Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project. She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.” She blogs at Kola Boof. com
Why can’t we clone Kalamu Ya Salaam, Keidi Awadu, Barack Obama, L. Martin Johnson Pratt and Derrick Bell? Why can’t we just let those be the Black men with privilege?
I warn you, this commentary is going to be…very blatant.
But we need it so bad.
As I prepare to headline a singing and reading recital this Friday at the renowned National Black Theater in Harlem; and do a book signing at the nation’s top Black bookstore, Hue-Man, this Saturday—I still find myself melancholy over the fact that a prominent African-American bookstore owned by two Black Males has banned me from ever appearing at their store or having my books sold there.
Friends, mostly men, say that I should get over it and focus on the acceptance I’m receiving from my own fan base. But the more I try to absorb this brand of censorship as an acceptable component of the Black arts community; the more I feel tainted by our hypocrisy for not speaking out. Who on earth screams with “self-righteous indignation” more than Black people? Yet we Blacks have the gall to think it’s alright to silence people within our own ranks who frighten or challenge us. The fact that these Civil Rights-era Black men have banned other Black female authors from being sold/appearing at their store—most notably, Emmy winner and National Book Award Nominee Wanda Coleman—makes it all the harder for me to ignore.
The bookstore in question is called “EsoWon” (which in the Amharic language means “water over stones”); it’s located in Los Angeles and the owner who relayed to my publicist Nafisa Goma that I and my work are banned from his store, is named James Fugate.
Nafisa Goma, a sweet Arab-American woman, contacted the store to book me for a signing and Mr. Fugate informed her that I would never under any circumstances be allowed on their premises and that he wasn’t going to tell her why. This was followed by Nafisa Goma and several Kola Boof supporters going in person to the store to request my work or that I be allowed to do a reading/signing there. According to this contingent of Black-American, Senegalese, Sudanese, Ethiopian and Ghanian women, Mr. Fugate and his employees were hostile and rude to each of them for requesting my books and became nearly vicious when they stated that they would like to see me there for a signing.
Mr. Fugate told these women, as I’ve since learned he’s told numerous people, that he is disgusted by me appearing “topless” on the back covers of my African-themed novels and short story collections. He finds this 26,000 year old Nilotic African practice (black bare titties—the KoijiSijil) inappropriate and grounds for banning me from existence. Yet his store, an African-named bookstore with Kente cloth designs all over it, is overflowing with images of Black women with fake blue eyes and Blond hair on their heads plastered across the books, front and back!
When one of the Black American sisters pressed James Fugate on why Kola Boof novels were so disturbing to him besides the topless photos—she says that he muttered something about me putting “our dirty laundry in public” and focusing on issues that aren’t that important to the Black struggle in his opinion—“my vagina being circumcised and infibulated”; “the Post-Colonial light skin over dark skin hierarchy (he is light-skinned);” the systematic rape of African women globally; my rejection of Black America’s claims that Arab Muslims are “Brown brothers” in solidarity with Black people. In short, he expressed the feeling that by me focusing on African women’s issues and indicting Black men in so much of Black women’s suffering; my work divides the community and portrays Black men in a bad light. Therefore, it is his duty to protect the Black community by seeing to it that my work, at least in his bookstore, doesn’t exist.
This is what many Americans consider to be “Honourable Blackness” and not censorship (you see it in their music videos; their films and magazines)—a “faux” imitation of White looks imposed on Black women (or better yet, mulatto women from Spelman draped in Kente cloth); a rehashing of Eurocentric trained thoughts dipped in Easter-Egg-Brown and Black Dye; a mulatto Disney-like fixation on tired ass Egypt; a proliferation of “romanticized” Afrocentric camel shit that they pass off as African history; authentic African living—“hotep! Hotep!”--all the while excluding and hissing at any actual African artists who have anything to say that deviates from the mythical mirage of royalty and Egypto-Aithiopic patriotism they cling to.
