Open letter to my kins: We must rally to pull down systemic racism

Open letter to my kins: We must rally to pull down systemic racism
June 27
10:41 2020
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BY OSASU IGBINEDION

Dear Queens and Kings,  

The wind is finally behind us. After centuries of discrimination and racial injustice, the world is now waking up to our reality as black people. As a Black woman living in the African continent, Nigeria to be specific (which is the most populous black nation in the world), I feel a little relieved that the world is finally speaking in one voice against the unrelenting issue of systemic racism. I must mention, however, that while this is a step in the right direction, the real work has only begun. 

We can all recall through experience or teaching the passage of the Civil Rights Act of July 1964. Voting Rights Act of 1965. Fair Housing Act of 1968. Shirley Chisholm’s Run for President in 1972, and a host of other historical events that shaped mindsets and propelled progress in the fight against racial discrimination in America. These landmark achievements were ripple effects of the bravery exhibited by black men and women who sacrificed their lives to protest and speak out.

As far back as August 1831, Nat Turner led fellow slaves in a rebellion that struck fear in the hearts of slave owners across America. This event inspired other black slaves and white allies to protest against racial injustice. 31 years later, Nat Turner’s rebellion led to the cataclysmal civil war and emancipation proclamation which freed three million slaves in America. 

Protests and dialogues have always been an effective way for the oppressed and their allies to invoke change. Today, the Black Lives Matter Movement is making waves across the world and I believe we are at the early stages of what may turn out to be the most significant event pertaining to racial equality we will experience in our lifetime.

I remember in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected as America’s first black president, I was overwhelmed with joy. As a high school student residing in a predominately white boarding school in Tilton, New Hampshire I danced and jubilated as I watched the son of an African immigrant take the oath of office. 

At the time I thought to myself ‘this will be the most memorable event pertaining to racial justice I would experience in my lifetime’. Little did I know a day like this would come; a day all good people will speak in one voice and say enough is enough! A day where systems of injustices that have worked against Blacks are challenged then dismantled, piece by piece. 

Today, men and women of the police force are finally being terminated and arrested for killing unarmed, innocent black men, women, and children. Allies across different races are finally fed up and are marching alongside us, chanting our lives matter. CEOs are finally taking a stand to diversify their c-suite. Politicians are finally proposing legislation to criminalize racial profiling. The NFL finally sees the significance of Kaepernick taking a knee. 

These changes, albeit laudable, is just the beginning of the systemic change that needs to happen in order to achieve racial justice not only in America but across the world. The work starts now; we must clearly scrutinize how the economic, political, judicial, law enforcement, and education systems across all cities and states are impacting holistically on the black race. We must utilize the wind currently behind us to rally our allies and fight the good fight to change systemic injustices.

We are unconsciously carving our names in the sand of time and creating teaching modules for professors of History. We are setting the pace for our second, third and fourth generation, the same way Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and so many other black men and women did for us. The braveness of these queens and kings who risked their lives to lead historical protests caused us to gain our rights to freedom; to vote and to be voted for, to own property and be landlords, to aspire, and to become. 

In 2014 when I was moving back home to Nigeria, my friends were perplexed and often asked why I was returning to Africa when I had the option to remain in the “land of the free”. I often giggled at their ignorance and responded in robotic fashion, “there’s no place like home”. While I did not care at the time to lament that America was indeed a far cry from the “the land of the free”, I had already made up my mind that there was no place safer for me as a Black woman than Africa.

In Africa, I would not have to worry about waking up to emails from my college campus police department searching for information that’ll reveal the identity of “five white boys who left confederate flags on student cars in the library parking lot”. In Africa, I wouldn’t have to contemplate the best way to confront drunk white girls in my college dormitory hurling racial slurs under the pretense of singing the lyrics to a Lil Wayne song. In Africa, I simply wouldn’t have to worry about my race and all the innuendos made by people who I presumed should know better. 

