Fellowship for Early to Mid-Career Urban Scholars from the Global South

Applications are invited for an International Fellowship for urban scholars on any theme pertinent to a better understanding of urban realities in the global south funded by the Urban Studies Foundation. The Fellowship covers the costs of a sabbatical period at a university of the candidate’s choice in the global north for the purpose of writing up the candidate’s existing research findings in the form of publishable articles or a book under the guidance of a chosen mentor in their field of study. Funding is available for a period ranging between 3-9 months.

Eligibility: Applicants must be early career urban scholars with a PhD obtained within the preceding 5 years who currently work in a university or other research institution within the global south. Some experience in publishing articles would be desirable.

Requirements: The candidate must make suitable arrangements to be mentored by a senior urban scholar at his/her chosen research institution. Further particulars and the application form are available to download at the Urban Studies Foundation website at www.urbanstudiesfoundation.org.

Terms: The financial support attached to the fellowship will meet accommodation and subsistence needs while staying at the host university, return (economy class) air fare, and assistance towards research costs.

Submission: Completed applications must be submitted electronically to Ruth Harkin at ruth.harkin@glasgow.ac.uk, no later than 25 May 2012. The application must include:

• an outline of the planned research, demonstrating its originality, rigour and value to the field of urban studies [1200 words max.]
• a statement of the intended research outputs (e.g. articles [specify target journals], a monograph, etc.) [300 words max.]
• designation of the northern institution where the fellowship will be pursued and reasons for its selection [300 words max.]
• the name of the urban scholar at that institution willing to act as mentor to the fellow during the fellowship and a statement of how his/her expertise will support and facilitate the proposed research
• draft budget listing main cost items
• a 3-page CV listing academic achievements and publications
• a letter from the prospective mentor stating their willingness to act as a mentor to the fellow and indicating the suitability of the host institution for the proposed sabbatical study
• the names and contact details of two academic referees

For more information please click here


Dying to be whiter: The black women who risk their lives for lighter skin


Beyonce Knowles

On sale in the high street in Harlesden, North-West London, yesterday was a face cream called Maxi White. “Could there be a less subtle name for a product aimed at black and Asian women desperate to lighten the colour of their skin? Indeed, those who purchase the £4.79 gel are guaranteed results almost overnight. “It worked quite well to start with,” said one customer. “But as I carried on using it, my skin became thin and dehydrated. If I moved my mouth, my whole skin moved, too. My forehead looked like a crinkled up piece of paper it was so cracked. “Then, ugly blotches which developed into boils and ulcers started appearing on my face. I was a complete mess.” The reason can be found in the list of ingredients on the back of the Maxi White packet; one is called hydroquinone – which is as nasty as it sounds; the biological equivalent, in fact, of paint stripper. It not only removes the top layer of skin, which initially results in a “brighter face”, but also the body’s natural defence against infection and the sun, thus increasing the risk of skin cancer. If the chemical – which is used in certain industrial processes – enters your bloodstream, it can cause fatal liver and kidney damage. Other side effects include headaches, nausea, convulsions and permanent scarring.

It is illegal to use hydroquinone in cosmetics.

This month, a couple who made more than £1 million selling toxic skinlightening creams from two outlets in Peckham, South London, were ordered to pay costs and fines totalling £100,000. But a spokeswoman for the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) admitted: “No sooner do you shut one place down than another springs up.” Maxi White, and other banned brands containing harmful steroids, are available under – and over – the counter all across the country. A Mail investigation found them on sale from Brixton to Birmingham (one of the shops featured in our investigation was raided by Trading Standards officers yesterday). Behind such names as “Maxi White”, “Sure White”, “Fair & White” and “Skin White” is a multi-million-pound industry – and an untold story of exploitation and racism within the black community itself. It’s a taboo subject, but a cruel racial hierarchy still exists in Britain where the lighter-skinned Jamaican, for example, is “superior” to the darker skinned Nigerian; where light brown is preferable to dark brown. Dark skin means failure; light skin is beautiful and equates to success.

