Funny how we go through life doing what we know is right and then one day, out of the blue, comes confirmation that our work is not in vain.
I’ve been planning a group trip for next summer. It will be the trip of a lifetime for some: a safari in Kenya with a side trip to Dubai.
In Dubai, we will mingle with the super wealthy Arabs and Muslims who have found their riches in oil and have created a tourist haven where even some of the rich and famous of Hollywood may not have enough money to live.
While Dubai is the icing on the cake, it is the trip to Kenya that is the most exciting for me. We will sit among the thousands of animals who roam the Rift Valley during the Great Migration – elephants, giraffes, wilder beasts, Thompson gazelles, buffalo, rhinos and the great cats.
But it is the visit to the Maasai Village that will change the group’s perspective on life. In 2005, another group of us stood in the middle of the village, where the cattle sleep, and communed with our Maasai brothers and sisters, tears streaming down our eyes, overwhelmed with emotion never before felt – doctors, lawyers, businessmen, politicians and Rhodes Scholars from across this country.
It is here that we will return bearing gifts for the Maasai people, leaving them better off than we found them.
I didn’t realize how right on I was until last week. I watched a TV special, “Song of Kenya,” where Sir Roger Moore, Louis Gossett Jr., Dean Cain and three other Hollywood stars took the exact same trip this year that we will take next year.
They went not only to the Maasai Village and on safari, but also visited other facilities in the Rift Valley, including the Abandoned Baby Center. They fed the children, bought them clothes, shoes and other gifts, and spent time making them and their parents smile.
This is what we will do as well. But if that was not enough to give me confirmation on this “Mission to the Maasai,” the special by Madonna, “I Am Because We Are,” sealed the deal.
It showed her journey to Malawi, her interaction with the people and her adoption of an orphan. There are thousands of orphans and abandoned babies in Africa. Whether it is in Kenya or Malawi, the need for love, food, clothes, homes and financial provisions is great.
The one thing that resonated throughout each special was that the children, through no fault of their own, had to live in squalor – in unsanitary conditions, among raw sewage, death and disease.
But through it all, they smiled. They didn’t complain that they didn’t have the latest Ipod. They went to school happily – that is when they could. You see in Kenya, they had to pay to learn.
We live in the greatest and most abundant country on earth, yet we complain that we don’t have enough. Our black communities complain that our children have to take the FCAT, which will help make them competitive throughout the world, yet African children just want to go to school to learn whatever they can.
Our youth walk around with their pants hanging beneath their butts, listening to misogynistic, violence-laced lyrics; yet children in Kenya dress and act respectably even when their clothes are dirty.
In Nairobi, you see thousands of black folk dressed for work, but you don’t hear them complaining that “the white man’s got his foot on my neck.” They speak several languages. They don’t complain that foreigners come to their country speaking another language. They know that being multi-lingual is their key to success.
We live in the land of plenty, yet we act as if we have nothing. Lou Gossett Jr. and Madonna discovered that truth when they traveled to Kenya and Malawi. They all left the children and families better than they found them.
This is what we will do in 2009 for the Maasai people. When you see the way they live, it puts your own life into perspective.
When you do for others what they can’t do for themselves, you have no time to complain. Because you know that what ever black children have to endure to survive here is nothing compared to what they would have to do in the Motherland.
So you let them know that any test is just another stepping stone to success. You prepare them for the international stage and, if you can’t do that, you are the problem instead of the solution.
Barbara Howard is president of Barbara Howard & Associates and the Florida state chair for C.O.R.E. (the Congress of Racial Equality).