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A New Clue To How Life Originated.

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When Caitlin Cornell looked down her microscope, she saw large bright spots against a black background. They resembled miniatures suns, blazing against the backdrop of space. And when Cornell showed the spots to her supervisor, Sarah Keller, a chemist at the University of Washington, “we got really excited,” she recalls. “It was a bit of an ‘Aha!’ moment.” Those spots, she realized, might help address a long-standing puzzle about the origin of life itself.

The cells that make up all living things, despite their endless variations, contain three fundamental elements. There are molecules that encode information and can be copied—DNA and its simpler relative, RNA. There are proteins—workhorse molecules that perform important tasks. And encapsulating them all, there’s a membrane made from fatty acids. Go back far enough in time, before animals and plants and even bacteria existed, and you’d find that the precursor of all life—what scientists call a “protocell”—likely had this same trinity of parts: RNA and proteins, in a membrane. As the physicist Freeman Dyson once said, “Life began with little bags of garbage.”

3-D MODEL -- 02/04/2001 -- Section of human DNA model. JIM RANKIN/TORONTO STAR (Photo by Jim Rankin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
3-D MODEL — 02/04/2001 — Section of human DNA model. JIM RANKIN/TORONTO STAR (Photo by Jim Rankin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The bags—the membranes—were crucial. Without something to corral the other molecules, they would all just float away, diffusing into the world and achieving nothing. By concentrating them, membranes transformed an inanimate world of disordered chemicals into one teeming with redwoods and redstarts, elephants and E. coli, humans and hagfish. Life, at its core, is about creating compartments. And that’s much easier and much harder than it might seem.

First, the easy bit. Early cell membranes were built from fatty acids—molecules that look like lollipops, with round heads and long tails. The heads enjoy the company of water; the tails despise it. So, when placed in water, fatty acids self-assemble into hollow spheres, with the water-hating tails pointing inward and the water-loving heads on the surface. These spheres can enclose RNA and proteins, making protocells. Fatty acids, then, can automatically create the compartments that were necessary for life to emerge. It almost seems too good to be true.

A scientific researcher extracts the RNA from embryonic stem cells in a laboratory, at the Univestiry of Sao Paulo's human genome research center, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 4, 2008. Brazil's Federal Supreme Court will decide tomorrow on the continuity of the embryonic stem cells research, after Roman Catholich church officials and anti-abortion groups urged to ban it, as the stem cells extraction entails the destruction of the embryo.  AFP PHOTO/Mauricio LIMA (Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)
© 2008 AFP A scientific researcher extracts the RNA from embryonic stem cells in a laboratory, at the Univestiry of Sao Paulo’s human genome research center, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 4, 2008. Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court will decide tomorrow on the continuity of the embryonic stem cells research, after Roman Catholich church officials and anti-abortion groups urged to ban it, as the stem cells extraction entails the destruction of the embryo. AFP PHOTO/Mauricio LIMA (Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)

And it is, for two reasons. Life first arose in salty oceans, and salt catastrophically destabilizes the fatty-acid spheres. Also, certain ions, including magnesium and iron, cause the spheres to collapse, which is problematic since RNA—another key component of early protocells—requires these ions. How, then, could life possibly have arisen, when the compartments it needs are destroyed by the conditions in which it first emerged, and by the very ingredients it needs to thrive?

Caitlin Cornell and Sarah Keller have an answer to this paradox. They’ve shown that the spheres can withstand both salt and magnesium ions, as long as they’re in the presence of amino acids—the simple molecules that are the building blocks of proteins. The little suns that Cornell saw under her microscope were mixtures of amino acids and fatty acids, holding their spherical shape in the presence of salt.