I knew that no matter how hard I worked and no matter how intelligent I am, the color of my skin would overshadow the content of my character if I remained in America. I knew there was no chance I could conform to that lifestyle and subjugate myself to such disparaging treatment. This is one of the reasons I moved home to Africa and I cannot overemphasis the relief I feel on a daily basis knowing I no longer have to worry about racial discrimination; it truly is a humongous burden lifted off my shoulders. 

This is not to say being home doesn’t come with its fair share of challenges. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to restore Africa to its glory days but I’m confident that it can be done and will be done by us, black queens and kings. Gone are the days we waited for white messiahs to rebuild that which their ancestors destroyed. The Whites, Asians, and Indians will not develop Africa for us, some of them will rather continue pilfering our raw diamonds, cocoa and coffee, taking them to their countries to add value, then selling back to us for billions of dollars. 

The only people that can truly liberate the black race is us. So while we take to the streets to protest across the world, let us push for systemic reforms in all black neighborhoods, states and nations. I advise all my black brothers and sisters to visit home, the African continent, educate yourselves on ways to contribute in building the economic power needed for true liberation. 

I’m excited that African politicians, businessmen and women are finally waking up to the reality that we are all we have. In 2019, all 54 African heads of states signed a historic agreement called the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which will see the establishment of a single market for goods and services across the continent. This agreement is the world’s largest free trade area by number of countries. 

AfCFTA will build black economic power while allowing free movement of business travelers and investments while creating a continental customs union to streamline trade thereby attracting long-term investments. In order for the black race to attain true liberation we must ensure our monies circulate within our communities before its exchange with other races. AfCFTA has taken a step in the right direction and I’m certain we will see an increase in our $2.4 trillion collective GDP as well as more jobs for our 1.27 billion teeming population. 

Dear Kins, we cannot end systemic racism and injustices without economic backing. There’s a popular saying in Bini language “Ovbokhan no ma ye eke no ke dey E se eke no rie” which loosely translates to “a child who doesn’t remember where he’s coming from will never get to his destination”. We must understand the root causes of our problems in order to proffer feasible solutions to them. While slavery physically separated us and the Berlin conference economically disempowered us, we must ride the current wave to usher us into a new era of prosperity; an era of building economic, political, judicial, law enforcement, media, and educational systems that work for us. 

In ancient Benin city, Edo State (which is where I’m from), my ancestors built the largest manmade structure in the history of this planet. It was four times longer than the Great Wall of China and 10,000 miles in length. They built this as a defensive wall to protect the kingdom. Unfortunately, the British destroyed this when they invaded and looted our treasures (which are evident in their museums today).  

Armed with this knowledge of who my ancestors were and the lineage in which I descend, I am fired up and motivated to achieve greatness. My ancestors were innovators, therefore I know the ability to innovate is innate. Across my various businesses, I strive for excellence. I attained my TV and Film certificate from the New York Film Academy and moved home to Nigeria where I’ve anchored a successful TV show for the past five years; now I’m equipped with half a decade of practical experience and a television license to begin my own station. 

TOS TV NETWORK aims to be the foremost Pan-African news station that bridges the communication gap amongst all 54 African countries. We will showcase the innovativeness and ingenuity of Africans to the rest of the world. We will connect Africans living in diaspora with information from the continent relating to business opportunities, tourism, culture/tradition and the overall empowerment of the black race.

Dear Kins, all of us have a role to play in Africa’s greatness. The continent is filled with potentials that only you and I can harvest successfully. It is important to recap that in order to achieve sustained systemic reform, we must speak in one voice and act as one. We must educate ourselves about our rich history and events that were carried out to get us where we are today.

We must turn on the light in Africa by investing in the continent; Africa is bursting with opportunities across IT, natural and mineral resources, agriculture, fashion, entertainment and so much more, these opportunities are waiting for you to harness.

By doing this together, we can achieve greatness and rebuild systems that work for Blacks in all nooks and crannies of the world. I encourage you to keep on the good fight and never lose sight of the goal which is true independence and economic liberation.

Igbinedion is the CEO of TOS TV NETWORK, a pan-African television start-up in Nigeria.

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