What if someone told you everything you have ever known was a lie. The way you were brought up is a lie. Your teachers aren't who they say they are, and majority of your country do not want you to succeed...
How would you cope knowing life is ten times harder just because of your brown skin? People are oblivious to what is happening with the world overall. Living in America all my life, I've experienced racism and discrimination in places such as Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama. The people in The Gambia only know equality; they don't discriminate against each other. I've witnessed an African male attached to a white women walking on the beach without being worried of who might say something or think anything of it. In some parts of America that scene alone would eat some people alive.
If you aren't educated on your past how can you live your present and future? How can you move forward without knowing your oppressors? For example the British colonised The Gambia and the French colonised Senegal. That is why the official language of The Gambia is English and the official language of Senegal is French. If The Gambia was in their best interest they would have tried to make things better as far as the communities and helping the children but instead they used them for labour and taught them they are inferior. On top of taking over, they steal your history then sell it back to you! How can one country have a high demand product and another country fixes the price? They took natural resources and everything ever made. Just when I thought nothing was left, I was wrong. The only thing they didn't take was genuine happiness - that is why The Gambia is known as the 'Smiling Coast' of Africa.
My experience here in Banjul has been amazing and life-changing. I have been learning at a very electric pace. My internship at The Standard newspaper has been a dream come true. So many opportunities have landed in my hand since being in The Gambia. Some opportunities I haven't even been offered in America. I found interest in Gambia Press Union, a place I could attend school and learn how to be a top journalist such as my co-workers at The Standard. I believe living in The Gambia would make me realise a lot of information I didn't know before. It will give me the culture I was deprived of. It will be the way I gain my history back. Gambian values and morals surpass what us African Americans were taught.
Coming to a third world country I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was there was something more to Africa than just poverty. My people come from a great land; I knew there had to be something Africa was good for. Getting to Africa, the locals thought I had plenty of money to spend. After seeing me live like a college student and calling my mom to send me money, they begin to ease up just a tad bit. I tried my best to strategise how much I could spend weekly including all meals and the gifts I wanted to take home for my family and friends. It didn't take me long to realise I was pinching pennies in a third world country. The climax of my trip is when I forgot about dalasis and began to live. I probably eased up too much, realising it was hard for me to get lunch every day. I didn't worry too much about it because the smiles were worth every dalasi.
Although I expected to find important black people doing big things, I didn't expect the locals to be so generous, appreciative, respectful, loving, and protective. I have a family here; they look after me very well. The security such as Ceesay, guard my life at night while I am sleeping. Susan Mendy, who works at Dunes Hotel my first African mom, knocks on my window in the morning to make sure I am not late for class. My second African mom Fatou Sarr, makes sure I have a nice bowl of benechin every time I visit Banjul market. It's crazy how I fell in love with her. When I first saw her I thought she was beautiful, then after a while she began to look more and more like my mom. I came across a picture of the two of us in my phone and thought our cheek bones are exactly the same. After posting the picture on my social networks all of my close friends back home thought I had taken my mom to Africa with me! Since then, I haven't eaten anywhere else for lunch, I enjoy seeing her smile.
Alas Manneh taught me a different level of thinking when it came to African art. He has been a mentor to me since even before I came to The Gambia. We kept in touch via Facebook, going back and forth about or different cultures and art, I will never forget him. My good friend Ebrima has taught me to always smile; he is the true definition of “Gambia, No Worries!” No matter what “Na ma na la.” Musa and Landing take us where ever we want to go, without over charging us. Everyone has a special place in my heart. Thank you Keita and Omar Joof for sewing my dress for my ceremony in one day, and also teaching me your language. Thank you Ansu for being a great friend to me. Thank you Abdou for being a brother to me and making sure no harm comes to me, and for allowing me to live freely in The Gambia.
If you think my main purpose for this was to study abroad you are wrong. My initial purpose for this trip was to get a great experience and learn my history, getting the education was just a plus. I almost gave up on my dream of coming to The Gambia because my funds were extremely low. I struggled with payments and gathering everything I needed. Luckily my community pitched in and saved my whole trip! I hustled day and night. I did everything from selling cupcakes, selling short stories, and going door to door with the help of all my little brothers. It was hard work but it taught me to NEVER sleep on myself. I can do anything I put my mind to. I always knew I was capable of doing something big but coming to The Gambia has really taught me what I am worth.
At The Standard, I was asked to accompany Sainey MK Marenah to a press conference. I said yes! I felt important, and obligated to do my very best. I wanted to leave an everlasting impression and there I was in front and centere bum rushing other journalists to get the best pictures of the Minister of Health and the people from the World Health Organisation. I met different journalists from various papers, who welcomed me into their world. Yesterday, I met Ajaratou Mariama Fofana the 8th generation of Kunta Kinteh's family and was blessed by the chief of Juffureh, Mrs Tako Taal, to roam their village freely. When my mom saw the picture of us kissing her on the lips she started to laugh. I explained “Even though she doesn't speak English, at least I know she speaks the universal language of love.” I bought a signed certificate from her that explained I had visited her village for only D25. How could I pass that up?
Today, I am here with my good friend Sainey Marenah. We are here at the United Nations Banjul office of The Gambia, sitting in on a press briefing of the International Day of the African Child 2014. The Day of the African Child is celebrated annually for states to renew their commitment towards the protection and promotion of the rights of African children. Present are the Unicef representatives, civil society groups, officials from the Ministry of Education, and Young People in the Media. The day is punctuated by questions and answers from the press corps on the significance of the day. This year's theme for the celebration is “A child-friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa.”
The purpose of this wonderful International Day of the African Child is to celebrate those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976. Thousands of black children marched, protesting the importance of their education and how special it was to be taught in their own language. More than 100 were killed, and more than 1,000 injured. Being privileged to have been welcomed to United Nations, I met with some great people. Eric Samuel Ketter, president of the YPM whom I was very impressed with, spoke fluently on the issues dealing with education. I admired his youthful but very intelligent approach. Hopefully, one day I can join an organisation as such. Today was a very productive day for me at The Standard.
I am forced to make something of this trip because getting here was far from easy. Just when I was about to give up my grandmother Marie Cubit became very ill, and her heart was failing for the third time. I remember going to visit her on her death bed. She remained unresponsive as we sat there and held her hand. My little brother Ralen stood to the right of me, AJ next to him, and Ray'el behind us all. I remember my mom gazing out the window with tears in her eyes. My great aunt reminded me to hold conversation with her.
“She can hear you,” she explained.
I begin rambling on and on about how I finished my freshmen year of college. I began getting excited because nothing else mattered. I was talking to my grandma, maybe for the last time and she paid attention to me. I started to tell her about the study abroad trip and me traveling to Africa. Her lazy smile was enough for me.
“Do you see her smiling?” Ralen asked.
“Yes,” I smiled. As tears filled my eyes, that's when I knew I was going to get to Africa or die trying. I dedicate this experience to my grandmother as she watches over me from the heavens. I thank you from the very depths of my heart for your motherhood and your friendship to me. All my life I've known you to give me your last. For that I will make you proud, like I always have. I am forever grateful to have you as my great grandmother. In loving memory Marie Cubit “MC.” I love you.
To my Gambian people, thank you for allowing me to live in your country for an entire month. I am grateful to have met people like you. I've never felt like home until now. You have given me the full family experience, for that I thank you. Forever, may The Gambia live in my heart.
By Joey Goggins
The Standard Newspaper, June 2014