Be a Proud african

My fellow African,

Do you know how amazing you are?

We as Africans don’t get a lot of words of encouragement. We are just not used to it. That needs to change. Now.

The past several weeks, I have really tried to listen to the comments I hear around me about Senegal (and the African continent in general) from both Africans and non-Africans. What I hear saddens me. I hear criticism that isn’t constructive, refusal to believe in development, and inability to break free from the mental bondages of colonialism.

When I asked my Senegalese compadres why they had such negative comments about our beloved country and continent they simply replied “Daara dokhoul” (meaning nothing is going right) or “Senegal dou dem” (meaning Senegal isn’t going to go anywhere). The latter is something that many Senegalese say and unfortunately they do not realize how dangerous this statement can be.

Let’s say you wake up every day and tell yourself “You are never going to amount to anything.” If you keep that mindset, do you really think you will be able to accomplish your goals? I highly doubt it. The same thing goes for us Africans. If we keep telling ourselves that our countries suck, that we will never have a bright future, and that we will never develop our country then we never will get anywhere. You have to believe to achieve. You can’t just expect things to occur magically. You have to put in hard work to get where you want.

But I understand how we have become this way. Let’s face it, we have had some hard blows. Colonialism has really left its mark. Sadly, we still argue about skin color, hair texture, tribes and social status. When we should be focusing on economics, education, self-sufficiency, and diminishing poverty.

So how about we change our mindset. Let’s be proud Africans. This doesn’t mean saying “We are perfect” or “We are the best” (although if you want to, by all means). This means loving ourselves, loving our continent, accepting our faults, identifying our issues, being unapologetically African, and believing that we can get better. We know that we are not perfect and there is major room for improvement. But we shouldn’t let this stop us from being champions. We need to stop looking at our problems as obstacles and start seeing them as opportunities.

I wanted to do my part so I started a facebook page called “#SenegalDeyDem” (meaning “Senegal WILL go somewhere”) to counter the ever-so-popular “Senegal dou dem”. I know that it is a small act but sometimes it’s the small things that grow into huge movements. Someone else can see this page and want to start something similar and the movement can keep growing.

I believe in the future of our continent. I know that I am just one person. I also know that there are thousands of other Africans who are trying to do amazing things for their countries but who also think that they are just “one person.” Together, we can be a pretty strong group. I can already see a new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders rising. Let us encourage and help each other because, in the end, this beautiful land is ours and we are all in this together.

Feature: Begging for Personal Space

Today, AfroMinded is proud to feature Madmaks! A young Senegalese leader.

BIO:

Madmaks considers himself a global citizen. He yearns to soak in all cultures and ultimately grow from it. He looks at culture and societal edicts with a critical eye in order to get to the core of every matter he finds himself or his people involved in. His writings are based on personal experiences and he uses them as an outlet for all the uncomfortable questions he constantly ponders on.

Without further ado, here’s what Madmaks has to say:

“I have always had that feeling that something was off with me. Well, people around me never missed an opportunity to make the remark. For instance, I could be all friendly and outgoing for a moment but the next day, I would seem far off, pissed, arrogant, soof* .  At some point I tried (one never succeeds in something they are not), but it was even worse as I had to force myself to socialize and conform in ways that seemed tocut off a part of my soul. I ended up damaged.

Luckily I am now able to put a word on my blessing. Yes, I am blessed to be an INTROVERT. After a few psychology classes,  several years of soul searching and a few months in a place where “me time ” was allowed, nay encouraged, I have reached a point in my life when I  can fully embrace that part my personality.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean that I hate being around people. It just means that I need some time to be alone, time to put together pieces of information, emotions and lingering issues that might be a source of turmoil if not properly dealt with.

The mind of an introvert cannot process ongoing events. It works like a machine that loads raw information in order to process it on resting mode. If it loads a lot of information without processing it, a sort of mental clog sets in, causing discomfort and bitterness.

Self-knowledge is crucial in the development of an individual. It gives us the tools to anticipate an eventual difficult situation, deal with it and learn from it.

My personal me times involve writing, reading, listening to music or just lying in my bed and staring at the ceiling. I usually keep a straight face, which makes people around me assume that I am pissed or bored.

To all the introverts out there, I feel you. It is a tough time for us, especially in this era when technology makes it even harder to isolate from all this mess. I am still struggling with these endless group chats, Facebook notifications that are more distracting than productive.

I have read that «being alone is not the same as being lonely”.

