Wed. Jan 22nd, 2020

Stay Smart About Africa

Anelisa Mangcu ‘Why Black Excellence Matters’

I had the opportunity to interview Anelisa Mangcu to collect her thoughts on Black Excellence. Please see the Q&A session below and leave your comments and thoughts on the subject of Black Excellence.

Question: Black and African history has been distorted and re-written over centuries. What can be done to rectify this and restore lost glory and pride?

Answer: The first step in rectifying African history and the glory and pride of its indigenous people, is to begin to not soften the effects of colonialism. The second step is to acknowledge that Africa and its people did not need saving. Africa had its own forms of commerce, science, art and other measures of civilization before it was faced with European imperialist aggression, diplomatic pressures and military invasions.

Question: Many black successful people in different disciplines aren’t the ideal ‘faces’ there, even to us Africans. Many feel the need to look outside for inspiration when the high-achievers are right in the doorstep. What can be done to change this narrative?

Answer: If you are asking why black people in Africa look outside the continent for inspiration, when we have successful black people in Africa, then my response is that we don’t. We cannot forget that millions of Africans were torn from their homes and deported to the United States of America and Europe and sold as slaves. When we look outside for inspiration, we are simply looking at people who mirror how we look.

Question: Does intersectionality play a role in undermining black excellence, especially to black women?

Answer: I think it’s a framework that takes into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to make sense of the discriminations and complexity of the disadvantages those identity markers may comes with. I am a black female, from a middle class background.  My location, where I grew up (New Brighton, Port Elizabeth) versus where I stay now (Gardens, Cape Town) has not changed much of how I understand myself. Undermining excellence in black people, and especially black women continues. I still believe that I have to work 10 times harder to be taken seriously in corporate spaces.

Questions: Brands are always looking for the next big thing and right now African/Black culture is having a moment. What can be done to keep the momentum going and stop relegating African culture to fad especially in the African diaspora?

Answer: It has been wonderful to watch Africans incorporate recognizable pan-African motifs unapologetically in the media. But I wouldn’t call African/Black culture a trend. It has and will always exist. We need to stop fetishizing Africa. We are simply reclaiming a distinctive visual and verbal vocabulary.

Question: How can we celebrate the achievements of black people in everyday life so that black children grow up with the affirmation that their contributions count just as much as everyone else?

Answer: My experience growing up was that it is the responsibility of the family, community and self to affirm the achievements of black people.

Question: You mention Donald and Trevor as the perfect examples of black excellence, which other black achievers, have inspired you?

Answer: Every black person in the world. We have put up with a lot and continue to do so.

Question: What is the role of creatives and creative industry in advancing black industry and inspiring the next generation?

Answer: To encourage ownership of content, ownership of the culture that makes white corporates mad money and collaboration amongst black people for black people.

Question: What is the power of storytelling in portraying black excellence and do power dynamics influence what gets told?

Answer: Storytelling in the black community is our form of preserving heritage and culture. We share stories to teach lessons, to unite/gather and to encourage a sense of pride within our communities. Many black academics and creatives have made it their life’s work, to tell stories about their own which inspire generations.

Sometimes, other power dynamics are advertising companies speaking about black people, their culture and general behavior selling a product or service to black people, without the final sign off from a black person in the creative team or black representative from the client side.

Question: Do we still need resistance and revolution to actualize black excellence – as well as recognize it, or has the process changed and the standards lowered?

Answer:  Black excellence is a result of colonialism. This phrase black excellence exists because society can’t look at African/African American people before colonialism. Hence white people have not coined the phrase “white excellence” because the world reminds them everyday that they are excellent.