Massocki Ma Massocki is a columnist, activist and pan-Africanist. He has written columns for newspapers around the world as well as articles for regional and international organisations. Massocki has also given talks and conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe on Pan-Africanism and global issues. Massocki was born in Cameroon, West Africa.
BPM: Please, share something our readers wouldn’t know about you.
I have always been fascinated by my birth. Thanks to the mystical intervention of my great grandfather Djami Som, I was born. Before my mother had me, she gave birth to two dead babies, so when I was conceived, she thought she would also lose me.
However, one morning, at around 3:00, when my mother was 3 three months pregnant with me, my great grandfather—who passed away 15 years before I was born—appeared to my mother and told her, “I came so that the baby you carry will live. I left medicine outside the house in a snail shell. At 6:00 a.m., you shall collect the medicine and place it under your bed during your whole pregnancy so that the child will live.” This is how I was born—a premature child.
BPM: If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
As we cannot see our own faces, we need a mirror to do so. Likewise, society is a reflection of ourselves. Some have described me as “lionheart” and “fearless lion”; and others, as “king.”
BPM: Is writing your full-time career? How much time do you spend writing?
Right now, writing is not my source of income. However, I was born to write. It is my destiny, and I cannot run away from it, just like how a fish cannot run away from water. Let me tell you a story.
When my father was in secondary school, Candide—a novel by Voltaire, a French philosopher—was part of his curriculum. Candide was also the main character in Voltaire’s novel. My father liked Candide so much that the first name he gave me was Candide. However, I decided to get rid of my first and middle names, which are European, to affirm my African identity. Moreover, Voltaire made racist remarks towards Africans.
BPM: Tell us about your first published book. What was the journey like?
So far, I have written 10 unpublished books, and The Pride of an African Migrant is the first to be published among them.
The Pride of an African Migrant’s first draft was written in 2010 while I was in England, and it is getting published 10 years later, in 2020. It is needless to say that the journey of getting this book published proved to be challenging.
Since 2010, I have received more than 5000 rejection letters from publishers. Most of those letters praised my writing skills, and yet I ended up with rejections.
Africa and its diaspora are at the center of all my works, considering that the publishing industry is overwhelmingly white at 89%, while black people are only 1% of the same industry. This also explains all those rejections. However, those rejection letters immensely helped in improving my manuscript’s quality.
I want to take this opportunity to remind aspiring writers that the pyramids of Egypt were not built in a day or two. They should not be discouraged by publishers’ rejections because these are opportunities for improvement. Do not just look for publishers; find the right one. There is always one publisher who can’t wait to receive your manuscript.
BPM: Introduce us to your most recent work. Available on Nook and Kindle?
The Pride of an African Migrant, my most recent work, is a political memoir that tackles the realities of migrating to Europe. The book provides a lens to the panorama of African migrants’ lives in Europe, particularly African asylum seekers in the UK.
I traveled to England to pursue higher education. However, financial constraints hindered me from completing my studies, and I ended up as an irregular immigrant. In hopes of continuing my studies, I sought asylum in the UK, which was later denied to me. I eventually became a destitute asylum seeker, which gave me the chance to witness other asylum seekers’ lives—especially African asylum seekers. Their lives, I found, were characterized by homelessness, hunger, torture, imprisonment, assassinations, suicide and many more.
I wrote the book in remembrance of Jimmy Mubenga, an African asylum seeker in the UK who was tortured and killed at London Heathrow Airport after resisting his deportation. Hence, the book is subtitled “In Remembrance of Jimmy Mubenga, a Martyr of Globalisation, Murdered by the UK Border Regime on a British Airways Flight to Angola.”
After peacefully protesting against Mubenga’s murder, I was arrested and detained naked in a cold cell. After some time, even the place I was staying at was set on fire, ready to kill me.
