Cultural Appropriation is somewhat a mystery to me. As a Black British man, born to Nigerian parents both exquisitely dark in complexion, I find the fact that there are people in this world who purposely choose to aggressively leech a particular culture for reasons I could only describe as monetarily driven, absolutely baffling. What shocks me even more is that some of these vultures steal from cultures they don’t particularly like, nor have a mutual respect or even affection for. It must be said that not all Appropriation is harmful, however negative Cultural Appropriation is essentially an arrogance that is birthed from racial supremacy. It’s a pompous mindset, which carries the belief that one race can pick and choose elements of another race for its own greedy desires and gain.
Sadly, this dispensation has created cultural monsters, who rather strangely have been given a public platform to further showcase and support their madness. An example of this is Rachel Dolezal, a former civil rights activist who is a Caucasian female. Rachel has chosen to identify as a black woman even though both her parents are white. Dear Rachel has told the world that although she could never completely understand the struggles black people had to face and still do face in society today, she still earnestly believes she’s a black female and has chosen to identify this as her race because she’s always had a deep affection for our culture.
Should I now identify as a Chinese man because I have a deep love for a hong king style sweet & sour chicken meal? Do I change my ethnicity on the forms that I sign to Indian because I devour a curry every Friday night? Furthermore, even If i one day wake up and come to the conclusion that I want to be classified as another race, do I now automatically understand the obstacles that race has faced over several centuries, in a matter of months? To think as such would be a massive insult to that culture regardless of how genuine my feelings are.
“Racism does not have a good track record. It’s been tried out for a long time and you’d think by now we’d want to put an end to it instead of putting it under new management. ”
― Thomas Sowell
The idea that race can be considered “trans” is a clear example that our world has taken a huge step backwards in the fight against racism. Race is not merely a social construct designed to keep us locked to governmental boundaries, it is actually a part of our very DNA and an important part of the makeup of our genes. It helps us identify who we are and provides us with a sense of belonging but it was never intended as a method to measure which race is greater. Our ethnicity doesn’t give us supremacy over one another, but rather the ability to celebrate and honour the culture we have been birthed into, and whether you believe it or not, it is not something that you have a choice about, you simply have to just accept this extremely basic concept.
Accepting established concepts is almost unheard of in our day and age. Society has chosen to challenge nearly every stem of belief without any substantial evidence to disprove that particular idealism and rather than take time to actually study and understand why this concept exists in the first place, they choose to base their entire argument on emotion and sensationalism. Challenging the status quo is not a bad thing but without balance we can easily fall into the trap of throwing the baby out with the bath water and failing to realise there are things that have been tried and tested for a reason.
Nevertheless, the main reason for my sadness and ultimately anger is that In the year 2017 black men and women are being forced to demonstrate to the world that we are in fact human beings. We’re constantly being asked to show and prove that we feel, love and hurt like everyone else, in an effort to prove the myth that black people, because of the colour of their skin are somewhat different to every other race.
Black people are not a commodity. We are not prizes you win at a raffle, nor are we trophies to be placed on a mantle place. We are not mutants that are to be hunted and caged, neither are we experiments to be dissected and discovered. We are not subjects of inspiration porn, paraded across social media to be commend on how good we are at being human. We breathe the same air, bleed the same blood and produce the same secretion as other homo sapiens. We don’t desire documentaries to be produced to further explain our incredible abilities and we don’t need countless think pieces to break down the majesty of our sacred ethnicity. We do not march on the streets screaming ‘black lives matter’ because we just want to make a scene. We’re not in search of special treatment but rather equal rights. The fact we choose to make a stand at any given moment is not because we haven’t moved on from past atrocities, it’s because we are still fighting for the very basic necessity of life itself, and that is equality. Our women don’t need to be quieter and our men don’t need to be more effeminate so that we will finally be accepted. Black people just need to be treated like everyone else, and although you might that is such a simple notion, it is an extremely rare thing to see nowadays.