So this is to more moments of self-affirmation in our hideaways, may they be physical ormental. These fortresses of solitude really constitute our cocoons, from which we can burst out stronger and ready to deal with all the bullshit out there.”

*soof= antipathetic

Deciding To Be Great

“There comes a time in life where you have to decide to either be good or be great. Do you want to be ordinary or extraordinary?”

This has been on my mind for months now and I can’t shake it.

I just didn’t understand why this kept coming up? As someone who does her best no matter the task, it bothered me that I kept having these thoughts because it made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough. My brain hit the replay button and wouldn’t stop. So, I actually had to sit and think about it.

Unfortunately, I came to realise that I am not trying hard enough. I am not pushing myself. I am settling for “good” and “comfortable” instead of “great” and “risky.” I looked at the people around me; my family, my friends, and my colleagues. I noticed that a lot of people were just settling for “good” and not really trying to do more. They work the same job, get some money, and that is enough. Don’t get me wrong, if this is what they want then there is nothing wrong with it. If “good” satisfies them then who am I to say otherwise? Let’s face it, life would be a lot easier if I could do the same. But I can’t.

Upon a lot of reflection, I accepted the fact that I am someone who needs challenges and needs to push themself. Deep down, I know that I can do better and aim for higher goals. But with that thought comes a lot of fear. Fear of failure. When you are used to being one of the best, the thought of being one of the worst is terrifying. But there is no success without failure.

So I made the decision to aim higher. And if you have had the same thoughts that I have had, then give yourself a chance and do the same. There is nothing wrong with trying and failing; as long as you can say that you tried your best and you gave it a shot. I don’t want to be an old woman with a bunch of regrets. I want to look back at my life and say “I have no regrets. I did my best.” Whether it be in your professional life, love life, religious life, or anything else. Give yourself a chance to be great.

● AfroMinded●

Writer’s Block Hit Me

Yeah, that’s right. I got hit. Bad

Never have I ever had so many ideas and yet so little inspiration to write.

Writing has always come so easily to me. When I was in middle school and high school, I could spit out poems and short stories like it was nothing. But the past few months, I haven’t even been able to write a simple paragraph! I’ve only heard the term ”writer’s block” but I’ve never experienced it. If it came at a time when I didn’t have as many projects, it wouldn’t be a problem. But then it wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?

So, you are probably wondering, what did I learn from it? Right? I mean, I can’t just come on hear and tell you that I had writer’s block and then log off? What kind of blogger would I be?

I am a somewhat normal human being and sometimes, we need a break. I always say, if you don’t take a break, life will take a break for you. This doesn’t mean that you should stop chasing after you dreams or stop working hard. Absolutely not. This means that we are only humans. We are programmed to stop every once in a while and breathe. When I look back a couple of months, I see that I tried to cram too much into too little time. Something that I do often but usually manage to pull through. This time, however, there was a fault in the system. And you know what? That is OK. If everything worked all the time, there would be no need for updates and nothing would ever improve. However, nothing get’s fixed by simply laying around. You may find yourself in a situation that you haven’t planned on and that has completely taken you by surprise. But just TRY. The quicker you decide to try to change that situation, the quicker you will find the solution. I wish answers could fall out of the sky but, since life is no fairytale Disney movie, that’s most likely not going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of prayer just as much as the next person. However, God gave us free will for a reason.

Things happen, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take an active roll to try to change it. So at 22:11 (10:11 PM) on the 05th of December 2015, I, Afrominded, sat on my computer at work, opened a blank Word document, and broke my writer’s block.

Stay tunes for the result!

An AfroMinded Voyage

**pic provided by teresay.com

AfroMinded is back!

The reason for my absence? Traveling!

I like traveling. I love visiting new places and enriching myself in different cultures. HOWEVER, traveling can be a real pain in the wrong place. Especially when you think about all the procedures you have to go through.

Take packing, for instance. Packing is officially an enemy. I usually get in everything I need with little to no issues. But this time around, everything went haywire. Packing for a week is childsplay. Packing for a few months is pure torture. I went through days of putting things in my suitcase, changing my mind, taking things out of my suitcase, and changing my mind again. I wanted nothing more than to kill my suitcase. But I realized that I was having difficulties because I was trying to take every bit of home with me. I wanted to take everything that reminded me of Senegal or Africa and put it in my suitcase. But I am Africa. I am a living, breathing, walking, talking piece of Africa. No need to prove it to anyone. With that in mind, things became a lot easier.

