In the words of Chimamanda Adichie, “Stories matter. Many stories matter.”
I know the power of a good story in providing a complete narrative of the experiences of a people thereby birthing in us empathy, understanding, alliance and ultimately, a desire to empower others. In the same way, a warped or incomplete information can dispossess people of their humanness, leaving us rather entitled and insensitive.
To commemorate the 2022 Black History month, I stocked up my digital library with a bunch of highly recommended books by Black writers, including Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and have started working my way through the list.
By reason of my African descent, I proudly identify as a Black woman. Reading from Maya, for instance, has been really enlightening. I am beginning to understand the experiences of the racialized African-Americans in the not-too-distant past – the unfair segregation, deprivation, and dehumanization they had as a way of life.
While one may typically prefer other genres or storylines that offer comedy and happy endings, I would highly recommend that we sometimes push beyond our comfort zones and read, watch or listen to other materials that provide stories from multiple perspectives.
Movies, documentaries, and books about the history of Blacks, indigenous people, and other racialized people are good for the soul, irrespective of your background, age, or social class. They may grate you like the harsh, sour taste of sprinkled lemon juice on peppered, barbecue croaker fish but those who have enjoyed that delicacy will agree that it is in fact the best way to enjoy your barbecue. 🤤😋
In the same way, these many stories will make you develop empathy for your Black neighbor. They will help you understand their outbursts or seeming detest for any semblance of discrimination. Stories will stir you towards becoming an ally for your Black colleagues. They will lead you to utilize your authority and privileges to empower the Black fellow in your charge as you understand how much has been taken from them.
Secondly, I would like to encourage my readers to tell their stories. Stories matter, and in telling them, we preserve our experiences for posterity. It is the way that we capture the picture of our history and frame it in the hearts of our children and theirs.
My father used to tell my siblings and I about his experience of the Nigerian Civil War (or as most people from South-Eastern Nigeria prefer to call it, the Biafra War). My father would sit us down in the cool evening after dinner, and say, “Let me tell you about the war.” As a result of this, I now have a rich, second-hand experience of the Biafra War.
Stories are useful tools for gathering intelligence from history so as to recreate or modify the past. Although a few times, the stories may be tainted with emotions or personal biases, I daresay that it trumps living with the bland image of incomplete, faux-comfortable history. I hope that in this case, you choose colour over monochrome, progressive over comfortable, and a multi-dimensional story over a single perspective. ❤️