“The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers”. References to the American dream can be attributed to people from financially disadvantaged backgrounds who were able to thrive in a robust economic climate for a piece of the “American pie”. We hear it in songs, in movies, and during interviews. It is regarded as the apex of every success story. It has also become something Africans thrive to achieve.
However, when it comes to the “African dream”, there is a deafening silence on what it means to be successful in Africa, and if the socio economic standards are anything to go by, no one should strive to live the South African dream, were, according to statistics SA, 12 million people are living in extreme poverty, and South Africa is fast becoming the global capital for the “triple challenge” namely poverty, inequality, and unemployment. This despite the irony of Africa being home to minerals and other resources.
Entertainers in Africa have come out guns blazing to get their piece of the American pie, by reaching the global network, specifically America, to achieve what is deemed as the “ultimate level of success” as America is a home for Entertainment success. The likes of Trevor Noah, who recently won the much coveted Emmy, is said to be earning an estimated $4 million for his work at the Daily Show, which is an estimated R53 million. Furthermore, there are undeniable discrepancies in terms of what certain figures mean on the South African scale versus the America scale. A platinum selling artist in America is one who has sold 2 million copies. However, in South Africa, Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) regards a platinum selling artist, as one who has sold only 30 000 copies
Gift Ngoepe (became the first person born on the African continent to appear in a Major League Baseball game)
Such discrepancies remind us of how much profitable it is to chase the “American dream”.
However, if everyone, and specifically every artist is in pursuit of making it globally and furthermore attributing success to being acknowledged within the America market, were does that leave Africa as a progressive force within the entertainment industry? Will we ever establish the right infrastructure to educate, teach, and enrich our industry so that it becomes lucrative for more artists to attribute success to being a top selling artist or an industry leader in a fraternity such as science within the African context? Is there enough being done to make our market profitable and attractive, or will our reference point of success always lead back to having our piece of the American pie? Does this call for a revision of what it means to be successful within the African context?
If we do not patent our work, our culture, and own our stories, enculturation is bound to occur due to lack of reference within our continent and more specifically our African countries. We will fight a two-tier battle of success which is that of race, and that of enculturation through adopting American standards to regard ourselves as successful and validate whatever success means to us.