An Honest Conversation with No White Saviors

[0:55] Blossom, Unplug: Ok amazing. So Hi guys, my name is Blossom or I guess, my indigenous, traditional name, whatever you want to call it, is Dauchi and I’m currently in Lagos, Nigeria. But my people are from Southeastern Nigeria. My tribe is Igbo, and I attend Barnard College along with the founder of Unplug Magazine, Amanda Taylor. So before we begin, I just want to ask, because there are three of you, if you guys could tell me your names individually, and then for the purpose of humanizing Africa and not making it into this one big continent with homogenous people on it, what are your tribes or your ethnic groups?

 

[2:00] Kelsey, No White Saviors: I’m the one with no ethnic group, (laughs) I’m white, just kidding but not. Um, you know how white people are always like “I’m 2% German and 10% Irish” no we’re white. Um, but anyway, I’m Kelsey, I’m American from Philadelphia. I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s at Temple University in Social Work. I am the white member of the team and my goal, from beginning to now, is holding myself accountable and understanding that the emotional labor that it costs and takes for Black women to educate and hold whiteness accountable is insurmountable so to just bear a little bit of that myself and to be doing that education is really important. It shouldn’t be on the backs of Black women to just educate white people on how to be more human. So, yea, that’s me, I’m the white savior in recovery on the team…

Blossom: That’s very real…

[3:06] Kelsey, No White Saviors: And, yea, Well, I mean, yea I don’t have- (laughs), I’m just a white person… 

Someone asks: Okay, um, next, Blossom?

Blossom: Yes, another, yea, anyone, anyone. 

[3:32] Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors: I’m called Alaso Olivia Patience..

Blossom: Okay, awesome…

Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors: I’m a Ugandan. My ethnic group is the Nilotics. And, I’m a social worker by profession. And, this work is my passion, it’s what I want to do. As a Black woman, I feel it is a right to hold this space as Black women to freely express ourselves…

Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors: …and to help our communities, to learn the white savior complex and I’m a team member as well, but as a Black woman, I am geared toward justice and liberation and emancipation of all African women…

 

Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors : Yes (echoed by Blossom), that is me. (laughs)

[4:45] Blossom, Unplug : Ok! And then the last person, please?

Lubega Wendy, No White Saviors: I am Lubega Wendy, the newest member of the team. I have been with NWS for about a year. I have a degree in ethics and human rights so my background is purely in human rights and ethics – I majored in international ethics. Yea, what makes me want to work…or what drove me to work for NWS..the already ongoing work that I saw, the need to basically add work that I had learned in school into a practical world, into a practical field. So I am very passionate about human rights, promoting human rights, protecting people’s choice, because I do believe that everyone has or should be given a world where they really express themselves in a way that is very humane. 

[6:03] Blossom: Mhmm, okay that’s great. Before I get into it, why I’m here specifically and why Unplug was especially taken with you guys. Basically, I’ve been – well, I’m not a member of the Unplug team, but I’ve watched it grow from the beginning because I was friends with Amanda from the beginning. Her entire thing is, again similar to what you guys are doing, that Black and brown people are silenced internationally….

Lubega: Oh! I didn’t- Sorry, I didn’t say my ethnicity (laughs)…

Blossom: Oh! You’re okay, you’re okay. You can say it now. I should’ve caught you. I’m sorry. 

Lubega: I’m from the Bantu. 

Blossom: Okay, Bantu, okay. Amazing! Okay, so Unplug basically is about Black and brown people being centered, in terms of the ways they can express themselves and the ways they can fit into their own, actual bodies, and you guys do the same in terms of showing that struggle is an international thing, like the idea that we’re being centered and that other people are taking our voices is an international struggle. And you guys specifically center African people, which is so important because Africans have been silenced from the literal jump. obviously as you guys would know. But specifically, specifically it seems like you all want to do that from the angle of rights, and social work and advocacy, so what in you guys’ lives led you to that path? 

Blossom: Yea, big question (laughs) …but

[8:40] Alaso Olivia: No! It’s a good question and I’m glad for someone to ask me about that, because in so many interviews, no one has asked me about that. For me, growing up also, I grew up middle class, and growing up in the community that I grew up in,  I always wanted to connect with the community. And I said, how do I get to see and hear people’s different experiences of life because I went to school with children who did not have shoes on their feet 

 

Alaso Olivia: And for me, I had. And I had so many questions as a child. I grew up in a neighborhood where I would see domestic violence, families fighting, and in my heart I’m like, how do I get to be with these people, how do I get to hear people’s different stories, how do I connect with people in the community? And that is how I went in and did social work, not because it was a course that was available but I went in with a passion that I grew up wanting to explore. So I went and started social work. But along the way, as a child, when it comes to how Black and brown people have been silenced and the white savior complex, it was all around us because in school we had visitors who would come and visit us, who were white people, and we are singing for them…

[10:08] Blossom: Wow…

Alaso Olivia: …And you know as a child, I always thought oh wow white people bring nice things around and so the children that we started with would come to school and say my auntie, who is white came from the United States goes and visits the orphanage. So i was like “what? how can a white-like a black child have a white aunt or..”

