Elizabeth Dwamena-Asare is an AMI Media Competition shortlisted contributor from Ghana. Her piece WHY ARE WE THE ONES WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR? is her interpretation of "Why are we the ones we've been waiting for?"
On a scorching Sunday afternoon after church, my family and I packed our essentials and drove to one of the town's finest beach resorts. I was about twelve (12) years old at the time, and I was thrilled since outings in our family were periodic. This was a big deal to me.
We arrived at the venue, and except for my parents, we changed into our costumes and made our way to the poolside, only to be halted halfway. A member of the staff approached us and requested that we wait. Her reason? 'There are whites in the pool. The owner wants us to wait until they are out.'
My parents were enraged. And they argued with the employee until the owner's wife arrived. She was a white lady. She'd married a black man, and they run the resort together. However, the discrimination we experienced occurred in the absence of her spouse.
I was unaware of racism at the time since I had never encountered it before. But based on the reactions and arguments, I knew the phrase sounded awkward to my parents. This was a public pool in our region, in our own country, but we were not granted access. This was ridiculous!
With so much talk about racism these days, I recall the scene with that concept in mind. So, I had experienced and witnessed such in my country. Wasn't it meant to take place in a foreign land where races were discriminated against by the colour of their skin as we read on the news and listened on our radios? Witnessing it made me realize that it wasn't far from me, and I was offended because those whites were perceived as superior to us. Even though we are all humans, we were treated as second-class citizens in our own country.
Why? Perhaps the assumption persists that Africans are incapable of doing anything for themselves. That we are heavily reliant on foreign aid to survive; we are divided among ourselves, and there would be no Africa without them.
For decades, the African continent has been misled by foreigners masquerading as religious and corporate leaders but with ulterior motives. Our ancestors with clear minds had no idea what these intruders were up to. They opened their eyes to see bibles had been replaced with their matchless resources by the time the foreigners introduced religion and requested them to close their eyes to pray. Resources that could have been used to develop the continent and that we, their descendants, could have made better use of. They took away our natural resources, turned them into products, and returned them to our shores at higher prices. The worst part of it all was ‘trading’ their unwanted items in exchange for our human resources. The most damaging aspect of it all. An unfair situation.
The African continent has been subjected to relentless trauma and may have entered a coma from which it seems difficult to awaken. Even in this day and age, our resources are routinely plundered in broad daylight, and our people die like fowls at the mercies of strangers and, sometimes, at the hands of their own. Periodically, our brightest and strongest men are being lured away through attractive packages, which gives them the impression that there is nothing good for them on the African continent, so they walk away to serve strangers without looking back, believing that the grass is greener on the other side.
Many Africans have endured mental enslavement, a chronic condition that appears hard to overcome. Foreigners now use the continent as a dumping ground for their discarded goods. For them, it is an incinerator, where they regularly dump their wastes at our expense. And we end up borrowing from them to fix their waste on our continent. And once we borrow from them, we imprison ourselves even more since we become indebted to them in the long term. It's no surprise that some people refer to us as a "shithole." How dehumanizing?!!
But can we blame them?
To a large extent, No!
Why? Because we have placed so much trust in them, to the extent that they negatively regard us.
If we had established trust among ourselves, trusted in one another, and embraced selflessness and loyalty instead of selfishness and betrayals, the narrative would have been different today.
Africans are still on the journey of self-discovery. We are privileged to have leaders who stood up for us in our respective fields on the continent, which marked the beginning of another era. Although they could not complete their work, they set the pace for us. To remind us that they started building the continent with pure hearts and minds, and in their absence, we would have to continue that legacy because no other people could do it better than us. They paved the way, they showed us the road to freedom and development, and we can only experience that breakthrough if we, like our heroes, stay united, target various fields on the continent and complete the works we have started.
“We are the ones we have been waiting for” expresses a broad vision that encourages us to place our faith and hope in the kindness of our own people and our own creative abilities to change the
African continent. It indicates that we have the best and can put it to good and effective use without looking down on our own, which is the unfortunate situation at home.
Today we take a look back at the Hall of Fame. To honour African leaders such as Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, and Sekou Touré, who were instrumental in toppling oppressive governments; Usain Bolt, Mohamed Salah, and the William sisters breaking barriers in sports; Chimamanda Adichie, Ama Atta Aidoo, and Jared Angira changing the African narrative through storytelling; and now, we have more Africans in various sectors such as agriculture, medicine, and entrepreneurship, working hard to better Africa with their skills, talents, and abilities.
We are waking up from our slumbers, relying less on outsiders and more on ourselves. And Africans are rewriting our own stories to depict us in a more favourable manner, which was previously conveyed from a negative standpoint through the media, that; 'Africa is impoverished. It is riddled with corruption, beginning with the leaders. Africa produces nothing worthwhile. It is adept at borrowing but inept at managing resources. The continent is filthy.'
