Across the Oceans

Colombian writer Hugo Tovar (M), his niece Juliet (L), Juliet’s Mum (R) and their little cousin.   Photo Credit: African Press Club

Dateline: Calle Boada, Barcelona Spain.

I’m intrigued by the African Diaspora in all parts of the world. For many Africans, the black people we are readily acquainted with outside our shores are African-Americans, due to the fact that the United States of America (USA) is a world power. The minorities are visible. We hang out with them in our living rooms through movies, sports, and music on television. It’s effortless.

Who doesn’t know the King of Pop Michael Jackson, for instance? If you don’t, you must be living under a rock! What about Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Jay-z, Denzel Washington? They’re in our faces all the time courtesy of Hollywood – that America soft power that commands global following.

Cross over to the other side of the ocean in South and Central America or what is simply referred to as Latin America, we hardly hear of Afro-descendants. They’re an invisible minority. Yet, Afro-descendants are in large numbers in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico and Ecuador. Other nations in this region where black people exist are Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, etc.

Do you know that Brazil is the country with the largest number of black people, (including multiracial people), outside of Africa? That’s according to Wikipedia. It’s relevant information for those who are keen on learning about the Diaspora. Although the Caribbean is not my focus today, it’s necessary to throw in the fact that Afro-descendants dominate in Haiti, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, etc.

On account of this background, I was pleased to attend the book presentation of “Mil Partes” by Colombian writer Hugo Tovar in Barcelona. His niece, Juliet, one of the most exuberant, joyful and pleasant people I’ve met in Barcelona, invited me to the event. There are 20 million black people in Colombia for your information.

Growing up in Buenaventura, a coastal city, little Hugo had a flair for writing. He began putting pen to paper at the age of 13. But life happened, as it often does. This saw him drifting into other endeavors. He ended up as a Manager in the development field having gained three degrees in this order: Political Science (first degree) Public Administration (Masters), Local Development and International Cooperation (PhD).

Four years ago, he found his way back to writing while keeping his day job. Hugo loves poetry, biography, history, books on African Diaspora and African descendants, and books on management and organizational behavior. Mil Partes (a thousand parts) is rich with 120 poems focusing on love, deception, fear, and hope.

Hugo tells me that the driving force behind Mil Partes is the desire to promote reading and writing culture in his region. He is convinced that this will motivate others to follow his footsteps. Like Africa, he says Afro-descendants have an oral tradition. Hugo is keen to encourage his people to document their culture and traditions.

It took him over two years to finish Mil Partes, which is his second piece of work. A third book is underway. He also plans to travel to Ghana and Senegal to spend time on the slave routes, where he hopes to gain some inspiration for poetry.

I definitely look forward to reading that book when it’s published. I suggest a title: “Thoughts from the Point of No Return.” I have a sense it’ll be a spiritually loaded piece of work, from my experience visiting the slave dungeon in Goree Island, Senegal. The last bit of the tour on the island, after snaking through distressingly hideous rooms where slaves were held, is the “door of no return.”

This door opens into the vast ocean. I imagined the wailing that occurred here while people were being forcefully dragged into ships that sailed to unknown destinations. I stood there, completely humbled and lost in my own thoughts as the ferocious wind charged at me, threatening to uproot me into the sea. From that point, there’s nothing except a mass of tempestuous water slapping whatever came in contact with it. There was certainly a ghostly presence. Urrrrrrrr, it was chilling.

I believe the African Diaspora and Africans should reach out to one another. There’s power in partnerships. You might be amazed at what we could learn from one another. 

Finally, congratulations on your book, Hugo. We look forward to more from you. To my faithful readers, have you ever wondered about the African Diaspora in far-flung places? What do you know about the African Diaspora in your part of the world in Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, Australia, etc?  In what ways can we collaborate? Please share your thoughts in the comment box. I wish you an awesome week!

Also feel free to reach me by email if you have any question:  africanpressclub@gmail.com.

