Sunday, 9 June 2013

Amandla! and Dreams of my Father....

Several weeks ago I found two interesting books in my favorite thrift store; Amandla! by Nelson Mandela, and Dreams of my Father by Barack Obama. Mandela's books inspired me because of Mandela's message of positivism. And I learned a lot about certain periods in South Africa. But the book is a collection of speeches he gave. And that doesn't make it a great book to read. (Am I allowed to do that?, write something negative about Mandela???) Obama's book on the other hand... That man can write! was'nt even halfway the preface and already loved the book. He can write and he has an interesting story to tell. In short, his story and the story of him and his family's. And about the color of his skin. He shares his doubts, his struggles, He writes about his grassroots work in the ghetto of Chicago and he writes about his visit to Kenya, to meet uncles, aunts, siblings. But mostly he writes about his (lack of) belonging. But something else happened while reading this book; Obama changed my perspective on the world around me. My perspective on my neighbourhood. The community I live in, my own belonging. It changed how I looked at the community centre I visit on regular basis. All of a sudden I noticed the hardworking volunteers in this center. I noticed the poster in which they ask people if they ever experienced racism. I noticed the struggle of some of the people in the, so called up-coming, area of my city. And it made me think all over again about the conversation I had with the toddler cared for. She was a beautiful girl with amazing black eyes and brown skin.
Girl: (while pointing at the telly) "I can't join this show" Me: "Of course you can." Girl:"I can't because Im brown" I thought I misunderstood her, or that she got something wrong so I asked her: "Im I brown?" Girl: "No you are white" "What about daddy?" "He's black", "What about mum?" "White" "And what about Giovianni?" "Brown"
Later that evening I told her mum about the conversation we had, and the little girls feeling of rejection because of the color of her skin. Her mum filled me in on the whole story: earlier that day another little girl pointed out to her that she was brown due to that she was'nt allowed to play there. This conversation changed me. She was 3, a cute-looking beautiful little girl and she was dealing and experiencing racism. Since then I'm convinced that racism is every where all the time. Sometimes very openly, but most of the time, hidden, subtle. In Dreams of my father Obama thinks about racism. And he reflects on being white, black, being male, female. In an grasping, smart way. I always fall in love with the characters of the books I read. Of course I fell for Barack big time, but more than that, my admiration for him as a human being increased, and this book convinced me that he must be a thoroughly good person. (with an incredible difficult job). Ps the drawing is inspired by his work in Altgeld, a neighbourhood in Chicago. He drives past a few old men and that reminds him of his own Grandfather. The car Obama is driving is my first car. This is probably the closest I will ever get to Barack Obama!

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