Thank you!

Every time I find a blog that I'm drawn to visit often, it's like meeting a new friend. I think the same is true when someone subscribe to my blog. So, I want to take the opportunity to Hello to all the new subscribers. Hello to everyone who has joined us here and via Tumblr. Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment from time to time. I know that commenting on someone's post is hard. You want to say something more substantive than "Nice Post!" and more thoughtful than "I was just thinking the same thing!". So, thank you for your words of encouragement and your comments on the posts.

And to everyone else who's been here since the beginning, a big thank you! (I sound like a host wrapping up a show, haha.) You're awesome.

I had a chance to meet up with the lovely Akhila of Justice for All for the first time,  last week. We had a great time at a Korean restaurant in DC, discussing everything from Korean Drama to arranged marriages. It was awesome.

If you ever think of a person, place or blog that you would like to nominate for any of the series here, please feel free to do so.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Picture courtesy of woodleywonderworks

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What you, I mean I, will be doing this weekend

I don't normally post during the weekend, but this is worth breaking a habit over.

Reel African. Have you seen it? Have you heard about it? African movies, series and documentaries all in one place. I watched Life and Living It yesterday. I liked it. (Don't you just love my very detailed review?)

Most of the movies and series are in English. I think the next step should be including more Francophone and Lusophone selections, complete with subtitles. How awesome would that be, right?

As if I needed anything else to aid my hermit tendencies.

Have a great weekend, everyone! You may blame me if you spend this weekend parked in front of your computer, with a bowl of popcorn.

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Music Spot: Inna Modja

This week, we're moving from the North to the West, but still in the francophone world. Inna Modja takes this week's music spot. 2 videos this time because this week was especially long. Am I the only one who feels that way? 

Inna Modja

Name: Inna Bocoum

Hyphen: Malian-French

Song: Let's Go To Bamako

Nostalgic song? No doubt. Inna sings both in French and English. She's also a model. That's as much as I'm going to do as a bio. Find out more about the artist on her  page. She's super-plugged into Social Media.

Have a great weekend!

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Pictures are worth a thousand words

AYA

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Behind the words: Afri-love

Lulu's blog is one of my recent discoveries and I must say, it was "blog crush" at first. Her About page alone had me nodding my head. When I wasn't being taken in by all the pretty pictures and photographs, I was captivated by her series, especially the interviews and all the goodies under the tag "Country-Specific". I decided that I needed to know more about the lady behind this gorgeous blog. So, here is Lulu in her own words.

1. What made you decide to start blogging? 

I've always enjoyed writing and sharing my thoughts and flights of fancy. When I was younger I would create these handmade 'zines. I'd write stories on a typewriter at my Dad's office, draw pictures, cut and paste everything and give photocopies to my friends. Soon after I finished university (I had embraced computers and this amazing thing called the internet by then), I discovered these really interesting blogs that I would go to every morning, before doing anything else. It was the thing I looked forward to most and it just made sense that I should create one for myself. That's how my first blog Pandemonium Today (http://pandemoniumtoday.blogspot.com/) started.

2.  Where did the name of your blog come from?

My main blog at the moment, Afri-love, is inspired by one of my great passions – the continent I come from. I was born and raised in Kenya but have not lived there since I was 18. In my experience living in other people's countries, I have come more and more attached to home. I've had the opportunity to meet people from almost all of the countries on the continent and have learned much from these encounters about their different cultures, experiences and so on. The thing that has always struck me though is, there is much we share. And I'm talking about beautiful, positive, inspiring things. I knew that this is what I wanted the blog to explore and I wanted a simple name that captured this. Hence: Afri-love.

3. What do you write about?

Self – how everything starts with the self. I strongly believe that we can't make effective change externally until we get ourselves in order first.

Passion – I dream of a world where the majority of us are doing what we love. I try to showcase people who are successfully doing just that, in an attempt to inspire more people to look fear in the eye and follow their dreams. I try to be an example of that myself and I share my, sometimes challenging, journey.

Creativity – as a creative professional you may say that I'm biased but, another strong belief of mine is in the power that creativity has to effect positive change. Along with showcasing creative work that I like and find inspiring (whether that be art, music, design etc.), I share stories of how creativity and imagination are creating a positive impact in people's lives.