One young woman we spoke to told how she decided to have her skin bleached after being teased and bullied at school (she was called “blackie” by paler-skinned Jamaican girls). There are reports that some parents are even “bleaching” their children It is an attitude all too familiar to Sherry Dixon, editor-at-large of Pride, the lifestyle magazine for the British black community, and reinforced by the complaints that flood in from female readers whenever a woman with strong African features – such as dark hair, broad nose, and tightly curled hair – appears on the cover. “It’s cultural racism, or shade-ism as I call it,” she says. The most photographed – and admired – black women ( Beyonce, Halle Berry, Naomi Campbell, Iman) are all Westernised, of course, whether by their fairer skin or European features. The legacy of such stereotyping can be found in any shop or market stall specialising in black hair and skin products; “Black is Beautiful” was the old slogan, but shelves are bulging with creams and lotions promising a “brighter face”.

Not all are harmful; nevertheless they promote the image – intentionally or otherwise – that blackness is something to be ashamed of, and whiteness revered. Southwark Trading Standards officers, who were involved in the Peckham prosecution, have a list of nearly 100 banned cosmetics seized from outlets in the borough over the past few years, including some that contained poisonous mercuric iodide, which can cause organ failure, vomiting and depression. The New Nation newspaper has carried out its own investigation into the scandal. Among the shops it found selling dangerous concoctions was Mona Cosmetics in Harlesden, where reporter Lorraine King purchased Maxi White (Strong Formula). This week, Miss King went to Brixton for the Mail. There, she was able to buy Mic Medicated Skin Litener Cream (“Maximum Strength”) which is on the trading standards banned list. Like Maxi White, it contains potentially deadly hydroquinone, and was on sale at the Afro Beauty Shop in Electric Avenue for 99p.

Meagan Good

Trading standards officials from Lambeth Council, acting on a tip-off from the Mail, arrived to carry out a search of the premises yesterday. Owners Mohammed Latif, 48, and his brother Wasim Hussain, 28, initially denied selling any of the creams. Boxes of Mic skin whitener were later confiscated; the brothers were cautioned and could be prosecuted. In another part of the country, at Beauty Queen in Soho Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, there are aisles brimming with “exotic” products. But when a Mail reporter asked for a “stronger” lightening cream (a universally understood euphemism for illegal bleaching creams) the man behind the counter produced a tube of cream stashed in a fuse box in the corner of the store. It cost £1.99 and was called Movate. One of its active ingredients is the steroid known as clobetasol propionate.

The compound is not banned in this country but such is its potency that it can only be used as a licensed prescription drug to treat extreme skin conditions. Movate was also sold at nearby MJ News. Electric Avenue in Brixton or Rye Lane in Peckham and Soho Road in Handsworth are the last links in a criminal chain which begins thousands of miles away in Africa or the Middle East, where such lightening products are freely available. They are either smuggled into Britain in hand luggage or hidden in freight. Two of the biggest ever hauls, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, were discovered at Gatwick airport in 2005. More than 46,000 tubes were found in cargo from Lagos in Nigeria, labelled “body cream”, destined for a warehouse in North London. Shortly afterwards, customs seized thousands of products containing hydroquinone from West Africa, marked “foodstuffs.” Some unscrupulous traders travel abroad to obtain the ingredients – including hydroquinone – themselves.

“They mix these drugs together in a bowl in the back of their shop then sell them in plain jars when customers ask for something “stronger” than the products on display,” says Sara Coakley of the MHRA. “We have had reports of parents giving these creams to their children, which is very worrying because children have weaker immune systems and these creams can be fatal.” It is almost impossible to believe, given the widespread publicity such products have attracted, that the people who peddle this poisonous rubbish, if not customers themselves, can be unaware of the dangers. Trading Standards officials in Southwark have flooded the borough with leaflets highlighting the dangers and the consequences of breaking the law, which can result in a six-month prison sentence. The leaflet asks: “Sale of illegal products -IS IT WORTH IT?” The answer can be found in a treelined avenue in Sydenham, South-East London, where Yinka and Michael Oluyemi live in an £800,000 six-bedroom mock tudor house with wooden floors and Persian rugs. Yesterday, a BMW and Mercedes were parked on the drive.