It’s clear to me that there are people in our society who are somewhat trying to make amends for the injustice black people were subjected to during the years of slavery and while there are some who do not intend to offend they have unfortunately done so in the process. Being black has now become a fashion statement and quite frankly it is painful to watch. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t what the majority wants, in fact, our ‘demands’ are actually rather simple. We want to be seen in the same light as every other ethnical member on this planet. We want the same opportunities as our neighbour next door. We want our culture to be celebrated just as much as another, no more and no less. Rachel, as well as countless others are part of the problem, and while in their mind they make think they are somehow helping, they are literally making the situation worse. If you see yourself adopting any aspect of this mindset, please stop and think about the damage you could be doing.
Thankfully, the remedy for this disease is quite straightforward. Simply take a moment to consider how dangerous it is to entertain such thoughts, think first before you open your mouth and most importantly stop trying so hard.
Respect and love us not because we’re black but because we are human, just like you.
Words by db
The 5th of March 1944, the birthdate of my father also known as my hero; ironically born during the second World War. The 17th of September 2011 is another date I couldn’t forgot even if I tried as it is where I was for the first time in my existence, completely broken and unashamedly vulnerable. Without sounding over dramatic it’s probably the point in my life where I became emotionally unstable, but I’ll leave that for another post. September this year would be roughly six years since he passed away but the pain still remains even in that length of time.
Whenever I am reminded of my father, I automatically stop and think about where I am currently and if my father would be proud of the man I have become. Would my dad look at me now and be proud? Would he approve? Would he say, you did alright for yourself or would he be disappointed with the choices I have made? It’s funny how one memorable day can make you stop and think about your entire life.
What is somewhat remarkable to me is that when my dad was alive I wasn’t really concerned with this concept of pleasing him. Our early years weren’t your typical father & son relationship, albeit I loved my dad and he loved me, I still felt so distant from him. A majority of older Nigerian fathers tend to take this iron fist approach when it comes parenthood, and although my dad’s disciplinary methods were ‘light work’ when compared to what my older siblings received, I never felt as close as I would have liked with my father.
What may be surprising to hear is my Dad’s shortcomings were one of the reasons I loved him very much. Yes, he certainly made mistakes, but this simply showed the humanity that is apart of every single one of us. He did all he could to recompense even in his fraility, and it’s a lesson I could never forget nor dismiss. Furthermore, the fact my father would slave away at his job to provide for his eight children; and several ‘outsiders’ on countless occasions, had a huge impact on how I provide for my own family.
The stark reality is that the pain of losing a loved one is a devastating emotion regardless of the past. People find different ways of dealing with it, either letting it consume them or over time finding healing in the process.
The question remains as to what brought on this sudden epiphany? Probably, because I regularly ask myself if there is anything I could change right now to make my dad proud of me? When I evaluate my life, without fail I ponder if there is something I could do differently that if he were here, it would make him somewhat happy with my life? The truth is no matter how I feel, I will always be thankful for the memories of my father that I hold dear. Memories of a loving father who only ever wanted the best for me, and was proud of what I achieved even if I thought those achievements were worthless.
This emotional rollercoaster simply brought me to a very simply realisation. I’m a son in desperate need of my father.
I know he had to go, I completely understand it was his time but that still doesn’t change the fact that right now, I need my dad more than ever before. I just need to hear him say everything is going to be alright, you are going to make it and I’m with you every step of the way. I would give anything and everything to hear his voice again, just to hear him tell me I’m on the right track, that yes it is hard and you will face some incredible struggles but somehow you are going to overcome.
Even after death and separation it doesn’t change the fact that a son will always need the embrace of a loving father.
I can’t change my past, but I can certainly impact my future with the decisions I make in the present. It’s clear I need to allow my pain to make me a better person, not letting my regrets taint the moments I cherished with my father and I must refuse to let my so-called disappointments hinder me from achieving my goals and making those around me proud.
R.I.P – Joel Adewole Oluwatobi
05.03.44 – 17.09.11
Words by db
It may come as a surprise to know that Rosa Parks’ infamous stand for the deep injustice African-Americans faced in the 50s was not a predetermined action. Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on that bus because she knew her basic human rights were being violated and she could not let such a common act at the time, continue any longer.
Rosa Parks taught us to never be ashamed for taking a stand. Her resilience is a testament to her incredible character and her beautiful humility shown in her stance for African-Americans.
