By: Edinah Masanga
I have a tradition, a personal one, on Sundays I lie in bed all morning whether or not am sleeping. I sometimes will eat a bowl of cereal while listening to music. I never read or do strenuous work on Sunday mornings. But somehow I checked my phone first thing when I woke up late on Sunday the 10th of March.
The ‘Breaking News’ sign will forever hold a doomsday meaning for me. There were breaking news labels on all the major channels that I follow that Africa’s most precious bird had fallen out of the sky. I was and am still extremely heartbroken. All Africans are heartbroken by this. The racists will use this to bash us.
Ethiopian Airlines represents among many things the dreams that we hold as Africans, the pride, the confidence and polite arrogance to defy the odds that are all so ever stacked against us. Always.
On Sunday, my heart was pulverised to smithereens and it’s pieces still lie scattered around me. Ethiopian Airlines means something higher, greater to me. It is not just an airline, it is a symbol of the success that Africa is building daily, brick by brick. In its case, one flight at a time.
It flew me to Sweden, flew me around a couple of other times as well. I always marvelled, as a pan Africanist at the thought of Africa giving the middle finger in such a grand way to those who associate our rich skin colour with failure. With negativity, with despair but then we have an airline born out of Africa and is among the rapidly growing airlines in the world.
When people almost always only bring up war, famine, hunger, disease et cetera and all those poverty and barbarism fetishes that naysayers associate with Africa it is also always instantly consoling that in most cases one would have flown Ethiopian airlines too. They would have seen Africa’s finest. Africa’s pride. There was, and still is, defiance there in performing beyond what your oppressors expect you to. There is a win there for all Africans. Ethiopian Airlines is a win for all of us.
Our bird fell out of the sky but our pride still soars high. I know that people will not focus so much on the fact that the aircraft is manufactured by an American company in so much as they will want to drive home the point that it was operated by an African company. By an African country. But I will tell you this, no matter what happened to that aircraft which caused it to plummet to the ground, I will always regard Ethiopian airlines with the highest regard that I have always had.
Well, I hate to disappoint you but technology is what failed on Sunday, not Africa.
We live in a world where to be black and African at the same time means you are not even given a margin of error, you are not considered human enough, our agency is constantly being questioned, our humanity degraded. I live in Europe and I can tell you, I am a fish out of its waters. I landed in northern Europe five years ago to the realisation that my blackness is not just ethnicity, it is an identity duffel bag. It is full of baggage.
I had never experienced the pain, the anguish, of constantly having to communicate that I am safe. I am not a threat, I am not barbaric and no I am certainly not disease ridden. Until I was the only black person in the room and people clutched their bags tighter, watched their kids nervously and I sat alone on a seat for four people in a full bus.
And in the midst of all that, there we have Africa’s birds cruising the high skies. Defying all odds. Making us all proud and giving us back some of the dignity that is so ever being stolen from us daily. I am proud of that and I always will be.
Ethiopian Airlines, we see you mama, and we love and we stand by you. This African will not hesitate to be bestowed the honour of flying your planes over and over again.