This beautiful young sister definitely spoke to my own, "single story" existence, growing up Black in America (my collection of Nancy Drew books is still boxed up - somewhere!). A voracious reader at a very young age as well - I, too, had fallen for the "single story." And as Ms. Adichie so succinctly explained, the "unintended consequences" of doing so, took me everywhere except - from whence I came.
Serendipitously, however - a transfer to our neighborhood public high school (my then, single mother could no longer afford the Catholic school tuition), where I was assigned to the freshman English class of Mrs. Alfreda Jenkins (also my French teacher) - taught me a new and exciting story.
She introduced me to Black writers like my favorite, James Baldwin. And for good measure - she brought along W.E.B. DuBois, Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Wright, Audre Lorde, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and, Paul "We Wear the Mask" Laurence Dunbar. All of them were writing about life - as I knew it! And much like Adichie, I experienced a paradigm shift.
More relevant to this series though, Ms. Adichie perfectly described my prior, Black American "single story" of Africa. Though I'd had two casual acquaintances from Africa at my small HBCU, who'd tried desperately to dispel the nonsense with which I had been inculcated all my life; I carried that trick-or-treat for UNICEF, "single story" with me. Despite my knowledge of South African apartheid, Nelson Mandela's imprisonment and, the divestment campaigns of the late 70s - I still carried much of that "single story" with me.
When I met Gerald Pinedo a little over 10 years ago, however, I began to really get how the "single story" of Africa - copiously fed to us in America - had been able "to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me."
Though very European (Lawd! He absolutely hates when I say that - but it's true!), Gerald is one who is driven, to tell the whole of the stories which formed (and continue to form) us through his research, art, sculpture and documentary films. Accordingly, he is a member of, and is certified by - the Society for the Promotion of Educational Art Projects on the History of Slavery, based in Cologne, Germany:
Here's a little about "the work":
While working tirelessly toward telling the whole of the story through exhibitions and lecturing - he's been working to make The Center a reality. When I arrived in December last year, he was well on his way to accomplishing that, as well.
Below is a little slideshow, combining some of his earlier pictures when he began building in March of 2010, together with some that I took nine months later:
Aside from the bureaucracy that reigns, no matter the continent, he's been faced with some challenges, which have certainly delayed the completion of the project (like handmade concrete blocks and hand-hewn support beams!). But he's persevered.
To date, the container of art, sculpture, books and their display cases and pedestals have arrived from Germany, and the generator for the electricity has been installed. All that's left to do, is move it all in - and I'll be there to help him do it (Sometimes travel insurance is a good thing! Long story, next post).
More importantly to me though, is the fact that my family will also be there to help. The husband and I decided to forego the usual mall fare for the sons this Christmas, and elected instead, to put passports and tickets to The Gambia under the tree. At 27 and 30 years old, I want them to have the opportunity to shed the "single story" of Africa that continues to this day - and make up their own minds. So far, they're extremely excited. I'll keep you posted.
I'd like to end the series the way I began it (seems fitting):
"When most people talk about a "home-going" - they're talking about a death and a burial. And in a sense, so am I, though not of a corporal kind."Though I'm not completely there yet, I've come a long way toward putting the final nail in that particular coffin. I've come to understand, as well as agree with Ms. Adichie, that - "When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about anyplace - we regain a kind of paradise."
Thanks again for your patience...