Black Angels and White Demons

One of the best portraits of me is a pencil sketch I had made for my high school campaign (which I lost). The guy who drew it for me couldn’t believe how happy I was with his haphazard pencil strokes. Like to be of any value at all, it needed a lot more color or complexity. But I liked it just the way it was in its simplicity and sentimental value as the first hand drawn portrait of me ever made. Sadly I lost it after the campaigns, so now I am looking to have another made before I lose my youthful features.

When I was reading about the history of the cesarean section, all I found was that it probably originated from the Roman law “Lex Cesarea” that a woman should not be buried with a child in the womb. And that gradually it became a life saving operation for the baby but fatal for the mother and finally today, it can save both mother and child. What I did not find however is that cesarean sections were being done in Western Uganda reported as early as the nineteenth century before any contact with European doctors and that the mothers often survived these potentially fatal operations.

There is a herb we use for flavoring tea in Uganda called omujaaja in Luganda. Now I don’t take enough of it yet I love it so much more than vanilla or orange flavored tea. Recently when I was enjoying a cup of omujaaja flavored tea, I pointed out to my mother how much I liked it but regretted the fact that I couldn’t tell it apart from another useless plant that looks so much like it. So she went on to tell me how to distinguish the two (which I honestly didn’t get) and the numerous other benefits it has. What I found hard to believe though is that it can help restore the tone of pelvic floor muscles after vaginal delivery. She also said it had antibiotic properties. At this point she sounded like all the quacks peddling magic remedies in long-distance-bound buses that I was all too familiar with as I travel about 280 km between my home and the university at least twice a semester.

On the point of antibiotic properties, she intimated that metronidazole was probably extracted from this plant. There, I lost it. I had had it up to here with this wonder plant. How dare she? Metronidazole? It’s laughable because it is unbelievable because it’s improbable. So I told her, “Mom, drugs are extracted from a great variety of plants and organisms that we can’t assume this to be the source of one of the most commonly used drugs in obstetrics and medical practice at large.” Then my sister (the clever one) who was following our conversation interjected and said, “Well, we can’t rule it out either!”

And she was right; because though I can boldly say now that there are no omujaaja extracts in metronidazole, by then I didn’t know how the hell metronidazole is made. But because I assumed that there was nothing to the therapeutic practices of my forefathers (and foremothers), I chose the more remote probability that this plant had no antibiotic properties after all.

Who’s to blame for this mentality, you may ask. I think it is right there in Obstetrics by Ten Teachers and DC Dutta’s Textbook of Obstetrics and several other books written by non-Africans incidentally read by Africans. Where was the history of cesarean sections in Africa in all these books? Huh! Did we not know, were we not told, didn’t we see some of these things first hand or met people that saw them happen in the flesh; literally?

It is this painting of all things bad, black and all things good, white. Since when is the devil Black and all angels Caucasians with nice wavy curls in their hair. I say we call on all the Black angels to come up from hiding, or descend from the clouds; and we have a better representation of things Black and dark as ingenious, smart, good and even sacred. We need to celebrate more the achievements of our forefathers (and foremothers) before we were whitewashed into thinking that we were helpless before the White man colonized us and gave us a new identity.

Now this may seem petty at first but that is because we don’t realize how much pride in oneself contributes to one’s ability to better themselves even if only to preserve their pride. For as long as we don’t realize that we are fine just the way we are, Black and dark with the kinky hair, nicely molded bottoms and curves that just seem to go on and on… For as long as we don’t love ourselves we won’t be able to help our selves, defend our dignity and advance our race.

I want to sign off by calling on all scholars to be flamboyant and flaunt the Black race allover authoritative literature used to educate youngsters like me and younger; who often don’t read beyond the course material they are given to pass papers. No, I am not calling for Black scholars to add African history to their manuscripts that celebrates the African race, I am calling for all scholars, black, white brown yellow and red to acknowledge black contributions wherever they are hidden. And I am calling on Black scholars to lay it on thick, and darken the hearts of their students with Black pride. After all, there are some Black angels.

Featured image: Lupita Nyong’o, Elle UK

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