Essentially, my blog is about change. Creating the lives we want. So it starts with being proud of who you are, appreciating all that comes with that, being inspired by the good and taking all of that to create the life you dream about. If each of us focused on just that, the collective effect would be grand. The collective would inevitably be transformed as a result – our families, our communities, our institutions, our countries … our continent…

Fellow blogger, MsAfropolitan, said it best when she described Afri-love as a blog about Africa's modernity on its own terms. That's exactly it and on all levels. Each of us living our lives on our own terms – not chasing expectations that were imposed on us (by our parents, by our societies, by foreign countries and so one).

4. Tell us a little bit about your cultural background. 

I was born in Kenya to a Kenyan father and Tanzanian mother. I lived in Kenya until I was 18 and most of my immediate family still lives there so, when I talk about "home," that's what I'm referring to. Everywhere else I've lived has just felt like an extended visit.

5. How do your experiences and your cultural background impact the way you view the world?

After living in the US and now in the UK, I am very grateful for  the fact that I grew up in a place where the majority of people look like me. When it comes to dreaming and ambition, it's harder for me to make excuses that have to do with the colour of my skin.

I spent a lot of time as a child at my grandparent's farm in Tanzania and with my grandparents in rural Kenya. I realise now as an adult, how this inspired a love and appreciation for nature and the joy that can be found in simple things.

My father is a staunch patriot and I think that a lot of it has rubbed off on me. I am extremely proud of where I come from and can get very defensive about it! He also instilled with me this work ethic and self-reliance that has me believing that I have the power to create the life I choose.

6.  In your opinion, what does it mean to be a woman today? 

It's a good time to be a woman (for example, it's apparently quite easy to get loans if you're a female business owner in Kenya). Seriously, when I talk to my mother and think about the opportunities that were open to her and to the generations of women before her, I feel really blessed. There are fewer people second-guessing you because you are a woman and those who are have to do it under guises because it's less and less socially acceptable. You can dream knowing that there is probably no real reason for anyone to prevent you from achieving what you want, because of your gender. You may still have to fight a little harder but I think, as women, we have that strength inbuilt (contrary to what they would have us believe about ourselves). I personally have never felt that I cannot do something because I am a woman – I have only been limited by my own fears and perhaps, by caring a little too much about what other people think.

Going back to my mother and grandmother, they have been such amazing examples because, despite the barriers they experienced, their strength, resourcefulness, joy and compassion are worth emulating today and always. And the so-called "soft" attributes given women are part and parcel of what makes us so phenomenal.

7. Finally, If someone asked you to recommend some music, what would you say? What are 2 songs you just can’t help replaying these days?

Difficult question! I love "Kelewele Pimpin'" on M3NSA's album No. 1 Mango Street (not that I fully understand the cultural references – can anyone enlighten me on what kelewele pimpin is? Lol!). In fact, I've been replaying the whole album for months now – it doesn't get old. I'm also really enjoying "Dont' Go" by English rapper Wretch 32.

[Kelewele Pimpin' is swagger, West African style? lol. Anyway, what a fun song!]

[Great video!]

Thank you for the interview, Lulu! We had fun getting to know the person "behind the words", a little more.

Pictures courtesy of Afri-love

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Worth Mentioning: (About) Street King

Yolanda wrote yesterday about 50 Cent and his new philanthropic endeavor. Feed one billion Africans. The question was about what we thought of this new "project" that involves us buying his new energy drink? I thought of answering as a comment. Then, I decided to turn it into a post. So, here we go.

I'm a fan of TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, Out of Print Clothing and the general one-for-one give-back business model. I like when people come up with creative ways to solve a problem. So, a part of me after watching the video and reading about the initiative went, "hmm...okay.  A lot of people are currently dying of hunger in the Horn of Africa. Plus, 50 Cent looks quite vulnerable and honest in that video. So, this effort should be applauded...but hold on". I think the one-for-one business model works well when it's things like books or glasses, but when it's about food, something that makes a difference between life and death, I start asking questions. Why is profit tied into this? What if we decide we don't want to purchase the energy drink? Do people still get fed? Why not just encourage people to donate to the organizations on the ground right now distributing food? I know, I know, the money might just get that tied in their bureaucratic blah blah blah...I get it, I get it.

Here's a better idea, though. On something completely un-related to hunger. If a celebrity were to ask me about one idea that would really make an impact, here's what I would suggest:One of the biggest problems facing a lot of African countries (like many countries elsewhere) is Unemployment. Especially Youth Unemployment. Many times, a lot of young people have ideas but they don’t have the capital to get it started, or the know-how to build something up, manage it and make it grow.

