I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.
– Frederick Douglas
I am sure you will agree that in 2020, the awareness of the inequality experienced by African Descents globally, received an A+. I like to think that 2021 will be the year for African Descents and the global community to focus on updating the one-sided narratives, or narratives that only serve to accentuate the ills of the past.
It happens I am not the only one who supports the need to change or update the present narratives. Bonsu Thompson, is for changing the narrative around inaccurate history and cultural lessons, in his article: Louis Vuitton’s Latest Release Is a Slap in the Face to Jamaica and Africa, and in this HBR article: Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome, is for changing the narrative about how we speak to women.
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It is also an open secret that the global protests in 2020 for a more equitable economic condition for African Descents in the Diaspora launched several entrepreneurial endeavors or enterprises. This forces me to ponder the long-term sustainability of these businesses – because, in our time, we are witnessing world views, and concerns change rapidly. How then will a business founded on a trend or fad, survive these changes?
We want to put our money in what will be viable in the future
– Marc Sadler, Practice Manager, Climate Funds Management, World Bank
I guess the above three paragraphs, suffice for a preamble. Now, let’s dive into the title of this article, where we will discuss the following:
1. Why Updating the Narrative is Required
a. Back Story
b. First Speaker
c. My Hack to Cultural Barrier
d. The Second Speaker
e. The Third Speaker
f. The Break out Room
2. The Great Reset
3. The Call of the Future
Why Updating the Narrative is Required
Between 2019 and 2020, I was on a deliberate hunt for any event with an African theme, in Amsterdam. Because I find how we African Descents communicate with each other in these events intriguing – if necessity demands, I will publish what I find intriguing.
“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
― Booker T. Washington
My experience, in one of these events, is the reason why I believe it is important that in 2021 and beyond, African Descents in the Diaspora need to expend energy to change the narrative for the next generation.
The event happened to be held via Zoom, where the theme was centered around how African Descents young professionals can advance their career in Europe. Without doing my due diligence on the invited speakers at the event, I signed up for the event.
For my reader’s clarity, I will use pseudonyms of the invited speakers; while for confidentiality reasons, I will not name the organization that hosted this event, as the organization is still in its nascent state of existence.
“The worker must work for the glory of his handiwork, not simply for pay; the thinker must think for truth, not for fame.”
― W.E.B. Du Bois
The First Speaker
So the first speaker- I surmise will be in his early to mid-thirties, whom I will call Badru. The second, who I surmise was between his late thirties to early forties, whom I will call Asim; and a woman who I surmise was in her late fifties, whom I will call Jaha.
Badru was the first to speak, and he started his story by sharing how he grew up in a neighboring EU state (let’s say Austria), and how chance allowed him to make friends with the Austrians, who invited him for a coffee. He shared how having coffee with them was a surreal experience for him; as having coffees is not ‘a thing’ in the African culture.
He went on to state how his association with his Austrian friends, enlightened him of the importance of chasing an education, which further pushed him to pursue an MBA degree. He concluded his session by advising all attendees that they should be open to whatever opportunity that comes their way, as he never thought he will be doing what he is doing, as he could not have imagined it before making friends with the Austrians.
“Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than to be in bad company”
― Booker T. Washington
My Hack to Cultural Barrier
While I empathized with how his association with the Austrians changed his life, his conclusion gave me funny feelings in my guts. However, I find his conclusion not empowering to the audience, because I believe a young professional should not surrender his career to chance.
I believe a young professional should use the fuel of his youth to continuously upscale his skill sets and build his network in the industry he desires to be employed in. I understand the cultural barrier might be a hindrance to most African Descents, to network with Europeans. But if we never try, how will we overcome this barrier, or change the narrative?
Make no error; I am not a physician who prescribes a drug I can’t take, nor am I Donald trump who suggests everyone should drink bleach as an antidote to COVID-19. From my experience of networking with Non-Africans in my two years in Europe, I can tell you for a fact that out of ten requests you make to have a meeting or an audience, you get seven positive responses, while the remaining three are often returned with silence.
But from the seven responses, I can tell you for a fact that I have made friends, and I have been privileged to make mentors of persons who continue to broaden my view of life and awake my imagination.
The Second Speaker
Now, it was Jaha’s session. She shared how she worked in a government organization in an European country for over 20 years. And, when she was due for a promotion, she was not promoted because she happens to be of African Descent. This caused her to sue the organization on discriminating charges.
Well, Jaha ended her session by informing the audience that while discrimination might exist in the European labor market, it is the audience’s responsibility to ensure that they are not treated unfairly by an employer.
I found her session more empowering as she took action against the unfair treatment she experienced – she tried to change the narrative. This motivated me to add learning about the European laws, to things to do in my spare time.
