penny or two for the sewing, they should be able to donate a large part of their sales revenue to the poor. Now though, the donation is being made at the expense of the Chinese factory worker who has no basic rights that the average employee in the West takes for granted.

But let’s forget the Chinese worker for a moment and consider that the fact that the fabric is being sewn in China also means that it isnt being made in a textile factory in Lesotho for example where over 35% of the population is infected with the HIV virus; but have no place to work since the United Nations decided not to renew the trade agreement which gave them the ability to trade at an advantage by not having import taxes charged. So, where there were hundreds of thousands of factory employees able to support their families by working hard in textile mills just a few years ago… now those factories have closed and people are finding less opportunity to buy African clothing items. Who has filled that gap? Why, China of course.

Yes, the cotton might be high quality African cotton; but it is exported at very low prices and finished in China.

So far, we’ve found two reasons not to buy that t-shirt which is supposed to “Save Africa”. Let’s move on to reason number three: donations don’t save people unless its in the midst of crisis.

Yes, if we are talking about a natural disaster or a coup d’etat, donations are needed to feed and move people to a safer location. But it is NOT a permanent solution. What is needed is trade on fair terms. Africans don’t want to live their lives waiting for hand-outs, even if the people handing out the money or goods are famous European or American rock stars or hits at the box-office.

The only solution is to offer Africans the ability to feed themselves through earnings. We need to think long term and figure out that supporting fair trade companies, offering assistance in the form of micro-loans so that men and women in Africa can start small businesses, donating to programs which train youth to learn trades or even something as small as only buying fair trade coffee or tea each morning instead of giving your $5 to a company like Starbucks which tried to trademark the name of Ethiopian coffees, preventing the farmers from being able to market their own product globally.

I guess the thing that bothers me most about these campaigns is that it takes advantage of people who really want to do something good for their fellow man. So I say this: you can’t know the negative impact until someone tells you. Now you’ve been informed. So make informed choices and spread the word. Skip the “Save the world” t-shirt and find ways to make a real impact with your dollar, euro or yen.

Always,
Mama

A few times a week, I receive emails from people across the globe. The questions are as diverse as the people asking them; but they have one thing in common: they are about Africa.

School children write to ask why Africans are poor or what children in Ghana eat for dinner. Women ask me the safest African country to visit alone or what they can do to support a woman in Rwanda so that she too can feed her children. Some people ask about investing in African companies or how their church can do a fundraiser to support a sister church in Kenya.

The questions are varied, that is for sure. But the other day I started to think that posting the answers to some of the questions I receive might be a fun thing to do. It’s like teachers say to their students: “Ask the question and know you aren’t wasting my time because there is certainly someone else in the class who is wondering the same thing.

So please feel free to ask your questions concerning Africa, Africans and issues relavent to the African continent. I am far from a “know it all”; but I’ll try to answer most of them depending on my time constraints. And when I can’t answer directly, I’ll try to point you in the right direction to find the right answer or solution.

Please note though that any inappropriate questions or abusive posts will be deleted immediately.

OK, now its up to you…