Yinka, 46, and her husband Michael, 49 – who ran Yinka Bodyline and Beauty Express in Peckham – evidently found handsome rewards from the skin-lightening business. This week, however, they were given suspended prison sentences after admitting ten charges of flouting medical and safety rules. The Oluyemis are just the latest people to be prosecuted for selling banned cosmetic potions.In 2006, another “cosmetics” company, Ace Afro Hair And Beauty, which has a store in Brixton, was fined £50,000, for similar offences. Hassan Akhtar, 49, who drives a Mercedes, runs the business – which has a £ 1million turnover – with his wife Nasira, 46, and their son Mubashir, 25. The family live in a £400,000 house in South-West London. “These creams cost peanuts in Africa – a few pence maybe – and then sell for up to £5 here,” says Ray Bouch, senior Trading Standards officer for Lambeth. “The mark-up is huge.” How many black women use such creams? It is impossible to say, but clearly many do. “I first started using them because I had spots and I thought they would help,” said Marilyn, a hairdresser in her 20s.

Halle Berry

Her acne did indeed clear up. But Marilyn continued using these dangerous cosmetics for another two years because “people began asking me why I looked so ‘bright and pretty?’ “I remember using one that burns when you put it on. I would have to sit down and fan myself. Then I watched a programme about skin bleaching in Africa. It was terrible. It showed people with serious skin deformities and tumours. I knew I had to stop. I’d just had a baby and I didn’t want him coming into contact with the chemicals on my face. “I have stopped bleaching my skin but there are so many girls I know who are still doing it. In the dance hall scene, if you don’t bleach your skin you’re not cool. I see some girls with brown faces who still have black hands – it’s horrible. “But it’s very addictive,” she admits. “I have a relative who bleaches her entire body. She goes down to Brixton market and buys massive tubs. Her whole body is light except for her knuckles, elbows, knees and toes. She looks ridiculous.

“When I stopped using these creams, my face became dark again. I don’t care because I’m lucky and have not suffered permanent damage.” The peer – and indeed cultural – pressure which would persuade someone to apply a cream which contains hydroquinone or powerful steroids is graphically illustrated by the case of Melissa Barnet. Melissa, who is in her late 20s, is the daughter of a Nigerian nurse and businessman from North London. She began using bleaching creams in 2000 after being bullied at school. “Throughout my childhood it just wasn’t ‘cool’ to be African or dark skinned, and every day when I walked through the gates of my all-girls secondary school I was reminded of this cruel racial hierarchy,” she says. “Being a lighter-skinned Jamaican made you superior to anyone darker or African. “There were nights when I would sit in the bath chanting ‘I hate myself’ while frantically scrubbing my skin with soap. Other times I would scribble notes to myself saying dreadful things like: ‘Why are you so ugly?’ or ‘Why do you have to be so black?’

Halle Berry

“Nor did it help that all the best-looking black boys would only date a girl if they were light-skinned, and vice versa. I lost count of the times I heard the attractive Jamaican girls dismiss the idea of going out with a dark-skinned African boy because he was considered beneath them. Statements such as ‘he’s a monkey’, ‘far too black’ and ‘ugly’ were commonplace.” Eventually, Melissa experimented with the most potent bleaching soap containing hydroquinone in a bid to make herself more “beautiful”. Her skin became noticeably lighter and for the first time in her life she felt “confident and attractive”. It didn’t last long. Within six months, she began to suffer the inevitable side-effects – unsightly dark patches appeared on her face and she realised she had to stop. Fortunately, her skin recovered, though some scars were still visible on her cheeks months later. Like Marilyn, the hairdresser who began using skin-lightening creams, Melissa, a former office worker, was lucky. Some of the women who turn up at dermatologist Sujata Jolly’s clinic in Maidenhead are not. “One patient was in a very bad way,” she recalls. “Her skin was dark, lumpy and blotchy and had cracked open. The blood vessels had ruptured and you could see blood through the cracks.”

