|Posted by Scott on February 16, 2011 at 6:27 AM|
Marcus Briggs-Cloud, A Letter From Africa
It has been long days here and my brain is hurting a bit from trying to translate so much spanish to english (even though most people here speak french) and visa-versa while simultaneously trying to be respectful of the Wolif People here (the Indigenous People of this region) and learn some of their language....they have so many people on the streets trying to sell things to us and they DON"T leave us alone so i learned a useful phrase in Wolif, among others, "amol kaliss" which means "i have no money"....and their eyes get really big when i invoke it. Africa is such a place, from initial preception, where societies takes great pride in their identities and uphold an explicit spirit of resistance to the colonial powers ...I met a boy today at the world social forum that is a refugee from Sierra Leone that is 22yrs old living in Senegal and speaks 12 african languages as well as english, french and spanish. the food has been prepared for us by Senegalize women for every meal and it is amazing!! I have apparently caught the attention of every person in senegal because of my traditional Maskoke big shirt (i am attaching a picture of what it looks like- the picture was taken in santa fe, new mexico last august when i officiated a wedding for a friend so the little boy was the ring bearer)....yesterday the security guards at the world social forum fought me because they did not want me to use the men's bathroom and insisted I use the women's bathroom...then another woman today asked in Wolif language to a boy i befriended earlier in the day, if I was a man or a woman. In each workshop we have been in, they have called me up to lead interactive/lively songs to wake people up....yikes....i was not prepared for that, but then again, i am perhaps always prepared for a good song so we sang in Swahili since the first panel was from Kenya and one theologian called for a song in her language. The Senegalize women here cook the most amazing meals....words cannot describe! We went to Gore' Island yesterday where slaves were brought from all over West Africa to be shipped off to the Americas, and it was quite an evocative space, full of sorrow. A few of us missed the boat back to Dakar. Three of them are Wolif persons that are volunteering so the other three of us get around and we communicated with a spanish/English mix since they have studied both in school. We finally made it back and caught up with the rest of the group. I have met some wonderful folks here from all over the world. there are 100,000 persons attending the world social forum. About 6 months ago, I emailed a professor at Southern Methodist University about doing a PhD there in dallas since he is a liberation theologian and he wrote back about a meeting time and possible phone call but I was never able to reconnect with him....he emailed me several days ago and saw i was on the agenda to speak and said maybe we can meet up to visit....it turned out he was on my flight and now he is my roommate. I have gotten to see some old friends and catch up....I even saw 2 persons randomly in the street here that I met in Peru 3 years ago. I also saw an old friend, Indigenous environmentalist activist Tom Goldtooth (the father of comedy short film maker Dallas Goldtooth) in the airport in new york since we were on the same flight and we saw each other again today. One of my former professors from Harvard is here as well and we were both surprised to see each other. The three persons that are a part of my delegation that came in on the same flight- we all had to wait for 3 hours at the airport to get picked up....we thought they forgot us, but it worked out and we met a guy from Ghana, now residing in Geneva, Switzerland who is here to interpret for the world social forum and he translated for us. We have heard intense stories today about refugee and migrant situations, murders of activists around the world, interreligious dialogue between Muslims and Christians, plans to dismantle capitalism, and tons of more themes all over that people are discussing with great hope to change the world. We had a HUGE march through the streets of Dakar and was so cool to see the representation from all over the world!!
Yesterday I gave my presentation over decolonizing colonial translations of Indigenous languages and how this process can inherently advocate for social justice. One girl became very emotional when i spoke of Indigenous feminism and shed some tears...and french is her first language and spanish along with english are her 2nd languages, but she seemed to catch it all. one of the translators who is gay approached me after the talk and said he was very moved by my analysis and that i'm the first to engaged critical issues around queer identities, feminism and Indigenous issues in this unique perspective that was meaningful to him and his struggle. this kind of feedback is what helps maintain sanity in my academic work because it has application and reaches the ground....instead of solely appealing to an academic audience that offer endless critiques and keep one's presentation in a academic framework, these comments reflect that some persons that can personally relate to the struggle and find some liberation in the words that come not just from my mind but also my heart. This, in my opinion, is the core and task of liberation theology.
The more i come to the third world countries, the more i am reminded the importance of combating capitalism....it is soooooooooo easy to lose sight of that importance while stuck in the everyday cycle of oklahoma life. Simply put, the common lifestyle (including that which many strive for who have yet to achieve their economic goals) of americans that oppresses the rest of the world because of selfish and greedy ways of living that leave no resources for the rest of the world- not just in terms of money but also in terms of food and energy. It is such an injustice!! I have in depth perspectives on this from extensive study in post-colonial theory, political theory and of course the simple teaching of reciprocity we grew up with as Indigenous Peoples, but this experience recalls to mind the necessity of actively working to dismantle the system as a task of imitating the radical life of Jesus. And now, even our own Indigenous Nations have adopted such a system and we seem to think that capitalism is the key to liberating our People from oppression....I am just now engaging this conversation with my students over the past few weeks and have had to do it over email because of the cecord breaking snow at home- i'm hoping they will come to see that we must find alternative ways of living and striving for money or some form of Empire-based economic system will NEVER be sustainable and if we are Indigenous Peoples that believe in justice, we must also consider the impacts of our actions on the rest of the world who are equally oppressed by the same colonial dominating power that we are. One point i try to convey to my students of course is the importance of wearing traditional clothes for 2 primary reasons: one being that it is a form of cultural reclamation and personal decolonization that asserts out identity as Maskoke, and secondly because WE make our own clothes rather than continuously supporting sweat shop labor or unfair trade and labor perpetuated by the capitalist empires of the world. Here in senegal (and throughout Africa) the WOMEN especially exemplify tremendously pride in their identities in wearing Traditional clothes and resisting Western euro-centric impositions. I am empowered by their example.
I will send some pictures of Dakar, Senegal later if you'd like to see some.
Oops, you forgot something.