What is the Idea Behind Teen Tate? My Interview with Compatriot

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I've often been asked what TEEN TATE is all about, what it stands for, why I decided to build the TEEN TATE platform and what I hope to achieve with the platform. I covered these questions and more in this interview with the good people at COMPATRIOT.

It was a refreshing session; one I'm beyond happy to share with you. Hopefully, I covered every bit but if there's still more, don't hesitate to hit the comment button or better still, connect with the community on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Here's the interview as culled from COMPATRIOT:

She is not just a passionate young enthusiastic voice of African youths pioneering and bringing to the forefront conversations concerning Xenophobia, Kamdi Okonjo is also a dynamic entrepreneur who has recently launched TEEN TATE (The Alliance for Teen Excellence), a platform for teenagers of different race, tribes, and countries across the African continent, can discuss and birth solutions around issues of Xenophobia and other related matters.

The young Kamdi Okonjo’s vision resonates with the trending “Thuna Mina” (Send Me) campaign in South Africa, which re-enforces that we are all volunteers in service of our communities thereby honouring the legacy of our African great leaders; Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu. Obviously, Kamdi is on the “Send Me” bandwagon to impact Africa with TEEN TATE.

As Compatriot Magazine Editor Tomi Moyan grabbed the unique opportunity of interviewing the young activist, one of Africa’s force to be reckoned with, below are all what she told us;

Compatriot Magazine Can you briefly share your past experience on Xenophobia (only if you feel comfortable to), and kindly include what you think has changed since your experience?

Kamdi Okonjo When I was in Grade 8 or Grade 9, I used to play basketball, and I remember always being the last person that would be picked to play. I was so hurt and I hated it. I would be excluded, and especially dreaded group projects, where I would often be left without a group. Many girls, also made fun of foreign accents including mine (Nigerian accent) in front of me and made fun of the cultures. They would also make it a thing, to speak about me in their language, and then look at me and laugh, especially when I spoke about my culture. It’s not like I did not understand them, or assumed they spoke about me, they would often speak in Sepedi, and I took Sepedi as a subject, so I would pick up a few words that made a bit of sense and just put two and two together. Even in Grade 11, there was one instance when we had our house plays, and each house had a Nigerian character that was poor, unkept, stuffed with pillows to make them extremely fat, the ladies had excessive makeup, with an exaggerated accent to make them look and sound horrible, and I remember being furious, mainly because no other character was like that and there was no need for those ‘Nigerian’ characters. I’m in grade 12 right now, and I believe that the issue of xenophobia has improved, but I still experience it. I have many other experiences, such as being told that I am selfish for writing about my country and culture, or not being offered help at the mall because the retail sales workers found out I am Nigerian, or found out that another woman was Zimbabwean, and much more. But, many girls have matured since then, and they make it a point not to speak their minds, but they still believe those things. I believe relations have improved, and I have realised that speaking to others on these issues, will expose their way of thinking. I hope that as we interact with each other, we will all get to see that what we share is far greater than what separates us as people. We are all teenagers with teen issues regardless of race, country or tribe.

Compatriot Magazine Obviously you have started TEEN TATE as a platform to inform and start a discourse around Africani-sm and Xenophobia amongst African Youths, what are your goals with this project you’ve started?

Kamdi Okonjo Teen Tate aims to bridge the gap in terms of culture, race, and country, battling three main issues that many African governments struggle to battle and many African countries face due to past colonial influences. I really want Teen Tate to become a platform, where teenagers can make their voices heard, and speak on issues that they might one day have to face. Many teenagers, are so used to their boxed up way of living, going on Instagram, snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and checking celebrities status’s. But if many African teenagers used their attraction to social media to learn about current events in their own continent and initiate intellectual conversations surrounding these three issues of racism, xenophobia and tribalism, Africa could really have the possibility of eliminating these three issues. My long term goal, is that I really want it to expand to schools and become an official club or school subject in classes and universities in Africa, where many people go there just to learn and debate around these issues and provide their own solutions to these problems. Bounce ideas around and provide their own points of view. Also speak on their own individual countries, and cultures. The aim is not to create a place where teenagers fight and protest against each other, but rather come together to understand each other. For example, from a biblical point of view (which is my belief) which has taught me certain principles and values like, being respectful and to refrain from swearing, etc; these are some standards that will be set on the platform and I am sure there are other beliefs that will agree with such standards. Teen Tate focuses strictly on these three issues as I strongly believe that they are main problems that governments in Africa face.

Compatriot Magazine So we hear you also developing an App for TEEN TATE, can you kindly tell us what features the App will have, (like alerts of Xenophobia attacks in communities, discourse/roundtable platforms, educative campaigns and quiz), tell us?

Kamdi Okonjo If the Teen Tate app happens, and hopefully it will, it would provide alerts for current events in Africa, what attacks occurred and provide a forum, or a kind of messaging app, where teenagers can read about these issues and then talk to other teenagers about what they just read. Kind of like, a big WhatsApp group. Share their shock and how they believe it could be prevented in the future. It will also be a celebration of African youth that are also developing extraordinary things and provide positive news as I do not believe that reading negative news all the time is healthy. I hope to include quizzes on the news that is uploaded to test their knowledge of what they just read. Very short quizzes.

Compatriot Magazine  There have been several conversations around Xenophobia in the past, On TV, Radio and even on different Social Media platforms, what is TEEN TATE going to do differently, what are your plans?

Kamdi Okonjo Teen Tate is focused on the teen generation. My generation, Generation Z. The whole point of Teen Tate is to give teenagers the freedom to speak on these issues that they witness and are subject to almost every day, and provide them with the platform to voice their opinions and solutions to these three issues. I want to have Teen Tate Youth Summits, where teenagers from around Africa, come together and speak as one united generation. They will listen to guest speakers, and African activists, writers, actors/ actresses, and other teenagers who have also created their own things. This summit, will take place a lot of times, and many teenagers will be able to attend. It will be held in different places. In Pretoria, and then Johannesburg, hopefully in Nigeria etc. Also speaking at different schools around the area where I live to encourage others to join.

Compatriot Magazine Lastly, we hear you planning to study in the US, are you going to start a campaign group there as well in support of TEEN TATE?

Kamdi Okonjo As I said earlier, the long term goal, is that Teen Tate becomes a set club in Schools and universities where African youth come together to speak on these issues. I plan on encouraging others to join and volunteer their own solutions and ideas to solving the three issues. Having outside views and opinions to what is going on somewhere else, can be very enlightening and will be interesting to hear. I think it is very good for exposure and is very beneficial to Africans and to other teens from different countries.