Ask

Asking African Askari

 

Do you know, my Western Anglo Saxon friend

What an askari is?

An askari is a warrior a solider a watchman a sentinel

And because of our long history together, friend

My askari, my sentinel, watches and protects my heart

My askari, my sentinel, watches and protects my soul

 

Do I know, my Western Anglo Saxon friend

What ‘an ask’ is?

Yes, I know what ‘an ask’ is, my Western friend

 

An ask is what you ask of me, and have always asked of me

An ask is what I always give to you whenever you ask of me

 

You always have an ask, and I always have to give what you ask

Ye ask and ye only shall receive because ye see thyself as a god

 

You ask, and we loyally obey you, and we dutifully serve you

Ye ask, and we serve you as a god, ye see thyself as a god

 

You are comfortable behaving as a god, while you dominate this world

And we have been enabling to become so comfortable as your servant

 

Western god

African servant

You ask

We obey

 

Buddy, you got yourself a deal!

 

You made that very first deal, you brokered that deal

By making us an offer that we could not refuse

400 years ago, when you enslaved us, it was a deal

And then, during the European Scramble for Africa

And then again, during Apartheid, deal after deal,

You are the super powered consummate deal maker

 

Dealmakers know how to ask

And they have well defined task

They have organized objectives

Dealmakers are strategic

Dealmakers are targeted

 

You know exactly what you are doing to us

You know how to pretend and how to show

How much you know, and know, and know

 

You know exactly what you are doing

You. Always you. You, you, only you.

 

We Africans have been long trained to look up to you

We Africans have been trained to obey and serve you

We Africans will always enable, give you what you ask

 

If you ask us to sing for you, Western Anglo Saxon friend

We will obey your ask, and we will sing for you

If you ask us to dance for you, Western Anglo Saxon friend

We will obey your ask, and we will dance for you

 

You got yourself a deal!

 

You are bold, as a god you are never afraid to ask of us

We are subservient, we are always afraid, to ask of you

 

Let me attempt to be bold like you, Western Anglo Saxon friend

Let me attempt to ask a question for you, that you never ask me

 

What happens inside of my African mind when I am asked by you to obey?

This is my answer to the question which you never ask me about your ask:

Your ask summons and alerts the Askari in my mind to brandish his spear

 

Your ask summons up my askari

My askari responds to your ask

 

The askari, the warrior watchman, the soldier sentinel, says this:

 

“Give your Western Anglo Saxon friend what he asked you for

“If he asks you to sing for him, then obey him and sing for him

“Only sing that sanitized soulless singing that his ask deserves

“Give your singing, but never give your soul, to this dealmaker

“Give up your singing, but never give up your soul to this god

“For he knows only how to take, and take, and take, from you

“So let him hear your voice sing, but protect your sacred soul.”

 

The African Soul responds to the askari and the soul says this:

 

“Askari, warrior watchman, soldier sentinel, when will you rest?”

The askari, the warrior watchman the soldier sentinel, says this:

 

“I shall never tire of protecting the African Soul, and I shall never rest

Until such day as your Western Anglo Saxon friend learns how to ask.”

 

You see, Western Anglo Saxon friend my African Askari has his own ask

My African Askari asks when you will finally learn to ask, so he can rest

So he can no longer be defensive, and fiercely protect my wounded soul

 

You ask me to sing, and I asked my African Askari what he should ask you

My valiant, vigilant, valorous, victorious African Askari has ‘an ask’ for you

My African Askari who protects my soul, who is braver than I am, asks you

 

Dear Western Anglo Saxon friend, I respectfully ask that

You begin to understand how to ask an African Askari

You have gotten, and gotten, from your African friends

You got colonialism, you got apartheid, you got slaves

 

Now, with all thy getting, wilt thou not get thee understanding?

For all you have got and get and gotten, is rotten, rotten, rotten

Will you not now task a fresh task and ask a fresh ask like this:

 

Dear African friend, I do understand

I do finally begin to understand you

And so, I ask you not to sing for me

I ask you dear friend to sing with me

 

Sing with me, do not sing for me

I do understand my dear African friend,

I understand now that my forefathers,

And my ancestors,

For generation upon generation, upon generation

Have given you a raw and rotten deal

Have made you suffer

Have oppressed you and

Have humiliated you

Have robbed you of dignity

Have filled you with fear and shame so that you need to

Alert African Askari

 

Dear African friend, forgive me

 

Forgive me.