9 comments

  1. When Africans in Africa link with their cousins in Europe and the America there will be a renaissance.

    To quote you, “there is power in partnership’

    Nice read as always

  2. ‘… talk about faces, places races …!’ – words from the ‘rap’ of Micheal Jackson’s iconic song ‘Black or White’. But I digress. Perhaps because I’m not so sure that I can contribute much to this Africans@home&diaspora partnership discourse except in the Nierian context. To be fair, I can’t recall ever meeting a non-Nigerian African abroad and yes of course there are Africans everywhere! We need to build networks for connecting first before we talk about collaborating!How do Indians manage to always find other Indians where ever they go? What about the Chinese? Many migrants from these groups migrated into the eager arms of their folk whom they had never met! These guys not only find each other but establish meaningful relationships which yield huge economic, social and culttural gains. When I’ve met with other Nigerians abroad, its been people I knew from home or people who know people I know. Weddings mostly, casual run-ins at life’s cross-roads. Very little else. Nothing structured permanent. I don’t have the answers but I know that to build the necesary links we have to be deliberate, consistent and committed.

  3. Uzo, I totally agree with you. There has to be network first, then other things follow.Hopefully, we can do that.

  4. The absolute lack ofa viable intercourse, synergy & intetaction the African Homeland and its Diaspora must be blamed on Nigeria that has woefully failed to develop a Foreign Policy that would Unite, Solidify & Galvanize the Black Humanity. Perhaps the African Press Club can, as an NGO champion A GLOBAL DIALOGUE OF ALL BLACKS
    Details can be worked out with prominent Blacks, in Politics, Business, Entrepreneurs etc. I WELCOME your Cooments on this Proposal.

  5. Wow, congrats to Hugo! I am very aware of the African diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s truly incredible when you reflect on the far-reaching effects of slavery. We must continue to highlight and celebrate the creative endeavours of our brothers and sisters outside the homeland.

    Great write-up as usual. Your blogs posts are always intriguing.

    Keep it up!
    Amara

  6. Thanks Mariama, Mekam, Gregory and Amara for your comments. For those who do not understand Spanish, the language in which Mariama wrote, she was basically commenting on a couple of stories I wrote on the “Power of Sports” and “From Agadez to Europe”. She said children definitely have a right to be happy and to have opportunities. However, it’s somewhat an “utopia” these days. She also mentioned that all these stories deserve to be told. I like this. Please feel free to comment in whatever language. Some of my French speaking friends are slow to engage because of language barrier. Please any language is welcome. That’s the richness of our network.

  7. I read Uzo’s piece with interest. Is it true that Nigerians as a whole are conservative in their relationships abroad by mainly relating to those they know? Are Nigerian churches in the UK a reflection of this? I’ve been to a few around the UK.
    One nation that are definately mixers abroad are the Irish. Friendliness to strangers seems to be built into their genes. That some of my ancestors were Irish has nothing to do with it ofcourse 😂. Just look around the world and you will find an Irish influence in many nations. As opposed to the UK with its overtones of empire and domination over a third of the world the Irish in large part emigrated out of poverty or individually. As a born Scotsman in London some years ago I much preferred an Irish pub or dancehall that proliferated around the capital than any hard-to-find group of Scots….apart from the odd ceiligh (Scottish country dancing).
    If you are wondering what this comment is doing in a Nigerian-inspired blog or bored by it maybe Uzo’s right in thinking Nigerians in general need to float their boat further from shore. Just saying 😀….with an Irish twinkle in my eye. It’s in my no offence meant genes 😂

  8. The Diaspora question is indeed a huge one and carries along with it tales and thoughts of denials, betrayals of the blacks by their native authorities, and sold to slavery in the watermark years of slave trade. Ways we could partner with our fellow diaspora Africa is in cross-cultural relations, arts and entertainment, agriculture, and education. The age of slave trade carried with it a baggage of African culture to the Americas and the Caribbean, and even so Europe and Asia. These traces of African culture has had a great influence in not just shaping the entirety of their world view, but also a trace of their origin:where they came from. We can reclaim we origin with them through this cross-cultural relations.

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