An Honest Conversation with No White Saviors

[0:55] Blossom, Unplug: Ok amazing. So Hi guys, my name is Blossom or I guess, my indigenous, traditional name, whatever you want to call it, is Dauchi and I’m currently in Lagos, Nigeria. But my people are from Southeastern Nigeria. My tribe is Igbo, and I attend Barnard College along with the founder of Unplug Magazine, Amanda Taylor. So before we begin, I just want to ask, because there are three of you, if you guys could tell me your names individually, and then for the purpose of humanizing Africa and not making it into this one big continent with homogenous people on it, what are your tribes or your ethnic groups?

[2:00] Kelsey, No White Saviors: I’m the one with no ethnic group, (laughs) I’m white, just kidding but not. Um, you know how white people are always like “I’m 2% German and 10% Irish” no we’re white. Um, but anyway, I’m Kelsey, I’m American from Philadelphia. I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s at Temple University in Social Work. I am the white member of the team and my goal, from beginning to now, is holding myself accountable and understanding that the emotional labor that it costs and takes for Black women to educate and hold whiteness accountable is insurmountable so to just bear a little bit of that myself and to be doing that education is really important. It shouldn’t be on the backs of Black women to just educate white people on how to be more human. So, yea, that’s me, I’m the white savior in recovery on the team…

Blossom: That’s very real… [3:06] Kelsey, No White Saviors: And, yea, Well, I mean, yea I don’t have- (laughs), I’m just a white person… 

Someone asks: Okay, um, next, Blossom?

Blossom: Yes, another, yea, anyone, anyone.  [3:32] Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors: I’m called Alaso Olivia Patience..

Blossom: Okay, awesome…

Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors: I’m a Ugandan. My ethnic group is the Nilotics. And, I’m a social worker by profession. And, this work is my passion, it’s what I want to do. As a Black woman, I feel it is a right to hold this space as Black women to freely express ourselves…

Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors: …and to help our communities, to learn the white savior complex and I’m a team member as well, but as a Black woman, I am geared toward justice and liberation and emancipation of all African women…

Alaso Olivia, No White Saviors : Yes (echoed by Blossom), that is me. (laughs) [4:45] Blossom, Unplug : Ok! And then the last person, please?

Lubega Wendy, No White Saviors: I am Lubega Wendy, the newest member of the team. I have been with NWS for about a year. I have a degree in ethics and human rights so my background is purely in human rights and ethics – I majored in international ethics. Yea, what makes me want to work…or what drove me to work for NWS..the already ongoing work that I saw, the need to basically add work that I had learned in school into a practical world, into a practical field. So I am very passionate about human rights, promoting human rights, protecting people’s choice, because I do believe that everyone has or should be given a world where they really express themselves in a way that is very humane.  [6:03] Blossom: Mhmm, okay that’s great. Before I get into it, why I’m here specifically and why Unplug was especially taken with you guys. Basically, I’ve been – well, I’m not a member of the Unplug team, but I’ve watched it grow from the beginning because I was friends with Amanda from the beginning. Her entire thing is, again similar to what you guys are doing, that Black and brown people are silenced internationally….

Lubega: Oh! I didn’t- Sorry, I didn’t say my ethnicity (laughs)…

Blossom: Oh! You’re okay, you’re okay. You can say it now. I should’ve caught you. I’m sorry.

Lubega: I’m from the Bantu. 

Blossom: Okay, Bantu, okay. Amazing! Okay, so Unplug basically is about Black and brown people being centered, in terms of the ways they can express themselves and the ways they can fit into their own, actual bodies, and you guys do the same in terms of showing that struggle is an international thing, like the idea that we’re being centered and that other people are taking our voices is an international struggle. And you guys specifically center African people, which is so important because Africans have been silenced from the literal jump. obviously as you guys would know. But specifically, specifically it seems like you all want to do that from the angle of rights, and social work and advocacy, so what in you guys’ lives led you to that path? 

