A couple weeks ago I went to DC Carnival. I always like seeing some of the ridiculousness that goes on. Things like the oil and mud and powder trucks. Big Girls getting in on the action jumping around barely clothed, unabashedly. The carnivals I have been to remind me a lot of freaknik and other mass gatherings of black people: music blaring, people dancing, laughing, drinking, and displaying overt sexuality. Good times.
Thanks to this Blog post however, I went to this Carnival a little more attuned to our differences, not to draw distinctions just for the sake of drawing them, but for a better understanding of why and how afro ams are different from our black brethren scattered across islands and continents, each in our respective countries.
For the uninitiated carnivals have different sound trucks. People sign up to “jump” with these trucks and wear elaborate feathered costumes and play super loud music from ginormous speakers rigged to the truck beds. It is a competition to see which truck can get the livest. They throw different substances on each other to add to the wratched-ness. At least in the U.S., many of the trucks don flags from their respective countries. People atop the trucks wrap themselves in their countries flag and waive it proudly in a delirium of fun, letting their countries popular music drive the crowd.
Generally reserved for islanders, I found it interesting this Carnival had a truck from Sierra Leone. They played music that sounded a lot like top 40 but had the unmistakable cadences of an African language interspersed over the beat. Participants wore dashikis, Sierra Leone soccer jerseys, and waived Sierra Leone flags.
It made me wonder if American black people could ever have a truck in Carnival. A truck that blares Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne, shoots each other with super soakers to add to the wratched-ness, plays mass by crip walking and dougie-ing instead of palancing, and has participants that don the good ole red, white, and blue: insert blood curdling brake screeching noise here.
Red white and blue, you say? That’s when my dreams of an African American truck at Carnival died. Even if we were allowed admittance and given our own truck, we couldn’t participate in the same way for the simple reason that when African Americans waive old glory – that shit feels corny as hell. I don’t know, maybe I am alone here. But minus some Afro American military families, I get the feeling I’m not. I feel like I sit solidly in the majority of Afro-Ams that feel mad silly rocking any thing red, white, and blue. I have this theory about why Afro-Ams don’t drink Budweiser heavily, despite it being pretty tasty for a cheap beer, and you bet ya: it has something to do with its red white and blue packaging.
Anyway, Afro-Ams are not the only Africans in the diaspora and in the motherland that have been aggrieved by their country of origin. I mean some governments have committed outright atrocities against inhabitants, yet citizens will still waive the flag and feel pride. Certainly Afro-Ams do love being American and appreciate that fact. So why is it so hard to imagine 18-35 year old Afro-Ams dancing to popular music and being draped in the U.S. flag at the same time?
I believe it has to do with ownership. We live here, but we also understand it is not our country and it never will be. It wasn’t built with us in mind and it doesn’t exist to serve our needs. While this is true in other countries in the motherland and in the diaspora, I believe inhabitants of those countries separate their nationality from actions of their government and can even use their nationality as a rallying cry against oppressive governments. They are their country.They know governments change and circumstances can as well. In the U.S. governments don’t change. Parties do, but the fundamental goals remain the same and Afro Ams are relatively minor players in this game whereas diasporic Africans and Africans are the main players, colonialism and western hegemony withstanding. They have buy-in and we do too, but hardly. And that’s the difference folks. Unless its because basketball’s Dream Team, made up of a bunch of afro am players, whipped up on the rest of the world, waiving old glory doesn’t make us feel any kind of way. I mean real talk the Confederate flag riles us up more.
How does the US flag make you feel? Dissapointed? Ashamed? Corny? Indifferent? Conflicted? Exuberance anyone? Goose bumps? Could there be an Afro Am truck at Carnival with Afro Ams decked out in the star spangled banner?