Happy birthday, Eyala! A letter to my just-one-year-ago self.

Photo by  Skyla Design  on Unsplash.

Photo by Skyla Design on Unsplash.

Franny, girl,

You don’t have a clue about what you just got yourself into, do you? You think you’re just launching a blog. How cute. 

You got some of the basics right: Eyala will allow you to have the intimate conversations you’ve always dreamed of having with African feminists. You will make time to explore what feminism means to you. You might even write some sense into a couple of trolls’ heads. 

What you don’t know is, you’ve just started a war and you don’t even know it.

The opposition wears many masks

In the next twelve months, you will fight off a ridiculous number of friends and family members who think you’ve lost your mind. You will explain that you had to leave your cushy job to answer the questions it had unveiled before you but was never going to let you explore. The raised eyebrows and smug smirks will anger you, but you’ll get over it soon enough.

You will try and counter every ignorant presumption you hear about feminism in Africa, until you realize your energy is wasted on people whose ideals of Africanness are too selective to be candid. You will learn to discern which questions are sincere and which ones are meant to bait you into pointless arguments.

You’ve spent so much time defining how to be African, even though you still hesitate whenever someone asks, “so, where are you from?”. Yet the coming year will bring you back to those times when your skin color defined and confined all your daily interactions. Welcome to Morocco, babe. In a year’s time, you will still be figuring out why some inhabitants of this continent speak of “Africans” as of a people they have nothing to do with. Just breathe in, and speak out. 

The fiercest battles are the ones within

Most of the time, though, the most vicious battles will be fought against your own beliefs and behaviors. Believe me, you’re not ready for this. 

You will reluctantly admit that your previous job was not the one keeping you from spending time with your children. It was all you and your obsession with work. So, your commitment to what was supposed to be just a passion project will sometimes have the bitter taste of defeat. 

You will struggle to carve out the headspace your creativity requires, and you will dare to question whether it’s a sign that you should never have become a mother. Whenever that happens, the sour tang of guilt will take weeks to wane.

You will discover just how much fear has been ruling your life for years, but that won’t be enough to escape it. You will still turn down opportunities you think you’re not “enough of a feminist” to grab, and your “drafts” folder will be three times bigger than your “published” one. Some will call it extreme impostor’s syndrome, you’ll call it just another day living in your skin.

You will practice saying “yes” faster than your brain asks “why me?”, but each time you speak about your experiences rather than your expertise, your upper back will bear the brunt of your shame.

As you probe into the inner lives of the outstanding African feminists you will be fortunate to interview, conversations will start within your soul that will shake you to the core. But introspection is a habit, you will find out, and one that was never part of your culture. All you were ever asked to do was deliver, remember? Good grades, good degrees, and good behavior. There was never a good time to ask questions, let alone reflect on them. 

So you, a whole African woman, will book weekly appointments with a therapist, and you won’t miss a single one. You’ll even once hear yourself call it he best decision you’ve made in years. How about that?

“I’ve got all my sisters with me”

There will be other victories, too. The biggest one will be you understand you’re not alone in this. With Eyala, you’ll create a small community of women, most of them African, who are committed to joining you in dissecting what it actually means to live a feminist life. These warriors will make the journey worth the struggle and so much more. 

Throwback to Eyala’s launch party in Dakar. Nothing beats the warm embrace of a feminist sister. Photo by  Angelique U. Nwachukwu.

Throwback to Eyala’s launch party in Dakar. Nothing beats the warm embrace of a feminist sister. Photo by Angelique U. Nwachukwu.

Some Afrifem sisters have been your friends for years; some others you’re about to meet online. They will answer your questions and share their feedback with brutal honesty. They will laugh with you and open up about their wounds. They will mentor you and challenge whatever you thought you knew. They will send you voice notes long enough to be called podcasts, and you won’t even mind. They will remind you to breathe through your doubt and remind you of who you are.

Buckle up, kid: you’re embarking on an obsessive exploration of feminist sisterhood. You will want to know what sisterhood means to African feminists and what it means to you. You will have a hunch that sisterhood is the key, but digging deeper will only lead you to more questions about what it actually is. A year in, the only thing you’ll know for sure is that sisterhood is not a concept, it’s a daily practice.

Through their eyes, you will see your own idea take on a life of its own. You will realize the Eyala you’re launching today is not just a publication, but that it’s a conversation, a space even, for fostering the solidarity our movement needs to dismantle patriarchy. You will be excited and you’ll be terrified, but mostly you’ll be grateful. 

Because that’s just year one, and hopefully, there are many more to come.

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This birthday

is yours, too!

So join the celebration! Share your thoughts, questions, feedback, ideas with me in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (@EyalaBlog). Can’t wait to hear from you!