Men are trash.

#MenAreTrash. This has been the trending hashtag on twitter the past week or so. The hash tag began last year when a few women on social media took it upon themselves to start calling out the problematic behaviour of men especially with regards to the emotional and physical abuse they’d often experienced in their own relationships. The hashtag did not catch on initially and died down after a while. It has now gone viral because of a death of a young woman in South Africa. The lady, Karabo Mokoena was reported missing for two weeks. She was found last week, rather her body was found, burnt beyond recognition. As police began their investigation, it surfaced that she was murdered by her boyfriend, who had even gone as far as helping her family look for her, knowing full well that they would never find her alive.

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The late Karabo. Source: Internet

The death of this young woman hit close to home because it is a reality to which many African women have become accustomed in one form or the other. For instance, South Africa has the highest number of women who are murdered at the hands of their partners in the world. In fact, of the women who die every eight hours, half of them are killed by their partners. Rape and rape culture are wide spread with women being assaulted on university campuses, at their workplaces, in public transport and in their own homes. In Malawi, intimate violence is at 31%. However, none of this is new information. Violence against women is a well-documented issue complete with numerous interventions, research and even university courses specifically focused on it.

I believe there are two reasons why this hashtag; #MenAreTrash has gone viral. Firstly, of course it refers to men. Statistics show that in most intimate violence cases, the perpetrators are men. However, men continue to stay silent on the issue. The hash tag is provocative. Beyond being a cry for help, it challenges men to stand up and take responsibility. The response from men has been mostly the usual not-all-men narrative. Some men have gone to the extent of posting their ‘happy’ family pictures to prove that they are the exception. How ironic! Of course, it is not peculiar at all that a women’s issue is appropriated and made about…men. Patriarchy is a gift that keeps taking indeed! But someone gave an analogy of snakes which defeats the not-all-men lazy defense. Snakes are poisonous, but not all snakes. However, when one sees a snake, the first assumption will not be that it is not poisonous. Precaution will be taken until proven that it is not poisonous. The second reaction has been of some men admitting that there is a problem and indeed they are trash until they stop killing us. For instance, the #MenAreTrash has inspired another #notinmyname, a movement marching against the femicide (it is what it is!) and abuse against women. This is more positive. I hope men don’t take offense if women do not participate in their matches because they are exhausted. Most importantly, what women hope the ‘male allies’ do is to stand up for our rights as human beings in their masculine spaces. For instance, a 16-year-old girl was raped in South Africa by a gang of six men and not one of them in the group stopped to think ‘this is wrong’. This should not be the case.

The second reason the #MenAreTrash has gone viral is because of the aesthetics. Aesthetics is the mode of visibility that shape our sense of visibility. In the aesthetics regime, the common sense’ of the community is disrupted.  In a you tube video, Akshay Khannah shared how the invisible can intervene into the sensible realm. In 2013 during summer in Brighton, bin collectors went on strike for several weeks because of pay cuts. Over time, Brighton streets were filled with bags of rubbish and stench. Sea gulls spilled some of the contents of the bags. Suddenly, rubbish hidden in private realm came in the open. Consumption was now visible and people were forced to acknowledge their amount of our consumption and relationship with capitalism.

 In the case of the #MenAreTrash, pictures have been going around of the late Karabo when she was alive and pictures of her body burnt which is hard to look at as what was left was an amorphous pile of black ashes. With previous cases, we have seen bodies injured, bleeding and broken but they were still within the realm of the sensible, a burnt body is not, especially a body burnt by someone you were intimate with. The pictures of a burnt body suddenly brought visibility to intimate violence and how far it goes. There are many cases of missing women that go unsolved and life seems to go on because we do not know what happens to those missing bodies. But with this case, we are faced with the horrific possibilities of what can be done to a woman’s body by men claiming to love them. Additionally, pictures of the boyfriend, the alleged murderer were shared widely, with people asking others to retweet until the face of the monster goes viral too. The young man is a normal looking person, seemingly calm and collected. To associate his looks and the horrendous crime that he committed seemed to also trigger a new realization. We were again reminded that a murderer has no particular looks, it could be anyone around us.