Then there is the airport. I don’t think there are enough words to describe the airport experience. No matter who you are or what you do, when you travel, you are not just a passenger but you are also a suspect. All the security checks, the “random” selections, and the scanning is to keep YOU and I in check. Unfortunately, this goes even further if you look anything like an Arab or a Muslim, if you wear a turban, if you are African, if you wear a hijab, or even traditional and cultural clothing. This was my first time traveling as a hijabi and I have heard so many horror stories about “hijab when flying” that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle certain situations. I tried my best to dress colorful and even wore a nice turban. I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t randomly selected! However, I did get questioned for about 15 minutes. You can’t win them all.

This plane trip really got me thinking: We humans really are spoiled. We expect a box with wings to take us from one place, fly us up in the sky, through the clouds, provide us a nice meal, glide through turbulence, and land safely in another place thousands of miles away. Stop and think for a second: How amazing is it that God gave humans the knowledge to be able to create something like an airplane and to have it function? When you are on that plane, there are no stop lights, no breaks, no “pulling over”. If that plane stops, start saying your prayers. I personally believe that every time I have gotten on a plane, it is God who has gotten me through it. He flew it and He landed it. But I have such a huge respect for pilots because it takes courage to voluntarily put yourself at risk, put hundreds of peoples lives in your hands, and fly for hours in the open sky. I would like thank every single pilot who has ever flown a plane of any kind because what you do takes skill and precision.

This trip has also taught me that life without internet is completely okay! I went weeks without any wifi (because we didn’t have a router at the house yet) and no mobile connection (because I had no sim card). And guess what, I made it. In fact life was so much easier. When you put the phone down and look around you , you enjoy things so much more. Sitting and eating with people while enjoying a good discussion instead of having your nose on a screen. Going out into the city and visiting places without hearing facebook notifications and viber messages all the time. That’s the life.

Stay tuned for this months PicWeek!

AfroMinded

To My Bullies: Thank You

Dear bullies,

You probably don’t remember me. But I remember you.

Let me refresh your memory.

I was that skinny dark-skinned girl from West Africa. You know, the one who would sit in the back of the class to avoid getting looked at? The one who always wore sweatshirts and baggy pants? You would call me “darky”, “ugly”, and “little Africa.” Remember now?

Well, I remember how you made 6th grade a living hell. I was a fun-loving, active, and energetic girl before I met you. I loved going to school and I loved learning. But that year, you took that love away from me. You somehow managed to drain the life out of me little by little everyday.

You made me angry, very angry. I could have easily fought with you, but my mother raised me better than that. So consider yourselves lucky that I never laid my hands on you.

A lot of years have passed and I have kept fairly quiet. But today, I am finally letting it out. I have things to say to each and everyone of you. Don’t worry, I am not going to put any of you on blast. Unlike you, I have more class than that. Besides, maybe, just maybe, some of you have grown up into respectful adults. I mean, one can only hope.

To Little Miss Popular,

You started out as a friend. We knew each other for a long time and I actually liked you. But little did I know you were a two-faced, conniving little witch. You stabbed me in the back and laughed at my face. I wasted my tears on you and you enjoyed it. I wonder, was popularity really worth sacrificing your friends? The worst part is that, after all that happened, you still had the audacity to ask for my help with your school work. You knew I wasn’t having that! If you had spent half of your time studying instead of chasing boys, you probably would have gotten better grades. But I would like to thank you. Thank you for teaching my that not everyone who smiles at you is your friend.

PS: The boys liked you because you were easy. (At least, that’s what your ex says).

To Mister Cool Guy,

Just because you thought that you were sooooo popular and had sooooo many friends, you thought you could say anything you wanted to anyone. You thought that you were so good looking and that all the girls liked you. But you knew that I didn’t like you and that killed your ego. So you decided to take it out on me. You and your friends treated me like dirt and made me dread walking down the hallways. Even when we were in class, you threw things at the back of my head. But I want to thank you too. Thank you for constantly saying that I dressed “like a boy” because I covered by body. You taught me that little boys don’t deserve real women. Because real men love real women who respect themselves and their bodies. My body is a temple and it is not for the likes of you.