You want to make a difference, Mr/Mrs. Celebrity? You (help) organize a business/entrepreneurship contest, either at one university or on a national level for young people. This is about "the next big idea". You choose the best ideas you see. You pair them with business people as mentors. You could (i mean, should) even serve as a mentor, since your brand is essentially a business and you're a celebrity, so naturally young people feel like you understand them.

You help them write a business plan. You help them secure capital. Or you work with an organization that does that. You build relationships with them and you stay in touch with them about how their business is evolving. You advise them through challenges. You make a catch to this help that you're providing. As their business grows, they have to give back to their communities, in one form or another. If this works, you take it to another country and do the same thing. You multiply your influence, you multiply your impact.

But the results aren't as quick as getting food in the plates of one billion Africans though. It's not as sexy either. It's definitely not as sexy.

That's my two-cent on that. Yep, it's a bad pun.

P.S. This is not just for 50 Cent, but to all non-Africans who do this. When you mention something about Africa, say what part of Africa you're talking about. Which country? Which region? Just saying "Africa" doesn't create a picture we can see in our heads. Are we supposed to picture villages or skyscrapers? Hotel rooms or hospital beds? Just saying "Africa" creates this overly vague image in your listeners'minds about the continent and it's so 2000-and late. So, stop it!- The Management

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My daughter will be a doctah!

This week's question is inspired by a recent conversation with some friends. It was about what we want to do with our lives, career-wise. Okay, it was more about how we have no idea what we want to do with our lives and what our immigrant parents think about that. Consensus: They are HORRIFIED! All parents probably feel the same way, but we have experience with immigrant parents, so we're going to go with that.

So, here's the question. What is the career path that would most horrify your immigrant parents, if you bring it up at the dinner table?

For me, it would be telling them that I want to become a cab-driver for 10 years and then, I'm going to write a book about it. Guaranteed "horrification" will ensue.

By the way, in case you haven't seen this video, it's where the post title comes from.

Picture courtesy of robnguyen01

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Music Spot: Zaho

I pretty much have a girl crush on Zaho. I love her style and her content. There's something about her music that stays with me, long after I'm done listening to it. Zaho takes the Music Spot this week.

Zaho

Name: Zehira Darabid
Hyphen: Algerian-Canadian
Song: Kif n Dir

 

Kif n Dir translates to something similar to "What should I do?" A good song about longing for a place and time yet knowing you can't go back.
More info provided by Museke.

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Behind the words: Justice For All

Akhila is one of the first bloggers I followed closely, when I started blogging. I was fascinated by the way she wrote about issues in International Development, Social Change and life as a college student transitioning in the "real world".

We're meeting up this coming week and I'm as nervous as if it were a blind date. What should I wear? What will we talk about? What if we don't find anything to talk about? What if? What if? Enough of my rambling. Here is Akhila in her own words.

1. What made you decide to start blogging?

I’ve been on the Internet from a very young age. Being an only child with working parents, I was alone at home starting in middle school. I started dabbling with web design at that age, and also fell in love with writing – especially poetry, fiction, and journaling. Blogging proved to be the perfect combination of both writing and webdesign, and allowed me to harness my creativity starting at a young age. I began blogging early on under platforms like Geocities, Livejournal and Xanga (remember those days?!). 

I decided to foray into more “professional” writing during my junior year in college, when I began studying abroad at the London School of Economics. Then, I started a personal blog to document my travels throughout England and Europe. I had an amazing time and enjoyed writing about my travels, but also started wanting to branch out and write about things I was learning related to politics and social change. Around that time, I also stumbled upon Penelope Trunk’s blog, and was intrigued by her talk about personal branding for young 20-somethings. After delving a bit further into writing more opinionated blog posts, I decided I loved it and took the leap into purchasing my own domain name so I could write about serious issues that I cared about. Now, years later, I look back and realize that the “personal branding” fad has its own downsides. But I am glad I took the leap to start this blog!

2. Where did the name of your blog come from?

The name of my blog, “Justice for All” just comes from my passion for social justice and human rights issues. However, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t completely like the name as it sounds a bit cliche. But I think it does very much encapsulate the message I am trying to impart through my blog.

3. What do you write about?

I write about human rights, women’s rights, social justice, international issues, non-profits, and generally the fight against injustice, inequality, and poverty in this world. I try to write about issues that are sometimes not highlighted in traditional media, and I focus on what I’m most passionate about - especially feminism, women’s issues, and access to justice/legal services. A lot of what I write comes from the perspective of political science and law, since that is my educational background and my future graduate school interest. I also occasionally talk about things like social media, work and career goals, passion, love, travel, and other aspects of my life.