 

Alaso Olivia: …You know, so it all confused me. I grew up in a town called Jinja, which has so many white people and the scenery of seeing white people moving on the streets with Black children and I would even ask myself “where were these people coming from,like where was their home” (brief interjection from Blossom I couldn’t make out) and, and so around the white savior complex, I had so many questions as a child and when it came to my passion for social work, I love the community, I love the community, I love my people, so I want to do social work. But along the way, I started getting to answer my questions that I had mostly when I joined the NGOs sector, I said “wow, so the children I was seeing on the streets with these white people, those were adoptions of course” 

Blossom: Exactly….

Alaso Olivia: …and I’m like “okay, okay, okay”so I’m getting answers to my questions as I now join the NGO sector and begin working in environments that have white people. But for me, as it passed on, I had a passion for becoming a social worker from way back. 

 

Alaso Olivia: …because I love the community and my community is me. So, it starts with me, it is me, and I am just happy that I have to do this because I can still talk with my people, I can still communicate, and I’m representing my people and my community by stressing out and showing the world that these are problems that we have in our community. So for me, it’s a passion that I grew up with and things like that. I wanted to become a social worker, so I didn’t know how I would like, become a social worker, young as I was, but I wanted to be around people and that is it. After now, it’s something that I do with a passion even within our work now. It is something, it is a living experience, these are my lived experiences growing up in Ginger, working in the NGO sector, and growing up in a town that is the face of white people. I bring that all together and I’m doing this work right now through my lived experiences. 

[12:55] Blossom: Wow, thank God. You know actually, I have a question, because I’d always thought that Uganda wasn’t actually settled by white people, but you said that your town has a lot of white people, so are those like old settlers or are those just NGO people?

Alaso Olivia: Well, they are missionaries, NGO people, they are people who just want to live on the Nile, they are people who come to live in Ginger because it is beautiful, it’s cheap to live there. It is just a free town, and you know, Uganda is also a very free country to people coming in, especially white people. We don’t have restrictions, yea, they can come in at any time. 

Blossom: Wow, okay, that’s very interesting. Okay. So one of you that worked in human rights, I would just like to know how you got into that specifically?

Lubega Wendy: For me, the road to human rights is, I would say, my path is pretty much Olivia’s path, shaped by different situations. I would certainly say I come from, well I could say, I’m very privileged, as compared to, you know, a lot of Ugandans. So growing up, I saw the differences around me, I saw how people struggled, I saw how it was hard because one did not have money to access justice, I saw what the world could do to someone who, you know, basically had no money. At one point, I even wanted to become a lawyer but a few things along the way changed. So for me, realizing that I am privileged, and then understanding that if I’m going to bring about change, then it’s gonna require me to use my privilege in one way or another…

 

Lubega Wendy:  It’s also very  important that a few people get the education that I had and if they do get the education, it’s not the same kind of decolonized education that I had…

Blossom: Exactly…

Lubega Wendy: So the average Ugandan would not be asking similar questions that I would be asking….

 

Lubega Wendy: They would not be asking things like when I go to a restaurant, when there’s a white person, why is a white person sat before me? They wouldn’t question such a choice because of the education that they’ve been exposed to, so if you have the privilege to get a good quality education, one that helps you to critically analyze, critically assess things, then how are you going to put it to use? 

Blossom: Right…

Alaso Olivia or Kelsey: Mmmm

Lubega Wendy: How are people going to, kind of, critically assess these things, critically analyze these things, become a guiding light for them, give them room to think through things. So, for me, the need to see that everyone gets access to good education, that everyone has access to judicial courts, everyone should be represented in an equal and equitable way so that drove me to join this work. 

Blossom: Ok, like let’s…that’s such a good point to make because the question of education is so important. Like, as you just said, decolonized education is actually a privilege because  going to the regular school afforded by the government, they’re not going to teach you about, I don’t know, like Christopher Columbus being this terrible person, they’re not going to teach you these specific things that would allow you to break out of the way you’ve been taught things. So that is an actually an extremely good point to make. 

Lubega Wendy: So knowing your position and this scale of privilege and how you’re using it, because we are all privileged in one way or another

Blossom: Exactly…

Lubega Wendy: Like there are certain privileges that I do not have

 

Lubega Wendy: But I do hold certain privileges over certain people with my same ethnicity…

 

Lubega Wendy: So how am I getting or using this as a way, to you know, promote justice, to protect human rights, to make sure that we are all equal and on equitable grounds. So for me, that is very important. 

