If the issues between and within communities in the African Diaspora were objects, they would be rubber bands. They thread the entire Diasporic landscape, interweaving between African countries and the black populations outside of them. And when the issues are brought to light, the rubber bands stretch, creating tension between members of the different Diasporic countries. These issues range from frustrations at countries that seem to dominate the global black narrative or accusations of members of one Diasporic country appropriating the culture of another Diasporic country. Whatever the case may be, they are uncomfortable to witness and are examples of post-colonial traumatic stress disorder, the negative aspects of colonialism that still affects the global black population today.
When looking at relations among the inhabitants of East Africa, it’s clear that the conflict between Kenya and Somalia has been an issue colonialism took hold on the great continent. I saw one example of this play out in April 2015 as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed. In this particular painful tragedy, Somali militants barged through the dorms of a Kenyan University in Nairobi searching for the Christians in the school and killing them on the spot. 147 lives were lost that day, marking this “the worst terrorist attack since the 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy,” an attack which also took place in that same city. Distraught did not even begin to convey my reaction to that news. And it was clear that it I was not alone in my somberness; looking at my Twitter newsfeed, I found many black people from all over the world felt the same way.
A month later, I learned of the forced deportation of Haitians who lived in the Dominican Republic. Both countries are the only inhabitants of the centermost island in the Caribbean and have experienced the evils of colonization by the Spanish and the French. This colonization resulted in the present-day border and greatly contributes to the current tension that exists between these two Caribbean nations. Also, because the economy of the Dominican Republic is stronger overall than Haiti’s, it makes sense why hundreds of thousands of Haitians would forgo the formal immigration process and enter the Dominican Republic as undocumented migrants. If it were not for the African and Caribbean people I follow on Twitter, I would not have known about this migration issue; I couldn’t remain ignorant about it even if I tried. Reading story after story of Haitians terrified by their future was devastating, especially the accounts of those in the Haitian community who came to the Dominican Republic as babies; these individuals have no recollection of Haiti and consider the Dominican Republic to be their home.
A month after that, another tragedy played out among the African Diaspora, except this time, it happened in the United States. I remember the moment I saw the news appear on the screen of my laptop, my mouth gaping in response to the horror. I was in the middle of co-hosting TCKchat, a bimonthly global chat on Twitter that unites Third Culture Kids. We discuss different aspects of our nomadic childhoods and this time we were jovially discussing sports. However, as I began to process the news bombarding my Twitter feed, my lighthearted mood instantly vanished in the presence of my heavy heart.
The Reverend and eight other members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina were shot and killed by a racist. His hate became their tragedy and that realization brought tears to my eyes as I read articles about the precious lives that were taken.
As I noticed members of the Black Community from all over the world expressing their sadness at each transgression via Twitter, it made me realize something:
Solidarity among members of the African Diaspora is essential because our unity is vital in overturning the marks of colonization in our lives.
After the massacre in Kenya, many Kenyans felt an outpouring of love and comfort from Black people all over the world. As a result of members of the Diaspora amplifying Haitian voices, petitions were signed which resulted in the Dominican Republic temporarily halting their deportation.. Black Americans and Black Immigrants in America expressed their outrage for the Confederate flag in light of the Charleston shootings and so this symbol of white supremacy was taken down from the State Capitol in South Carolina. We may not be able to rewrite history or undo the scars of its ruins that continue to run deep in the Diasporic experience, but we can try to rectify corrupt systems and pump justice back into their veins. While non-black allies can also advocate alongside us, cultivating solidarity with our black brothers and sisters both within our respective nations and across international boundaries allows us to proclaim, “We have not forgotten our bond.”
Not only do we have the opportunity to practice solidarity in the face of agonizing hardship, but we also have so much to celebrate. The diversity of cultures and customs within the dispersed community allow us to share in the happiness of other members of the Diaspora. From independence days to Carnivals that show off the beauty in our culture, and even in the way we dance, we see the similar spirit of celebration in familiar spaces mirrored elsewhere in the Diaspora.
There is something powerful about being connected to those that not only hope for you but hope with you. It is calming and reassuring to know that this hope goes beyond the confines of national borders into countries connected to you by a common origin. While the Diaspora is spread across Earth, our intentional and purposeful sense of solidarity is an act of resistance. It is a moment to demonstrate that although colonialism destroyed much, it is the Diaspora who wins in the end. History cannot be undone, but the future can be made anew. So in joy and in sorrow, regardless of the tensions that arise in our international interactions, may our unity be so tight that it binds us together once more.