How I found my best friends in the world

Updated: Jan 18

A big thank you to Helton for being the next entry of Birds of a Feather! Helton’s entry focuses on his coming of age with a change of environment. Change can often be scary because of the “unknown”, but there can also be a beauty to embracing it. The concept of “new” and “change” forces you out of your comfort zone that can allow growth. It is an uncomfortable experience to be out of that comfort zone, but the experience, knowledge, and growth can be worth it in the long run. Again, thank you Helton so much for writing this wonderful entry, I hope you all enjoy! ~ Cheyenne

Hey everybody, my name is Helton. I was born in Txada Lém, which is a very small community in Assomada, Santiago, Cape Verde (CV), Africa. In CV, in general, there are some curiosities. One of them is that a lot of what people know, especially in more remote villages, is provided by elders in the community, through storytelling. Today, in retrospect, I can see how that form of education has had such a great impact on my personality. The way I've learned about people, nature, and society (in general) through a lot of storytelling, is so amazing! I actually feel said (and I deeply miss those times) that I don't have that anymore.

I then moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where I found a very different way of living, thinking, and even seeing people. Yeah, on my first couple of weeks in Portugal, I started gaining awareness of the differences between Black and white people. Of course, I knew we were somehow different, but my mind had never stopped to go through those differences or even the concept of racism. Maybe it was because I was still an adolescent or because our education system in Cabo Verde fails to bring our history to light, early on in our lives (at least to the extent it should do). However the reason, the truth is that, when in Portugal, I started feeling that look of inferiority. This look was also coupled with the strong changes that came with my moving to a very different country, leaving my family, friends, and everything behind (only memories stayed with me); had, and still has, a huge impact on my well-being and mental health.

So, while studying in Portugal, I started to realize that I needed more than school to cope with my challenges and answer some big questions I had at the time. Confronted with such a sad treatment, I started questioning myself on the reason why the African community was in the state it was, who were our leaders, etc. That was when I found my great friends: music and books. That's right, I believe music and books are my best friends!

After my 16th birthday, more or less, I started feeling disinterested by most of the topics of conversation of my colleagues and started building a routine of my own. That included reading, and listening, and producing music (you can hear my stuff here) I wasn't a fan of reading - never gained that habit in CV - so it was hard for me to start reading regularly. But I made a commitment to read 30 minutes a day before going to bed. And guess what... it worked so well! That was one of the most important decisions I have ever made. I'm currently reading a book called Creative Calling, by Chase Jarvis, where he says that "books are mentorship at scale". He goes on saying: "the best part is, you can be mentored by the greatest minds in history if you're willing to crack the pages of a book". I couldn’t agree more with that! In fact, I had tremendous positive results through reading. I started knowing myself better, shaping my personality, working on some of my weaknesses, knowing more about Africa and our history, etc. To be sure, I'm still doing that and I'm planning to keep doing it. I also started to know some of the greatest leaders and personalities we have in the history of Africa and Black people (I knew so few and very little about them and their work), including Amílcar Cabral, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Frantz Fanon, etc... The list is really long, so I'll probably stop here.

I also spent long hours producing music, just for fun (when doing that I'm completely focused and in my universe). I think that that helped me a lot in staying mentally healthy, by focusing on something I loved doing and that allowed me to log off from everything else around me - it is a kind of meditation to me. I also started seeing music as an educational tool and focused a lot more on music that could make me a better person and teach me while having fun. I always loved reggae music, for instance, but it started having a different meaning to me. These guys had and still have a huge impact on me: Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dube, Tiken Jah Fakoly, etc... The list is also too long!!

I still believe music and books are my best friends. There are great minds out there, always ready to help us grow and stay healthy. We just have to find them and connect with them in a way pleasant to us.

Please do get in touch with me. I'm passionate about connecting with Black people around the world.

Here is the link to my LinkedIn profile!


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