In the Service of our Ancestors and African Love,
Listen Seeker, I come in peace,
“A person who knows not and believes that they know is dangerous–avoid them.” — African Proverb
The bus ride Mjivu takes is a bus ride any of us can take. The streets through which the bus runs aren’t his streets. The bus isn’t his bus. Like Mjivu we ride on buses and rely on the national structure to ensure we arrive at our destinations safely. But like Mjivu we live in a hostile nation. What happens when the nation decides to kill some of its citizens? Who protects those citizens? How safe is even a bus ride?
Fable: The Bus Ride
By Onitaset Kumat
Mjivu dreamed of being a merchant, but did not qualify. Instead after many attempts in training, he was given a less dependable role: ‘feed yourself.’ His classmates who qualified as other specialties outranked him by a large margin. Mjivu was the son of immigrants whose well meaning warnings were inadvertent distractions for him. His mother and father would recall their experience in America: ‘millionaires were often drop-outs,’ ‘over 50% of marriages ended in divorce,’ ‘politicians were chosen for wealth,’ ‘most of the women were single,’ ‘the Black people were zombified by drugs targeting their melanin,’ katha wa katha. Yet hearing this Mjivu believed the propaganda ‘land of opportunity.’ He thought he could become a millionaire, he could marry whomever, he could become a politician, he would have a wider choice of women, he can get drugged up, or in other words, he can be more than a farmer. Mjivu reasoned a merchant can go out of the African township in which his parents immigrated. Maybe that is why the community did not qualify him as one? Or maybe because distracted he failed many courses but his knack for farming was reasonable? No matter, Mjivu didn’t see the opportunity in farming. Mjivu announced to his Community he was going West for Opportunity. His Community renounced his citizenship. He was now a Westerner.
That was ten years ago.
Sitting beside a Black man in a Bus, Mjivu rapped about his experiences. “I’ve been in America for ten years. Well, actually I was born in ‘America’ the continent and ‘America’ the country, but I’ve been in ‘America’ the nation for ten years.”
“You don’t say?”
“I was born in–”
“I know where you’re from. One of those old revolutionary camps in America. Oh they talked about those all the time! ‘If you tired of begging Europeans for self-determination emigrate.’ They crazy. They surrounded by the White man. Well, so are we, but, guess you can say, we obedient so White man liable to hit them before he hit us.”
Mjivu recalled his education. ‘He was whipped oftener who was whipped easiest’ Frederick Douglass. He refused to say it. “Have you heard about those recent bus crashes?”
“Ain’t that the darndest? I prefer not to speak of those things. We liable to jinx our situation.”
‘There are many causes’ thought Mjivu, his education never left him. But continuing his small-talk he said, “Well, this nation sure is great! Back home, I could not be surrounded with loose women, these delectable, cheap foods, these drinks and well, frankly this money!”
“Oh yeah?” responded the man. “I always thought those communes weren’t any good. What’s even protecting them?”
‘What’s protecting us?’ “I don’t really know. I left early. But several of my classmates qualified as soldiers.”
“America has nuclear weapons. Come on! Soldiers?”
“Yeah,” wanting to change the subject again, “I always wondered about that and other things. Like if the European is so cruel, how did my parents emigrate? Or if the European is so deceptive and controlling, why did he let them do whatever they want? Or if the European were so strong, how could we be next door to him and alive?”
“Talk is you all are strong in Africa too. But I don’t know.”
“Me neither, I just know life is good.” Without warning Mjivu saw a man fall over in front of him. “Did you see that?”
“I think I–” the man beside Mjivu then collapsed. Another thud was heard behind him. Mjivu then saw a woman stand up frantically searching the bus when Mjivu felt his own body fly forward into the seat in front of him. Blood trailed his face. The bus had crashed. People around him started coughing or falling over, while crying and writhing in pain. Mjivu coughed into his hand, noticing the stain of blood on his brown palm. Poisonous gas. The door of the bus was forced open and three men with gas masks rushed in. One man with a pistol walked over to doubled over bodies point-blank shooting different heads. The shooter grabbed one reeling elder by the locs and shot him through his forehead, throwing him back down into a seat. The other two men dragged several coughing people out of the bus. As Mjivu wondered whether he would be shot or dragged out, he saw the shooter stand over him. With his gun facing him, Mjivu noticed the complexion. Before the bullet entered his skull, he put everything together. Europeans were being dragged to safety, Africans were being murdered. This wasn’t a bus crash like their news said, this was a race attack. His parents fled danger, he fled security; all the money, women, tastes, alcohol, all that wasn’t worth his dignity. He had dignity. Were he a farmer, this would not be happening. He had dignity. There he was a man looking into the barrel of a gun, betraying his people who fought and died for his safety to–BOOM!–lose his dignity.
His last thought: ‘Giving your neck to a beast is suicide.’