Could there be a more chilling example of the dangers of products like Maxi White? The cultural racism which resulted in that poor woman being treated by Sujata Jolly is reinforced by companies such as Elizabeth Arden on the Indian sub-continent. The face of the firm’s “whitening skincare” range is Catherine Zeta-Jones. The creams are harmless but the message, you might agree, is the same. “Women everywhere want radiant, translucent skin.” Another advert, by British manufacturing giant Unilever, which markets several whitening products in India, shows a young Indian woman dreaming of being famous, but her skin is too brown. One day her sister hands her a tube of Fair And Lovely skin cream. Then the advert flashes forward and she is wearing high heels and her hair is curled. Most important, her complexion has changed dramatically; she is pale and has landed her dream job. But dreams don’t always come true – as many black women have discovered after buying a tube of Maxi White on the streets of Harlesden and Handsworth.

Source: MailOnline

10 Deadly Sins of Negative Thinking

The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful. – Dalai Lama

Life could be so much better for many people, if they would just spot their negative thinking habits and replace them with positive ones.

Negative thinking, in all its many-splendored forms, has a way of creeping into conversations and our thinking without our noticing them. The key to success, in my humble opinion, is learning to spot these thoughts and squash them like little bugs. Then replace them with positive ones. You’ll notice a huge difference in everything you do.

Let’s take a look at 10 common ways that negative thinking emerges get good at spotting these patterns, and practice replacing them with positive thinking patterns. It has made all the difference in the world for me.

1. I will be happy once I have (or once I earn X)
Problem: If you think you can’t be happy until you reach a certain point, or until you reach a certain income, or have a certain type of house or car or computer setup, you’ll never be happy. That elusive goal is always just out of reach. Once we reach those goals, we are not satisfied we want more.

Solution: Learn to be happy with what you have, where you are, and who you are, right at this moment. Happiness doesn’t have to be some state that we want to get to eventually it can be found right now. Learn to count your blessings, and see the positive in your situation. This might sound simplistic, but it works.

2. I wish I were as ____ as (a celebrity, friend, co-worker).
Problem: We’ll never be as pretty, as talented, as rich, as sculpted, as cool, as everyone else. There will always be someone better, if you look hard enough. Therefore, if we compare ourselves to others like this, we will always pale, and will always fail, and will always feel bad about ourselves. This is no way to be happy.

Solution: Stop comparing yourself to others, and look instead at yourself what are your strengths, your accomplishments, your successes, however small? What do you love about yourself? Learn to love who you are, right now, not who you want to become. There is good in each of us, love in each of us, and a wonderful human spirit in every one of us.

3. Seeing others becoming successful makes me jealous and resentful
Problem: First, this assumes that only a small number of people can be successful. In truth, many, many people can be successful in different ways.

Solution: Learn to admire the success of others, and learn from it, and be happy for them, by empathizing with them and understanding what it must be like to be them. And then turn away from them, and look at yourself you can be successful too, in whatever you choose to do. And even more, you already are successful. Look not at those above you in the social ladder, but those below you there are always millions of people worse off than you, people who couldn’t even read this article or afford a computer. In that light, you are a huge success.

4. I am a miserable failure I can’t seem to do anything right.
Problem: Everyone is a failure, if you look at it in certain ways. Everyone has failed, many times, at different things. I have certainly failed so many times I cannot count them and I continue to fail, daily. However, looking at your failures as failures only makes you feel bad about yourself. By thinking in this way, we will have a negative self-image and never move on from here.

Solution: See your successes and ignore your failures. Look back on your life, in the last month, or year, or 5 years. And try to remember your successes.. If you have trouble with this, start documenting them keep a success journal, either in a notebook or online. Document your success each day, or each week. When you look back at what you’ve accomplished, over a year, you will be amazed. It’s an incredibly positive feeling.

5. I’m going to beat so-and-so no matter what I’m better than him. And there’s no way I’ll help him succeed he might beat me.

Problem: Competitiveness assumes that there is a small amount of gold to be had, and I need to get it before he does. It makes us into greedy, back-stabbing, hurtful people. We try to claw our way over people to get to success, because of our competitive feelings. For example, if a blogger wants to have more subscribers than another blogger, he may never link to or mention that other blogger. However, who is to say that my subscribers can’t also be yours? People can read and subscribe to more than one blog.

Solution: Learn to see success as something that can be shared, and learn that if we help each other out, we can each have a better chance to be successful. Two people working towards a common goal are better than two people trying to beat each other up to get to that goal. There is more than enough success to go around. Learn to think in terms of abundance rather than scarcity.