Note to Black America—you all’s Mum was West African. You can’t get any higher than that; so stop neglecting her in favor of what you perceive to be lighter-skinned Egypt. Stop trying to claim Ethiopia when most Ethiopians can’t stand your behinds. Claim Senegal, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali and Ghana, the countries that actually love Black Americans (and for good reason; you’re their children). Furthermore, few of us in or from Africa have ever been Kings or Queens; we are not deities; not one of us is named “Mother Africa” and we did not receive our sinful wicked side via exposure to European White Devils. We are the earth’s first human beings and everything good or evil in human character was created and practiced first by us; not by Europeans. Africans are two-faced just like every other race; which is why you were enslaved, raped and brutalized in the first place. Europe’s armies were more powerful and better equipped than ours, it’s just that simple. And in addition to Europe’s might, the Black race has always produced people like Clarence Thomas and Sean Puffy Combs; therefore, your asses got sold across the ocean by some of your own leaders—while others like King Katanga, Queen Nzingah, Queen TinkaTeker II and King Jingo died fighting against your enslavement.
500 years ago—West African women who spoke against slavery were called “Fire Witches” and “Man Bashers” and were burned at the stake so that the men’s greed for bling-bling could be attended to before our children. Looking at your own “hotep-holler’n” Black asses today; little has changed. Black folk, whether they live in Chicago, Harlem or Nairobi are not fairytale archetypes from “The Lion King”; and as such, African-born artists possess our own voices and our own story to tell just like any other artist from any other country.
It’s silly for Black bookstores to say that I’m acceptable with fake blue eyes and a blonde hair weave, but not in the image of traditional topless African women—a Non-Christian, Non-Islamic indigenous African feminine tradition that is still practiced daily by over 10 million African women throughout the continent despite the denials and embarrassment of self-hating upper class Africans at Oxford and Yale.
Many of these bookstores like EsoWon, call themselves Afrocentric, but in reality, the only thing Afrocentric about them is their non-flinching sexism. They are full of rows and rows of insecure Camel Shit designed to soothe the self-hating nature of former Colonized and Enslaved people—and specifically insecure, self-hating Black Male People.
I take issue with any Black organization telling Black people that they can’t make up their own opinions or form their own conclusions about Black authors/Critical Thinkers by reading and hearing from those authors themselves. And what I take bigger issue with—are the LIES that so many people manufacture and spread about me just because they’re too stupid (or jealous) to appreciate an original voice that is different from what they’re previously used to hearing.
This brings me to the Black American Scholar and Public Speaker, Ronoko Rashidi. A typical colorstruck dashiki-wearing McAfrican Philly Buster who goes around the United States speaking on behalf of “African Queens,” “Great Mother Africa” and the good ‘ol African women back in the villages and on river banks he visits yearly. He loves us naked clothes-washing baby-strapped-to-the-back cooking cleaning basket-on-head African women. Our subservient image allows him to put down Black American women while he exclusively dates the damn-near-White or Filipino looking California trollops that “emasculating” Black American women “ran him off to.”
My blow up with him came after I gave a speech at Cal-Lutheran University relating my experiences with being circumcised/infibulated; the effects of Colorism and Skin bleaching on Black women and Children; the chronic sexism and invisibility that pervades Black women’s lives globally, and last but not least, my unpopular support, as an African mother who actually comes from an Arab ruled nation, for Israel instead of Palestine. This man who professes to love African women and claims to want us to have a voice was not present for my speech but was livid by the waves of discussion it ignited in Southern California. For a whole year, he went around to colleges and myriad writers announcing: “Kola Boof is mentally ill and a fraud. It is as simple as that. She is a born liar.”
I could kick his ass for Christmas.
Ronoko Rashidi has never met me in person. He has never spoken with me. He has no way of knowing anything about my life other than what my enemies manufacture and distribute in their desperate attempts to make people afraid of me. Even a White Male journalist, Stephen Milner, went on Pacifica radio and stated that he’d been offered money by Arab-American businessmen and Oil Companies to print lies and distortions about me.
So how can someone purported to be a “Black Scholar, historian and intellectual” join in with such Gestapo-like tactics and be so cruel and dishonest as to dismiss my personal suffering and the suffering of millions of women just because my commanding influence makes him feel uncomfortable?
