The other day I got hipped to this article featuring a classic video discussing a YogaOne project that’s using “yoga raves” to help raise money to send some people to Africa. The bit says things like:
“Yoga One is sending two of their instructors to Kenya to facilitate a free two-week teacher training for 40 Kenyans from the slums of Nairobi.”
And, yes, everyone in the video seems to repeat the phrase “slums of Nairobi.”
Here’s a separate video that gets the message across without the “slums of Nairobi” weirdness:
Whenever I hear about people raising money for Africa I can’t help but hear a little part of me that goes, “Really? Like, what for?” I mean, do yoga people actually think money or yoga is what’s gonna save Africa? As if a bunch of these….
…are gonna rectify a bunch of this:
Truth be told, the YogaOne Yoga Rave fundraiser is actually raising money to train people in something they have defined as “yoga.” Is it yoga? Is it stretching? All a BIG mystery! Regardless, the assumption is that Africa needs yoga and that white people will go out of their frickin’ way to get it there.
[Pssst…. As an aside, This Alternet article expresses the trouble with the commercialization of “Saving Africa” fairly well].
What really trips me up, however, is why people are so specifically excited to leave their prescribed Nation State (a construct I more or less loath) in order to help others. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these “Why can’t you help your own country first?!” douche bag patriotic xenophobes. But, it does make me wonder a few things. Things like:
- Why don’t people try and work alongside, or in solidarity with, marginalized communities living down the block from them? Are they scared?
- Why do people bring things to Africa (like vinyasa yoga) that are not indigenous to the varied African cultures? Why not support community initiatives that reinvest in cultural infrastructure?
- Why do white people who “help” African people present African people like they’re children even when they’re adults? Are “Africans” somehow agency-less innocent newborns?
I don’t know. I just wonder about these things. I also think co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton, had it right when he answered the question “How can white people support the Black Panthers?” with the so obvious it’s embarrassing quip, “Start a White Panther Party.”
Now, left-leaning “whites” and “blacks” had some slightly different objectives back in the day, exemplified most by a quick comparison of the Black/White Panther Ten-Point Programs:
BLACK PANTHER 10-POINT PROGRAM (ABRIDGED) [Please read the full version here].
- We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black Community.
- We want full employment for our people.
- We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black Community.
- We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
- We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
- We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
- We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.
- We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
- We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
- We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.
WHITE PANTHER 10-POINT PROGRAM
- Full endorsement and support of the Black Panther Party’s 10-point program and platform.
- Total assault on the culture by any means necessary, including rock and roll, dope, and fucking in the streets.
- Free exchange of energy and materials—we demand the end of money!
- Free food, clothes, housing, dope, music, bodies, medical care—everything free for every body!
- Free access to information media—free the technology from the greed creeps!
- Free time & space for all humans—dissolve all unnatural boundaries!
- Free all schools and all structures from corporate rule—turn the buildings over to the people at once!
- Free all prisoners everywhere—they are our comrades!
- Free all soldiers at once—no more conscripted armies!
- Free the people from their phony “leaders”—everyone must be a leader—freedom means free every one! All Power to the People!
Nonetheless, I think the intention to create cross-cultural support between neighboring, and thus symbiotic communities, is a good one. I also think white people wanting to support marginalized communities should get a solid understanding of the socio-political differences between communities and how these differences are exacerbated by State-sanctioned white privilege.