6. Dammit! Why do these bad things always happen to me?
Problem: Bad things happen to everybody. If we dwell on them, they will frustrate us and bring us down.

Solution: See bad things as a part of the ebb and flow of life. Suffering is a part of the human condition but it passes. All pain goes away, eventually. Meanwhile, don’t let it hold you back. Don’t dwell on bad things, but look forward towards something good in your future. And learn to take the bad things in stride, and learn from them.. Bad things are actually opportunities to grow and learn and get stronger, in disguise.

7. You can’t do anything right! Why can’t you be like ____?

Problem: This can be said to your child or your subordinate or your sibling. The problem? Comparing two people, first of all, is always a fallacy. People are different, with different ways of doing things, different strengths and weaknesses, different human characteristics. If we were all the same, we’d be robots. Second, saying negative things like this to another person never helps the situation. It might make you feel better, and more powerful, but in truth, it hurts your relationship, it will actually make you feel negative, and it will certainly make the other person feel negative and more likely to continue negative behavior. Everyone loses.

Solution: Take the mistakes or bad behavior of others as an opportunity to teach. Show them how to do something. Second, praise them for their positive behavior, and encourage their success. Last, and most important, love them for who they are, and celebrate their differences.

8. Your work sucks. It’s super lame. You are a moron and I hope you never reproduce.
Problem: I’ve actually gotten this comment before. It feels wonderful. However, let’s look at it not from the perspective of the person receiving this kind of comment but from the perspective of the person giving it. How does saying something negative like this help you? I guess it might feel good to vent if you feel like your time has been wasted. But really, how much of your time has been wasted? A few minutes? And whose fault is that? The bloggers or yours? In truth, making negative comments just keeps you in a negative mindset. It’s also not a good way to make friends.

Solution: Learn to offer constructive solutions, first of all. Instead of telling someone their blog sucks, or that a post is lame, offer some specific suggestions for improvement. Help them get better. If you are going to take the time to make a comment, make it worth your time. Second, learn to interact with people in a more positive way it makes others feel good and it makes you feel better about yourself. And you can make some great friends this way. That’s a good thing.

9. Insulting People Back
Problem: If someone insults you or angers you in some way, insulting them back and continuing your anger only transfers their problem to you. This person was probably having a bad day (or a bad year) and took it out on you for some reason. If you reciprocate, you are now having a bad day too. His problem has become yours. Not only that, but the cycle of insults can get worse and worse until it results in violence or other negative consequences for both of you.

Solution: Let the insults or negative comments of others slide off you like Teflon. Don’t let their problem become yours. In fact, try to understand their problem more why would someone say something like that? What problems are they going through? Having a little empathy for someone not only makes you understand that their comment is not about you, but it can make you feel and act in a positive manner towards them and make you feel better about yourself in the process.

10. I don’t think I can do this I don’t have enough discipline. Maybe some other time.
Problem: If you don’t think you can do something, you probably won’t. Especially for the big stuff.. Discipline has nothing to do with it motivation and focus has everything to do with it. And if you put stuff off for “some other time”, you’ll never get it done. Negative thinking like this inhibits us from accomplishing anything.

Solution: Turn your thinking around: you can do this! You don’t need discipline. Find ways to make yourself a success at your goal. If you fail, learn from your mistakes, and try again. Instead of putting a goal off for later, start now. And focus on one goal at a time, putting all of your energy into it, and getting as much help from others as you can. You can really move mountains if you start with positive thinking.

Source: Unknown (received by email from a friend).

Thinking Outside the Box: A Personal Experience

Telling people to think outside the box is one thing, but knowing what that really means is a different task in itself. The later is shared by both, the commander and the recipient. They both face two challenges – first, the failure to understand the meaning of what they are saying or being told. Secondly, in case they are lucky enough to unfold the first puzzle, they would then confront the challenge of knowing how to bring about the anticipated – that is to think outside the box. The reasons for the two realities are many but for matter of this article, we will only dwell into looking at our state of minds when asking or asked to think outside the box.

This is my personal experience and I have learnt a lot from it. It started like this…. I was bored and felt watching TV would help. Strange aahh?? How would a bored person opt for a TV? Most interesting, the only TV available was for public use (in the common room) where I had never been before. I made up my mind and walked straight to the room.