The Pride of an African Migrant: In Remembrance of Jimmy Mubenga, a Martyr of Globalisation, Murdered by the UK Border Regime on a British Airways Flight to Angola by Massocki Ma Massocki is available on Amazon:
BPM: Give us some insight into why you wrote this book now?
I wrote The Pride of an African Migrant to outline the barbaric acts of torture that African asylum seekers are subjected to in the UK. The book aims to inform Africans aspiring to migrate to the European Union or the US about the issues related to their plans so that they can be better prepared.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal about yourself from writing your book?
As I have said, the book outlines barbaric acts of torture that African asylum seekers are subjected to in the UK. While describing the torture, I experienced different emotions and sentiments: anger, hatred, sadness and compassion. I had to learn to balance and control these emotions to make sure that they do not influence my work.
BPM: Do you feel lonely being a writer during the creative process?
I am a nonfiction writer; hence, I am inspired by our society’s reality always in front of us. As an engaged writer and activist in a world characterized by injustices, the sad reality—my inspiration—makes the creative process easy. Our society’s ills don’t allow me to experience this phenomenon of intellectual void called “writer’s block.”
There are two worlds: the magical world where the writer experiences relativity during the creative process and our daily lives where the writer is sometimes a stranger.
BPM: Do you use a computer or write out the story by hand?
I am comfortable typing on a computer because I can edit the work more easily.
BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your journey.
In the book, I described my life as an immigrant in the UK. Today, I am still an immigrant, but in the Philippines.
BPM: What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?
Given that The Pride of an African Migrant is a political memoir, the key challenge for me was to recall exactly every little detail of events as well as what I was told.
BPM: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
I interviewed some African asylum seekers who were victims of grave acts of torture in the UK, and I narrate in the book their shocking and unbelievable stories. Here below is the story of one of the interviewee, Beatrice, an African asylum seeker in the UK.
Beatrice told me that despite her extended stay in the UK, she still had not been granted asylum. She also described her fear of going back to her home country. According to Beatrice, the British immigration officers arrested her and placed her in a detention centre where she stayed for months and months. Similar to Dominick, Beatrice also refused her deportation. Her refusal earned her a savage and merciless beating from the British immigration officers. The encounter left her disfigured, and while she was still unconscious, was sent back to Cameroon.
When Beatrice arrived at the Douala International Airport in Cameroon, she was still unconscious after the more than eight-hour flight. Just imagine how savagely she was beaten. At the airport in Douala, they denied Beatrice’s entry for two reasons: she was still unconscious, and Cameroonian officers discovered that the British immigration officers faked a Cameroonian passport to have her deported.
Moreover, the British immigration officers allegedly attempted to bribe the Cameroonian airport authorities, telling them that Beatrice sabotaged the president of Cameroon to the British authorities as well, even revealing her asylum case and thus putting her life at higher risk.
By revealing Beatrice’s asylum application, the British immigration officers breached the confidentiality of asylum applications. To their dismay, all their efforts still failed. Beatrice was taken back to the UK. She was destitute: nowhere to stay and no food to eat. When Beatrice finished telling me her story, I found myself in tears. I actually had to say to her that I had heard enough and did not want to hear more.
BPM: What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
The books that highly influenced my writing are De la Médiocrité à l’excellence by Cameroonian philosopher Ébénézer Njoh Mouelle, Le Panafricanisme: de la Crise à la renaissance by Cameroonian professor Michel Kounou, and The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
BPM: What was your favorite part and your least favorite part of the publishing journey?
My least favorite part of the publishing process was to get the book reviewed. The most pleasant part was to get my book reviewed by the University of Birmingham in England, the University of Pretoria, and UK-based nongovernmental organisations.
BPM: Do you have anything special for readers that you’ll focus on this year?
This year, I will be focusing on marketing and publicity. So, I advise interested readers to subscribe to email lists on my official website massockimamassocki.com and get the latest updates such as book release information, news, events, excerpts, giveaways, tours, deals and more from me.
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