Interview with Safiya Songhai
Promoting the Black aesthetic, in all of its many shapes, forms, tones, styles and expressions is something that we must do in celebration of our grandmothers, and great-grandmothers who lived in times where no one ever openly admired them. We look like these women. We have their faces, their hips, their aspirations, their wisdom, their brown eyes, the bend of their hair, their sweet laughter, we are them in every way. We have work to do, and we have to fight harder than those who want to undo our progress and missions. Earning the title of Miss Black United States is an opportunity to reach for and carry the torch of our people, and let it shine brighter than all light in the heavens. Any woman with that clear and defined purpose, is indeed a contender.
2. What is the single most thing you want to accomplish during your reign?
I want to draw people’s attention to the urgent need of children in the Foster Care and Adoption system. I want to encourage church communities, and black organizations to dig deep and lend their homes and lives to black children both domestically and internationally who are orphaned, or living in abusive and neglectful situations and now are in search of a family. Family is the core of most people’s lives, and without a family, there is often very little meaning to most people’s lives. We extend our homes beyond our direct bloodlines, and aid in the future of our people.
3. What do you want African American’s to know?
Nearly all Black self-esteem problems can be cured by becoming well-versed in Black-American/African history. If your kids are picking up the white doll in the Clark experiment, then there aren’t enough black superheros in their life. They need more books. Education cures the cancer of racism, and the inferiority complex that subsequently afflicts many black minds.
4. What are you most proud of?
My films and my writing are the best representations of the diamond of my time here. I approach my art with the thought that if this is the last thing that I make, what would I say? What would I leave as the legacy of my mind. I am most proud of the conceptualization and vision that I express through my writing and my films.
5. Who is your greatest influence in African American history?
Jack Johnson is one brother who lived life completely on his own terms, and single-handedly set out to prove to Black America that they don’t need to be second fiddle, they can be the best, the first, the champion, and live life in the face of violent retaliation and laugh at the threat. I love him. Not to mention he is insanely gorgeous and a fly dresser.
6. What was the defining moment in your life, thus far?
Appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show was a dream come true for me. Talking to her, and getting her encouragement in my career in person, was a profound experience, that made me feel like I was getting the nod from Harriet Tubman, Cleopatra and Nefertiti all in one. Can’t wait to go on again someday.
7. What is your career ambition?
To become a national television personality, Hollywood film director, published author and politician, and education reformer.
8. What can’t you live without?
I can’t live happily without the Box set of Stevie Wonder’s greatest hits. He alone can talk anyone off of the ledge, and make them want to pat the skin on their back, to look for their wings. He alone can make a person want to jump up and down like a Kenyan warrior insistent upon seeing a new perspective of the world. He alone, has written lyrics that make me convinced that he loves me personally, though I wasn’t even alive when he wrote the verse. I can, but I don’t want to live without his music.
9. Who is the most influential African American of all times?
In 2013, this country would have been without the physical life of Harriet Tubman for 100 years, but her influence is so impressive that the symbolism of her life, accomplishments and dedication to the very lives of her people, are still current events. She is miraculous, the granddaughter of the Ghanian nation, and her dying words were, “I go to make a place for you.” She walked this earth in the foot-steps of Jesus, using his example as the light of her life. She single-handedly brought hundreds of people through the mouth of hell, and did more than any president or other leader of the slave era to end the institution of Slavery. Even modern whirlwinds like Oprah Winfrey look at Ms. Tubman and think “Humm, Sistah, tell me your secret.”
10. Who do you admire most and why?
Spike Lee is a true admirable American African, who is fiercely proud and very intimidating at 5’5”. He is so real, rude, bold, free, and focused. His talent as a filmmaker is incomparable, and he loves black people more than they will ever really know. Having worked with him, I know he loves black people more than they can ever imagine.
11. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would have had the Ocean reject the notion of the transatlantic slave trade. I would have the tides crack the base-boards of the sadistic ships intent on robbing Africa of its most precious resource, its people. I would have had all the people forced, or coerced to drown themselves rather than face the evil shores ahead, meet instead solid frozen waters suitable for the weight of man, and the stars would line the trail back to their homes and their families. I would sacrifice never being born, if I could undo the institution of slavery from its conception.
The main thing is to focus on school and not social life. Think about starting your career now, writing a book, starting a club. Think entrepreneurial, innovative, and inventive. More than grades, test scores and essays, schools are looking for leaders who at a young age, show that they have a plan and a vision for the world they are soon to inherit.
13. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would like to go to Outerspace one day, and be free of all of the trappings of this earth. I want to see all at once a big blue dot, and ask from a distance, of all the wars, and strife, the calamity and atrocity, “What is a pretty little thing like you, so upset about?”
14. What is the most critical issue facing African American’s today?
The breakdown of the family structure is the most critical issue facing Black America today. We are not valuing men, men are not valuing their women and children, we are not valuing our elders, and people are having children with no plan, and no insistence that our kids, know our rich and vast history. This is all fixable, and we have recovered from the blows that slavery dealt our families, so we just must hunker down and do the repair work. Everything that has breath in it, can rebound. We need to create plans for our love affairs, for our children, for our money, for our educations, for our happiness. Make a plan, become knowledgeable and visualize the optimum outcome, don’t just settle for survival or making it. See yourself, your people, your kids, your race as the gold medal winners, the victors in all aspects of the competition.