Before we dwell into what happened in the TV room, it is important to note the misconception I had before the experience. For me (and may be for many out there) a paid TV service meant a set of a decoder and TV screen, each coupled with a remote control.

I got to the TV room and I found a TV screen fitted on a wooden cabinet. My brain told me that the first thing to do was look for the remote. I searched the whole place and I couldn’t find one. I even tried to open the locked drawers without success. I later concluded that may be these people have locked the remote in one of the drawers. I now realize that was just an excuse and a way to get relief.

I then shifted my attention to searching for the decoder. Mind you, I knew that the whole process would include switching on the TV screen but felt that would be the last thing to deal with. Why? I have conditioned myself that being a receiver, a TV screen should be the last thing to turn on. Logical justification aahh??? Yes I believe we all have our own conventional way and perspectives on how to deal with certain procedures and processes. For example, think of a three course meal… would you start with desert, starter and later finish with the main dish?? That will be very unusual and I am not sure if ‘starter’ will still deserve that name. Think of a more non-formal and local example… think of taking bath or shower. Is there a body part that always come first to be dealt with? Is it your hand, your head etc etc? Do you get some logic?? I think you now understand my stand for putting the TV screen at the bottom. Still, I believe there are procedures that we can’t avoid to follow such conventional steps.

Back to the TV thing… I couldn’t find the decoder either. I was now panicking and some kind of blame was erupting inside my heart. On one hand, I was blaming myself for failing to see the things I was looking for. On the other, I was trying to blame those who used the room before – why could they hide/lock the remote and decoder? All my desire to watch TV was fading as I knew that it was no longer possible. Without the decoder and remote controls, nothing was possible. As I was about to give up and look for other entertainments, something came to my mind. It was like someone asking me ‘what if you switch the TV screen first?’. Yes… it worked. As I switched on the TV screen, I realized that everything I looked for, particularly the decoder was dispensable.

It is at that moment when I also realized how blocked I was with my conventional thinking about a TV set. However, I am glad that I came outside the box. It was a great lesson for me. First and foremost, I became aware about how small and simple situations can bring tremendous lessons in our lives. We don’t need rocket science in order to understand the great theories and basic principles of life.

Secondly, it made me to come up with resolutions. From now onwards, I am dedicating to improve my will to take new perspectives in all my day-to-day work. I understand that it will take time to realize my desire but better start it now than never. I have also learned that life requires openness to every situation and giving opportunity for new means and ways of doing things. I also believe in lateral thinking in which the result is the ultimate goal but not the obvious and conventional step-by-step logic processes. Lateral thinking is concerned about creativity and focussing on the values of finding new ideas and acting on them.

The most important resolution I am making is to support and respect others when they come up with new ideas for doing and accomplishing things. This resolution is coupled with desire to listen and give others an opportunity to express themselves.

I urge you to join me on this journey…. Let us explore new ways of doing things and experience new rewards and lessons of life.


Food for thought….. They are still our slaves


Following my post on Building Reading Culture, a friend sent me the article shared below. Please read and do something about it (with positive thinking in mind).  It should also be noted that this post is very far from igniting racism and anything of that nature.


We can continue to reap profits from the Blacks without the effort of physical slavery. Look at the current methods of containment that they use on themselves: IGNORANCE, GREED, and SELFISHNESS.

Their IGNORANCE is the primary weapon of containment. A great man once said, ‘The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book.’ We now live in theInformation Age. They have gained the opportunity to read any book on any subject through the efforts of their fight for freedom, yet they refuse to read. There are numerous books readily available at Borders, Barnes &Noble, and Amazon.com , not to mention their own Black Bookstores that provide solid blueprints to reach economic equality (which should have been their fight all along), but few read consistently, if at all.

GREED is another powerful weapon of containment. Blacks, since the abolition of slavery, have had large amounts of money at their disposal. Last year they spent 10 billion dollars during Christmas, out of their 450 billion dollars in total yearly income (2.22%).

Any of us can use them as our target market, for any business venture we care to dream up, no matter how outlandish, they will buy into it. Being primarily a consumer people, they function totally by greed… They continually want more, with little thought for saving or investing.