Blossom: Exactly, exactly…well, I think, we can all say that, in general, the one person who does have privilege over all of us, as you guys have pointed out, are white people. And, obviously, you guys are really dedicated and pointed at, dismantling the white savior complex. And it’s everywhere on you guys’ platform but your slogan is basically “We never said no white people, we just know you shouldn’t be the hero of the story” which is, for me, not technically radical because that’s just the only way I feel like we can be free. But in the world, it seems like a radical thing to say. How do you think — do you think dismantling the white savior complex is a key thing in Africa right now for us to secure our liberation? If that question makes sense. 

[18:47] Alaso Oliva: Hmm wait…could you just repeat the question?

Blossom: Yea, cause it seems like the white savior complex seems to be something that’s present, so do you feel like the dismantling of it, at the smallest level for Ugandans, but on a larger level, for Africans, would lead to greater, emancipation, more freedom?

Alaso Olivia: Yes! Yes! It is, because dismantling white supremacy as African people is very, very important because when we talk about white supremacy, we cannot skip speaking about power, it has a lot of power and privilege as well…

 

Alaso Olivia:…and we see that whenever there is whiteness in a space, there is someone who is affected by this, and we have seen it that dismantling the white savior complex in Africa is important because it brings up, it kills this narrative that people have had on Africa—for example, “Africans are lazy, they cannot be trusted, they cannot lead organizations, they cannot lead their own movements.” That is so wrong, and because of white supremacy, the moment you say African people are stronger, and they’re united, and they’re ready to fight for a common cause, then this is a threat to white supremacy because this is what it hates. You’re taking away its power. You’re killing its ideology. So it is important as African people—we African people should kill the white savior complex because look at the way we are treated in terms of payment in the NGO world. 

Blossom: Exactly. Yeah, speak more about that.

Alaso Olivia:… you’re working with a white woman, and she has to earn 10 times more than you, a black woman. Why? This is because of privilege. They see you as someone who doesn’t deserve to be paid the money you’re being paid. They see you as someone who cannot make decisions that the white woman is making, or the white man. And it’s all a game. It has to be dismantled. Because we need to be on the same standards of doing things. For example, this thing of saying “Olivia is the CEO of this organization” but in the actual sense, I am just a prop. Decisions, everything, is done by white people. It is really, really important that we kill it, we dismantle it in any way that we can, and on all levels. Because it is in every, every system in our countries. We have seen it in the education system. For example, in Uganda we are still under the British curriculum and we’re still being told things that they want us to know, not things that we want to know.

 

Alaso Olivia:…Our national language is English…

Blossom: Mhmm, that’s a big one…

Alaso Olivia:…We have so many languages in this country but our national language is English. And that shows you that we are, we are still under the neo-colonial British state. It’s just something that keeps on trying to show up but at the end of the day, white supremacy needs to be dismantled. That is when we shall be standing for equal rights, equal justice, equal everything. If we dismantle white supremacy. But unless we do that, we are still going to suffer the same way we are suffering even right now. The injustices, the inequality, the racism, each everything. So for me, I think, as black people it is very vital for us to dismantle white supremacy with whatever tools we have. Whether it’s going on social media the way we do it with No White Saviors, and calling out harmful behavior, we should do that. 

 

Alaso Olivia:… Exactly, I think this is what we should be doing at this point. For me personally, and I feel that as black people we should dismantle. We should not give chance to this white supremacy to stand again. If we want to see a new Africa.

Blossom: Exactly. And the hardest thing in Africa is that Africans or black people can also, you know, use white supremacy and be white supremacists, that’s what we see in our government. So yeah, it’s a big thing to tackle. But it needs to be done. You were also talking about how white saviorism isn’t just in the NGO world. You see it in education, you see it in all these other things. So, for you guys, what is a general, simple definition of white saviorism? ‘Cause I feel like people typically think “Oh, this NGO worker who goes to Tanzania or Uganda and take pictures with African kids and posts them on their Instagram…” but white saviorism can actually come up in a lot of other ways that people are doing and they don’t notice. 

Alaso Olivia:…Okay so as a team we have this definition. Our definition of white saviorism is that it is a symptom of racism and white supremacy, which places those in a position of privilege in the role of a savior over those who have been historically exploited and oppressed. 

 

Alaso Olivia:…So that is the team definition. 

Blossom: Okay, yeah. 

Lubega Wendy:…I think when discussing white saviorism, it’s also important to highlight that it does not necessarily refer to a white person. As a person of color, as a black person, as  a brown person, you could fall prey into this because we have black people that opt in and out of whiteness. (Blossom: wow.. )That align themselves with whiteness whenever it suits them. (Blossom: wow..) That goes back into the positions of privilege. (Blossom: yes…) There are black people that are more privileged than the other…(Blossom: preach…) and in the long run, they could act as white saviors for their own people because they believe they’ve had a better education or “I live in America.” (Blossom: yes…hey…) You see this all the time. Americans come back to Nigeria— how they feel, how they talk. They basically think they are sort of better than the people that are living in Nigeria. (Blossom: yes!!) So it’s very important to highlight that a black person, too, can be a white savior. If you can align, if you can benefit, if you can opt in and out of whiteness, then you can be a white savior. 