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Source: Internet

At the end of the day, the #MenAreTrash is a cry for help. Women are screaming ‘stop killing us!’. We could say they would have used those latter words and gotten a response or they could have said ‘some men are trash’ to be more accurate. Except, all this has been tried before to no avail. The #MenAreTrash will not change the story of violence against women over night. But it did spark a conversation and debates among the most important stakeholders in this issue; the men who are usually the perpetrators. So, I guess provocative messages work alright. Secondly, although tragic, the pictures of Karabo’s burnt body and the face of the man who killed her also disrupted our community of the sensible. Social media has been flooded with  men coming into conversation of violence, governments admitting their complacency and acknowledging the enormous task of tackling intimate violence and most importantly, women from all walks of life sharing their abuse stories and finding strength in solidarity. Here is to hoping one day soon, intimate violence will be a thing of the past. Until then, men are trash.

Death as unruliness- The flying Africans…

I was busy minding my own business on my twitter timeline, tweeting, re-tweeting, liking, ignoring and eye rolling when I came across a tweet talking about how Beyonce’s ‘Love drought’ music video was based on the ‘Igbo Landing’. I confess I that I had not heard of the Igbo landing until this moment. In my defence, we have 54 countries! To digress, Beyonce has become increasingly political in her music with regards to issues of race and resistance in the United States. Some have said the only difference between her and other resistance movements and individual fighters is that she is cashing in millions through commodification of black people’s struggles.  But this is a story for another day. For me, I wouldn’t have known about the Igbo landing without her music video. Back to the Igbo landing. Learning about it made me realize that unruly acts add to the discourse but may not always cause a critical juncture and unruly acts are sometimes easy to ignore as they operate outside the ‘normal’ political realm. I elaborate further below.

So generally, the Igbo Landing (alternatively written as Ibo Landing, Ebo Landing, or Ebos Landing) is a historic site at Dunbar Creek on St. Simons Island in Glynn Country, Georgia. It was the setting of a mass suicide in 1803 by captive Igbo people who had taken control of their slave ship and refused to submit to slavery in the United States. The event’s moral value as a story of resistance towards slavery has symbolic importance in African American folklore and literary history.

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Source: Internet

As I read this, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. Anger, bitterness, sorrow, and pride. At this point, I remembered Mbembe’s writing on suicide. Mbembe (2003) writes how death can be experienced not as an encounter with a limit or a boundary or barrier but as a ‘release from terror and bondage. Death is agency as it is precisely that from and over which one has power (p. 39).’ There is a myth about the Igbo landing that talks about the ‘flying Africans’ which I found more compelling. The story goes, when the slaves walked in a single file into the sea, they actually flew back to Africa. To freedom. Perhaps, this is what Mbembe (2003) meant when he wrote; ‘the body duplicates itself and in death, literally and metaphorically escapes the state of siege and occupation (P. 28).’

This massive suicide and other resistance acts are what led to the eventual end of slave trade. In my view, Unruly acts add to the discourse but they may not always necessarily cause a critical juncture. We may want them to but sometimes they do not. For instance, the Igbo landing was not the first and last incidence where slaves committed suicide. The end of slave trade was not an event. It was a process. In fact, slave trade did not end after the Igbo landing.  The act prohibiting importation of slaves came into being in 1807, slavery itself continued in the south eastern United States until the end of the civil war in 1865 and the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. I reflected on this and realized how sometimes I am guilty of wanting quick fixes to social change. In recent times, after any protest, riot or act of civil disobedience, a flood of opinions scramble for attention in the media and academic spaces. Will there be any change? Why won’t there be change? These are some of the cliche questions that drive the competing narratives.

Additionally, unruly acts may be easier to ignore as they are outside the realm of every day politics. For those in power, maintaining the status quo and controlling the narrative is a key priority. In the case of slavery, slaves were only seen from the masters’ perspective as labour and death meant loss of labour that needed to be replaced and not loss of human life. In the case of the Igbo landing, the perspective from white people like Rosewell King, a white overseer on the nearby plantation, the salient feature of the story of the Igbo landing was the loss of a substantial financial investment for the slave owners. Additionally, there is no historical marker that commemorates the site of Ebos Landing, which is adjacent to a sewage treatment plant built in the 1940s. A sewage treatment plant. Ha! However, privately, African American people continue to mark the sacred site as their own. For instance, some local fishermen on St. Simons, for example, will not cast fishing lines or crab nets in the fecund waters of Dunbar Creek for fear of disturbing the ghosts of the Igbo. Additionally, the many stories ranging from folktales to Nobel Prize–winning novels surely constitute a kind of literary memorial worthy of the remarkable story of the flying Africans.

In conclusion, these reflections do not make me undervalue unruly politics. Yes, unruly acts may not always necessarily lead to change within their time and yes, they may easily be ignored because they operate outside what is deemed as the normal political realm. But, history has shown us that persistence and fidelity to social justice pays. Sometimes. It just might take longer than we want it to.

