Proudly African

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I flew Kenya Airways this morning from Mombasa to Nairobi and smiled when I read the KQ slogan: The Pride of Africa. I smiled, not because I thought it was ironic. I smiled because that very African pride was beginning to creep right into my own heart.

This past week I have shed yet another layer of Apartheid shame. I am even thinking there might not be too much left of that old story. Halle–Africa-lujah.

You see, this week I recognized myself as a white African. From the moment I set foot on this continent to the moment the music started playing and we worshiped together African style (meaning I needed space around me, so I could move) there was no way I could deny Africa beating right inside of me. The heat. Some chaos. The skies. The unmistakable beat. It all felt very close to the core of me. My blood and bones felt connected in a way to this continent that I am proud of: I was born here. Raised here. I was knit together in Africa.

The morning I walked into the Amahoro meeting, African friends embraced me and welcomed me into a circle, not of race or nationality, but of humanity. Friends.

Two days of big smiles and even bigger hugs. Two nights of dancing to Kenyan music and oldies, giving in to the beat inside of me. Two days of story, deep wisdom, honesty and sharing meals.

A Table Prepared for Us

Then on Thursday morning we celebrated communion. This must stand as the most meaningful moment at Amahoro for me this year. The table was set and we were invited up in groups of two. Kavira, a beautiful counselor from Goa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was sitting a few seats away and our eyes connected. We nodded and walked up to the table together.

My hands were shaking as she served me the bread and then the wine. My beautiful African sister from a country I have carried in my hearts and prayers for many years, was serving me the Eucharist. My heart exploded as I leaned over and served her the bread and the wine. We shared in the body and the blood. The moment was so big for me, I even forgot to say the beautiful words:

    This is the bread of amahoro in Christ.
    This is the cup of ubuntu in Christ.

Not only am I welcome at the table, there is a place prepared for me. A place where I can stand and be, right here on African soil.

So this morning, when Grace picked me up at the airport in Nairobi, we drove slowly, first through an industrial area and then weaved our way forward through hawkers, alongside trucks and local taxis. I sat in the back, soaking in every moment of thick heat and noise, savoring it, loving it. I watched this new, yet familiar world pass by outside the window and I noticed that feeling inside of me again: pride.

It surprized me a little. But now it’s beginning to make sense. Now that I’ve found my place again–restored to my origins and the continent where God had chosen for me to be birthed into–that shame is fizzling out. And it’s being replaced by pride.

This past week I have heard story after story of men and women who have risen up in their communities and cities to bring solution to the problems in front of them. I have heard heart stories and hard stories. I have heard my African friends tell their stories and struggles with truth, tears and hope. I have been wowed, astonished and humbled. I have been made proud.

I am flying back home to Canada seeing Africa, but also myself, through some very new lenses. It dawned on me that Africa doesn’t need my rescue or even my generosity. Rather, I am drawn to her. She is in me and I am in her. The relationship is mutual and it’s called Love.

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  • Donna Hopkinson

    Hi Idelette:
    In reading this story of your visit back to Africa you place of birth of upbringing. I can’t help but reflect on some of the things you wrote about your home land, your people (Brothers & Sisters), and your time of communion together. The love relationship between sisterhood and brotherhood. The fact that this trip to Africa was not just another trip, for you it was a strengthening of the deep bond with your African sisters and brothers. How special!

    Love & Blessings,
    Donna