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The ball is in the court of our generation

Alex-TetantaAlexander Tetenta reflects on his personal journey, and the importance of the hope that Barack Obama spoke about.

“As a young man born in Glasgow, Scotland, to a Nigerian father whose quest for further education saw him travel across the Atlantic (with his young family), my story is somewhat similar to that of Barack Obama whose dad hailed from Kenya.

Going by the geographical location of the place my we love to call home, we are Africans, and by virtue of the place I grew up, I am also a Nigerian.

During that time, Nigeria shone as a beacon of hope for all Africans, a nation with a potential destiny to lead Africa and champion the cause of black people everywhere in the world.

I didn’t need anybody to tell me that the seed of discontent was indeed the first step towards the progress of man, and like Barack Obama, I wasn’t prepared to settle for the world as it was but vowed to play my little part in making the world as it should be, particularly when it came to reaching out to the land of my ancestors and leaving a better world for the next generation.

I returned to the UK in 2001 to be reminded by Tony Blair, as he sought Africa’s co-operation in the War on Terror that “Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world.”

I bear witness to this because regardless of how well we do individually, genuine equality for peoples of all creed and colour can only be achieved when we do something to heal the scar of Africa and the third world on the conscience of the world. I know this because if Africa fails, the entire black race fails.

In the UK, my greatest challenge was to discover how the mention of my Nigerian heritage affected how I was perceived by non-Nigerians, my survival as a student, in the work place, and also how I perceived life outside Nigeria.

I was definitely losing my sense of belonging at one point here, in a country I was growing to love, but the lessons from my African roots proved useful for my survival here in Britain, and increasingly, I saw how my lessons from here could help us turn our homeland from a militant society to a civil society.

I learnt not just from the classroom, but from experience and people, from my family, and everyone worth learning from, including Dawn Butler.

She spoke at an NUS Black Students’ conference after her election victory in 2005, and spoke to us about rising above obstacles. She was referring to the darkest ill of our society called racism- an ill I became aware of only in an A/S level Sociology class where some troubling statistics were used to measure the ratio of black boys in prison, black school drop-outs, Black People in Mental institutions and so on.

As such, my greatest concern, especially after what happened at UEL became that I could do everything right, work hard, play safe, and still end up where I didn’t want to be like in some slum, homeless, unemployed, or even in prison, just because of the way I look rather than the content of my character.

But the greatest lesson, other than those learnt from my family that saved me from the clash of mentalities to which I had fallen victim was a lesson by Barack Obama.

At a time I was on the verge of becoming another statistics in Education, I learnt from my aunty’s living room in Springfield Illinois about the audacity of hope.

I heard a man I could identify with, telling a story I could identify with. It was a story of someone who calls himself a skinny kid with a funny name, who believed that his country has a place for him too, a son of an immigrant who believed that he could aspire to the highest office in the land.

It was a story of a single mother who turned the myth of single motherhood on its head by raising the President of the greatest country on earth.

It was a story that echoed the dream of a King who took us to the mountain top and pointed the way to the promised land. Regardless of the colour of his skin, he called on his people to a common purpose, to a higher purpose.

He called on them to hope. Hope in the face of adversity, hope in the face of difficulty, the audacity of hope, he says, in the end that is God’s greatest gift to man.

He reminds us of the thread that joins us all together; that the fact of globalisation means that events in the most obscure corner of the world could have adverse effects on even the most sophisticated of nation, and that regardless of having dual nationality, or coming from Lagos, Lahore, or London, that we all share a common planet which we owe to the next generation to leave better than we found it.

He tells us to see ourselves in one another, and reminds us that you cannot be your brother’s keeper if you are an oil company that spills oil in creeks or flares gas poisoning, the environment of a people and decimating the meagre livelihood of the poor and down trodden.

He reminds us that the people are the government and that when the time comes, nothing shall come in the way of millions of voices calling for change.

As part of that small group in New York, he implored us not to go about just talking about Obama, or just admiring Obama, but to be Obama, adding that by that he meant that you need to be the leader, to carve that new path, and to bring about the change we want to see.

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is about time to hold up the virtues and labours of our heroes past and present, to see how we could measure those against the promise of the next generation.

The ball is in the court of our generation to learn from people like Obama and all those who had come before him, and when the time is come to use it for the benefit of the people, as we seek common sense answers to the challenges we shall face in our time.

In the meantime, we have had “a dream”, we have hoped for change- let us now seek the courage to change and to restore the dignity of our people by putting a complete end to “the philosophy which makes one race superior and another inferior”- a philosophy only made worse by corrupt leadership on the African continent, wars, ethnic divisions, “Politics as usual”, and the failure to think and plan ahead for generations of Blacks and Africans yet unborn.

In the end, I am convinced, like in the words of Obama, that “we are the change we seek, and that our history shall no longer be written for us, but by us”…..

The article is based on a speech given by Alexander Tetanta, a presenter on Voice of Africa radio, to OBV’s Black History Month event last week.

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4 Responses

  1. This was a well constructed message, I can feel the passion from reading it. I will say well done and more power to your hand and mind….

  2. This was a well constructed message… well done

  3. wow !! what a message – alexander beautifully painted a picture of what its like to raised in africa and migrating to a western country; we all need to b remimded every once in a while where we from and where we’re going. it’s easy to forget sometimes especially hwen you have been away from home (africa) too long !! lets stand up

  4. CONGRATS ALEX & WELL DONE! I ALWAYS KNEW YOU WERE GREAT, THAT’S WHY I WAS ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST FANS ON VOICE OF AFRICA RADIO. MORE GREESE TO YOUR ELBOW. I COULDN’T ATTEND, BUT THOSE WHO DID SAID THIS IS AN EDITED VERSION OF YOUR SPEECH. WHERE CAN WE FIND THE FULL VERSION. I WANT TO FEEL THE FIRE…KEEP IT BURNING..

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