References

Bembe, Achille (2003) Necropolitics. Public Culture 15(1): 11–40 Duke University Press

Powell, Timothy (2004) Ebos Landing. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/ebos-landing

Owunna, Mikael (2016) Beyonce’s Love Drought Video, slavery, and the Igbo Landing. http://owning-my-truth.com/post/143569446582/beyonces-lovedrought-video-slavery-igbolanding

Short rant: Being black in the UK

In some spaces in the UK, BEING BLACK IS MY SIN

Being black makes me suspicious

Being black deprives me of access

Being black means I have to explain myself all the damn time

Being black means I’m lesser than I should be!

Being black is my sin

Before you say ‘not all…’, ‘sometimes it’s not about race…’

I am not dumb. I know racism when I see it and experience it.

Stop complicating things and wrapping them in academic jargon

Stop telling me I’m imagining things

Stop telling me not to take it personal

‘If you step on my toe and I tell you it hurts, you don’t get to determine how much it hurts!’

Stop telling me ‘my truth is subjective’

When you are immersed in privilege and have never walked in my shoes.

Being black is my sin.

Every encounter of racism hurts!

It doesn’t matter how many times I have gone through it.

It means a journey back to the mirror to affirm to myself that I matter.

That my skin colour doesn’t mean I am lesser.

Until another encounter when being black is my sin

Again.

 

‘WE SPEAK FOR THE PEOPLE!’: AFRICA CLUB NIGHT EXPERIENCE

25th of February was marked out in my phone as a day I was going to dance to some African tunes! Komedia Brighton had advertised that they would host a ‘club Africa night’. I just couldn’t wait.  There are several Malawians who are studying at Sussex. Every month we meet up once for dinner and nostalgic conversations about home. I quickly sold them on the idea of the ‘Africa club night’ so we planned to have dinner on 25th and go to the club after.

african night poster

On 25t February, at 11 PM on the dot, I made sure we were at the club. After updating twitter and face book that we had arrived, we all walked in. We were among the first to arrive as the dance floor was empty. Most importantly, the music playing was African but from ancient days. I mentioned this to my crew who agreed the music was from back when we were colonised but we thought it was understandable as the club was still empty. Obviously, they were holding on to the best until more people showed up, we thought.

Fast forward to two hours later when the club was full, the music genre did not change. The DJ kept playing ancient ‘rumba’ music and my circle was getting irritated at not singing along to the songs our great grandfathers listened to. I, being the unruly one in the group walked over to the DJ and asked him if he knew ‘P Square’ (a famous ‘twins’ singing duo from Nigeria). The DJ replied that he didn’t. This is the point I knew we were in trouble. I thought quickly about mobilizing for a mini-revolution. After all, the DJ was a white middle aged British man(Luke, I see you rolling your eyes!).

Mobilize we did, and immediately hunted down the promoter for the ‘club Africa’ night. We vented our frustrations on him, telling him how the music was not worth our hard earned five pounds and that we should have been warned about bringing our great grand fathers who would be well suited to the music being played (unfortunately, they are dead!). We offered to develop a play list of the ‘right’ contemporary African songs to play! After this conversation and developing the play list, we marched close to the DJ and chanted ‘AFRO-BEATS! AFRO-BEATS!’. Soon, our efforts were rewarded and we were dancing and singing along to the ‘right’ African music. I was feeling proud of myself for this victory!

I was still feeling proud about this night and how we had been revolutionary when I walked into class for lunch with Patta. I told her I lost my voice from chanting at the ‘Africa club’ night revolution. She listened excitedly and then asked me one question; ‘was everyone unhappy with the music you disliked and did they like the music you liked?’ Thanks, Patta for bursting my bubble! *insert shaking head emoji here*

Patta’s question made me think of Allan Badiou and his concept of ‘prescriptive universality’. He talks about how revolutions are usually minoritarian, with actors convinced that what they stand for is what everyone else wants. Anyone who does not agree is immediately suspect of being on the opposite side. I thought back to the ‘Africa club’ night and imagined how I would have judged anyone who dared oppose our ‘truth’; the knowledge of the ‘right’ African music. But of course, the music we proposed was not the only African music out there but I didn’t even stop to check if everyone else was enjoying the music we preferred (my circle).

25th of March is coming up and I marked it in my phone again as Komedia will host another ‘Africa club night.’ This time around, I will be more conscious should there be a need for another mini-revolution’.