“Dem a bleach out dem skin” – Compassion for ‘dem’ who bleach their skin - Published by africaninthediaspora https://africaninthediaspora.com/

I had the privilege of being back home (Kenya) this past Christmas holiday and one of the things I noticed is the amount of people (mostly women) who have bleached/lightened their skin. Based on all my recent trips back home, I can’t confidently say that the number of people who are bleaching their skin has increased, but I noticed more of it this time. It could be due to the fact that I’m more aware as this issue is being discussed more and I have watched various documentaries which explore why and how Africans and people of African descent bleach their skin. It’s also been a public health issue with countries like South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and most recently Rwanda banning harmful skin bleaching products from their markets.

However, illegal products are still sold in black markets. In Nairobi, there is a booming black market that sells creams, pills, and a new wave of injections that promise lighter skin. Most of these products contain harmful substances such as mercury and high doses of steroids which can cause skin irritation, inflammation, scarring, thinning of the skin, kidney, liver or nerve damage. Using these products while pregnant or breast feeding can also cause abnormalities in newborns. “Safer” alternatives exist but are very expensive, so many people still use the cheaper banned  products.

With the new conscious trend of celebrating melanin with hashtags such as #melaninpopping, there has been increased effort to encourage dark skin people of African descent to love and embrace their skin colour. Despite that, negative conceptions about darker skin exist not only in Africa but everywhere around the world. The demand for skin lightening products is also really high in Asia and the Middle East, making it a super lucrative industry. Eurocentric standards of beauty are still largely the norm with the effects of colonialism and consequently neocolonialism lingering.

The idea that “lighter or whiter is better” is perpetuated everywhere as the world places a premium on white skin.  We grew up seeing skin lightening products being advertised on bill boards and TV. We grew up not seeing representation of dark skin Africans in media. The same ideas are still reinforced with African media being largely dominated by people of lighter skin including those who have bleached their skin. Promoters of the bleaching products use undertone messages promising a better quality of life and more visibility with lighter skin. So with all these enticing promises and seeing people with lighter skin (including those who have bleached) seemingly succeed and occupy influential spaces, can we blame people, especially young girls who choose to bleach?

It seems like all public health campaigns aimed to educate people of the harms have not been effective. It’s a very deep rooted issue with internalization of inferiority and self hate. Most of this is TAUGHT by family and society from a very young age. We can judge, mock or scorn people who bleach their skin but that doesn’t serve them. Instead, compassion is key as we need to understand that these actions are birthed by inferiority complexes driven by lingering colonial mentalities and societal standards that promote these Eurocentric ideals. By acknowledging this, only then can we make the effort to decolonize our minds as a collective and teach our children to love and embrace their skin.

Title reference is from Nardo Ranks’ song – ‘Dem a bleach’ released in 1992 in response to an increasing trend of skin bleaching in Jamaica. The song is still very relevant today.

AfroTongues Launches as “the World’s First Crowd-Sourced App Exclusively for African Languages”

Post by Benjamin Vann

On most days you can find local tech entrepreneur Derek Smith diving head first into learning new languages and finding ways to expose his community to the benefits of being multi-lingual in a global society.

Smith, while working as a case manager for a local nonprofit focused on integrating immigrants into communities throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, saw a need and created a more streamlined solution. The Collective App provided tools and resources for refugee immigrants to become more connected and acclimated to living in a new environment. Basic resources like grocery stores, post offices, ethnic food stores, and health resources were translated into user common languages and integrated into the app, used as a navigation tool to adjust to life in a new land.

While testing this solution with communities throughout the region, he discovered a deeper challenge that ignited his passion to once again, solve for X. The solution is AfroTongues. We (at Impact House) teamed up with Derek and Co at the AfroTongues soft launch, and hosted at PAN African Connection Bookstore a few weeks ago to learn more about the project.

Here’s the run down:

What is AfroTongues?

AfroTongues is the world’s first crowd-sourced app exclusively for African languages.

[Image: via AfroTongues]

What problem are you solving?

There’s a few problems. First, if you look across app stores, you’ll readily notice that there’s little to no apps that cater to African languages. At the same time, a number of countries are engaged in business on the continent and we in the diaspora have been socialized to learn European and Asian languages only. I believe languages are an economy in and of themselves, so the goal is to restore economic agreements where they belong (in African languages) and rebuild relations between African Americans, the rest of the diaspora, and the continent on our own terms.

Where did the idea come from?

It’s a wild story to explain but long story short, I was a finalist for a tech fellowship in Washington, DC. There was an opportunity to really learn some Swahili at my job at that time, so I promised myself that I’d do learn some if things fell through. Sure enough, I missed the cut, so I began learning, then teaching what I know, and teaching English to Swahili speakers. It clicked early on that I didn’t need the fellowship to pursue a great idea.

Who is it for?

There’s a few groups: AfroTongues is for entrepreneurs and investors interested in engaging in business on the continent, travelers who’d like to know a bit of lingo before they land, anyone interested in connecting a bit more with others in their community, and of course, anyone interested in sharing their language with the world.

Why is Afro Tongue important?

There’s a potential to truly shift the language(s) we speak, why we speak them, how we travel (leisure vs business) and for African Americans in particular—a chance to officially participate in the global economy. This is something we’ve been locked out of for centuries, but technology is truly on our side now. It’s up to us to leverage it for a change.

What is the 10-year vision for Afro Tongue?

In 10 years, AfroTongues will be well-established among competitors, languages such as Swahili and Yoruba will begin to become compulsory for international business, and the app itself will have evolved into a social media platform for business connections, travel deals, etc.

Why is important to support diverse founders in tech?

I saw a statistic somewhere stating that there are over 8 billion people in the world, and half of them live in abject poverty. The implication is that we’re functioning on 50% of our full potential as humans. Many of the most innovative and revolutionary ideas reside in the minds of those with no options to actualize them. Diversity is important because it provides that opportunity. In the end, we’ll all win beyond our wildest imaginations.