Blossom: Yea, big question (laughs) …but [8:40] Alaso Olivia: No! It’s a good question and I’m glad for someone to ask me about that, because in so many interviews, no one has asked me about that. For me, growing up also, I grew up middle class, and growing up in the community that I grew up in,  I always wanted to connect with the community. And I said, how do I get to see and hear people’s different experiences of life because I went to school with children who did not have shoes on their feet 

Alaso Olivia: And for me, I had. And I had so many questions as a child. I grew up in a neighborhood where I would see domestic violence, families fighting, and in my heart I’m like, how do I get to be with these people, how do I get to hear people’s different stories, how do I connect with people in the community? And that is how I went in and did social work, not because it was a course that was available but I went in with a passion that I grew up wanting to explore. So I went and started social work. But along the way, as a child, when it comes to how Black and brown people have been silenced and the white savior complex, it was all around us because in school we had visitors who would come and visit us, who were white people, and we are singing for them…

[10:08] Blossom: Wow…

Alaso Olivia: …And you know as a child, I always thought oh wow white people bring nice things around and so the children that we started with would come to school and say my auntie, who is white came from the United States goes and visits the orphanage. So i was like “what? how can a white-like a black child have a white aunt or..”

Alaso Olivia: …You know, so it all confused me. I grew up in a town called Jinja, which has so many white people and the scenery of seeing white people moving on the streets with Black children and I would even ask myself “where were these people coming from,like where was their home” (brief interjection from Blossom I couldn’t make out) and, and so around the white savior complex, I had so many questions as a child and when it came to my passion for social work, I love the community, I love the community, I love my people, so I want to do social work. But along the way, I started getting to answer my questions that I had mostly when I joined the NGOs sector, I said “wow, so the children I was seeing on the streets with these white people, those were adoptions of course” 

Blossom: Exactly….

Alaso Olivia: …and I’m like “okay, okay, okay”so I’m getting answers to my questions as I now join the NGO sector and begin working in environments that have white people. But for me, as it passed on, I had a passion for becoming a social worker from way back. 

Alaso Olivia: …because I love the community and my community is me. So, it starts with me, it is me, and I am just happy that I have to do this because I can still talk with my people, I can still communicate, and I’m representing my people and my community by stressing out and showing the world that these are problems that we have in our community. So for me, it’s a passion that I grew up with and things like that. I wanted to become a social worker, so I didn’t know how I would like, become a social worker, young as I was, but I wanted to be around people and that is it. After now, it’s something that I do with a passion even within our work now. It is something, it is a living experience, these are my lived experiences growing up in Ginger, working in the NGO sector, and growing up in a town that is the face of white people. I bring that all together and I’m doing this work right now through my lived experiences. 

[12:55] Blossom: Wow, thank God. You know actually, I have a question, because I’d always thought that Uganda wasn’t actually settled by white people, but you said that your town has a lot of white people, so are those like old settlers or are those just NGO people?

Alaso Olivia: Well, they are missionaries, NGO people, they are people who just want to live on the Nile, they are people who come to live in Ginger because it is beautiful, it’s cheap to live there. It is just a free town, and you know, Uganda is also a very free country to people coming in, especially white people. We don’t have restrictions, yea, they can come in at any time. 

Blossom: Wow, okay, that’s very interesting. Okay. So one of you that worked in human rights, I would just like to know how you got into that specifically?

Lubega Wendy: For me, the road to human rights is, I would say, my path is pretty much Olivia’s path, shaped by different situations. I would certainly say I come from, well I could say, I’m very privileged, as compared to, you know, a lot of Ugandans. So growing up, I saw the differences around me, I saw how people struggled, I saw how it was hard because one did not have money to access justice, I saw what the world could do to someone who, you know, basically had no money. At one point, I even wanted to become a lawyer but a few things along the way changed. So for me, realizing that I am privileged, and then understanding that if I’m going to bring about change, then it’s gonna require me to use my privilege in one way or another…

Lubega Wendy:  It’s also very  important that a few people get the education that I had and if they do get the education, it’s not the same kind of decolonized education that I had…

Blossom: Exactly…

Lubega Wendy: So the average Ugandan would not be asking similar questions that I would be asking….

Lubega Wendy: They would not be asking things like when I go to a restaurant, when there’s a white person, why is a white person sat before me? They wouldn’t question such a choice because of the education that they’ve been exposed to, so if you have the privilege to get a good quality education, one that helps you to critically analyze, critically assess things, then how are you going to put it to use? 

Blossom: Right…

Alaso Olivia or Kelsey: Mmmm

Lubega Wendy: How are people going to, kind of, critically assess these things, critically analyze these things, become a guiding light for them, give them room to think through things. So, for me, the need to see that everyone gets access to good education, that everyone has access to judicial courts, everyone should be represented in an equal and equitable way so that drove me to join this work.