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Hip Hop Fridays: Hip Hop Aides Africa In The Worst Way By Kaia Niambi Shivers

I don’t know what saddens me most, hip-hop artists participating in aid-to-Africa relief concerts organized by Europeans and white Americans, or our lack of trusting and supporting aid campaigns for Africa conducted through and by African Diaspora inhabitants, particularly blacks in America — or better yet, black people getting the hell up and taking a trip to the birthplace of their lineage. You know what I mean, using the money you could’ve blown going to Miami, or the Tom Joyner cruise, to invest in a ticket to immerse in the lands housing the beginning of life and help Africa with our own damn hands.

My stomach performed whirlwinds and Capoeria spins of displeasure at the latest news blasting big international hip hop names contributing to these shows in Europe, America and mostly white venues to help stop poverty on a continent underdeveloped by the same exploitative governments. How ironic that this beautiful talent stemming origins of African blood, now sheds blood for money that will barely assist the people really suffering. If you didn’t know, international non-profits and relief aid efforts are the big money makers these days. Sick, but this society thrives off of people’s misfortune. These global tax write-offs wipe the humanity from sleeves of our existence. So the confusion of our confusion gets more chaotic.

In 2001 I was blessed and humbled. I traversed through Swaziland, South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria and the islands of Cape Verde. Contrary to stories of rejection I’ve heard, I was welcomed and embraced by Africans. I was told, “Welcome home daughter, you came back.” I was healed beyond comparison. Indelible whips upon my back, the spiritual rope burns around my neck, and the void in my soul gradually left. I was home. Exactly like a Jew making a trek to Israel, or a proud American tracing roots to Wales, Poland and Ireland, then spending a summer in their mother countries, I was in my homeland, regardless if I got a little Cherokee blood passing through me.

After the romance, my eyes were reinitiated into reality. My pilgrimage allowed me the blessing to dialogue with my people, our people. Our conversations were contrary to the plea and disgraceful appeals the media propagandizes. African people demand control of their destiny, as opposed of being held captive through expired medical handouts, second hand clothes, substandard clinics and dry biscuits. They want to live, love and be in their homelands without turmoil, but with dignity, peace and development that compliments their culture.

Furthermore, who in hell said that lack of paper money meant poverty? Not Africans, a land abundant in minerals, metals and stones in which paper money is valued. Isn’t it funny Africa still holds most of the world’s natural resources and is considered the poorest? So exactly, why are these so-called “first world” countries starving in natural resources claiming to aid a “poor” Africa?

That question was answered by the obvious. The people who need to speak were not there to speak for and to a depleted Africa. We were not there. Black people were not there to tell descendants of slave catchers in Togo and Dahomey, that their titles of prestige were bullshit. We were not there to rewrite the curriculums in African schools still educating youth under British, French, Dutch, German and Portuguese guidelines so we could implement the horrors of slavery. Although hundreds of slave castles dot the west and east coasts of Africa, much of the people do not know what happened to us, their lost family.

However, I was able to speak with those I came into contact for we shared a common language, it was, hip hop. All around were imitations and emulations of hip hop culture. From shanty towns in Soweto to ghettoes of Lagos, I was identified by hip hop familiarities shared in America. I had been to the Caribbean, South America and Asia by that time, and knew hip hop tidal waved through those cultures faster than a tsunami, but when I saw it in Africa, I was blown. In the mud plastered homes of Ede and Ile Ife, Nigeria, young adults and teens were speaking of Jay-Z, donning knock-off Fubu and positioning themselves in the classic hood poses when they took pictures.

In Kwa Zulu Natal, now known by its colonized name, Durban, South Africa, the clubs were funky, hot and vibrant as we danced to Kwaito music, a mixture of hip hop, house and African rhythms. I saw me some Talib Kweli up in there, some Cam’ron, a couple of Foxy Browns and Lauryn Hills. Shit, I saw me. We were all one. It was affirmed, that hip hop was voted president of the universe. Unfortunately, the constructors of hip hop don’t even know the influence it demands. It is beyond music and clothes. It is political, educational and hard core cultural. The people were saying phrases they didn’t fully grasp, or didn’t know the potency, even destruction some sayings wielded.

I also witnessed the ugliness that the West brings to Africa. First, you must understand, most African countries don’t have entities like FDA, FCC, or strict custom laws enforcing the importation of product, or persons coming into the regions. On top of that, African politically is so weak she can’t fight for herself on an international level. Therefore, bullshit from America and Europe is poured into these vulnerable nations. Along with the mostly white tourists that sexually abuse and economically manipulate local populations, there are shipments of substandard items by the tons.

Crap that is rotten, old and extremely dangerous to the body, mind and culture of the people gets dumped into places like Accra, Kampala, Kinshasa and Banjul. I’m talking about hair dyes, lyes and bleaching creams, fake plastic hair, and other lethal body and household products directly causing cancer and tumors. The ingredients are comparable to the harshest bathroom cleaners which rip the melanin in the skin of many African women forcing them to wear layers of make up to cover the permanent damage that has left blotches, ashen grey skin coloring and horrible acne.

Then you have the music that is brought in. You think BET “106& Park” or “Uncut” is bad? You think your local radio station that is paid under the table by huge record companies like Sony, are homes for crooked business deals for distribution and air play? Africa is the gravesite for all of the “kill black people” music you want to hear. Every bitch, whore, pimp, nigga, tramp, trick, slut, dog and all the likes get love in Africa. Every gun that wants to be toted can be in honesty because these tragic images are the only conceptions of black life in America pumped throughout the continent. Africa is the land in which hustlers, sugar daddies, and hoodrats can be cultivated by a single verse.

So when I see these aid campaigns to Africa, I see the pursuit for another raping of our mother to continue to control the life in which every single country in the world in some way, blossoms from the true land of milk, honey and golden opportunity.

I’ve learned there is a thin line between freedom and death. This truth is written on walls in Egypt, as well as Brooklyn. It is how it is written, just like how it is said in hip hop in which the choice of life is made. Music has been black people’s freedom since music ascended from our souls. It educates us, it motivates us, it moves us into an untouchable consciousness. Music is for the soul, and much of the hip hop music that has been transported to the continent is the same music that damages our lives. I refuse to have more blood on my hands however this can be a different reality.

Just think if we stopped donating money to groups that distribute bland crackers and shady syringes then brought 1,000,000 copies of musical product that told the stories of our greatness, challenged ill conditions of the world, and reshaped our world-view to glory and god bodies. How that would liberate the minds of millions, including our own. Then maybe, we all can make our pilgrimage to our beloved home. You’ll be surprised because everyone in the world goes to Africa except US.

Kaia Niambi Shivers is an artist, educator and journalist living between Los Angeles and Atlanta. She can be contacted at

Kaia Niambi Shivers

Friday, August 5, 2005

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