Kalo Boof on embracing our ‘authentic’ African blackness

On 2 January 2012 – hours after a friend, Nyakallo Lephoto, on Facebook alerted us on his status to a statement a writer (she told me later on Twitter) and activist Kalo Boof (@KaloBoof) made about President Jacob Zuma having invited her to South Africa, and after I checked her Twitter timeline to confirm that claim – I googled her name. 

And I came across a lot more than I had anticipated. Even better, I learned what a remarkable women Boof was. I came across a lot of materials on Boof, and many interviews with a lot of publications, both print and online.

Of interest was an article she wrote in The Daily Voice in which she denied ever giving the National Enquirer an ‘exclusive’ interview. This after the publication carried “Exclusive Interview with Bin Laden’s Mistress” it claimed was an ‘exclusive’ interview with Boof, detailing a lot of what (by reading Boof’s response) had already been in the public.

In the article (also published in one of my tweets on 2 Jan 2012), Boof went on to give a brief description of her late abuser and named a dictator by others, Osama Bin Laden. In other interviews with other publications (also links of which I have tweeted), Boof said that she was not a slave mistress as many American media houses and Bin Laden critics have described her to be. She further criticised authors of books detailing what she called a false description of Bin Laden, wondering how that was possible when they had never lived with him like she did.

Boof has strong and insightful views on Blackness and Africaness. This, according to some reports, has seen her work being banned in certain parts of the world by those who believed her strong views on and criticism of black African (American) men were unfair, unjust and somewhat racists.

I, too, almost got blocked by Boof on Twitter for posting some of these links. I did not include the original headlines of the articles as they had first appeared. Instead I added my own comments before the links, something she threatened to block me for because many of these articles were old. And yes, some of these articles’ headlines were, in my view, stupid and one could see the skepticism in which they were written. Further, if you are an intelligent reader like myself – one who pays attention to what is communicated in a news report and how it is communicated/reported – you could notice the bias in some of the articles especially one written by Ms. Salamon in the New York Times newspaper, published on 11 December 2002 (which I also tweeted), in which despite what Boof told the reporter, the reporter continued to write with skepticism and bias.

This is what I said about the New York Times newspaper article on Boof on my Facebook status:

Almost 10 years ago, on 11 December 2002, the @nytimes’ Julie Salamon wrote a piece on Kola Boof (@KolaBoof) titled: “About Fatwa Victim or a Fraud?; Mystery Enshrouds Kola Boof, Writer and Internet Persona http://nyti.ms/trMmqa. My reading of it shows just how the American media were skeptical of @KolaBoof that they seemed to question and not believe what she told them (about being Osama Bin Laden’s mistress, among others), dismissing her account as just another strategy of trying to sell her books. I found Boof a fascinating woman indeed. Not only because of her account in the Bin Laden family, but also because (of) her strong views on being black and Africans and embracing that Africaness (sic).

How I wish Boof had read this before she threatened to block me on Twitter.

In reading some of Boof’s interviews, there is one specific quote which I found fascinating and truthful when she said:

I would like to see Black people, for once in a thousand years, acknowledge and embrace the full humanity and worthiness of authentic blackness. Without that, we can’t even begin to discuss the word justice, because the Slave is a bigger Satan than the Master.

I then posted this on my Facebook status. Well, expectedly – especially taking into account the South African racial and discriminatory history – a friend said in response how he “still [did] not understand humanities obsession with a single biological feature, evolving culture around it etc”. Daniel said “As long as you [black and African people, I think] define yourself around a feature which you had nothing to do with (like skin color or height etc) instead of defining yourself around constructive and progressive actions then you will forever be stuck [in the blackness mentality]”.

He claimed that “to talk of Blackness is to forever condemn the history of individual cultures (Zulu, Xhosa etc) to irrelevance, to rob people of their real identity etc and just continue to play into the mentality of those bastards who wanted it in the first place – Slavers, Colonialists etc”. Trying to make an example of what he meant, Daniel tweaked Boof’s statement to “show why it is dangerous and ‘backward’” and said: “I would like to see Indian people, for once in a thousand years, acknowledge and embrace the full humanity and worthiness of authentic Indianess. Without that, we can’t even begin to discuss the word justice, because the Slave is a bigger Satan than the Master.”

And it was Daniel’s comment that: “to talk of Blackness is to forever condemn the history of individual cultures” which I found problematic, I said in my respond to him. Here’s my full response to Daniel regarding that comment:

This is because talking about blackness is not only to embrace our blackness but to knowledge it too. Of course this ‘talk of blackness’ and our pride in embracing it may be influenced by the colonialists who’ve always treated us black Africans as less human being and as a results we want to embrace our humanity in it.

I say ‘black Africans’ because there are some white people who proudly regard themselves, therefore, as just Africans even without practicing African cultures at all, cultures regarded as backward by these American media, the entire western people and recently by our own black African people.

I remember reading on the internet just last night as I was Googling who Kalo Boo was, and came across a comment in which she is quoted as saying and I paraphrase: claiming to be African (black) yet failing to practice African cultures, however primitive and backward they may seem to the westerners and American media, and some black Africans – it is equal to fraud.

Steve Biko might have said black is a skip pigment, but that does not mean we should not take pride in it. Or those claiming there is only ‘one human race’, it does not mean we cannot embrace it sub-races, if you will.

Boof said this at the time when she was ill-considered and mistreated by the American media, mostly white, who did not believe her when she said she was Osama Bin Laden’s ‘mistress’ because, she claimed, she was a black women.

She saw this (her mistreatment by the white American media as Bin Laden’s mistress and therefore dismissing her account because she was black) as a problem because the Americans and its entire media houses (mostly white) never seemed to have problems with many other ‘mistresses’ of other American Presidents as these ‘mistresses’ were white and not black like her. As a result they (white mistresses) were only treated and regarded as ‘victims’ or ‘kidnap victims’ and not as “Hitler’s slave”  or “slave mistress” as she had been labelled at the time.

The context in which Boof said this (many years ago) is still as relevant today as it was then.

But Daniel went on to claim further that “whenever you talk of ‘blackness’ or make any reference to skin color just replace it with another skin color and look at the argument again to see the flaw… Skin color holds absolutely nothing but degrees of melanin… Just like those power hungry colonialists etc used it to separate people and failed you cannot use it to unite people… It will fail as well.”

Even bizarrely, he claimed: “There is no such thing as African culture, just like their (sic) is no such thing as European culture… There is Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Afrikaans etc culture just like there is Dutch, German, French, Spanish etc culture…” Daniel said “too talk off (sic) African/European culture is to deny the separate histories and identifies of those cultures… Which is /exactly/ what the aim was of those who wish to rule… remove peoples identity and it is easier to control them etc…”

Well, in my opinion, the issue of whether African culture exists or not, as Daniel claims it does not, is an interesting topic, one for another day altogether.

So excuse the somewhat racist comment that follows but: Isn’t it funny how even to this very day white people (like Daniel I suspect he is, although quite open-minded and one I can engage and have engaged on many topics unlike his many peers) still seem to suggest they know what is African and what is not and what is its culture and what isn’t?

 For more on “the dangerous woman” (Boof that is), please visit her web site for more information.

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