BASIL: I am proud
The Pin has always been about being able to provide a platform that helps people discuss and discover who they are right now in Australia.
During our second live panel event, we were floored by the presence of a young man called Basil who posed the question 'How can I show that I am a proud African?' to our panel.
Since that time it seems as if that question has been challenged with media outlets drawing negative stereotypes of African-Australians and into the narrative of the press.
So, it's quite apt at this time that we turn to the next generations of Australians who seem to be more "woke" than we were at their age to find out what it's like to be figuring out your identity, right now in Australia, during your formative years.
THE PIN. How did you find the 'Where We At?' event at the Melbourne Recital Centre last year?
BASIL. It was an amazing event with a lot of people who turned up to it interested in helping change the world. The only thing I would say is that I feel like the people who came to the event already had decided they wanted to help. I think it should be aimed at people around my age instead that are still choosing who they want to be, while older people have already spent the last 15 to 30 years choosing what they want to be and it's difficult for them to change their ways.
Your question captivated both the panel and the audience. So now I want to pose it to you - how do you show that you’re a proud African, and do you see yourself as having an Australian identity?
B. Yeah, I see myself as having both identities but, at the same time, neither. Technically, there is no Australia-African identity. Identity is never still and it continuously changes by interacting with our surrounding cultures. When I say I want to be a "proud" African, I'd say that 'I am African and I am proud of my culture' but that's not all of me - it’s just one of those supporting characters of me.
Is this question particularly important to you because of the ways in which Africans have been portrayed historically through the media?
B. Yes, I feel like media is the main issue. If you go on YouTube, for example, you'll see all the stereotypes of white, black and Asian people. I think people in those cultures need to step up into the media be themselves and not be what the media wants them to be.
I think in the next three generations we won’t see a world where everyone is accepted. I truly believe that the human race as a whole can change but, it’s going to take a very long time. We need to change to accept each other as humans or we become extinct and this will be the downfall of our species.
When the media uses terms like "African gangs", how does that make you feel about yourself?
B. There have been points where I have questioned what I am doing around my peers and how I am seen by others. Sometimes I feel like I am that person has to change people's minds about Africans, and black people even if no one pays attention.
At school, I had a confrontation with another boy who's African-British, who'd like to cement (because he was very popular) what people would see as the stereotype of a black person - a rapper, someone who objectifies woman, stuff like that. I stood up to him and said that being black means so much more than those stereotypes and the colour of your skin.
Even though I speak a lot about how I feel about my identity, I actually want to be an actor so I can explore a lot of identities to hopefully lead me to a better understanding of who I want to be.
It’s really hard to place to find yourself…
B. As I said before, white people (though, I prefer not to use this term, I normally say with colour or without) see blackness one way and black people see it in a different way.
Something I want to bring up is that when a black person is very good at sport they’re seen as a real black person but, when a black person likes comic books, reads or is very good at the educational side of things, they’re seen as a dork or a nerd and are kind of verbally and physically bashed by their peers.
Is that something that you have experiences?
B. Yes all the time, I am trying to get more into sports because I want to be an actor and build my body a bit more but, I do like manga and I do like a lot more educational things. Recently I read a book called The New Paper Trails which is a collection of short stories.
How old are you?
B. I am turning 14 this year.
Who have been your strongest role models?
B. 1. My parents.
2. Logan Paul (surprisingly) - though he portrays a stereotypical white man, he has very good intentions. The fiasco that he's recently going through doesn't take away from what he has worked so hard for and he's accepted his mistakes.
3. Will.I.Am (similar to Logan) portrays a stereotype and has also worked really hard to get to where he is.
4. Martin Luther King who, in my opinion, is the greatest American that has ever lived. He is peace and freedom, because of the sacrifice that he made to bring people up to where they are today.
And ... Samuel L. Jackson was a role model for me for a while but, he portrays a lot of the bad stereotypes of black people through the media.
When do you think of the word "black", what does it means to you?
B.I’d say it depends on the context, if somebody asks me what I think of the word “black”, I say "paint". Black paint is very significant because it's either foreshadowing something or saying that there’s more to be discovered. That’s also what you can say about our culture.
A lot of people see black culture in one way but the truth is there is still a lot to be discovered.
BASIL'S MUM. I have a question ... do you think you belong here?
B. I’d say it’s about the people that surround me who see me as either an enemy or a friend.
If you belong somewhere, you feel like you have good friends that support you and tell you when you do something wrong, and enemies that are against you but in the way that makes you want to go forward and prove yourself and prove them wrong.
Are there places you feel you do and don't belong?
B. A place I’d say I feel like I belong, even though I try not to talk about it too much, is in the Sudanese community. In this community I am actually very popular and I have lots of friends, I am the youngest person to receive an award for education and I have a good friend who right now is in Sudan, but lives around there and supports me like my sidekick but at the same time, I’m his sidekick too.
When I am with my friends I am with people that I like being around and who like being around me - so I focus on that.
What do you take out places that cater to who you are? Do you feel this is a place where you feel like this is a place you want to be part of?
BASIL. It’s hard to answer that question only because even though I spend a lot of time working on who I am and how I look to other people when it comes down to the moment I won’t pay attention to that. In preparation, yeah, but when it comes down to the moment, I won’t care about what people think of what I am doing.
I only care about if it’s the right thing to do and if I am comfortable.