Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I am finally reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I realize that it is a shame that I’m just now getting to it. But when you’re in school, then go to college, you don’t have lots of time to read the “greats” or the “classics” at least when it comes to black authors (at least that has been my experience).

The book is tragic, which makes it at times difficult to get through, but I can still appreciate it for the fine work that it is and I can relate to it in more ways than one. One particular character I relate to is Nettie, Celie’s sister (my apologies if I ruin the story for you. I advise you to stop reading now if you want to read it on your own). I am just now getting to the part where Celie has gotten her sister’s letters and is reading about her going to Africa.

First a note on Africa. I hate that people still ask me about Africa. I’m sure I’ve complained about this before but that’s because it still bothers me. I’m going to South Africa which is vastly different as I hope people have learned recently from Egypt or even Ethiopia. Just wanted to make that clear.

In The Color Purple, Nettie travels to Ethiopia to do mission work. On the way there, she meets a white man who is down right appalled that “coloureds” would go to Africa. Nowadays, a lot more blacks go to Africa in search of their roots or to lend a helping hand. Michelle Obama and Oprah recently visited South Africa, and though I don’t know the details, I do know that Oprah has started a charity there. It is encouraging to know that more blacks are going to parts of Africa but I still think it has a very long way to go.

I sometimes wonder why it is that so many whites go to Africa to help out but so few blacks and in this case, I’m referring to specifically to America, since I cannot and will not speak for the rest of the world. If I were to draw on my own experiences and limited knowledge, I would think that perhaps black Americans have their own struggles here and that limits them to going abroad to help or even to visit. Maybe there is nothing going on there but I think it’s an interesting topic to think about it. Maybe it’s just that the actual numbers of blacks going to Africa is smaller than whites, since we are the minority but that the proportions are very similar. Possible research topic, anyone?!?

Back to The Color Purple, reading about Nettie’s experience thus far in going to Ethiopia, I am reminded that I will probably be the only black volunteer working with my organization. This may not turn out to be in true but I’m betting it will. GVI (Global Vision International) is as you might guess an international organization, so I would hope that people of all races would make up their volunteer base. From what I’ve seen, that doesn’t seem to be true.

So what happens when whites help out blacks? Good work is done; there is no doubt in that. But I believe it goes a long way to have a black volunteer instead of a white one. I think it goes a long way to see a black face teaching you instead of a white one because you can relate. “This is teacher is just like me” a child might think when they see me. As I think back on my own education, I can count on one hand the amount of black teachers I had and for me, this made school even harder. I went to predominately white schools throughout k-12 and even college was mostly white (obviously I acknowledge that college was my choice). I remember longing for more courses especially history and literature that focused on the work on my people and it seems that unless I sought that out on my own time or at least found extra courses that pertained to the topic, I wouldn’t have gotten to known my own history better. It hurts black students, Latino students, Asian students, etc. when they don’t here about things that their people have done. I know for me it would have helped a lot to know where my people have been to know where I wanted to go, and education is certainly a start.

For my trip to South Africa, this of course adds more pressure on me to perform not only as well as the other volunteers but even better than them. I want to be a great role model for these students, so that they can see what they are capable of. I just hope I can rise to the occasion.