Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams: Intro

We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen.

Michelle Obama

In a system built to destroy you, joy is rebellion! My family arrived in a post-apartheid South Africa from a war torn Democratic Republic of Congo and the one thing I can always remember from those early years is never feeling as though I could fit in anywhere. I spent a lot of my primary school career trying not to be noticed. Whenever people asked where I was from, I was quick to shutdown anything that linked back to my heritage and answer Belgium. Which is true as my place of birth, but I remember very early on, learning to be ashamed of my blackness. I remember one girl calling me a ‘makwerekwere’, a derogatory term used in South African for foreigners. On the other side of the spectrum, my white schoolmates were being raised by parents who enforced the old apartheid regime. Black was bad, black was dirty, black was wrong. In a few peoples eyes it felt as though I was the ‘dirty black’ who dared to be in the same space that they were in. I was lucky enough to find a group of friends that made surviving high school , and a system that was so against me, much easier!

In my thirty years of being a black woman, I have gone through a plethora of emotions. At times I would wish I was the right type of black to fit in with everyone else, and on the other side I wished I was a more acceptable type of African…whatever that means. Other times I wished my nose was straighter, less bulbous and indicative of my blackness. It took going to study in London to help me find my true identity and to stand boldly in who I was as a black woman divinely crafted in the image of a breathtaking God. My first year in the U.K. was marvellous. I grew up in a tight-laced conservative Christian family. I had my first sip of alcohol at 17 and the lightweight that I am, I passed out (still happens 😂) but somehow I still had enough sense in me to remember to tell my friend to tell my mum that I’d fallen asleep if she came into the room and found me passed out. Such is the fear that having African parents can instil in you 😂. In London, away from my parents’ rule and away from being in the shadow of my siblings, I was my own person. For the first time in my life, I found myself surrounded by people who were from different cultures, but they carried their culture and blackness with pride. The black women I met weren’t ashamed of being black, my goodness they were stunning. I started to wear my hair in its natural texture, I experimented with colour contact lenses (black girl rite of passage…), I embraced not only my features but my skin colour as well. This is gonna sound a touch shallow, but it did boost my ego a lot that people…and by people I mean the hotties on campus, had a bit of jungle fever for the girl from Africa 🤷🏾‍♀️ very much a ‘Mean Girls’ moment! And while 2020 Aurélie has grown so much (praise be to Jesus,) and no longer needs male validation to thrive, I was 18 and very silly at the time.

In those years living in London, I truly believed and embodied a phrase made popular by Dark n Lovely: ‘my black is beautiful.’ Fast forward to when I met my husband. I was a bit jaded by romance and had no strong feelings about getting married. I knew if I wanted to have children, I could do that by myself. My mom was quite horrified by that, which humoured me a lot more than it should have. Hubby is the most refreshing part of my life. The bonus & most importantly: he did not fetishise back women like SOOO many other creeps I encountered before him. Neither of us have ever applied the phrase ‘I don’t see colour’ to our relationship. In fact we’ve always been transparent about the differences in our upbringing, and the lives we have so far led. There are so many things that make being married to Sam wonderful. I’ll gush about that in another post…

Hubby and I had some marvellous plans for the future, and then 2020 hit. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, black people were reminded of an enemy they have always had to face…racism.

The passing of Big Floyd reminded us all of how far we haven’t come since Martin Luther King marched at Selma, and Nelson Mandela become South Africa’s first black president in post-apartheid South Africa. I remember waking up on Saturday morning going for a run in an attempt to forget the emotional and mental trauma of realising once again that to some, black lives don’t matter. I recall coming back from my run the morning after the video of his passing circulated, and started to feel so ill that at some stage I asked myself ‘covid is that you?’ I woke up the next day feeling physically better largely due to a sleeping tablet, and as I continue in my attempts to heal from the collective trauma that the black community is dealing with, I am grateful for the sweet Holy Spirit that continues to remind me of something:

I am my ancestors wildest dreams

As a black woman, I should not be where I am. Free, educated, alive. And sometimes I forget that. I am notoriously bad at slowing down and smelling the roses. It truly takes ALL of heaven’s armies to stop me. This is one of those moments. The realisation that who I am today is what my parents, and grandparents (on my mothers side cause Lord knows our fathers always have messy family dynamics) prayed for.

As a black woman, I have often found myself in deep need of a pouring into my spirit that I am loved, valued and beautiful. I am grateful that I have very dear and lovely people who have seen this in me when I have not. As black people the world often times wants us to forget that we are loved, valued, and beautiful. This is a world that crushes so much of our spirits that we forget the beauty that being black is. What the enemy wants to do through racism is to break us. He wants to keep knocking us down until we get to a place where the trauma becomes a part of us, a part of our DNA that we continue to pass to our children, and their children, and their children. To get to a point where we grow so tired of fighting the microaggressions that we face on a daily basis that we retreat on the inside and start to feel the years of trauma breaking us down mentally, physically and emotionally. I refuse to be broken. The revolution WILL be televised and I will be part of it. This is where our ancestors wildest dreams comes in. An online space to remind black people of the beauty and magic that lies in their melanin. Some of them I have the privilege of knowing personally, and others I admire from afar. The magic embedded in the DNA of all black people will not be stopped. Our stories of success and overcoming in spite of the odds so heavily stacked against us, will not be erased. I look forward to sharing more from a community who are EVERYTHING that their ancestors dreamt of!