Blossom: Yes, wow, that is, that’s wisdom. That’s just wisdom. (laughs)  In terms of privilege, that’s actually a very key point because you guys are all women. And I’m just thinking about – do you think it is important that you guys were all women? At least for Unplug, the Unplug team is women and nonbinary people. So like why – if it was an active choice or an accidental choice— how do your positions as women contribute to the mission? Also, do you guys think that African women are more vulnerable to the white savior complex? I’m just thinking about, oh, the child bride trope, or the genital mutilation trope. How are we more prey to that sort of thing than other people might be? 

Alaso Olivia:…Wow, who wants to go? Kelsey? Wendy? You want me to? Kelsey? Are you there?

Kelsey:…Yeah, go ahead Liv. 

Alaso Olivia:…Okay, so. First and foremost, I think, when it comes to who talks about these issues more often, it is women. And when we were starting No White Saviors, it was a conversation between women. It just shows how women care about things much more than men.

Blossom: Well, there you go.

Alaso Olivia:…Yeah! These are things that men feel “I shouldn’t lose my sleep because I’m talking about the white savior complex.” 

Blossom: That’s real though, that’s very real.

Alaso Olivia:…Yeah so for us women, there is a way we connect with what we decide to do. And if we’re doing it wholeheartedly, not being forced, but the willingness that we have as women makes us build ideas to where we want them to be. So when we started No White Saviors, it was the three of us: me, Kelsey, and another Ugandan called Sharon, who lives in Finland. And so, because we – Sharon started an organization as well in Jinja and she’s Ugandan and she had seen things around you know, a woman leading and the challenges she had, and also me working around white people, and my background, growing up. And also Kelsey being that she worked in the Jinja community, white community. She was amongst them, experiences as well. So when we brought them together, we said these are ideas that all of us as women have experienced. We have lived them in the course of our work. Can we share them? Can we create a space where other women that have ideas like ours can also see and move from that step of saying “I can’t do it. I can’t speak.” But if the three ladies who started No White Saviors are speaking and they’re speaking freely and they’re doing it willingly, then you’re also giving hope to another woman right there. 

Blossom: Exactly.

Alaso Olivia:…So, for us, it was the idea to believe that the passion that we had for the work, that’s why we started talking openly and also leaving the risk of what is involved and saying “No. Come rain, come sunshine, we are addressing these issues. Let’s put out this word. Let’s start exchanging ideas on Facebook and stories and things that we’re seeing in Jinja that were not okay. So, let’s start a hashtag and see who will join the bandwagon. That is what it means for women to come together. We are always focused. And if we want to deliver our message, we shall deliver that message without fear. And so that’s how it all started. Generally, women care about this work more than men for sure. 

Kelsey: I think that also, just to add on to that, Liv. I think we’ve also seen that so much of the missionary, white savior complex development sector is dominated by white women. 

Alaso Olivia: Oh yea! 

Blossom: That’s facts.

Kelsey: …Seeing — I grew up in the white evangelical church in the US. And seeing — I lived in Jinja for a few years as Olivia noted. And seeing so much of the violence and the harm and the racism that was happening, I always remember looking at it and thinking I existed outside of the problem because like “I voted for Obama!” and I was like, “a liberal white person,” you know? 

Blossom: Exactly, exactly…

Kelsey: …And then coming back to the states, being in deeper conversations with friends of mine who were Black, in Philly, engaging and really digging into anti-racism work, realizing that so much of the same — white supremacy might look different in how it plays out in the US and Uganda, but it’s rooted in the same antiblackness. It’s rooted in the same idea that whiteness is inherently moral, inherently knowledgeable, and inherently is like, the expert on how to fix everything, everywhere. And so seeing all of the violence that like myself and fellow white people—not just white women, but white missionaries especially—were causing in Jinja, I think that when we were starting this conversation it was out of this really this deep joint frustration obviously from different sides for Olivia and for Sharon, being like “This is not okay. This is our town. How dare you guys come here and treat us like this and behave like this? And then for me it’s like, this is embarrassing, this is not Jesus. Even if I believe in Jesus, this is not the Christ that you profess to know about. 

Blossom: Right…exactly…

Kelsey: This is oppression in the name of justice. And so, knowing that and seeing that, knowing that there was no communal accountability for sure, right? Because whiteness does not ever want to hold itself accountable. So there was no communal accountability. There is no — The Renee Bach case is a prime example because I was actually friends with her initially and when we came forward in 2015, a group of some of the other white folks in Jinja, when we came forward, the missionary, the church that she went to which was a home church of missionary men, they basically were like “This is supposed to be a church issue. Why would you report this to the police and the Ministry of Health?” Basically the same logic of,  like how the church defends like child molesters and is like “We’re going to deal with this in-house.” Protecting perpetrators of violence against vulnerable people is the church’s go to. 

Blossom: Really quickly, could you explain the case? 