They would rather buy some new sneaker than invest in starting a business. Some even neglect their children to have the latest Tommy or FUBU, And they still think that having a Mercedes, and a big house gives them ‘Status’ or that they have achieved their Dream.

They are fools! The vast majority of their people are still in poverty because their greed holds them back from collectively making better communities.

With the help of BET, and the rest of their black media that often broadcasts destructive images into their own homes, we will continue to see huge profits like those of Tommy and Nike. (Tommy Hilfiger has even jeered them, saying he doesn’t want their money, and look at how the fools spend more with him than ever before!). They’ll continue to show off to each other while we build solid communities with the profits from our businesses that we market to them.

SELFISHNESS, ingrained in their minds through slavery, is one of the major ways we can continue to contain them. One of their own, Dubois said that there was an innate division in their culture. A ‘Talented Tenth’ he called it. He was correct in his deduction that there are segments of their culture that has achieved some ‘form’ of success.

However, that segment missed the fullness of his work. They didn’t read that the ‘Talented Tenth’ was then responsible to aid The Non-Talented Ninety Percent in achieving a better life. Instead, that segment has created another class, a Buppie class that looks down on their people or aids them in a condescending manner. They will never achieve what we have. Their selfishness does not allow them to be able to work together on any project or endeavor of substance. When they do get together, their selfishness lets their egos get in the way of their goal. Their so-called help organizations seem to only want to promote their name without making any real change in their community.

They are content to sit in conferences and conventions in our hotels, and talk about what they will do, while they award plaques to the best speakers, not to the best doers. Is there no end to their selfishness? They steadfastly refuse to see that Together Each Achieves More (TEAM).
They do not understand that they are no better than each other because of what they own, as a matter of fact, most of those Buppies are but one or two pay checks away from poverty. All of which is under the control of our pens in our offices and our rooms.

Yes, we will continue to contain them as long as they refuse to read, continue to buy anything they want, and keep thinking they are ‘helping’ their communities by paying dues to organizations which do little other than hold lavish conventions in our hotels. By the way, don’t worry about any of them reading this letter, remember, ‘THEY DON’T READ!!

Building a Reading Culture

“If you want to hide something from a black person, all you need to do is put inside a book. He will never find it because he abhors reading”. A common saying that goes with some kind of prejudice but embodies a part of reality. Many blacks find this statement intolerable. Forget all your grudges about the phrase if you belong to that group; instead focus on its positive side. Personally, I consider the statement as a wake-up call for us (blacks) to read. I am very aware that the statement does not apply to all blacks, however, for matter of simplicity, the article is focused on Tanzanian context.

I believe most of us usually conduct evaluations at every end of the year to assess what happened over the past twelve months. As with other types of evaluations, the main purpose is to learn and be able to get grounds for future planning. Usually evaluations are followed by plans for the future which may include listing a number of resolutions. I wonder to know how often reading do appear in our lists. Of course, we have few people who would treat reading as part of those obvious things that come naturally. For example we don’t include eating in our lists but find ourselves in contact with kitchens, dining tables and the like all year long.

For those who are able to fit reading in their resolution lists, it will be interesting to know how many have succeeded to realize their reading plans. If you were to conduct a survey and ask Tanzanians how many books they have read after leaving school, I guess only few would declare to have finished a book or part of it. Many (with their shy faces) would try to give excuses for not being able to set eyes on a book page. These results wouldn’t amaze me but it is important to stress that the situation is undesirable and not helping us either.

Lack of reading culture is an old and historic daunting problem of our society. It’s pity that statistics show that reading culture was once high in early eighties but has been dwindling in the past two decades. Reading culture in Tanzania has dropped to 60% from 80% in the early eighties. It is also possible that the situation is more dreadful than what the statistics are telling us. Worst still the little literature that we access is just trivial stuff.

Looking at the number and type of people you meet in bookshops and libraries, at least gives you an idea of what part of our society do read books. Looking at the type of books in the shelves, gives you an idea of an important aspect, the type of materials we read. Most of the books are about curricular subjects and thus only suitable for students. For that reason, it is very easy to understand or predict the kind of knowledge we get out of such literature.

