PLAINVIEW—LaMin SaWaneh wants to offer a view of Africa that goes beyond stereotypes.
With that goal in mind, SaWaneh, a 23-year-old soccer player from Sierra Leone, began a blog site accessible both through Facebook and Tumblr under the title, “howiviewafrica” (How I View Africa).
“I’m just trying to educate the public on different subjects—based on Africa, Africans’ perspective, Africans in the U. S. and the diaspora and back home—just to show them a different side of what we don’t normally see on TV here,” said SaWaneh, a junior at Wayland Baptist University.
SaWaneh, who arrived at Wayland Baptist University by way of Atlanta, Ga., arrived in the United States at age 10 as a refugee from the diamond wars in West Africa, depicted in the 2006 movie “Blood Diamond.” His parents were unable to escape the country, and both have died of natural causes.
Blog grew out of Christian faith
SaWaneh insists his blog grew out of his Christian faith and as a response to stereotypes he has faced over the years.
“It’s not the poverty. It’s not the killing. That goes on, but I feel like that also goes on in every country. But in terms of Africa, that’s all (people) think about,” he said.
SaWaneh, an economics and finance major at Wayland, uses the blog to post his thoughts on a variety of subjects—from culture to racism— and then allows people who follow the blog to respond and add their own perspectives. That’s why he chose the name “How I View Africa.”
“It’s multicultural. I want every individual to represent that ‘I,’ because when you say ‘I,’ you are talking about yourself, and that’s the only way the stereotype can break, because all of us have different views,” he said.
A pivotal time
SaWaneh arrived at Wayland in 2011 after his father died—a pivotal time in his life. He had no faith and no real passion, he recalled.
“I was just lost, searching,” he said.
He chose Wayland, realizing the university would provide a consistent Christian environment that would allow him to grow, both spiritually and intellectually.
He began attending Harvest Christian Fellowship and also studied the lives and teachings of leaders such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. He was intrigued by Gandhi’s notion that in order to change the world, one has to look within one’s self. He was fascinated by the spiritual strength Mandela demonstrated in his practice of forgiveness after his years of imprisonment—and he was moved by his pastor’s sermon on multiculturalism and how God views society.
Since its inception, SaWaneh’s blog has attracted about 125,000 followers—about 117,000 on Facebook.
“People just keep coming,” he said. “I think it’s just God, mainly, because I’m too busy (with school and soccer) to promote it.”
Talking about racism
The blog has sparked a variety of conversations. A continuous one focuses on racism, and one thing SaWaneh works to point out is that racism and cultural and social discontent flow in many directions.
“Racism in the U.S., having been here for almost 13 years, I know that it still exists, not just within whites and blacks, it exists between blacks and blacks … whites and whites,” he observed.
“It’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s something that we need to talk about as a society and we need to get rid of, not just in the U.S., but even in Africa. I have friends from Sudan, and in Sudan, most of the natives are more dark (in complexion) compared to a North African or some western Africans,” he said, noting the prejudice they face even from other Africans.
“We’re all made differently and unique, in God’s image, which is something I truly believe. It’s something we need to celebrate and acknowledge, not make fun of it and throw it aside,” he said.
That explains why SaWaneh is so devoted to his blog, and he believes it is why God is blessing his work.
“I think it’s just God ministering through me,” he said. “I’m just amazed. I get so excited. It’s making my faith stronger, knowing that I have my own voice. I mean, even though you’re living in this world, every individual is powerful, and everybody does have a voice.”