Can’t complain ’bout what they ain’t gon’ give ya
That ain’t gon’ get ya sh$t, might as well give up
Or get up, get out and get something,
– Hello, Jay Z,
The Third Speaker
Asim was the last speaker. He started by introducing himself as a consultant. Then he went on to share the winding road of how he became a consultant, and how he is proud that he can keep his mom busy with an iPad.
By now, I was itching to get off my chair and ask for the value that I assumed was going to be delivered in the promise of the copy of the event. So, I messaged the assistant facilitator, “When do I get to speak?” I was told shortly in a planned break-out session.
Asim also ended by encouraging the audience to swing it with their careers because of the unfairness in the European labor market, towards Africa Descents.
To cut the long story short. The event segued into the break-out session, where the audience was divided – I think; each room was led by one of the speakers. Luckily I was in the break-out room with Asim.
The Break Out Room
Yes, you guessed right that I went into the room fuming with questions, on all I heard that I did not agree with – in retrospect, that was naïve and un-tactful of me.
First I asked how come all I heard was a focus on the past, the things we cannot change, acknowledging Jaha’s initiative to change a situation she found unfair, and how come throughout the session African Descents were being labeled a color.
His response was “Well, I focus and talk about the past because I want my children to know their history.”
I dangled my phone in the air as I replied, “Your children will never forget their history; over eighty percent of all human knowledge since the dawn of writing can be found online.”
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His response showed I had failed to pass my message across.
So, I pointed to an abstract painting he hung on his wall, that had brushstrokes of primary colors with light strokes of white all on a black background, I said, “See those colors; those are the universal colors, and research proofs traumatized kids draw in black and white, and only when they have been sufficiently rehabilitated in a supporting environment do the sun become yellow again, and grass become green.”
Adding that “We African descents continue to see life just like those kids. Though, I understand how the trauma can linger but is it not high time we begin to focus on the future and stop seeing the world in black and white?” And I pointed out the ongoing fourth industrial revolution; asked how he will advise we African Descents young professionals to prepare for that?
Well, to cut the long story short, I had to exit from the meeting to attend to another item on my agenda, for the day. And, that is how I exited the event.
But, since then, I have learned to do my due diligence about the guest speakers at events, I find interesting to attend. And, only sign up to events that the guest speakers’ track record will enlighten my path, and who support the need to change the narrative.
The Great Reset
It is privy to a select few in the academic world that the COVID-19 is a forerunner of the fourth industrialization, which makes it possible for the Great Reset to be in motion. Thus, 2020 tested the major effects of the fourth industrialization.
What does the above paragraph mean and where are the facts to support my assertion?
To find out, let’s do a crash course on the industrial revolutions. Between 1760 and 1859, the world experienced the first industrial revolution, which started in Britain. The steam engine was invented and birthed the creation of factories, through new manufacturing processes. This caused a major shake in the socio-economic status of Britain, as those who the steam engine replaced, reacted by burning these factories.
The Second Industrial Revolution occurred between 1860 and 1959. This was when the light bulb was invented, mass production in steel and oil took off. While the Third Industrial Revolution, was the birth of the semiconductor, personal computer, and the internet, often referred to as the digital revolution.
In 2016, Klaus Schwab the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, announced the Fourth Industrial Revolution, stating that Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, IoT, and machine learning will interconnect devices in ways unprecedented in history.
The Call of the Future
Again in July 2020, Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret published COVID-19: The Great Reset, where they outlined the expected changes that will take place in five major domains, due to the pandemic. These domains are the economy, society, geopolitical, environmental, and technological. It’s important to state that in the first chapter of this book, the Interdependence nature of the global economic fabric was discussed, which explains how presently we share and bear the risk of an interconnected system.
Now, how do the above paragraphs relate to my story?
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
― Ida B. Wells-Barnett
For one, I wish that the keynote speakers shared with the audience how they should prepare themselves for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Secondly, as we can see, the world as we know is changing. And the cement of our inter-connectedness is increasing. It will be ill-advised for any young professional of African Descent or otherwise, to leave her future career to chance.
While the future has endless possibilities for the next young professionals, the solution the world needs to meet the upcoming challenges is clear.
So, you see why I believe that speakers in events directed to ‘Young Professionals’ should focus on sharing with young professionals how to discover what makes them come alive, and how they can align what makes them come alive to the solution the world needs? Anything short of this, is sheer chicanery to humanity, as a whole.
To any young professional reading this, whether you are of African Descent or not, I will like to end this with a quote from Oprah Winfrey:
“The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.”
Whether you are of African Descent or not, I hope you will join us to change the narrative.
Dear reader, as always, I remain radically open-minded to your comments and suggestions, in any error, you find in my thoughts.