The year was 2011. I had purchased a roundtrip ticket from Washington, DC to Cape Town, South Africa. I would be vacationing in southern Africa for almost a month. I wanted to do all there was to do, and see all there was to see. While crossing a border (either from Mozambique to Swaziland, or Swaziland to South Africa), I started talking with one of the other passengers on the bus as we waited for everyone to clear customs and immigration. He asked me where I was from and if this was my first time in Africa. I told him that it was my first time, and that I lived in DC. He, a Mozambican working in South Africa, went on to ask me how Africa was treating me. I let him know that I was enjoying my time and that everyone had been very welcoming and kind. His response has stayed with me, and probably will forever. He expressed happiness that Africa had been so welcoming. He told me that I was always welcome here, and that any family or friends would welcomed just as warmly across the continent. Wow!
Fast forward to now. October 2016. I live in southern Africa. In Swaziland, on the border with South Africa. I have been asked family, friends, and locals if I’m scared, or worried, being so far away from home. I’m not. When I actually reflect on the state of affairs around the globe (especially in the US), I’m actually worried to return to the US. I’m a burly, bearded 30-something Black man, and I have feared and would fear for my safety in various parts of the US much more than here in Swaziland.
Last year, as riots filled the streets of Baltimore (a 40 minute drive north of DC), I watched news coverage from my living room. People were fed up with another Black man dying at the hands of law enforcement officers. That evening, I received a text message from my brother saying, “Stay safe. It’s only a matter of time before the revolution makes down there (to DC).” Since I left the US in June, there have been even more Black people to die at the hands of law enforcement. There aren’t the same massive protests that seemed commonplace even a year ago when Black people were killed by law enforcement. I doubt that the protests can keep up with the shootings. As I write this, I think about that text message from my brother. I think about sending him a similar message. It’s a strange dichotomy. Some family and friends fear for my safety here in Swaziland, while I have similar fears for their respective safety across the US.
In contrast to the many law enforcement shootings at home, I feel really safe, warm, and welcomed here in Swaziland. This is the country that has been called one of the friendliest in Africa. I’ve only seen one police officer with a firearm, and that was weird to see. The biggest fear of crime against me that I have here is being robbed or having something stolen, which is miniscule compared to my worries about speaking siSwati more fluently and being understood.
Be kind to yourself.