I’ve traveled to Uganda for nearly 25 years, and for all the white, smiling faces I see on the plane, and enjoying themselves in the country, I can’t remember ever meeting an African-American on my journeys. As an avid traveler living in the “golden age” of #BlackTravel, I often ask myself, “Why don't more African-Americans travel to Africa?” I’m convinced the media and education system brainwash people with their negative narratives about Africa, and we need to unite versus arguing in these divisive times.
Contrary to popular belief, Africa is more than the war-torn, disease-infested continent portrayed in the media. While the western world deals with aging populations, and less than impressive growth, in contrast, Africa boasts the youngest population in the world, an abundance of natural resources, and blossoming fashion, art, and creative scenes around the continent. So, what gives? What's it going to take for more African-Americans to take an interest in the land of their origin? Celebrities, public figures, and even our beloved hip-hop culture have positively highlighted Africa to the masses, but where Nas, Jay-Z, and more recently Cyhi the Prynce can inspire a generation to crave a lifestyle of sneakers, cars, and clothes, it hasn’t had the same effect on African-Americans taking an interest in Africa.
The media plays a major role in shaping our perceptions, and is public enemy number one for its negative depiction of Africa as a continent. While politicians today can quickly label unwanted publicity as “fake news,” Mama Africa doesn't share the same liberty. Regardless of the positive stories of entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation widespread within the continent, we are constantly force-fed images of famine, disease, and war.
Additionally, Western educational systems are the other culprit harming Africa’s image. As a child, I remember school lessons on Africa largely focusing on slavery, the movie Roots, and then transitioning to the civil rights movement. Often absent from the dialogue were conversations about great African civilizations, and their important contributions to the world.
I feel blessed to know the origin of my roots, and also know the great accomplishments of my ancestors. I’ve witnessed the power of Black Twitter and black culture in general, and often wonder how strong the black community could be if it knew the truth about the royalty in its DNA.
As a community, we can shift the narrative, but the change must start with us.
Jonah, co-owner of lifestyle brand KampInd, is a multimedia artist, entrepreneur and UK-based digital strategist focused on shifting perceptions through design and fashion. You can find Jonah on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @KampInd and check out KampInd inspiring multicultural leaders to change the world at www.kampindusa.com.