Biologists work on the research of DNA from embryonic stem cells, in a laboratory at 'Hospital do Coracao' heart institute, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 5, 2008. Brazil's Federal Supreme Court will decide today on the continuity of the stem cells research, after Roman Catholich church officials and anti-abortion groups urged to ban it, given that the stem cells extraction entails the destruction of the embryo. AFP PHOTO/Mauricio LIMA        (Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)
© 2012 AFP Biologists work on the research of DNA from embryonic stem cells, in a laboratory at ‘Hospital do Coracao’ heart institute, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 5, 2008. Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court will decide today on the continuity of the stem cells research, after Roman Catholich church officials and anti-abortion groups urged to ban it, given that the stem cells extraction entails the destruction of the embryo. AFP PHOTO/Mauricio LIMA (Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)

I find that utterly magical. It means that two of the essential components of life, a protocell’s membrane and its proteins, provided the conditions for each other to exist. By sticking to the fatty acids, the amino acids gave them stability. In turn, the fatty acids concentrated the amino acids, perhaps encouraging them to coalesce into proteins. From the very beginning, these partners were locked in a two-step dance that continued for 3.5 billion years, and helped create all the richness of biology from a starting place of mere chemistry. “I agree completely,” Keller tells me. “It’s completely magical. You need those two parts together.”

“It’s fantastic work,” says Neal Devaraj, of UC San Diego. “Their suggestion that membranes could promote the synthesis of [proteins] is really fascinating.”

This discovery happened almost by accident. Originally, Keller set out to address a different problem, posed to her by her colleague Roy Black. He noted that no one had good ideas about how exactly the protocell trinity—RNA, proteins, and membranes—actually assembled in the first place. It seemed that people were just waving their hands and attributing this crucial convergence to some random event. Black, instead, suggested that the membranes themselves were key. If fatty acids can stick to the constituents of both proteins and RNA, they could have gathered these building blocks together as they themselves assembled.

A display of skulls demonstrating human evolution.  (Photo by Fritz Goro/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
© Time Life Pictures A display of skulls demonstrating human evolution. (Photo by Fritz Goro/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Cornell tested that idea by incubating a fatty acid with three different amino acids, all of which are thought to have existed on the primordial Earth. Sure enough, as Black had suspected, the molecules interacted with one another. But when she looked under the microscope, Cornell realized something special was happening.

On their own, the fatty acids predictably self-assembled into hollow spheres. “They looked like jellyfish: clear insides with opaque edges, floating around,” she says. If she added salt or magnesium ions, these jellyfish disintegrated. But if she did that after adding amino acids, they held their shape. What’s more, they transformed into shapes that Cornell likens to glowing onions. Their once-hollow centers were filled with another layer of fatty acids—spheres within spheres. Not coincidentally, that’s what our actual cells are like, with membranes that comprise two fatty layers instead of one.

A scientific researcher manipulates drops of embryonic stem cells in a laboratory, at 'Hospital do Coracao' heart institute, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 5 March, 2008. Brazil's Federal Supreme Court will decide today on the continuity of the stem cells research, after Roman Catholich church officials and anti-abortion groups urged to ban it, given that the stem cells extraction entails the destruction of the embryo. AFP PHOTO/Mauricio LIMA (Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)
© 2008 AFP A scientific researcher manipulates drops of embryonic stem cells in a laboratory, at ‘Hospital do Coracao’ heart institute, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 5 March, 2008. Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court will decide today on the continuity of the stem cells research, after Roman Catholich church officials and anti-abortion groups urged to ban it, given that the stem cells extraction entails the destruction of the embryo. AFP PHOTO/Mauricio LIMA (Photo credit should read MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)

So, the presence of amino acids not only protects the fatty-acid spheres, but also turns them into something more obviously biological. Why? “We have no idea, and we wouldn’t have predicted it,” Keller says, laughing. “We’re in a lovely place that opens the field up to future theory.”

“This is great work,” says Kate Adamala of the University of Minnesota. Other studies, she notes, have found interactions between any two of amino acids, fatty-acid membranes, and RNA, but Cornell and Keller’s study effectively ties all three together. Amino acids allow membranes to exist in the presence of magnesium, which RNA needs to function.