What insecurity commands some Black men’s innards to the point that they fear anyone having a voice but those singing their song in their key? That goes for today’s pitiful Black music, the films by Black male filmmakers and everything else. What in the hell is the difference between so many Black male rappers/scholars/athletes and the White men they demonize and refer to as “White Devil”? It seems to me that many Black male image-makers hate Black women and Children (really hate them selves to be more accurate) more than any White person could ever hate us. Who is really our enemy if we can be banned from writing our experiences or speaking honestly about our lives?
Who is really our enemy if Black men in cities three thousand miles away can make up my sexuality (my sexuality; not their own, but mine) and then use whatever lie in church or a board room to run me down, all because they feel I’m criticizing them or being too vocal?
Granted, I’ve been nasty in my own fashion. I was insulting and cruel to Muslims on KJLH radio. On behalf of South Sudan, I called Minister Louis Farrakhan a “White Bastard” in an interview (though I’ve since apologized). I said very mean things on the radio about writer-poet-activist Ishmael Reed (Uncle Ish); namely that he’s a sexist pig who loves whining for Black Men but isn’t really Black himself and couldn’t bring his Pro-Black penis to produce a Black man. His wife is White and by his own admission his daughter could pass for a Saudi Arab, not a Black child, yet claims to speak for the “betterment” and “worthiness” of Black men as though he ever loved them enough to do like I did and bring one into the world (I brought two Black men into this world as a matter of fact). Ishmael Reed, a Black woman hater and “name caller” from back before I came to this country, sat his red insect-looking self up on PBS with Walter Mosley and called Condoleeza Rice (who isn’t someone I particularly like either) a “skeezer”(something you could tell he’s always wanted to call a Black woman on national television). But then he couldn’t understand why I asked aloud, “What about that ugly White bitch you married, Uncle Ish-shit…is she a skeezer?”
So, of course, it’s natural that the men might want to call me “bitch” or “whore”—to a degree, they aren’t wrong. I really can be a bitch and a whore; it’s a natural result of living in a straight woman’s limited space range. Some of these men have bedded me, because socio-political opinions aside, I’m still an insecure bombshell who often has the strongest erotic chemistry with the men I’ve fought and cursed the loudest. I understand their confusion when it comes to me. They’re not used to my brand of feminism. But how do you BAN someone from writing a book or speaking in public just because you don’t agree with their politics and their views?
I could see not inviting someone to a party or a television/radio program. I completely respect Tavis Smiley’s decision not to have me on his show even while welcoming vile gangster rappers. But I can’t see myself owning a publishing house or a bookstore and then banning a book or a writer for being controversial or unlikeable. I mean, why own a bookstore?
In my mind, Zora Neal Hurston, Alice Walker, Michelle Wallace, Audre Lord and Notzake Shange already took this kind of pettiness from the Black community so that we 21st century daughters wouldn’t have to. Yet the pompous lack of integrity that has always shaded upper class and academic Black people’s “moral superiority” over everyone else on earth is still resonant. And as I prepare to tour New York City this week, it’s all I think about. I think about how people who fear me have invented their own fictional Kola. I think about all the outrageous things that people believe about me in lieu of them not thinking about the important issues I raise in my work.
I think of how voiceless and invisible I would be without the small specter of celebrity I’ve so carefully woven. I think of how glad I am that I was smart enough to do that—make myself larger than life; my own special symbolic archetype; one they’ve never seen before. In the face of all who despise me, I’m glad that I am so truthful about my life. I am proud that I am the one who defines who I am and what I am about.
This is all so emotional that I’m not really writing it well.
But suffice to say; in reality…all Kola Boof wants is for Black women to have what everybody else has. I want my side of the story heard. I want my spirit acknowledged. I want my image risen up and projected to my liking just the way a White Male Author or a Black Male artist or a White woman or Mulatto woman is allowed their brush. You don’t have to like it, daddy.
Gee…Black men, of all people, are banning my work!