Rosa Parks’ act in 1955 initiated the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott, the non violent approach that was heavily used by the civil rights movement. She was hailed a heroine and was written into the history books as a woman who fought for equal rights for all human beings, regardless of the colour of their skin.
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
– Rosa Parks
Words by db
Nina Simone was a catalyst for the countercultural era of music in the 1960s and 1970s.
Simone was one of the first black musicians to include controversial issues such as racism and the civil war amongst black and white Americans in her music as well her live performances. Nina used her art as the voice of reason in a time where African-Americans were being persecuted because of the colour of their skin.
Simone was an activist equipped with music as her preferred weapon of choice during a period where violence was a common occurrence. She was not only an accomplished pianist; classically trained in musicianship and composition but was also gifted with an incredible ability to portray the suffering of black people in song form.
Nina was not ashamed to stand up for what she believed in and she stood on the frontline, fighting for an injustice that had been accepted for far too long.
“I had spent many years pursuing excellence, because that is what classical music is all about… Now it was dedicated to freedom, and that was far more important.”
– Nina Simone
I’ve been a Christian for over 12 years, if I was to do a rough calculation that would equal to hearing over 2000 sermons, answering over a 1000 altar calls and attending over 1500 church programmes. I would therefore think it’s safe to say that I’ve heard enough versions of God to last me a lifetime.
For the past 4 years I’ve battled between having a genuine relationship with God and simply being an individual with a religious affiliation to an institution. When I became a Christian for the first time, I was completely engrossed in the God that was on display as well as being completely consumed by church activity and ministry. This certainly was not a bad thing because I found that a busy Christian has less time to be consumed by that which “the world” has to offer, however, my desire to be busy meant I had no time for the very same thing I thought I was consumed by.
What I knew of God as a young man was very simply ‘work for me and I’ll be good to you’. This particular blueprint became a way of life for me, and while of course I heard on countless occasions that there is nothing i could do to make God love me, I saw the total opposite in my Christian walk.
As I grew, my idealisms became warped. I felt as though all of my sins, mistakes and transgressions were apparent because I wasn’t a “good enough” Christian, and that I wasn’t doing enough to resist temptations. This in turn caused me to try and do more to be better, but it just created a dangerous cycle. It also caused me to somewhat resent God because it became apparent to me that no matter how much I tried and how much I did, I was still well and truly flawed.
Religion became almost a drug for me. I saw the work I was doing as a relief for my misdemeanours. If I did enough then this God I had formed would truly love me. Religion moulded the God I served, and duty created this idea that if you’re not doing something then you are useless for God as well as the kingdom.
As a young Christian I became very legalistic in my ways. I judged men and women for how they looked, what they wore and how they spoke. I deemed myself a judge, making the final conclusion on an individual as to whether they were truly saved. Religion was the disease while I thought it was the cure. Sadly, this was “the standard” I saw in church culture.
The religion I speak of isn’t that which the bible well and truly certifies. The religion I’m referring to is Pharisee to the core while being clothed in garments Jesus would wear. It’s telling a man you can be saved but only if you become like one of us. It’s conditional love based on how much you do for the purpose of the kingdom. And to be frank, it is what I and many Christians thrived on.
Religion looks down on others without a care of their story or past. It is pure arrogance clothed in a perceived holiness. It tells you to ‘Come as you are’, but change whom God has made you to be.
This past year I well and truly broke up with religion. I ended a relationship that was damaging my heart and soul. To be honest It was the best decision I had made in a very long time.
The problem is we can never find a balance between religion and a genuine relationship as somewhere along the way we tend to lean to one extreme. The lines are blurred and we will either become rigid in our concepts or be totally captivated by intimacy with God without realising the need to serve those around us.
So what does this breakup entail? It’s learning to know God from a biblical perspective, having assurance that God does and always will love you regardless of what you’ve done or what you will do, and it’s not basing your concept of God solely on the words of mere men.
2016 for me was the death of the institutional creature that was bound to a mindset that service breeds salvation. This is not to say a man will not serve in any capacity but rather you serve because of God not in spite of him. This death also means we look on our fellow humans through eyes of love, seeing that every man and woman no matter how far gone they may be can well and truly know God as well as be loved by him.