Kelsey: …Nothing was being done intercommunally, obviously. The Ugandan government really wasn’t doing anything to protect against this. Not only ’cause of capacity but because of the same internalized white supremacy and favor of white people. And then, sure as hell the American government or other foreign governments aren’t usually doing anything in that. So I think that we were like, shit. We can create an Instagram page and a hashtag. There’s really nothing else being done in way of holding people accountable in a real way and calling for action against the really harmful shit that’s happening. Sorry for my language. 

Blossom: Wait, Kelsey — No, you’re fine. I just wanted to ask if you could please describe the Renee case, just for the listeners?

Kelsey:…Yeah, so there in a case is…I’ll try to be short. It’s an American missionary from Virginia who came to Uganda when she was right out of high school as a home-schooled white evangelical. She started a feeding program. From the feeding program she would find kids who were malnourished, and so she decided to start a rehabilitation center, which then escalated to an unlicensed medical clinic where she had an ICU and oxygen tanks and different high-level medical incubators. Different things like that. Before it was even registered, before she had a doctor on staff. So, kids were coming in very critical. Kids that should have been taken to a proper hospital. But instead she was taking it upon herself to offer advanced-level medical care because “By God, you know, through prayer…” I think one of the things she said was “through prayer” and, whatever… Anyway, all of that to say, yeah. Renee Bach is obviously like a very clear example but like, when I look at that, I look at all of the ways that while my behavior was not as severe, I certainly came over to Uganda and believed I had the answers and believed I knew more and could do more than I was actually experienced or qualified for. I had a bachelor’s degree in social work, but that doesn’t qualify me to know what’s best for vulnerable families halfway across the world. 

Blossom: Exactly…

Kelsey:..That is purely whiteness that taught me and that instilled in me this idea that I could even try to do that. So there’s been multiple attempts to hold her accountable. I think that needs to be clear. In 2015 she was shut down after a group of us submitted evidence to the Ministry of Health and the Jinja police but it was kind of swept under the rug. Nothing really happened after that. She was shut down, but that was only because she didn’t have a proper license to practice—the facility wasn’t licensed to practice—but not because of her actual actions in practicing direct medical care. So, it’s hard to say because there’s so many kids whose lives have been altered and who have been irreversibly harmed. There’s tons of kids who have died. We could never name an actual number because they weren’t keeping records of the deaths. They were making their own death certificates instead of reporting them to the local government and not getting proper death certificates. So the actual magnitude and the level of the harm she and her organization “Serving His Children” caused is still unknown. But at least 100 kids died in her care. And we’re not gonna stop fighting for her to be held accountable to the fullest extent. 

Blossom: Okay..That’s just, there’s so much there. Thank you for explaining all that, thank you.

Lubega Wendy:…Renee Bach was basically, you know, a ‘good’ white woman with all the “good” intentions that passed as a doctor with no qualification whatsoever. So just to answer the question you asked: “if you think the white savior complex affects women in general…? The Renee Bach case is a clear example of how if you Google the statistics, women in Africa take care of their homes, they fend for their homes. You find these good, well-intentioned white women are always going to prey on these vulnerable women. Because if you look at the Renee Bach case, the people coming out are all women. Women who lost their children. You don’t see any man. (Blossom: mmmm…) These women were trying to make things better for their children. So this is why it’s very necessary that people do not take the growth of this industry lightly. Taking this lightly is the same sort of thinking people give to things when you see in a movie when a black person acts as the bad guy, and the white person is the good guy — You think this is okay. These are small minor subliminal messages that people keep reproducing. In the long run, they become bigger things. So to ignore this is to create another industry of white supremacy that hasn’t even existed yet. [40:00]

 

Kelsey: Oh yeah, like all these empowerment organization, it’s always white women empowering black women…

Alaso Olivia: Yeah!!

Kelsey:…white women need to be empowered by Black far more… we need more, like what the hell — because we have more money, we’re empowering you?! You work harder than us, you…like it’s just…

Alaso Olivia: Especially the most annoying piece is how they send the beads to their home countries and this [unclear at 40:00-40:57] I don’t know I just hate seeing Black women used in these projects and then all the money goes to the white women and also the gratitude because no one knows where it came from…

Blossom: Right…

Alaso Olivia: ..no one is even appreciating the Black woman that did all this work…

Blossom: …did all the labor… wow

Alaso Olivia: Nah! [unclear at 41:15]

Lubenga Wendy: So the white savior industrial complex finds the pain of Black women, uses it as a foundation, exploits it and then just pretends to say “oh, we have all the good intentions, we didn’t mean any harm”…

Alaso Olivia: Oh yeah! 

Blossom: Wow…so just really it’s colonialism we’ve decided then? And using the word industry is so key, because it’s all about capital, and like making money at the end of the day, it’s all about making money…so yeah that’s just wow. But, while trashing white saviors, you know, is my favorite activity of the day (laughs in agreement), I do specifically want to talk about African people and just African people a bit and our history, our future and that type of thing. And we’ve talked a lot about — oh wait, Kelsey, where did she go?