We all know the advantages of reading – the very basic being the search for knowledge. Reading also keep us updated and helps to better understand and predict the opportunities and challenges in the future. As Tanzanians, we need to make reading as part of our life in order to benefit its full potential. The only best way to make this happen is to instil reading culture from tender age.

Just to share my short dream!!!!

It was like a movie, I can see everything very clearly. I see a group of children in serious discussions – each trying to share last night’s story. Every child is eager to make use of any free time a child is able to squeeze. I also see a group of parents on one side and children on the other forming books reading clubs, in short BRC or BOREC if you like (funny names isn’t it?…. ). I see myself running for presidency of the club. Of course, I fulfil one requirement, just have your kid and you are in. Don’t get puzzled, you know for sure that a country presidency is a nightmare for some of us. Then, why not take the ones within our reach, after-all we share the same identity (Mr. President) whether you lead a nation or a children book reading club. Don’t worry about the state house; I have made sure one is constructed for me.

The impacts are overwhelming to include the motivation to attend school. Children are fascinated to attend school not only in order to hear what other children receive from their parents but also share stories from their own parents. I believe we all love to share a piece of word, no wonder gossips spread with a speed of light. Story telling also caters for preventing kids not discussing soap operas as we have ensured that books are not in the same tune to what we see on TV currently.

Someone wakes me up…. I wish the dream was endless same as my presidency.

As we are about to finish the year, let’s plan to begin the next year with the intent to develop reading culture. Let us identify few books and plan to read them in the coming year. For parents – plan to read books to your kids. For those who think that they don’t have time, it’s good to know that time doesn’t come if we don’t look for it. For example, as busy as he can be, President Obama sets time for bed stories to his daughters, Sasha and Malia. And these were Obama’s words to American parents (and this may apply to all parents).

“As parents, we have to find the time and the energy to step in and help our children love reading. We can read to them, talk to them about what you’re reading, and make time for this by turning off the television set ourselves.” Excerpts: the keynote speech to the American library association.

‘Walk the talk’ – that’s my advice to parents. If you want your child to read, be a reader. Children will love reading only if they see adults around them are doing the same. Opting for a book against a computer and TV is a challenging fact at our present times. As parents, we should take note of this and help our kids to overcome the challenge.

All the best

Seize the Moment with Positive Thinking

Become the best you can be with powerful positive thinking tips from positive thinking guru Jon Gordon.
By Jon Gordon
The best seize the moment because they don’t allow their fear of failure to define them.

They know this fear exists, and they overcome it. Their faith is greater than any score, performance, or outcome. Even if they lose, they are still on the path to greatness. And even if they fail, they are one step closer to the perfection they seek.

Ironically, even though the best have a dream and a vision within their sights, it is the journey, not the destination, that matters most to them. The moment is more important than any success or failure. The moment is the success. The moment is the reward.

When the best are in the midst of their performance, they are not thinking “What if I win?” or “What if I lose?” They are not thinking “What if I make a mistake or miss the shot?” They are not interested in what the moment produces but are only concerned with what they produce in the moment. When all eyes are watching, they know that this is the moment they have been preparing and waiting for.

Rather than hiding from pressure, they rise to the occasion. As a result, the best define the moment rather than letting the moment define them. To seize the moment, don’t let your failure define you; let it fuel you. Don’t run from fear; face it and embrace it. Don’t let fear rob you of your love and joy for the game; let it push you into the moment and beyond yourself. Let it inspire you to live and work each day as though it was your last.

Don’t let the moment define you. You define the moment. Define it by knowing that your practice and preparation have prepared you well. Define it with your mental strength, faith and confidence. Define it by knowing that regardless of the outcome, you have given your very best.

Everyone talks about destiny. Everyone searches for it, not realizing that each and every moment is your destiny. Make every moment of your life count.

Don’t focus on the past, and don’t look to the future. Focus on the now. Success, rewards, accolades, fame, and fortune are merely byproducts for those who are able to seize the moment—not those who look beyond it. Ironically, to enjoy success you must not focus on it. Rather, you must focus on the process that produces success.

You are more than your successes. You are more than your failures. You are who you are in the moment. Enjoy it. Live it. Make the most of it. Make it yours.

Published with permission from Jorge Brake

The article was also published at Guideposts