Unfortunately, the church world has created a communistic approach to the Gospel. Wanting to keep the good news enclosed, and only given to a select few that live up to the criteria that they have set. All the while completely forgetting that we were grafted into this great love because we were once outsiders.
I had to come to the realisation that someone may not serve God the same way I do, or worship the way I do or even speak about Christ the way I do but that’s absolutely ok because we are all made differently. They may not dress the way an organisation does, or pray the way a body of believers has been taught but that does not make them any less of a Christian and to think as such is to miss the entire point of why we are saved in the first place.
For me, the most important lesson I learnt is to treat everyone the same whether they do or don’t know God. My job isn’t to scream Jesus down their throat but love them as if they were my own family, all the while still telling them about the goodness of God.
I eventually dropped the charade and stopped pretending to be someone I was not. I cut out the “This is how a real Christian should speak” malarkey and decided I wasn’t going to follow a man-made concept of Christianity. (Man-made = A man’s version of Christianity that neglect’s a genuine biblical foundation)
Most importantly, Jesus found me.
“He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.”
– C.S. Lewis
Do I struggle? Absolutely
Am I perfect? Not in the slightest
Do i have questions? Many
Do I hate the church? Certainly not
But regardless of the above I know God loves me, even at this point in my life when I’m trying to find who I am, that is the only assurance I have, that I am loved by the one that gave his life for me.
So in a nutshell, this is my breakup letter with religion. It’s been an interesting journey, but may we never cross paths again.
Words by Daniel (db)
For those that may not know the story. My son Joel was born prematurely at 29 weeks on the 13th October 2016, while we were on a family Holiday in Portugal.
He has been resuscitated, had a life-saving operation, and battled all sorts of health issues in the space of 2 months.
My wife had to nurse her sick son as a stranger in a foreign country for nearly 3 months, while being away from her family including her only daughter.
However, today we have received the greatest gift of 2016. It is the day my wife and I have been waiting for.
I am pleased to announce that our son Joel has finally been discharged from the hospital!
My prince is finally well enough to go home. It is a Christmas miracle.
Joel can spend his first Christmas with his family.
God is just too Good!
My wife and I would like to thank everyone single person that sent us a donation, texted us encouragement and prayed for Joel while he was in hospital. Not once did we lack while being here in Lisbon, so from the bottom of our hearts we are eternally grateful for all you’ve done.
God is real and has been so faithful to us.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Love from, the Oluwatobi Family
The beauty of hope is that it allows us to hold onto to something greater than our current problems. Hope, whether large or small in dose can keep the faintest of hearts beating. Hope can change the outlook of an entire situation in but a moment. However, at times, with hope, can also follow bitter disappointment. When you are face to face with a bleak circumstance and the hope you had has been shattered, it can cause doubt to run wild in your mind.
Since the birth of our son, although we’ve certainly faced some very testing times, we have always clung unto the fact that Joel was getting better, but due to recent events we were forced to face a period that in turn meant we had to be strong regardless of what we were being told and what we were seeing.
When I left Lisbon to go back to London due to work, Joel was doing remarkably well. He was no longer on the ventilator, drinking milk via a tube and was growing at a surprising but positive rate. And then came the relapse. Within 24 hours of being home, the bad reports came in like a flood. Without going into much detail, Joel had to go back on the ventilator, and was really struggling to breathe. With Joel being born prematurely, it’s very easy to forget that he should actually still be in his mother’s womb. He’s being asked to work harder than he was supposed to. Although we understood this fact, it was hard for us as his parents to comprehend.
The next three weeks were very difficult for us because Joel was using every ounce of his strength to stay alive. Although my wife had great support from my mum and eventually my sister whom stayed with her, the reality is, the fight can be very lonely, and only God kept her through such a horrific time.
Before I continue, I must make mention of my Mrs, she’s a bloody rock. Being forced to live in a strange country away from your family and friends would cause most people to go crazy but she remained strong, even when it became overwhelming. That kind of woman is notinstantaneously found, but formed and shaped through adversity. I as well as Kayla and Joel are blessed to have her in our lives.
