American African

Mama C and her husband learned Kiswahili in less than a year. “Our children, on the other hand, speak very fluent Kiswahili and they don’t have a Kansas City accent.”

In 1972, Pete and Charlotte O’Neal, both African-Americans from Kansas City, left the United States to make their home in Tanzania because Pete had been charged with transporting a gun across state lines. Plus, it fell in line with the “self-determination” they both learned from the Black Panther Party. In Africa, she learned how to milk cows and make cheese and yogurt, he learned to plant, harvest and hunt, and they both learned to make soil bricks from which they built their first house in Imbaseni between Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru. Occasionally they dealt with the stray buffalo butting against their fence.

“[In the States] we were exposed to violence and uncertaintly. In 1970, looking out the window on New Year’s Eve, we were convinced we wouldn’t live another year as Black Panthers.”

In Tanzania, the couple formed the United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC), a nonprofit community NGO that offers art, English and computer classes, a recording studio, a radio station, and children’s home for the Arusha rural and urban community there. It’s also a hub of East African hip-hop music.

There they stayed for 20 years before Charlotte, aka Mama C, visited the States again. Now she comes once a year, bringing all of her experiences, wisdom and talents to bear at a free performance and speaking engagement at CSUMB’s CineArts Studio on Thursday.

Her appearance will encompass spoken word, original music, a Powerpoint, African music, talk about her Black Panther history and videos of major Kenyan and Tanzanian hip-hop artists.

AN AFRO-AMERICAN WOMAN’S LIFE IN AFRICA is 7-9pm Thursday at CSUMB’s CineArts Studio, Bldg. 27, 6th Avenue, Seaside. Free. 582-4260.

Walter Ryce has been an arts writer, calendar editor, culture columnist, sometime photographer, and one-time web content coordinator for the Monterey County Weekly. He began working at the paper, which is based in his hometown of Seaside, in 2007.

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