Siphiwe Online
Posted on 20/10/2016 by S'phiwe on Inspires me

Wow, how do you move your ears like Mr Bean?!?

You know that thing that black people do in queues where they ask to leave the queue and you must hold their place in the queue and not only let them in when they come back, you must defend them against those potential protesters who were not there when they left? You know it ne? They do it like how parking attendants greet you and if you greet back, you promise to give a tip when you come back. In the queue situation, you agree by merely being aware of that request and sometimes it’s nonverbal.

If you’re like me and you shrug and give them that “I don’t know man, it’s not up to me to let you in later” sort of look, they outwit you by looking away just before you say anything, at which point you can’t unknow the fact that they were here and by virtue of such knowledge, you shall have agreed to be their witness (or is it accomplice?) when they come back to reclaim their place.

Let’s say it’s an ATM queue. What you might not know is that they might be going to join the next ATM queue and if it’s quicker, they won’t come back and so you might stand there dreading the awkwardness of their return only to find that they’re not coming back and if you are the type that might look around for them before finally using the ATM, you might be confused to find them disguised in an unrecognisable expression that makes it look like you’re trying to snatch their bag or something.

In the case of the parking attendant, there’s no escaping #theReturnBaba — not unless there’s a white woman with a grocery trolley also heading towards her car. Parking attendant joyfully runs to help her and if you look at him long enough, you might catch him giving you a glimpse of his poignant guilt trip send-off expression that somewhat says “I’m disappointed in you my African brother” or “nc nc nc, black people don’t tip!” At that point, of course, you give him a counter-look that says “….just because she’s white… SMH” as if you were planning to tip him.

Another thing that comes to mind is how, when a black person posts a check-in from some nice place and the supposed friends comment with “wangishiya vele!?!?! (You seriously left me behind?!?!)” At that point, the checker-in must apologize or explain that it was an unplanned trip and/or promise to take them with next time. This bit is like when the beggar at the traffic light approaches you with his sorriest facial expression and you’re quietly scared that he might actually smash your window just to spite you if you’re nasty so you act calm and say “ah, next time bozzah!” and he invites you to do a fist bump like you’re old buddies and it seems that only then does the traffic light actually turn green.

This is also like when you start a business and black people support you like this:  “Wow! Wow! Amazing! ” but they don’t buy. Tumi from Botle Fela Creations, one of Afroswag‘s designers, recently said she’s had to deal with people who even ask how she makes jewellery as if it’s a kid asking her friend how she does that trick of moving her ears like Mr Bean. Like, it doesn’t occur to them that they could actually just buy her stuff. Woolies was not built in a day and it certainly wasn’t built by black people. Tumi spends sleepless nights crafting gorgeous accessories and doing all kinds of stuff she’d rather not be doing but she’s committed to building a brand…. Oh well!

So my friends, you might know that I undertook to work with black entrepreneurs and so I created afroswag.com, where you can buy African inspired handmade apparel and accessories from a growing number of independent designers. When you place an order, it’s fetched from the entrepreneur and delivered to you. If you say “WOW!! WOWW!!” it’s really affirming but let me tell you something that might not be obvious. Akere not all of us are entrepreneurs so it’s not necessarily obvious how you can make a difference.

  1. It’s truly encouraging when people appreciate an entrepreneur’s products/services,
  2. The ultimate compliment to an entrepreneur is placing an order,
  3. Please give authentic feedback regarding what can be improved, etc

These men and women are also employers and they create awesome stuff. i hope this grows into an initiative that will make a real difference in our people’s lives but beyond making money, I hope that other stuff that matters only to black people can find voice somewhere in this vehicle, like sponsoring sanitary pads for school kids in partnership with Women of Power and whatever other initiatives you might suggest. I’d like to think that our communities can run their own upliftment projects without external assistance. Here, as well, we hope to make material difference in people’s lives, over and above “WOW! God bless you!” and so on. For the record, I certainly value encouragement in any form. I really do get chuffed when people say “WOW” but I also feel a sense of accountability towards growing entrepreneurs and mobilizing our community to lift itself up by the bootstraps.  I hope we get it right

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