Africa on Me



Africa on Me  an essay by Desiree McCray

I woke up freezing on an April morning, wrapped in my fluffy queen-sized comforter. Though the wind cannot blow through walls as it is such a weak force into the structure of my home, I am freezing, shivering in a cold sweat that my body cannot shake. Temperature it’s self is a metaphor and as I am “hot for” heat this April day, what’s going outside, around my body is just as important as what’s transpiring inside my person. Anemia has been rattling my bones, yet today my logic leads me to believe that if I dress for summer on this chilly, windy day, my body in an all-natural predisposition to remain in homeostasis would warm me. Anemia, a condition which ails me  occasionally, in acute form, is caused by an iron deficiency. Some of the symptoms which occur in my body are the feeling of being cold, feeling weak and fatigued. I dressed for sunshine searching for the hottest article of clothing in the organized chaos that is my closet. I search high and low, my wild imagination running from the cold and into a place of sweltering heat, coupled with exponentiating temperatures, up until a certain point only.  My search presses me to move vintage, thrifted, tattered jeans out of the way and I cast my on-the-go mom wardrobe to the side that I might uncover my treasure trove of Africana [1].


I pulled out my father’s dashiki[2]. A white triple extra large garment with a gold and earth green decorative pattern, the main pattern on this traditional African attire was the shape of Africa, sideways and tilted, distorting what I might see if I didn’t have an eye for that sort of trickery. A shirt on my father, but a dress on my round but still more slender body, the lightness of its fabric crept up my thick thigh as the wind gusts threated to expose my sensitivity. 

I wore Africa on me, not the image of the Sahara, the desert, with its sand hills, and dryness only moistened by sweat invoked by the sun seemingly touching at the equator of the vastest region. I wore not the safari wild with its zebras, meerkats, lions, and elephants, and bushman in loincloths. No I wear Africa, the whole, broad, generalized continent of which inside somewhere my lineage is rooted but which country particularly, I do not know. Could I recognize home if I were there?

So many blacks of the African Diaspora wish to reconnect with there roots, to discover a latent up-until-now unidentifiable sense of self, and to eradicate the hopelessness that is our fragile identity.

I hope to visit soon.

When I wore my African garment everything around transformed. Every person I encountered had a more palpable human existence, and seeing the darkness in their eyes that stared at my clothing in amazement. I must have seemed a boastful gloat, a patriot of another country, yet born here but foreign. I was an alien as eyes stared at a shape, the physical manifestation of all of our origins according to science, history, and theology. I saw the blackness as depth within their eyes that would not shake even with my returned gleam of a well meaning smile, a slight acknowledgement of their presence as the Wind carried me. The Wind was blowing me into them, my encounter with such a depth was cause for a pause or rather a metaphysical discussion held between my heart and my head. The likes of this discussion I couldn’t explain to you, see my heart and my head speak a tongue that I do not quite know, one which is independent of me. When I realize how I excluded I am from the workings of my mentis[3], a smile as warm as the Egyptian sand between my toes, involuntarily creeps upon my countenance because the Wind’s gust of Columbia, Missouri have the same strength as any wind. even the air waves that would cause turbulence on my international flight if I am to travel to Tanzania this coming summer of 2016, with passport in hand, a hunger for self-discovery, and a homesickness held within my belly. The wind gusts of Missouri have the same strength as the light breezes that move the tiny grains of sand in the present city of Cairo turning fine textured mountainous landscape by way of redistribution into mole hills, quite equitably breaking it all down for us. When I visit Tanzania will these feelings be broken down for me? Will I understand what my mentis is saying to my core[4].

Darkness is often equated with a coolness, a dropping temperature change, which I can make sense out because of the simple fact that light is energy and the light from the sun in a direct hit to earth, let’s say at around noon, will provide us with the most potent thermal energy for that day. The reverse is true for night, as the witching hour takes over the duration of Night changing hands with Day, to give us a rest from the intensity of the day’s heat. So you cannot blame me for thinking of that darkness as coldness.

I wonder how their eyes lock onto my Africana and my locs[5] in my hair that they call dreadful, how the cold glaze of their gaze judges me. I try not to think much of the onlookers who don’t bother to ask me what I’m wearing, or why I’m wearing it because not a single one of them are bold enough to ask and while I would love to use these wind guided encounters as teachable moments none of them seek the knowledge or wisdom of an enlightened soul. See I have a light in my eyes, a warmth to me, outside the anemia that can often shudders me, waking me from my sleep. This light as it shines casts itself on darkness. Where there is light darkness can be no more, in fact, just as cold is not the presence of cold but the absence of heat, so it is with light. If ever there is any darkness, I mustn’t fear it. For darkness knows how to do what it does. I know they might be lost as I was before I realized exactly what it is and was that I am missing—Home in the place of Africa.


She is so beautiful.

Her lines and boundaries are marked with a richness and though she has been stripped and raped for centuries on end, she somehow remains fertile, still giving, and reaping a harvest blessed and set apart.

If I were her, I’d be barren taking into account all the abuse and misallocation of her resources which she has faithfully endured. I tell you, she has endured and her children have too. Her children are strong and mighty and when you look at them they are unmistakably hers based on their features: the lulling smoothness of their voices, their hair in all it’s mangled and tangled formations characterized by kinks and curls, emphatic and passionate expression made possible by their lips full and wide, their broad noses enabled to smell the sweet mango she bears, and their Africana whether it be traditional or revise for this era in time.

By her children numbering billions over countless years, who have lived with her and in her and by her, she is the greatest mother, the warmest mother, the hottest mother. The languages she speaks require complex and structured linguistics though she gets no credit for the culture she has orchestrated. Though she loves them, many children see her and do not speak because they do not recall her. Too many of her children do not speak to their siblings and although a sundry of her children can’t even recognize her when she is placed on t-shirts and painting and even dashikis, she still calls quietly for them, for her voice has been silenced to a hushed whisper. Her voice, however, can still be heard if one opens their ears and shuts their eyes.

I hope to visit soon.


[1] Usually books, artifacts, and other collectors’ items connected with Africa, in particular southern Africa, but in this instance ritualized clothing

[2] a loose, brightly colored shirt or tunic, originally from West Africa.

[3] Mentis is the Latin word for mind

[4] Core is the Latin word for heart

[5] Locs is what many people of the African Diaspora call dreadlocks. Because we, loc wearers find nothing in our experience or appearance of wearing locs to be dreadful, we choose to call them locs since the hair is simple loc’d, or matted in sections.



God is God. And God is Good.

Peace and Blessing Kings & Queens,



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