During Black History Month, I polled the question:
Should one use "tribe" or "people" when talking about individual ethnic groups in Africa?
I'm going to request that only Black people respond to this. Thanks!
Basically, how to focus on the people, rather than the mere idea, of Africa?
The responses I received were mixed, but not in the way I expected. Two African people that responded said "tribe", others from the diaspora said "people". I remember having a similar conversation with Dr. Oyeronke Oyewumi a few months ago, where she said that she preferred "people", because the association of the word "tribe" tended to otherize Africans instead of defining them as the "people" they actually are. That is a paraphrase, by the way.
For comparison's sake, I asked a Native American friend whether he was okay with the word "tribe" or not. He expressed that he, in fact, preferred it. And so it goes.
One response, however, remains my absolute favorite. Someone direct messaged me after the poll closed with the option of "Nation". Think of that. Instead of just a band, we are organized, we are powerful, sovereign unto ourselves.
Indigenous Native Americans use "nation" in that context, to indicate a larger confederacy of tribes that have a similar language and set of customs. I wonder how it would be if African peoples of different tribes decided to do the same.
The bodypainted photo is from a fond memory with artist Kitakiya Dennis. It reminded me of this question somehow. Enjoy!