Basically, I want young people like myself to think about, debate, and become passionate about social justice issues. I wanted to create a space where I can voice my opinions and where others can join in on the discussion as well.

4. Tell us a little bit about your cultural background

I was born in India and came to the U.S. at age 6. It was definitely not easy to fit in as a new immigrant at first, especially as a young child with a strange accent and a different style of dressing. But I quickly adapted to my new home and made friends, while still retaining much of my cultural background. Even after I came to the U.S., I continued to learn classical carnatic singing, which has helped me stay connected to my background. I consider myself Indian-American, and I’m greatly influenced by both my roots in India and my experiences in the U.S. I still hold dear all the memories I have of India - spending time with relatives, learning from my grandparents, practicing carnatic music, going to temples in the neighborhood, absorbing the country’s incredible history and culture, enjoying spicy food and fresh mangoes, and watching kids play cricket in the streets. India to me means family -- there is nothing that is more treasured and valued.

5. How do your experiences and your cultural background impact the way you view the world?

Regular trips back to India throughout my life have certainly shaped my worldview and made me more passionate about working on social justice issues. Inequality is clear when you walk Hyderabad’s streets. Every encounter in India, from the homeless men or disabled beggars to the children of servants who are cleaning homes instead of going to school shaped my views. I also was challenged a lot when thinking about feminism in India -- while my family is full of well educated, strong, confident working women, it does seem whenever I go back that I see so many ways in which women still remain second-class citizens. Women are encouraged to follow their husbands after marriage, take care of the home, and have children rather than focus on career growth. Women’s rights issues are also correlated with economic class: sometimes, the poorest women have the least voice and are frequently subject to domestic abuse. There is a silence about issues like domestic abuse in the community as well, as no one wants to speak about it. Divorced women have a certain stigma against them, as well, so families sadly force women to stay in abusive/harmful marriages despite abuse to avoid social shame and stigma. My experiences motivate me to return there and work in the development, women’s rights and human rights field someday -- hopefully, soon.

6. In your opinion, what does it mean to be a girl/woman today?

Being a woman for me means having to grapple with multiple pressures -- the pressures to achieve academically and have a successful career while also balancing trying to have children and a family. The pressures on modern women particularly in the U.S. are different from ever before. Although we have won some battles in the feminist movement, we have lost others. While women today have won the battle of professional opportunity, we have also gained an additional pressure from society -- to be successful and academically accomplished. At the same time, the pressures of being a good wife and caring mother have not diminished. So now, women have expanded and unlimited professional opportunities -- coupled with the pressure to care for a family. So women have double the pressure on them from society.

Don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled that I have the opportunities to pursue my passion and education, and to work to achieve my dreams in life. A century ago, I may not have had these opportunities as an American woman. At the same time, I think we have not won the feminist battle. Our goal should be to work towards ending these patriarchal assumptions that are ever more dangerous -- that women now can be, and should be, doing everything. We should not have such unrealistic burdens on our shoulders. We need to work towards a more equitable world, where we truly have the choice to make decisions for our own happiness. We need a world where we can choose to pursue only career success, or only a stable family life, for example, without suffering condemnation. And this is a world where men also equally contribute in the family, and where both partners have the choice to pursue the lifestyle they feel fits them best.

For me, the struggle is balancing all these pressures. I too want to be successful, have an international career contributing to social change, be a leader and an academic, be a writer, and also have a family and a loving, fulfilling home. As a woman, I feel this is a constant challenge, but one I am excited to tackle.

7. Finally, If someone asked you to recommend some music, what would you say? What are 2 songs you just can’t help replaying these days?

The Lazy Song - Bruno Mars

Take A Minute - K’naan

Love it! Thank you, Akhila for letting us know a little bit of the person "behind the words".

All pictures courtesy of Justice of All

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Worth Mentioning: Focus Features

Focus Features is on a mission to "bring moviegoers the most original stories from the world's most innovative filmmakers". Recent Focus Features movies include One Day, Atonement and The American.

Focus Features sponsors the Africa First short film program. The program "supports films that aspire to artistic excellence and accomplished storytelling, and substantially contribute to the development of local film industries".


5 emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence are awarded 10,000 (U.S dollars) each towards pre-production, production and post-production of their short film. Past short films from the program have been showcased at various film festivals including the Sundance, Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals.

They recently produced AFRICA FIRST: VOLUME ONE: The first in a series of short film collections from the program.

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