I ask

For your forgiveness

I ask

That you forgive me

That is all that

I ask

 

Sing together with me friend, not for me

Sing with me friend, and not against me

 

Beloved Miriam Makeba, Our Mama Africa

Sing with me friend, and not against me

 

I am as St. Paul on the road to Damascus

I have had an epiphany and I understand

I do not persecute you as Henrik Verwoerd

I am harmonizing with you as Paul Simon

Sing with me friend, and not against me

 

I am not god, this is not only my world

This is our world friend, your and mine

We are the Rainbow Children of God

We are the world, We are the children

We are the ones that make a brighter day

 

Sing, and let your African Askari

Put down his spear to sing along

 

There’s a choice we’re making

We’re saving our own lives

It’s true we’ll make a better day,

Just you and me

 

Beloved Miriam Makeba, Our Mama Africa

Sing with me friend, and sing with me friends

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Oliver Mtukudzi

Harmonize with me, Soweto String Quartet

 

Dear Western Anglo Saxon friend,

If you asked me like this, with a heart full of understanding

If you asked with contrite heart, remorseful, regretful, rueful

If you knew how to ask me. Then, what could I possibly say?

All that I could say, all my African Askari could do, is this:

 

My African Askari will put down his spear

My African Askari will stand down his guard

My African Askari will summon up my soul

 

It is time for us to sing together my Western Anglo Saxon friend,

Time for us to sing with deep wounds healed and fear dismissed

 

I will say to my soul:

“Sing!”

I will say to my forefathers, and my ancestors, and the angels

“Awake!”

 

For in your new humility, my Western Anglo Saxon friend,

You have awakened all my forefathers all my ancestors and

All African Angels who minister to children in African slums

 

When you give up your aloofness and your arrogance as my god

When you give up your cold, crafty, calculating, calcified, asking

 

Then only, will our beloved God, your God and my God, rejoice

Our beloved God your Father and my Father will say rejoicingly

 

“I shall say to the Northern Hemisphere, ‘Give Up’

“And to the Southern Hemisphere ‘Keep Not Back’

 

“Northern Hemisphere, give up your god of aloofness, your god of arrogance

“Northern Hemisphere, give up your cold, crafty, calculating, calcified, asking

So I can bring my sons from far and my daughters from the ends of the earth

 

Southern Hemisphere, keep not back, keep not back your glorious soulful singing

Southern Hemisphere, do not bury your light under a bushel, do not be ashamed

Southern Hemisphere, it is your time now, to reveal your effulgence, and to shine

 

And when our beloved God speaks to us thus, I shall sing alongside you brothers and sisters,

My loving Northern Hemisphere brothers and sisters, and my soulful singing voice shall be so

 

Robust

Resonant

Rapturous

Resilient

Rhapsodic

Reverential

Rejoicing

 

I will ‘Keep Not Back’, my brother

I will let my soul to soar and sing

 

With new found courage

With new found confidence

I shall sing from the rooftops:

 

“Amandla!”

 

And you and me my beloved

Western Anglo Saxon friend,

Will sing together in Ubuntu

 

On that blessed day, when our God gives him rest, my African Askari will put down his spear

My African Askari will unshackle my imprisoned soul after 400 years and open up floodgates

 

And when floodgates of my freed African Soul open up then my soul shall sing freely

When floodgates of your freed Anglo Saxon Soul open then you shall also sing freely

 

I shall be freed of shame, you shall be freed of being a god, you and I shall serve One God

When the scales of parochial and provincial pettiness fall from your hardened, calcified eyes,

When I finally rediscover and reassert my own dignity and vibrant magnanimity we shall sing

 

“Free at last

“Free at last

“Thank God Almighty

“We are free at last!”

 

— Karim

 

Dedicated to Dorothy Dipuo Maubane