The reconstruction of a Homo neanderthalensis, who lived within Eurasia from circa 400,000 until 40,000 years ago, mirrors at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany, located at the site of the first Neanderthal man discovery, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The museum features an exhibition centered on human evolution. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
© ASSOCIATED PRESS The reconstruction of a Homo neanderthalensis, who lived within Eurasia from circa 400,000 until 40,000 years ago, mirrors at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany, located at the site of the first Neanderthal man discovery, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The museum features an exhibition centered on human evolution. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The study of life’s origins is always contentious. Scientists often disagree furiously about things that are happening right now, let alone events that occurred more than 3.5 billion years ago. Some researchers, for example, think that life began in shallow volcanic pools, while others argue that it must have arisen in underwater vents. Keller’s ideas, mercifully, work in both environments. “I’m agnostic,” she says. “I’m excited that [our study] makes the idea of protocells more plausible independent of the location.”

She’s now looking into what happens after the protocells assemble. Sure, there’s a compartment that contains the building blocks for making proteins and RNA. “But how do those individual building blocks bond to form the larger molecules?” she says. “It’s a very hard question.”

(Source: The Atlantic)

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AFROBEAT & AFROBEATS: Difference, Influence, Origin and Pioneers.

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AFROBEAT

Afrobeat is a music genre which involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.

The term was coined in the 1960s by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who is responsible for pioneering and popularizing the style both within and outside Nigeria.

Distinct from Afrobeat is Afrobeats - a sound originating in Nigeria in the 21st century, one which takes in diverse influences and is an eclectic combination of rap, dancehall, and even R&B. The two genres, though often conflated, are not the same.

ORIGIN

Afrobeat began in Ghana in the early 1920s. During that time, Ghanaian musicians incorporated foreign influences like the foxtrot and calypso with Ghanaian rhythms like osibisaba (Fante). Highlife was associated with the local African aristocracy during the colonial period and was played by numerous bands including the Jazz Kings, Cape Coast Sugar Babies, and Accra Orchestra along the country's coast.

Nigeria later joined the Afrobeat wave in the late 60s led by Fela Kuti who experimented with different contemporary music of the time. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti also changed the name of his group to Africa '70. The new sound hailed from a club that he established called the Afrika Shrine. The band maintained a five-year residency at the Afrika Shrine from 1970 to 1975 while afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth.

Although the term Afrobeat was coined as early as 1968, after making a trip to the United States, Kuti wasn't really making music in the category of Afrobeat. The name “Afrobeat” shows the significance of groove to the music, as opposed to Afrofunk.

In 1969, Kuti and his band went on a trip to the U.S. and met Sandra Smith, a singer and former Black Panther. Sandra Smith (now known as Sandra Isadore) introduced Kuti to many writings of activist such as Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, and his biggest influence of all, Malcolm X.

As Kuti was interested in African American politics, Smith would inform him of current events. In return, Kuti would fill her in on African culture. Since Kuti stayed at Smith's house and was spending so much time with her, he started to re-evaluate his music. That was when Fela Kuti noticed that he was not playing African music. From that day forward, Kuti changed his sound and the message behind his music.

The name was partially borne out of an attempt to distinguish Fela Kuti's music from the soul music of American artists such as James Brown.

Prevalent in his and Lagbaja's music are native Nigerian harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing, and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to Afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1970s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.

INSTRUMENTATION
Big band (15 to 30 pieces: Fela-era afrobeat) and energetic performances

Lead vocals (may play sax/key solos as well)
Chorus vocals (may include horn players)
Rhythm guitar(s) (plays funk strumming pattern)
Tenor guitar (plays a finger-picked ostinato groove)
Bass guitar
Drum set, generally in the form polyrhythmic percussion
Saxophone(s)
Trumpet(s)
Trombone(s)
Organ/keyboards
Rhythm conga #1
Rhythm conga #2
Solo (lead) conga
Akuba: a set of 3 small stick-hit Yoruba congas (play flourishes/solos, and ostinatos). Also mistakenly called "gbedu" (gbedu is the name of a large ceremonial drum), but are related to the Gbedu.
"Sticks"/claves (plays ostinato)
Shekere

Fela Kuti included the traditional Gbedu drum in his ensemble, with a percussionist pounding out a thunderous rhythm from a 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) drum lying on its side.