Alaso Olivia: Oh, was it her network? You need to connect her back…

Blossom: I need to connect her back… 

Alaso Olivia: MTN has been giving us problems…

Blossom: See, MTN is not reliable…it is not reliable 

Alaso Olivia: It is not! But it’s the biggest network in Africa! 

Blossom: (laughs) Exactly!! I trust us with that one though. Oh there she is…there she is! Reconnecting…

Alaso Olivia: Do you see her on the call?

Lubega Wendy: No, not yet…you see her still connecting?

Blossom: Yes, I see that she’s still connecting but she hasn’t connected yet…hmm granted actually though this question is about Africans so maybe (laughs) I can ask it and if by the end of it, she isn’t back in, we try again?

Lubega Wendy: Yeah…

Blossom: Okay so basically, obviously we all just talked about how white people exploit us, our labor, our stories, in the name of,  trying to help us, uplift us, so basically in this climate, because whiteness is something that is entrenched in every single Black and brown society in the world, basically, and it’s something that is entrenched in the way we run our government, something that is entrenched in our schools – as we talked about, our government is controlled by like international interests -so how do we reclaim our stories, and help our communities in that kind of environment? Do you guys think it’s possible? And like you mentioned, the national language of Uganda is English, the national language of Nigeria’s English, I don’t speak my mother’s tongue, so how do we reclaim our narratives in this kind of climate where we don’t even speak our own languages? 

Alaso Olivia: Wow…well the first thing as Black people, as African people, we should, first redefine the way that we think about ourselves because these people have made us feel like we are not wise, we need to first rethink, we need to decolonize our minds from what they have injected in our brains for so many years. And that state will lead us to what we want to see if we decolonize our minds. But how do we do this? Not everyone is like Olivia, Wendy and not everyone is going to see the world in our eyes, the way we see it now…

Blossom: Exactly…

Alaso Olivia: So how do we go with this and this takes us back to our communities. Are we going to start and sense ties with the community and tell them that “guys, whatever comes your way, doesn’t matter, whether it’s white, is not right” and this is what our people know. That when you have seen a white person, you have seen some kind of ghost, you have seen something that is not [unclear 45:55]…and this is what goes back to us as Black people, we, who have seen this light shine, we should go back home, we should go inform our communities that you know what, these people are like us, when you cut them and you cut us, it is the red that runs in theirs and ours. So we should be questioning people who come in our communities, it is through us doing this work, we who have seen the light because not everyone has seen this light and has seen that white saviorism is real. There are people who will say “oh let white people come in, they are going to help us,” so it is on us now to create the awareness on the grassroots to our mothers, to our aunties in the villages, to our grandmothers…

 

Alaso Olivia: Until you know, now moving in this direction, these guys are not what you think they are and then if we try to get it from the roots, then by the time we come to the primary schools because your mom has already told you “please when you see such and such thing at school, don’t think—when you see a white person, don’t think they are bringing for you, you know, good things, you should begin questioning.” So if the work starts from the grassroots and comes up in schools, forming the clubs in schools and also getting teachers in schools but then we can only do that by putting more emphasis on our government to fix things in the curriculum, things about the white savior complex in the curriculum because teachers will not teach it unless they are given the authority from the government to teach about this. So we, the generation that is fighting this, should fight to say that our governments begin teaching about the white savior complex in our classes, (Blossom: hmm, okay…) which is not easy.

Blossom: Yes, it’s not..it’s actually really not. 

Alaso Olivia: It is not easy…yea..

Blossom: No, yea I was just saying that like that’s it. Basically you’re just going back to education which is like what everything is about! (laughs) (Alaso: Yes!) Everything is about education !

Lubega Wendy: I think, for us, as Black people, for us, as African people, to find a clear path that will sort of dismantle this, you know, white supremacy, the white savior industrial complex and basically adding onto what Liv has said, is to decolonize our education system…

 

Lubega Wendy: For instance, here in Uganda, it is very shocking that our schools still run on a colonial curriculum where we have things like “why did the missionaries come to Uganda” and then their answer is “they came to strengthen our hearts or they came to do all the good things” so that alone shows you if people are learning certain kinds of things in school, how are they going to critically assess things if what school is saying is that they are bad and the white person is the good one. So I think it’s important that we decolonize our education, because it’s through this enslaved education mentality that we see things like internalized oppression growing where the Black man thinks “you know what, I’m just not any good, we are bad” and within the internalized oppression is where you see things like colorism, or white or Black people prefer very light-skinned people even within Blackness, or why is there this diversity within Blackness. So all these things that are happening in the realm of internalized oppression can be attributed to the kind of education that people have had. People cannot critically analyze things, they cannot question things they’ve been not told to question…

Blossom: Mhmmm….

