August 02, 2013

Midnight Riders

Since I met my wife nearly five years ago, my life and social circle has taken on a decidedly more global and international slant.  I often find myself as the the only American in the room, which, frankly, has become much easier to handle when Barack Obama was elected president.  But when I'm in a room of international folks, especially lots of Africans, I find myself realizing just how uniquely American we African-Americans are.  Despite our (to put it lightly) troubled history with this country, we still have cultural traditions that are unique to our experience in America that we should rightly feel proud of.  For instance, I come from a family that, for years, has taken deep pride in military service, and that is a strain in African-American culture that weaves itself through American history all the way back to, I suspect, Crispus Attucks.  And at every step of this long experiment, in every corner of every story that is part of the American epic, African Americans are there.

I absolutely love all of the cultures of Africa that I've encountered, particularly exploring the differences and similarities between Ghanaians and Nigerians and Ugandans and Kenyans, et. al.  I share in their irritation when someone ignorantly speaks of "Africa" like a single country and denies their distinctiveness.  But I also bristle a bit at African-Americans who speak wistfully about "returning" to Africa.  Africa, the continent, and the 50+ nations within it are about as new and different to the average African-American as Europe or Asia.  We can immigrate there to join our extended family in the diaspora, but the only African-Americans who can return there are recently naturalized visitors and our long dead ancestors.

Anyway, I've been recently a bit obsessed with modern Western culture after stumbling across a rodeo event on cable - which was quiet thrilling, btw.  It's a side of America that I think is most considered and imagined outside of our country, but exists as it's own world within our world, often hidden from the broader American media discourse.  So, this video I found on Vimeo really grabbed me, both for its cinematic beauty and its content.  Enjoy.

Wildcat from WHAT MATTERS MOST on Vimeo.

What's equally interesting to me is that the cowboy tradition is really just the most recent version of the Vaquero trade that was brought over to the Americas by the Spanish, so even something as uniquely American as the cowboy has his roots in a culture of color.