Flamingos are not born pink, they become beautiful.
I come from a place where our flamingos are made of plastic, painted pink, sold mostly in 2 packs for $20, and used to decorate yards and the occasional garden. It's a processed flamingo, created in a factory - some standing upright and some leaning forward in a feeding position. First created in 1957 by an art school graduate, these birds were early on something for the middle classes to enjoy in their delightful tackiness. As time went on they were embraced by higher classes as a sort of way to mock the tacky tastes of their social counterparts. The popular birds were said to lower property values and not always allowed by some home owner's associations. It's interesting how a plastic bird ornament designed from photos referencing a bird on the other side of the world can become a socio-political tool, but like rumors say about this place, anything is possible in America.. I suppose.
I booked a flight to Kenya in April of last year, 2018. At that time I had no idea about the existence of real flamingos in the country I was heading to visit. Why Kenya? Long story short ways, I came up without a dad and an illegitimate last name. I've lived my life coming to terms with my identity as a human - and as a man - like most Americans, especially like those with fragmented family ties. I thought of Malcolm X a lot in my journey. Over the last 10 years I've had numerous East and West African clients and friends suggest I visit and encourage the experience I would have. Many of them were Kenyans, so now here I am with a round trip ticket to visit their home. It was in studying the place that I crossed a film documenting the Great Rift Valley, and learning how its native flamingos gain their color by feeding from alkaline lake waters. The better fed the bird, the healthier and more colorful it becomes. The color, the beauty, the natural decoration all takes time. It's not born into a flashy, saucy, smart, pink coat of feathers.
For 33 years I've been engulfed into this life, a society, the ways of a culture that puts great credence into the stripes we paint onto ourselves to represent who we are. From rural places to suburban and urban ones exists this sense of comparison and competition. It's a culture addicted to fashion, ego, colonizer's vacations, media, entertainment, and we've been conditioned to believe that our worth is based in our institutional credentials. We fall short-sighted in our scope of education and many don't like their job - often jobs. Still, we paint our stripes on, one prideful stroke at a time with no consideration for the source of paint, just in our effort to feel better. Another ist an