I felt helpless. While my family is in another country, I’m stuck here in freezing South East London trying to calm down a patient who does not speak English, that’s had their surgery cancelled…twice. I was losing it to be totally honest. I tried to distract myself but all I kept thinking was why the hell am I here and not in Lisbon.
This might sound really strange but for a moment I actually resented hope. I felt that having hope was actually a bad thing. The relapse was not only a setback for Joel but also my mindset as well.
I learned you can’t depend on hope in times like this, you have to depend solely on God alone. God, whom evidently is the author of hope, is truly unfailing. I stressed and panicked but I kept hold of God, even if it wasn’t a great amount.
Joel eventually turned a corner, a good one. The issue miraculously resolved and he went from strength to strength. Joel keeps showing his Dad that you have no excuses, if I can keep on fighting then so can you. Ironically, my father whom I lost to cancer 5 years ago had the exact same mentality. Naming him after my old man was certainly no coincidence.
I’m sure In times like these, there are people that would certainly make the claim that they would just keep on trusting God without any doubts, but I have to be real, when you’re faced with hell, you don’t know what is always the best response. Yes, you trust God but sometimes, your faith becomes so unstable based on what you see in front of you. Hearing my wife tell me some of the things Joel faced devastated me. However, the fact that he was resolute also helped me to keep hold of my faith.
My son had succumb to a relapse that was very hard to bear, but this is a picture of real life. When you face an obstacle that forces you to take a step back it can also help you to take several steps forward in the right direction.
Joel is doing really well and is now off the ventilator again, the kid just refuses to give up, just like his grandad.
Written by Daniel (db)
I mentioned in my last post that we have moved homes six times since we first arrived In Portugal. Well ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce that we have moved to our seventh and final home here in Lisbon. Let me explain in further detail.
When the birth of our son took place, we were initially told that there may be a place for us to stay near the hospital. This particular place is known as ‘The Ronald MacDonald House’ (Check Google, it is real, trust me). It is purpose built for parents whose kids are receiving any sort of hospital treatment or care. In a nutshell, it is free accommodation for mothers & fathers with unwell babies.
Now we were so ecstatic when we heard about this place, only to be told, to our disappointment, that it is only for Portuguese Residents. So in a step of faith (although, you could easily file this under panic and sheer desperation), I sent a rather wordy email to the head of the organisation, pleading with them to please make an exception due to our unique circumstance, and guess what…They did.
Although it took just over four weeks, we finally got a place to stay. It was more then we could ask for. Needless to say God came through, right in the nick of time.
I told you that story just to let you know that God is real. That to some might sound very basic & cliche but when you’re faced with an impossible situation, it’s very difficult to see this real God in your real dilemma. We may not always see a physical sign, but tales such as this are evidence that he is working on our behalf.
I wanted to tell you a brief but tragic story about this particular woman I met in this house that is now our permanent abode in Lisbon.
This pleasant woman (We’ll call her Maria) had been trying to bear children for over five years with her husband. They tried all sorts of methods, some very expensive, but unfortunately not one of them was successful. Eventually, to her surprise, she became pregnant, with twins. A joyous occasion indeed.
Originally from France, she decided to take a little trip to Portugal to visit her in-laws. She was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. On the very day she was meant to return home, she went into labour. She gave birth to a baby boy & girl at 24 weeks. Subsequently, the little boy had several health problems, particularly related to his lungs. However, the little girl had severe liver complications and sadly died shortly after birth. Maria has resided in Portugal since early September. Her son survived but has quite a long way to go in terms of recovery.
What surprised me the most about Maria was her outlook on life. She refused to blame the circumstances, in fact she would not let them define her son’s future.
One of the things that plays on your mind at a time like this is ‘What could you have done to prevent this?’ And the answer is…nothing.
Life happens, and Maria’s story in some way teaches us that there are some things that are well and truly out of your control. You can either sit there and wallow in self-pity or you can wipe the tears and play the cards life has dealt. However, you must never forget, regardless of what life dishes out, He will never leave you nor forsake you. A lesson I’m learning, up close and personal.
Written by Daniel (db)