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Between 1939 and 1946, Fatima Massaquoi penned one of the earliest known autobiographies by an African woman. But few outside of Liberian circles were aware of it until this week, when Palgrave McMillian published The Autobiography of an African Princess, edited by two historians and the author’s daughter.
The book follows Massaquoi, born the daughter of the King of Gallinas of Southern Sierra Leone in 1904, to Liberia, Nazi Germany and the segregated American South, where she wrote her memoirs while enrolled at Tennessee’s Fisk University.
She died in 1978, and her story could have died with her.
The Puchallas had rescued Quita from an orphanage in Liberia, brought her to America and then signed her over to a couple they barely knew. Days later, they had no idea what had become of her.
When she arrived in the United States, Quita says, she “was happy … coming to a nicer place, a safer place. It didn’t turn out that way,” she says today. “It turned into a nightmare.”
The teenager had been tossed into America’s underground market for adopted children, a loose Internet network where desperate parents seek new homes for kids they regret adopting. Like Quita, now 21, these children are often the casualties of international adoptions gone sour.
'Rescued' doesn't even seem to be a fitting term considering the absolute horrors of this story.
The stories in this investigation done by Reuters called ‘The Child Exchange' have left me incredibly angry and shaken up.
[TW: rape] I asked the Congolese women; ‘give me the 5 major issues affecting Congolese women today’. Rape was number 4. Political participation was number 1. Economic empowerment was number 2. Domestic violence was number 3. And they qualified it; the rape you see is because we don’t have women in high places to effect the change that needs to be done. No.2, if we were economically empowered, we wouldn’t be in abusive relationships and will know how to handle ourselves.
But outsiders expected rape to be number 1 because that’s the global image of Congolese women. One Congolese woman asked where people got the idea that rape was their major problem. Someone answered her “if you don’t say so, the West won’t give you aid”.
Congolese women wanted to show their fellow sister how they’ve been sustaining their children and communities in midst of the violence they lived in. By the time the white people arrived, they changed their tune: ‘help, I’ve been raped. I’ve been abused’.
They’ve figured you all out. That’s the stories you white people want to hear. You travel to cry. So they will make you cry. The media never goes into any community to pick stories of how you survived and what positive things are happening. A pressman once asked me if I’ve been raped during the Liberian war and when I answered no, he passed the mike over my head. So the easiest thing for those who need media attention or aid is to talk about their personal history and say they were raped.
This is a similar situation across the globe for migrants who wanted papers after war; every time they went to the US consulate and told the truth, they were denied. When they went and told a sad story, the counselor cried and granted them their papers.
Western media and charity need to portray AfricanS as helpless and meek because that is the global image of Africa they want to sustain.