Black Lives Matter

Saying that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives are valued less, it just means that there is a group of people who for years have been undervalued and exploited and it’s time we stop.

Nathan Ryan

Black Lives Matter is more than a slogan, it is a movement that was founded in the United States of America, after the murder of Trayvon Martin. This movement is about connecting Black people from all over the world who have as their primary mandate to act in the best interests of their community. As a black woman living in South Africa, I am grateful that the levels of racism I have faced, have not led to me losing my life. The unrest in the US has forced us all to evaluate just how clean our hearts are. Now more than ever, I am grateful for the friends/allies who have never pegged me based on my race. As we seek out new actionable ways to embody what Christ instructed us to do i.e ‘love thy neighbor, as you love yourself’ (Mark 12:31) may we not shy away from the awkward discomfort that some of these conversations will bring. It has been heartbreaking to realise over the past few days that there are people who would much rather die than admit that black lives matter. Thankfully in spite of the vitriol of hate that people spew out to black and other non-white people, I am comforted by the words of Maya Angelou:

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Yeah, black lives matter but what about…

I was in two minds about writing this post as I truly believe that while anger is a valid emotion, sometimes it is best to let the pot of boiling water cool down before you use it…did I just make up a proverb? As the Black Lives Matter movement gains global momentum, I have up until now been silently watching how it unfolds in South Africa. I’ve started to see posts from some white South Africans almost negating that black lives matter, because of the farm murders that occur. Bear in mind that 74% of all farms in South Africa are white-owned, so does it not make sense to that wherever any race is a majority, they will make up the bulk of the stats? This is in the same line of thread as those who have rightly said ‘white people account for more police murders in the US.’ Well duh…the US is a majority white country is it not? However black people, in particular, black men are more likely to be killed by the police. I have countless times posted that the BLM movement is not about establishing a new order of white people vs. black people, it’s about dismantling racism. It’s the world vs. racists. I think it is also important to address those who have coined their own slogan ‘some black lives matter.’

If I’m being honest, I have sometimes felt as though in South Africa we hide behind the phrase ‘rainbow nation’ which sounds progressive but we really haven’t come that far. One of the reasons could be because the conversation of racism in South Africa isn’t just about dismantling toxic white privilege. The conversation in South Africa is a complex one because we’re dealing with two ugly monsters: racism AND its equally disgusting cousin, xenophobia. I can say that the reason why these attitudes persist is because we have a black population still very much feeling the inequality that was established during the apartheid era, add in a government that has more times than not served their own interests above the people who elected them and you have the perfect conditions for racial and ethnic discrimination to persist. More than anything as we watch what is unfolding globally, let us take this time to reflect on our attitudes towards other races and ethnicities. We have to realize that acknowledging the pain of one community, does not negate the pain that another community has or is still experiencing. Saying black lives matter does not mean that others do not. If having conversations about racial and ethnic discrimination makes you defensive, and deaf to hearing the plight of one unlike you has experienced, perhaps being racist/xenophobic is better suited for you…

Black Lives Matter | Peace Action New York State

Dear White People…Pull up!

Growing up as a Congolese immigrant in South Africa, life wasn’t easy. People need to confront their xenophobia as much as they need to confront their racism (that’s a story for another day). For a long time I remember thinking ‘wow they like me,’ whenever a white person would say ‘you’re not like other black people.’ You receive that as a badge of honour, a compliment. You fool yourself into thinking that in spite of your race, you’re accepted, you’re valued.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that we can only fix this world together, we can’t do it divided. I cannot emphasize that enough. We can’t let the de-sensitivity seep in. The, ‘If it’s your problem, then it’s not mine; it’s a woman’s problem; it’s a black people problem; it’s a poor people problem.’ I mean, how many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other races, sexes, religions? Show of hands. Well, they want to break bread with you, right? They like you? Well, then this is their problem too. So when we’re marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jr.s and Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up.

Rihanna

Now I’m older and I finally see it. I finally get it. The subtle ways that we’re pitted against each other. As if it’s a competition to see which black person is most worthy of being alive, of breathing. It is not lost on me that I am married to a white man and regardless of how we view our children, there are people in this world that will try to break them. It is my duty to ensure that this doesn’t happen. The anxiety has felt overwhelming at times, crippling even. But I am reminded that we have to be proactive, using whatever platform we have regardless of how big or small it is. Engage in conversations that challenge your inner Pharisee. You know who that is right? The part of you that is secretly (and for some people openly) judgemental, the part of you that ‘doesn’t see colour’. The part of you that has for a long time never seen life through the lens of others who are different to you because ‘it isn’t your platform’. When a black friend/colleague or partner chooses to share with you the world through their lens, listen. Don’t try to justify certain actions or re-write THEIR experience/s. It is a dangerous AND ignorant assumption to make that because it hasn’t been the case for you, it isn’t the case at all.

Don’t wait for someone else to educate you, do the work. Pull up! ✊🏾 Here’s a resource I found on the web, for the non-black people in the room who are ready to do the work: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/preview?pru=AAABcoTynOg*doiSCYsnnyftRjNy23Qzsw

I am as overwhelmed as I am numb. I’m tired emotionally and mentally. But still I will continue to rise.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Maya Angelou