PS:  You were only mad that I was a foot taller than you

To Little Miss You-Stole-My-Socks,

Yes, you too. You were the “ghetto princess” as you would call yourself. I would prefer “rachet princess” but hey, who am I to judge? You and your entire posy used to love picking on me every single day. . .EVERY single day. You always had something to comment on. Whether it was the way I dressed, the way I ran, my skin color, my country, whatever! But the tip of the iceberg was that one day when you accused me of stealing your socks after gym class. Over 12 girls in that locker room, and yet the excuse you gave was that you walked in and saw me putting socks on which somehow, in your head, meant that they were yours. . .giiiirrrrlll! I remember wanting to slap your face off, but I didn’t. Instead I let you make a fool of yourself which brought me great joy! But I am going to thank you for showing me that violence is not the answer. Sometimes, you should just sit back and let people dig their own holes. Besides, you only picked on me because you didn’t love yourself enough.

PS: No one needed your stanck-alicious dirty socks. Don’t flatter yourself.
PS PS: Last I heard, you went to juvie. . .sooooooooo

To Miss Pick-a-fight,

You were the new girl in school and I knew how difficult that could be. So, I just wanted to help you out and let you know that you had someone you could talk to. But you felt like, in order to be cool, you had to be fast (no, I’m not talking about your pace). You were always “extra friendly” with the boys in the back of the bus. You started to pick fights with people. Trying to build up your street cred maybe? Then, you started to pick fights with me. But, because I knew better and had more self-control than you did, I didn’t humor you much. My mother always told me to never fight back because you’ll be just as worse as the person who started it. So thank you for showing me that having values and morals really is priceless.

PS: I still remember when you got your butt kicked up and down the sidewalk by those girls after the school dance. Karma is a b**ch

Now, to all of you and those other people that hung out with you, I would like to say that I forgive you for ALMOST everything. Thanks to you, I have grown up to be a strong, proud, independent African woman who loves herself now more than ever. You have taught me lessons that I will never forget and for that, I am grateful. But there is one thing that I will never forgive you for. The fact that, for a period of time, you made me hate myself. You made me hate my body, my personality. . .my skin. The whole “words can never hurt me” thing is a load of bull. Words sting you badly and they stick with you for the rest of your life. I hope, however, that you have grown up and made better decisions in life. I hope that you have learned to love yourselves more and to find more inner strength. If ever you have kids, I hope you teach them to love themselves, to be strong, and to stand up to those who try to bring them down. Teach them to treat others with respect and kindness so that they don’t turn out to be bullies like you. Make the bullying stop. Raise a generation of kids who bring each other up, not knock each other down.

I found my peace. I hope you find yours.

Sincerely,

The African Girl

PS: You are in my prayers everyday

**Image provided by vividlife.me**

So It’s A New Year. . .

Tonight is the first night of 2015. I’m sitting in front of my computer thinking that I’m going to write a post about how the holidays were in Dakar, show some pictures, etc. However, my mind keeps telling to write about something else. Something that may be a little “different” to begin 2015.

I don’t like “New Year’s Resolutions.” I never make them because to me, they seem kind of pointless. Now, don’t get me wrong. Having goals in your life and working to achieve them is an absolute must if you want to succeed. But making goals just to jump on the bandwagon (only to forget completely about them two weeks afterwards) doesn’t make any sense to me.

So here is my concept for 2015: get the right attitude! This is essentially the only idea that I need, not only for the New Year, but for the rest of my life. The way you perceive yourself and your life affects the way you live your life. It’s all a mind game. You can change yourself for the better simply by changing how you think. Stop saying “I’m not good enough” or “there’s no way I can achieve this” or “I’m not meant to have that much success.” Believe in yourself! Wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and tell yourself “hey, I am an awesome human being, loved by God, and I am meant for greatness.” You will see yourself change in ways that you can’t even imagine. You’ll start to have more willpower to better yourself, to go to the gym, to eat healthier, to be a better you!

I was reading an article one day and the author wrote a phrase that is so simple and yet it hit me so deep that I haven’t forgotten it since. He wrote “You need to be very patient and realize that this is not going to happen overnight.” I literally had to pause for a few minutes and re-read the phrase a few times because I couldn’t believe how simple it is. However, we forget so easily that it takes time and that’s why we sometimes fail at our goals. Like I always say, “Anything worth working for is worth having and anything that’s hard to get is worth keeping.” You’re not just going to wake up tomorrow and discover a new-and-improved version of yourself. This will take time and it will be hard. Don’t be afraid of success and happiness and never give up on yourself. The grass is only greener where you water it. If you don’t believe in yourself then . . . who will?

**Feature photo courtesy of playbuzz.com