When Michael Jackson died, I stayed at home glued to the TV screen watching every video, interview
and footage that was available and airing on cable at that time. This signified the end of my childhood era and I wanted to connect with all those that were experiencing something similar to the loss I felt. I needed to belong with people that grew up in the era of Michael Jackson’s greatness. The period before the color and face changes, before the sexual abuse accusations and before he dangled Blanket over the balcony. In short, the time before the Pepsi commercial.
Weirdly for me at that time, all the TV channels kept repeating one sentence in varied ways the whole
weekend through. “People in Japan are tweeting that…”, “From tweets collected in Russia…”, “Twitter
polls indicate…” I had no clue what Twitter was and my only connection was the little boy from Jackson 5. Whatever was happening on Twitter, it had something to do with him and so I knew that that is where I belonged. My people that would understand my loss were there. I created my account and was welcomed by a world of grief, memories and solidarity. I was home.
After the mourning period, I stayed on. I walked through the streets of Twitter and realized how amazing it was to place thoughts on a canvas and have it colored in by complete strangers. People that you do not have to ask about their kids and spouses, people that will not feel offended when you do not greet them in the morning, essentially people that you do not need to have a superficial relationship with. I would not regard my relations on social media as deep, but because it is mostly free from subjective inter-personal issues, it allows me to tackle the actual topic with somebody rather than allowing my ego or theirs to tackle each others’ personalities. There are many important dimensions and realities that I discovered there. Trending topics change all the time, but I have finally found and followed those people that discuss topics essential to my personal growth.
My favorite topic has become Afrika (with a k.) Before Twitter, I identified with black life as being either that portrayed by Black Americans or African villagers in our rural areas. Everything in between was just floating around with no position of real reference for me. Ironically, being neither black in America or African in a village, I fell right into that place that I had ignorantly constructed myself. On Twitter I learned that I had not yet self-identified. I was just floating in a bubble that I had filled with my admiration of the heroic struggles by the likes of Malcolm X and Assata Shakur. My illusionary bubble also had space to fit in my respect of the African village women who I felt was dignified though her simplicity. I never identified with anybody’s fights as a collective struggle or thought that perhaps it could even include me. Wanting nothing for myself but mere existence, that is all I did; exist.
Then Twitter became the classroom where everybody could be a teacher. I learned so much about
racism, colorism, capitalism, patriarchy and how they all smoothly fit together to run the machinery
of our societies. I learned that my education system had deprived me of Captain Thomas Sankara,
the young president from Burkina Faso who was murdered in his first phase of wanting better for
Burkinabes and Africa in general. I learned that feminism is not just for angry, white lesbians that wear no bras, but also for black men. I realized that I may even be a Cabralista. Maybe I am a field nigger. At times I am also a teacher.
Whatever it is that I am transcending to, it brought on the dawn of realization that it is beneficiary to emancipate oneself from mental slavery and that this is not just something that sounds good in a Bob Marley track. I am now educating myself on my culture and taking this to rebuild myself. My heritage has grown from not just being Omuwambo in Namibia, but an African in the world with brothers and sisters on the rest of the continent and in the diaspora. I have learned that not everything is a conspiracy theory, but some events are really well calculated steps taken. I see now how many decisions we make and think are ours that are actually imposed upon us though media, education and doctrine. I believe that it can be different for us in and from Africa if we start thinking about our oppression instead of tolerating it. I have seen the beauty in our people, languages and music. I have witnessed the strength in unity and solidarity. I have known the slogan “Say it loud. I am black and I am proud.” Now I know that it is not just cool rhyming.
Twitter is not for everyone, but it makes for a good experience when you construct your environment
well. For some people it is still just Twitter. Some are not aware of their ignorance, others not of their privilege. Some may wonder what I am fussing about. Several just want entertainment and escape from everyday life. I just wanted comfort when I joined. Now I have decided to make use of the reservoir of knowledge and power shared by my people. I am reshaping my world. I try to know a little more, think a little better so I can live more meaningfully. I think I am headed there. Thank you
About the Author: Isidore Noel
My parents met in Libya, so I like to believe that I was made in
Libya. Part of my childhood was spent in a country that does not exists anymore, but whose
socioeconomic existence has influenced my idealistic thoughts in later years. Right now I
am a non-active Biologist with sociopolitical interests, especially in the African context.
Follow her @Nthugbaby