We have arrived. We are no longer waiting for ourselves. We are using globalisation and our resources to efficiently change our continent. We are using the media and other platforms to change the world’s view of Africa. It will take time. It will take sacrifices and sweat, but we will surely get there.
And this is not the time to complain or to compare. It is not the time to be lacking in practice. It is a period when all of us will require the most steadfast, self-generated zeal to live and build. It makes no difference whether we achieve the inner condition of acknowledged divinity by prayer, meditation, dancing, swimming, strolling, feeding the hungry, or benefiting the underprivileged. We will be doubly desolate if we do not engage in some type of practice that ties us, in a loving sense, to what appears to be a crumbling continent.
Charles Dickens started the ‘Tales of Two Cities’ with the saying, ‘It is the worst of times. It is the best of times.’ And Alice Walker tops it up by saying, ‘it is the worst of times because it feels as though the very Earth is being stolen from us: the land and air poisoned, the water polluted, the animals disappeared, humans degraded and misguided. War is everywhere. It is the best of times because we have entered a period, if we can bring ourselves to pay attention, of great clarity as to cause and effect.’
The African continent is finally waking up after tremendous rallies against racial violence and hatred, both at home and abroad. The scales are progressively falling off as the young people gain a new sense of confidence in their ability to construct their own with the resources they already have.
'We are the ones we have been waiting for' is a rallying cry for activism - spiritual musings with a progressive political edge that provides a moment of care and relief. This also means that, despite our difficult circumstances, we are uniquely positioned to effect positive change, even if it will take years. At the very least, future generations will look back on history and smile in recognition of our collaborative efforts to make things right today. To prepare the path for people to live on a continent, they can call their own without feeling oppressed or enslaved psychologically, financially, spiritually, or emotionally.
Globalisation. We are living in an era of global awareness. That alone is encouraging. Because globalisation has taught us that not all foreigners are hostile to our continent. And that others have our best interests at heart, allowing us to travel overseas to study and then return to implement progress in our continent. It allows us to communicate and trade legally and ethically without feeling exploited or looked down upon. And also, thanks to globalisation, we refuse to stay silent because we are incapable of remaining silent. No country's leader or people will be protected from these upheavals that lead to exposure, no matter how well the news is controlled or how long people's frustrations have been kept secret.
Because, with access to the internet and social media, we bear the task of changing Africa's prevailing narrative. We must actively start telling our stories, the truth about Africa. Accepting accountability for how we will be seen. We must begin to educate the rest of the world, as well as ourselves, about the many features that distinguish us as Africans. And today, we can unearth hidden realities and modify the negative and singular narratives about the African continent that have been propagated by the establishment media. We are uncovering truths about our past and establishing who we are as a people.
After relying on foreign aid and guidance for so long, we appear to have lost trust and confidence in our abilities, capabilities, and talents. This is why we are still marking time rather than moving forward. We are still waiting for foreigners to come to our continent and help build it, which may happen but at a larger expense. However, no one has the owner's best interests at heart more than the owner. That is why we Africans are the ones we have been waiting for. Africa will never be Africa without Africans. This is because we have our own interests at heart. And our interests comprise our vision, desires, goals, emotions, people, culture, and everything else that helps us grow as a people.
This will make us independent, change our stories told worldwide, help implement a strong internal system and also patronize and elevate our works without hindrances.
Would you ever construct your home haphazardly? No. Because doing so implies that you lack vision and are unconcerned about your own. That is the current scenario. And if we allow strangers to build our land, they would do so to suit their vision which will be to the detriment of our growth and development. It is time for Africans, both at home and abroad, to work together to build the continent. And it starts with us being aware that the grass is greener on our side. To remove the logs from each other's eyes and wash away the degraded thinking that has been ingrained in our minds for decades. These phrases have clouded our judgments to perceive ourselves positively as individuals and as a group. That Africans deserve better. That, like Rome, will take time to build, but it is nevertheless feasible to put our pieces together.
We are the ones we have been waiting for, strikes a chord in our innermost beings, implying that, all these decades when we looked to the hills and prayed for solutions to our continent's problems, the universe kept whispering to us that the greatness and wellness we seek lies within us, as a people. And it continues emphasizing that only the best will do for Africa. Only Africans at heart, regardless of race, can rebuild Africa.
The African continent has been exploited and portrayed poorly to the rest of the world, restricting our potential as a people and our international ties. Unfortunately, until we – Africans – do anything about it, the rest of the world will continue to regard us in this way. The fact that we are the ones we have been waiting for means that we know who we are, what we have, and what it will take to transform our continent. We are skilled individuals who can make things work. The grass is greener at our feet. We no longer have room to accommodate negative energy and comparisons. We have laid down our negative talks, complaints, greed, and betrayals and have looked beyond the world’s perspective of us to rise and build with or without help. And for all these years, we sat waiting for heroes who never came because we are our own heroes; we have come to save ourselves.