Professor Mongane Wally Serote's message lifts up couple

Mark Blanton and his wife Dr Latasha Blanton
Mark Blanton and his wife Dr Latasha Blanton

Professor Mongane Wally Serote's message, while directed to South Africans, struck a chord with a couple who, although not born on the continent, have worn their African-ness with pride, and committed to make SA their home a little over a year ago.

Mark Blanton and his wife Dr Latasha Blanton are an African American couple who live in Centurion, Pretoria, and among their business ventures, run a website therealsouthafrica.com, a platform that aims to provide fellow African-Americans an experience that is the antithesis of how Africa is portrayed as is in the US.

What did Dr Serote's lecture mean to you?

LaTasha: I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be. I have been increasingly welcomed by most South Africans so to hear him express his sentiment about how we all need to work together but first find out who we are and why. I started to tear up because even though I feel at home here in South Africa what he said resonated to me in a way that spoke to me deeper. I know that this is where I am supposed to be.

Mark: First, I felt very humbled to be there as a foreigner and an African American. I keep making references to my own history of Africans in America. If I could have gone back in time to New York in the early 1900s and listen to early black leaders talking about the future of black people and our efforts to become Pan-Africanist. I also felt like a fly in the room and understanding exactly what Dr Serote was saying to the crowd. In my heart I knew that Dr Serote made so much sense and moving forward will be difficult but the journey would be worth it. What it meant to me is that as black people no matter where you find us, regardless of the language, we are all part of a struggle disjointed, but still a struggle. His lecture made me think about my own position in the Black Experience and to become a better Pan-Africanist and African.  It meant to me that I must mobilize.

On Serote's challenge to re-examine who you are

LaTasha: The vibration here in South Africa is on another frequency and it has been calling to me since my initial visit in 2011. I had to be here. I have to be here. I am in South Africa, on this continent to get a deeper understanding of who I am and what I am meant to do and be. I will continue to seek a deeper understanding and immerse myself more in this culture, country and continent.

I mentioned to a good friend earlier this year, that being here in South Africa allows me to be person I am supposed to be. I am an overall better person here in South Africa than I ever hoped to be in America. Not that I didn’t try, but being here on this soil, does something. I will continue to seek a deeper understanding and immerse myself more in this culture, country and continent. I understand that finding a deeper purpose and a deeper peace is exactly that is next on my journey.

Mark: I must understand that I am more than the sum of my parts. My journey will come to an end one day but till then, learning how to be a better African is key in my journey moving forward. There is no one Black or African story. Whatever we do as a collective or individual is a Black or African journey, and I must learn to support that no matter where I find us along my personal journey.  I must take care of who we are here in South Africa and America and throughout the Diaspora.  I am finding that culture is the key to our survival. 

Your decision to move to South Africa and the decision to redefine Africa/SA to fellow AA’s.

LaTasha: Once we got here for the first time and realized that the quality of life for South Africans (Black or White) was high, we knew that no matter how hard we worked in America we would have to work even harder to get the same level of comfort we had just being here in South Africa. We wanted other hard-working African Americans to know that its ok to live the American Dream, we did but the dream could be realized and expanded on a continent inside a country that was majority black.  For me, it was a matter of trying to assist other people who I knew was getting their ass handed to them in American and exit strategy. The same exit strategy that came to us after our first visit. We encourage one visit, and from there, Africa will do the rest. The seed will be planted, and you start to navigate your life differently. At least that is what happened to us.

Mark: In plenty of ways in America we do not have a true culture. It is more pop culture than anything.  So my exposure to a pure African culture has caught my attention.  As a black man from America I have been invited on most occasions to learn and debate the cultures here in South Africa.  I think it has made me a better practicing African.  My decision to move to South Africa from America really did not have much to do with America and everything to do with the people I met in South Africa.  It was great to be part of the majority and also be accepted.  My first thought daily is 'wow! I am in Africa', and I look out my door and all I see is us! It is the best. I don’t get that in the US. As large as it is, we are only 13%.  It is hard for fellow African Americans to see what I have seen or even understand, simply because the images that we see about Africa in general not just South Africa, are the worst.  I know it will be a grassroots effort to change the narrative about Africa and South Africa and that is why we have founded a company called “The Real South Africa” that will help African Americans to travel to SA as a tourist.  Once they meet the people and see the beauty of the land they will make a similar decision as myself and my wife LaTasha.  In short I actually feel free here in this foreign land more than the land of the free and the home of the brave.  I will say that South African has a short 25 year democracy and I will ask my friends here in this country to be patient.  The story of South Africa is being written by good citizens every single day.  Things are getting better and better.  Take that from someone who has traveled this world and lived in Europe for 5 years I choose South Africa.

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