[50:21] Lubega Wendy: So it all takes me to the drawing board of decolonizing education. And I think that’s why the No White Saviors team, we have dedicated a greater chapter of our work to you know, finding — you know how schools have like French clubs, French this…

 

Lubega Wendy: Why don’t we have an NWS club in the school…

Blossom: …Exactly! 

Lubega Wendy: …where we talk about white supremacy, where we talk about decolonization, where we talk about all these things that you know, make people work, what shouldn’t be this, why shouldn’t this be? Like the Daily Bread, why shouldn’t we have things like this? Why shouldn’t we have chapters in universities where students engage in that kind of thing? Such that they do not meet these things till they are out of school…people need to start learning how dangerous whiteness is, how dangerous white supremacy is, beginning from school. And also we need to write, rewrite our own history. We, as Africans, we are not very greedy-minded people, we are very communal, we share things. So in that essence, we do not find use in putting names onto certain things because we feel like it’s a communal thing…

Blossom: Right!

Lubega Wendy: But that has made a lot of knowledge get stolen by white people who can steal whatever they come across and put a name on it. If it means to say this is ours, let us write a name on it, let that be. 

Blossom: Okay…no yea…mhmm. you can go Liv! Were you gonna talk? Were you gonna say something?

Alaso Olivia: No, no, no! I was just trying to listen to Wendy. 

Lubega Wendy: No, I was just adding to what Olivia was saying. For me, education is a really important aspect to reshaping the way people think. 

Blossom: I agree that it is everything because like how do you even know you’re oppressed if the only outlet giving you information is telling you you should love your oppressor? Education is everything. So to wrap it up, I just want to ask you guys two final things. The first one, just in the spirit of uplifting African stories, African people, who are your favorite African heroes? – and then you guys can answer collectively or as individuals if you want. 

Lubega Wendy: Mmm…hello? 

Blossom: Mhmm, I’m right here! 

Lubega Wendy: Liv, I think you should answer that. 

Alaso Olivia: Yea? Oh, I was just trying to tell her to repeat it for me, I think I missed it out!

Blossom: Oh okay! I can repeat it, I can repeat it for you. It was, I was just asking who are your favorite African heroes, just like writers, politicians, revolutionaries, whoever, and you guys can answer together or individually. 

Alaso Olivia: Wow! Ooh, when you talk about the African heroes, that is a very beautiful question for me because…

Kelsey: Sorry, sorry…

Blossom: Hi Kelsey!

Kelsey: Yea, my phone was charging but it wasn’t charging. You know when that happens? 

Alaso Olivia: Ohhhhh (laughs)…

Kelsey: I think we all need new chargers at the end of this quarantine because they’re all like nah…

Alaso Olivia: (laughs)…Okay, I love that you ask me my African! African heroes. Wow! Africa has so many heroes!…

Blossom: So many!!

Alaso Olivia: …that I feel like have not been talked about and I will start with women because I believe in women power…

Blossom: As you should!! 

Alaso Olivia: I will start with our first African presidents, the women who stood up against all races brought into their countries(? unclear at 54:50), Johnson Sirleaf (?), Joyce Banda, and also with the women, there’s Winnie Mandela, I cannot forget Winnie Mandela…

Blossom: Cannot forget her! 

Alaso Olivia: A lot of people have not talked about her but she showed the spirit of unity in South Africa, she showed people that I can leave everything that means the world to me and stand for the people. And also the different queens of that time, that they never talked about. You know, African women are queens but no one wants to talk about the ancient queens of Ethiopia, of West Africa, all the African ancient queens inspire me because they were strong women, they were very powerful, and they were warriors but no one talks about them. 

 

Alaso Olivia: And also with the men, there are so many. Of course, we have Thomas Sankara, I think he is one of them that also inspire me, because the love that he had towards the liberation of women was so unexplainable, he was always supporting the women to stand on their own, to lead, to lead themselves, and he also believed in women. 

Blossom: Mhmm…

[56:20] Alaso Olivia:  And we had also the father of our Pan-Africans, in Africa, one in [unclear 56:26] when you hear the Wind of Change, him saying “the change is blowing through the African continent” but every time I hear that word, I feel like the change is now and it is blowing right now. So that word continues to give me the passion to do the work, to inspire me and those are heroes who will not be forgotten. When we talk about Africa, we cannot skip Nelson Mandela..

Blossom: …No, you can’t…

Alaso Olivia: …twenty seven years of his life, but it was sending a message to the young generations of people of “let me do the work.” You are the fairytale we are talking about. And we want you to take it from us and every time I am speaking about Africa, I tell people “I am the fairytale that my ancestors talked about.”

Blossom: Say it…say it… 

Alaso Olivia: I am the flower. So we have so many people but those inspire me — Steve Biko, he was inclusive, he was outspoken and Patrice Lumumba, here in Congo…these are people who, I can’t speak a day without thinking of and especially with the work that we do, I keep on reflecting and pushing toward that work because whatever they did, they were creating this platform for us, for us to stand and represent our people and speak for our people, and we are also creating a platform that we are going to leave behind. We are leaving a legacy because I know that one day someone will take over from me on this team as No White Saviors and push it forward for generations. So my African heroes rise with me every morning and just brighten my day. That’s just what I can say. 

