Go to Africa. It is number one on my bucket list, I smothered my summer reading list with it, Google it frequently; yet, my desire to go to Africa seems to boggle so many. So in my first blog post I thought I’d explain why I have such a desire to go and sort of how it has begun to shape my college years. The best way of explaining it actually requires some background reading.
This week in Comm 2310, we read a short story called “What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?” To provide a brief synopsis, the story came from the 2011 edition of Best American Essays. This particular one, however, has stuck with me for much longer than any others. In short, the essay opens with the Detroit SWAT team murdering an innocent seven-year-old girl, consequence of a mix up of apartment floors. The author, Charlie LeDuff, then continues through a condensed version of the history of Detroit, essentially depicting a city on a downfall. In class, we discussed a variety of topics pulled from the essay but we kept returning to the overarching question: how did Detroit come to this and how do we fix it? LeDuff describes years of attempts, from police chief replacement, increased funding, welfare, yet nothing has seemed to work in the long term. There is always a fallout in another part of the system, if the police force was increased, there was ignorance in other facets of the city. Several students in our class said that it seemed like the citizens depicted in the story didn’t want the change. It wasn’t until the professor stated (what should have been more apparent) that this was not a failure of the people of Detroit, this was a failure of the system, of the institution. Hundreds of other cities in the United States have gained control of the crime rates, improved graduation and literacy rates and grown as cities. Detroit is the only American city that has surpassed a million people and dipped back down. This is not a failure of Detroit, it is a national failure, and it is the fact that the nation gave up on Detroit.
Flying forward to my personal connection, I linked Detroit with the struggles of sub-Saharan Africa. With caution, I’ll proceed in saying that not all of Africa struggles. But the same is true with Detroit. The same is true with any urban area; there are areas of struggle and areas of success. My issue lies with the fact that by in large we have left nearly an entire continent on this planet to struggle with famine, starvation, genocide, and massive widespread diseases that other countries have controlled and dealt with for years. My issue lies in the fact that NASA this year launched a multi-billion dollar exploration of Mars, yet there are millions in Africa who don’t know where the next meal is coming from. How can we as humans continue on in our lives knowing our institution has failed?
I want to go to Africa, not for vacation, not for enjoyment, but for action. I’m someone who cares that we have left someone behind. No one asks to live where they live; you are born where you are born. Future generations will be born into a world that we are breaking apart. I don’t believe that as Americans we are required to bail out all countries that struggle. I don’t believe that as Americans we should impose democracy on other nations because it “works for us”. However, I do believe that with awareness, more change can be delivered to areas in need. The lack of global awareness scares me. As a college student, on the verge of stepping out into the real world, the ignorance and lack of awareness of our place in the world scares me. I’m not Mother Theresa and am not ignorant of the fact that money and funding are crucial backers in the relieving of hunger and disease, but I also happen to be crazy enough to believe that I can do something about the problem. Even if it is a small contribution in the grand scheme of things, every contribution adds up.
And that’s why I have this blog. Because I have opinions. I’m opinionated and like to write. I see articles all the time that I don’t really have a forum to share through. I want to use this blog to do just that, share the world that I see. Sometimes I may throw in a personal anecdote if something really fantastic happens to me that week but mostly I just want to share parts of the world that hit me.
On a side note: I highly recommend the 2011 Best American Essays book. Although it is a requirement for my class, I have truly enjoyed reading it.