When I walked up to the venue to get mic’d up, I saw Steve Browne on stage and thought “okay, this is it, I am totally dead, speaking after Steve is unthinkable”. I felt tested, so I improvised by asking the backstage manager to play one of my favorite songs, to help rev me up a little bit, “Africa” by Salif Keita
The Smart Stage is challenging in that you have only 18 minutes to make an impact, so you need to speak fast, and the greatest tip from the stage manager was to use very few words in my slides. Yes, I was a ball of nerves, but this was an opportunity I could not afford to miss.
A massive shout out to the my friends from the #SHRM19BlogSquad who took time out of their hectic schedules to come and hear me speak and to support me. Your energy and smiles kept me going: Mary Williams, Chris Orozco, Lorena Parbon, Amanda Brunson, Keith Enochs, Paul LaLonde, Wendy Dailey, Nicole Roberts, Kyra Matkovich, Ben Watts (I hope I didn’t miss anyone, pls forgive me)…I hope to be able to return the favor to you one day. I appreciate you!
And big thank you Andrew Morton for the opportunity and the words of encouragement when I got off stage.
#SHRM19 was an overdose of good experiences. I am eternally grateful to God for making it all possible, and can’t wait for #SHRM20 in San Diego, please join us!
My roots lie deep in my father’s country, Lesotho. The most beautiful place in Africa.
One thing about being African is that we are all different. Knowing one African doesn’t mean you know us all. What is Africanism, really?! Most of us were colonized by different countries, if our thinking was influenced by divergent autocrats what then are the chances that all of Africa and her people will be the same.
The definition of African culture as I know it, was and is still work in progress. Post gaining independence from Britain, Lesotho sought to find herself and her ways of living, and I believe that all other countries are in the same boat. And from what I have learnt from my parents, elders and life, is that Africanism is still under construction. What I am then, and how I like to describe myself is, as “Pan-African”, because I fully appreciate that I am an eclectic blend of all my influences. My biggest influences being my parents, my father was atheist – he believed in himself as he would always say, and my mother served in the Roman Catholic Church. My mom would wake us up on a Sunday morning asking us to come to church with her, and my father would ask her to give us a choice and not to impose her beliefs on us. This is my reality, I went to church when I wanted to, and if I felt like sleeping in on a Sunday, that’s exactly what I did. This was the system in my father’s house, this is how I was raised. There are a lot of Africans who do not believe in Christianity, most will tell you that they refuse to adopt the religious beliefs of the oppressor, and that colonialists used the Bible to steal from Africans. They believe in themselves and their ancestors. Then there are people who are sold out on Jesus, there are Muslims, Rastas, Hindi and all different religions on the continent. My thing is that, we are all probably worshiping the same God, whatever you may perceive him/her to be.
My paternal grandfather, Ralikoa Sefali passed away the year I was born, so most of my life I have always had this longing to know him, I guess because I had such a great relationship with my dad, I wonder what his father was like. His mom, my grandmother is the only woman that my dad was scared of, seriously, he would always tone himself down around her, what was her man like, and how did they even meet?!
So, after I lost my dad in 2003, I took a sabbatical and worked in Maseru for over a year. I decided to find out more about our family, as I travelled all 10 districts of Lesotho. I learnt so much about our great grandfather Kotoanyane Sefali, he was a diplomatic leader who had two wives. This then filled the pieces in on how I was related to some of the cousins that I had met growing up, they had the same last name, but I didn’t quite understand how we were related.
“How did they live, how did they manage to run their lives in a polygamous marriage?”, I asked my sister who is a descendant from the second wife’s side, and what Ausi Moneheloa told me, is that, they both respected each other. Both wives respected each other and that’s how it worked out, everyone was happy in their own space.
Fast forward, a few years later and I am chatting with an elder African-American woman who was complaining about how millennials just don’t want to go to church, and how they are the problem. I presented to her that perhaps the content offered in church didn’t appeal to them, and that perhaps the way the message is delivered should be tailor-made to include all generations. Either that, or just accept that people have choices, and those need to be respected. She disagreed, “the Bible says”, which is to me, an automatic response from anyone who does not want to listen to the other perspective. This is one of the reasons why HR has a tough job with Inclusion, people are change averse. I told her about my family’s belief system, about my dad who is my biggest influence, what I found out about my great grandfather etc. I told my story because I needed her to understand that we are all raised differently, and if my own father gave me the option to go to church or not to go to church, options which my mother respected, then how does one suggest going to church every week to someone like me. I offered a different perspective to help her approach, if you are going to recruit people for church, you need to understand who they are.
That’s wrong, that’s all wrong she said to me. Then I realized that it’s difficult for her to understand, because she had mostly been exposed to Africans who woke up, dressed up and went to church every Sunday, religiously. I was presenting something new to her, it was foreign, and she couldn’t accept it, so she discounted everything I said, reduced it to almost nothing by even suggesting that my father and his forefathers were wrong in choosing to live their lives how they wanted, she didn’t see that as freedom, she couldn’t believe what she hadn’t been taught, and what she didn’t know.
So, to end what was going to be a totally useless argument, I then asked that she respect my ancestors, because I am who I am because of them. I love them and their ways, even though their stories are untold, they are legends in their own right, I am mentally free because of the way the thought and how they lived their lives.
We, as Africans cannot afford to continue to judge each other on who is more African than the other, we can’t even tell each other that their way of living is wrong, we need to stop thinking that what makes us more African than others, for instance is having natural hair, then tell those who decide to wear weaves that there is something wrong with them. This way of thinking is divisive, it’s oppressed, it doesn’t appreciate that we can be different and still get along. What we need to be concerned with, is how we move forward. From now onward, we need to craft a way forward, together, to create a culture that will outlive us because of the spirit of unity that carries it, that’s Africanism to me. Let’s free our minds!