Blossom: Thank God…(laughs) Okay, Wendy could you tell like one or two of yours? 

Lubega Wendy: Sorry??

Blossom: I was just saying could you tell us one or two of your heroes? If you don’t have any, that’s also okay! 

Lubega Wendy: Yea! Well, I wouldn’t say mine are heroes, mine are people that I draw inspiration from, they are people who I think, when it comes to telling the African story, they told the African story fully, they inspired people and people who think that this continent is fully monkeys rummaging, they’ve given them another side of what Africa has to offer. I love Chimamanda for her (murmurs in agreement) literature work, the way she writes, the way she sends the message, how she talks about Africa implicitly. 

Blossom: Okay..yes we love Chimamanda, oh wait..are we there? Okay cool. Ok so final, final, final question, kind of goes back to what Olivia was saying about us being our ancestor’s fairytale – basically what hopes do you guys have for this current generation of Africans, like and hopes being like aspirations…oh is the network off? a! a! well..gotta love a technical difficulty, hi! sorry!, can you hear me ?

Lubega Wendy: Oh my God! 

Blossom:  Okay, the last question is – looking currently and to the future – what hopes do you have for this current generation of Africans? To me, it feels like things are different, like different political consciousness, different music, a different type of energy, so what kinda hope do you guys have for us, do you guys think we are decolonizing, are we regressing,  – am I breaking? What’s happening on my phone is that it’s echoing which is odd…what can you hear me now (Alaso Olivia & Lubega Wendy: yes!)…alright lemme ask this question again for the third time God willing (laughs), okay so I said what hopes do you have for this younger generation of Africans? to me, I guess because it’s my generation it feels like there is a different energy of change and something new happening, so do you guys have hopes? Do you think we are closer to decolonizing, closer to standing up against tradition or do you guys think we are staying the same, regressing, what do you guys feel? 

Alaso Olivia: Wendy, do you want to start?

Lubega Wendy: I have hope that things are changing and I can see this, in terms of, you know, people that I often have these conversations with, for instance, Gabby, or someone like Alan, I am 27 and they are 20 years of age. So if I could have this conversation with them about decolonization, about white supremacy, I don’t think it was the same case when I was their age when I was 20…

Blossom: Exactly….

Lubega Wendy: I didn’t have anyone around me or near to me that I could have these conversations with so that alone shows that things are changing, that people are beginning to listen, people are beginning to see things, people are beginning to be critical about whatever is given to them…

Alaso Olivia: Yea and I think also there is really hope and we can see the hope for this generation because this generation is very innovative, this generation is very active on using social media platforms and there is no powerful tool than social media that can create this change that you want to see. 

Blossom: That’s true, that’s very true… 

Alaso Olivia: There is a lot of hope that a lot of the younger generation is on Twitter, is on Instagram is on Facebook and the level at which they are participating is overwhelming, and the level at which they are calling out harmful behavior is just so good because recently you saw how they wanted to test the vaccines in Africa, the French doctors…

Blossom: Yes! 

Alaso Olivia: But the power of social media, the power that was shown and who is on social media? The young generation! It is the young generation using this tool, this platform. So the fact that this generation is embracing the new innovations in terms of technology and also we are seeing this generation write so many books…

Blossom: Exactly!! Yes…

Alaso Olivia: There is so much literature out there for young people. And it’s encouraging others to read through and share ideas around the world..even the different forums where we have the use now, discussing the devolvement of Africa, the initiatives that they are putting in place to see that Africa, its name, Africa [unclear at 1:05:20]. I think the continuous participation of the youth in every activity on the continent is just showing us that there is hope. There is hope and also people like the No White Saviors coming up gives hope to the younger generation that you know what we are here, we are unapologetic, we are calling out, we are showing people that this is a new era of doing things, we are moving toward that post-colonial era of showing African people as monkeys and that kind of thing. We are moving towards this era of fighting for justice, justice for African people. So there is a lot of hope everyday because someone out there has Africa at heart, especially the young generation. There is hope 100%.

Blossom: We pray, we pray…wow…thank you guys so much! i don’t even know how to thank you guys. Thank you for being here, thank you for doing this work you do, because I think there is an idea that Africans are maybe less politically conscious or less, you know, involved in like freeing ourselves but thank you guys for proving that wrong and thank you for proving all the stereotypes about us wrong. 

Lubega Wendy: Wow,…um…you’re welcome. 

Blossom: Of course and like we need as many platforms as we can have so thank you guys and I hope you guys have a good — oh, I guess for you guys it’s now evening?? so I hope you have a good evening! 

Alaso Olivia: Thank you too and you let us know! 

Blossom: Okay, we will! Thank you, bye!

 

 

the unplug collective

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