A few months ago I downloaded some music accidentally, like I always do with many other things on the internet. I loved the music so much that I decided to dig deeper into this artist that all along I thought was a white judging from his music. I mean, he kinda sounds like BB King but he screams “Figaroooooo!!” In a song called “Cosmic Queries” and stuff like that. It turned out that Willis Earl Beal is a very black man, just like me. I say that because I’m of the school of thought that if you are less dark than I am, then down in the basement of your DNA, lives a white man. But I digress, that’s the story for another day.
So I started watching videos of Willis Earl Beal but after just one performance video, I wanted to know more this guy so I watched a series of his interviews. The African American was being interviewed in Amsterdam and coincidentally to my thoughts, he was talking about race and identity and before he could even finish, a random black man came into the shot and was hugging him for a few seconds, calling him brother and posing for a picture. Shockingly, Willis Earl Beal wasn’t amazed. He didn’t change his tone, or facial expression. Actually, he was a bit bothered and in a monotone told the guy that it was a video recording, not still photographs and a very passive “thank you” as the man walked away. The interviewer who had been quiet all this time asked him if he knew that guy and he said no. This led to another conversation that I really identify with.
When I was young, I used to see a lot of Somalis, Indians, then white people and I thought all people of the same race or ethnicity knew each other. I was wrong, but even after accepting this fact and learning why one cannot know everyone from their race, it has still stuck somewhere in my system that they should at least recognize one another when they meet. Well, in my high school, all Somalis and Indians knew one another and they hung out together but out here, it’s never like that. I actually, find it very weird when I’m showing a white friend around the country and we meet another white person and they don’t even say hi to each other. Same to when two Chinese businessmen brush shoulders on Luthuli Avenue without doing a Bruce Lee pose like they do in those Chinese movies.
Anyway, few weeks ago I was privileged to be in Germany through Amsterdam. Seeing G4S security guards there made me think I was in an environment not so different from Nairobi in terms of how people interact with one another. Shock on me. Those security guards are not like the Kenyan ones who hug and laugh with foreigners. They ask you why you are there and go on with their work, even if it’s starring at a melting piece of snow on a wooden shoe, and it was the same in Germany. When we left Kenya, we were many black people at the airport and in the plane, but we thinned out as we moved higher north. In our next plane from Amsterdam, there was only one black man dressed West African style and we saluted each other.
Once in the streets of Bayreuth Germany, I met one black man at a bank and we waved to each other. In the club I met four Kenyans, one Somali and one black Spaniard. The four Kenyans of course we talked in Swahili except one who had lied to a white woman that he is American so I had to keep the bro cod, but they made me drunk, reeaally drunk. The Somali guy has a relative in Mombasa and besides going home one time in the middle of the night to change could not stop telling me “Haraka haraka haina Baraka” in very bad Swahili accent. The Spaniard guy looked like Jonny Bravo, could not utter a word in English or Swahili but could not stop hugging me. In Nurnberg, still in Germany, there were more black people and even mixed race kids. I met two like this and as their white friends wondered why I had covered myself in black make-up, they looked at me like, “hey, look I’m half your race”. I smiled and waved and they smiled and waved back and that was beautiful.
The reason I told you about all that is because Willis Earl Beal, during his numerous tours comes across black people who identify with him but he doesn’t know how to relate to this. He has mixed feelings about it and I think I know why. He is African American and most probably grew up in a mixed community where he saw people of all races and some in between, so wherever he goes, he doesn’t really feel different. Now this is the difference, as a black African going to another continent, everything is different from food, means of transport, weather and the people you see around you. You adopt because you are aware of here you are you focus because you have to be there at that time, but deep inside, you need your people and your way of life. You therefore become so welcoming to anyone that has even little color resemblance to you. Besides, Africa is the cradle of mankind and all humans out of Africa will recognize a black person, be it negatively or positively. But I digress once more.
From the interviews, I doubt if Willis Earl Beal has ever been to Africa and my challenge to him would be that. Land in an African country and just walk around. No one will recognize he is a foreigner unless he speaks, and he will feel so good and safe among fellow black people that the moment he will be walking down Abbey Road, he will never fail to recognize a black person or have mixed feelings when one jumps on him out of nowhere.
Since Willis inspired this piece, please subscribe to his music, you won’t be disappointed. Also follow me and him on Twitter; I’ll follow back @TheRealRonjey @WillisEarlBeal
That’s all for today yo, thanks for reading. Share your thoughts below and see you soon.