Wayne Young is the publisher and editor of Port of Harlem, a publication celebrating the diversity found in the African and Indigenous diaspora. He strives to feature articles from the point of the local diaspora view, not necessarily the African-American point of view. Young has immersed himself in the beauty, challenges and culture found in the small African nation of The Gambia. A man of action, he has several philanthropic projects there.
Hailing from Gary, Indiana and now living in metro D.C., we interviewed him by telephone.
The following is the second part of that interview. The first part can be found here.
How would you describe The Gambia’s customs compared to its neighbor, Senegal?
It really is “One people, two countries.” Some Gambians have been educated in Senegal and speak French. One time, I missed a plane and went to Senegal with a friend. He [coincidentally ran] into his aunt! Where else are you going to see that with two countries?
Do they cross borders for business?
Some went to Gambia “for the party” during Covid, it was not as locked down.
What are some of the biggest differences between the United States African American community and the community in The Gambia?
Family structure. That’s what I’ve been focusing on lately. When continental Africans come [to the U.S], I let them know to say, “How’s it going?”, not “How is the family?”. I tell them to let it go -- being judgmental -- assuming the cultural relationship. Here, when I knock on the door, I wouldn’t ask, “How is your husband?” There, in the house, there will be the mother, the father, grandmother and cousin. People do get divorced (there), but it’s not that common. A single woman raising a child there is very uncommon.
You wouldn’t ask about nursing homes. The elderly move in with you or you move in with them. They wouldn’t have (rescue) beepers there, your beeper would be your voice! People live in a compound, 5 houses that may or may not be related. Anybody can help anybody else. I came to visit a village circle and a little girl came up to me and said, “You did not bring me a present last year!” Now I know not to (just) bring 12 gifts for the people of a house, I bring 48! I bring extra things to the lady or the man of the house to distribute, could be to a 2nd or 3rd cousin. Last time, I brought Lion King masks.
African Americans will criticize the wearing of court wigs: “colonialism”. I say, “What gives you the right, the audacity to criticize them? Do you speak Mandinka?” No, they speak English. There is a saying, “Speak your native language to your children or watch it die within the next 20 years. Looking down on your relatives who speak your native tongue because you speak perfect English is stupid. It is like being proud of borrowed clothes.”
Do they have government social safety nets?
Not as strong as here. But it’s also about tradition.
The Gambia has recently rejoined the British Commonwealth. Do you notice any influences?
I know a man who wanted to join the British Army, so he was able to do that. There are also Commonwealth Games, tournaments and other opportunities. For some people, it’s important.
The Chinese are also coming. That’s been a discussion all over Africa.
What would you like to see for The Gambia’s future?
My immediate focus (is to see) my two libraries functioning together, electronically connected, sharing. They’re about 2-3 hours apart. Only one has WiFi now. WiFi is very common there. Lots of people have a cellphone. A significant portion of the population is youth. They have a fascination with the internet.
Port of Harlem brings out the full diaspora of Black culture, religion and ethnic groups in a way I’ve never seen before. Though you follow in the footsteps of great publishers like John Johnson (Ebony and Jet magazines) and his editor Basil Phillips, you have a fearless way of showing the rest of the world to readers. What say you?
There are sometimes when American publications show the US eye, not the African point of view, the African perspective. I chose this door. I have African-centric tour information in Port of Harlem.
There’s a difference between a “tourist” and a “traveler.”
We go as a “traveler”. The tourist goes on a bus, sits on a well-cushioned chair, looks out the window and says, “Oh, that’s cute.” That’s opposed to going (back) to someone’s house and they say, “Oh, I had a baby!” You have to go read a book ahead of time. Go with someone who’s been there before. We say, “We don’t lead them, we help support them.”
Tamar Alexia Fleishman was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's youngest female solo violinist. A world-traveler, Fleishman provides readers with international flavor and culture. She's debated Bill Maher, Greta Van Susteren and Dr. Phil. Fleishman practices law in Maryland with a J.D. from the University of Baltimore, a B.A. in Political Science from Goucher College. Read Tamar Alexia Fleishman's Reports — More Here.
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