INFLUENCE.

Many jazz musicians have been attracted to Afrobeat. From Roy Ayers in the 1970s to Randy Weston in the 1990s, there have been collaborations that have resulted in albums such as Africa: Centre of the World by Roy Ayers, released on the Polydore label in 1981. In 1994 Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, included samples of Fela's "Beast of No Nation" on his Buckshot LeFonque album. The new generation of DJs and musicians of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of afropop and groove (see Afrobeats section below).

Afrobeat has also profoundly influenced important contemporary producers and musicians like Brian Eno and David Byrne, who credit Fela Kuti as an essential influence.[8] Both worked on Talking Heads' highly acclaimed 1980 album Remain In Light, which brought polyrhythmic afrobeat influences to Western music.

The horn section of Antibalas have been guest musicians on TV On The Radio's highly acclaimed 2008 album Dear Science, as well as on British band Foals' 2008 album, Antidotes. Some Afrobeat influence can also be found in the music of Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon.

In 2009 the music label Knitting Factory Records (KFR) produced the Broadway Musical FELA! As said on the musical's website, the story showcased Fela Kuti's “courage and incredible musical mastery” along with the story of his life. The show had 11 Tony nominations, receiving three for Best Costumes, Best Sound and Best Choreography. FELA! Was on Broadway for fifteen months and was produced by notables such as Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will & Jada Pinkett-Smith. Many celebrities were noted on attending the shows such as, Denzel Washington, Madonna, Sting, Spike Lee (who saw it eight times), Kofi Annan, and even Michelle Obama. Michelle Williams, former singer of girl group Destiny's Child, was cast as the role of Sandra Isadore.

Notable pioneers of afrobeat.


Fela Kuti
Amakye Dede
Femi Kuti
Tony Allen
Yinka Davies
Manu Dibango
Dele Sosimi
Sonny Okosun
William Onyeabor
Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou
Abiodun (musician)
Babatunde Olatunji

AFROBEATS

From early in the 21st century, a new type of sound, originating in Nigeria, became increasingly prominent in African popular music. This name echoes Afrobeat, the 1970s fusion of jazz and traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music which is an important influence, but Afrobeats is a largely different style.

"Afrobeats is not a style, per se, like Afrobeat. It simply means the new sound of Africa, which takes in diverse influences that take inspiration from its African roots and is combined with the sounds of rap, reggae/dancehall, and even R&B. It's an extremely eclectic combination that makes for quite the enjoyable sound."

Afrobeats is most identifiable by its signature driving drum beat rhythms, whether electronic or instrumental. These beats harken to the stylings of a variety of traditional African drumbeats across West Africa as well as the precursory genre of Afrobeat. The beat in Afrobeats music is not just a base for the melody, but acts as a major character of the song, taking a lead role that is sometimes equal to are of greater importance than the lyrics and almost always more central than the other instrumentals. Another distinction within Afrobeats is the notably west African, specifically Nigerian or Ghanaian, accented English that is often blended with local slangs, pidgin English, as well as local Nigerian or Ghanaian languages depending on the backgrounds of the performers.

DJs and producers like DJ Black, Elom Adablah, and C-Real (Cyril-Alex Gockel) for example, have been a crucial part in spreading the popularity of this form of music. Their artistic mixing of beats and sounds allow a younger audience to experience a sound that is somewhat familiar in its influences and yet uniquely African. Their mixing and promotion of popular hits on the continent is also a tried and true method for success. Often what the play in clubs, radio shows, podcasts, etc. are what become popularized both within Africa and abroad.

Since 2012, Afrobeats have gained mainstream recognition outside of Africa, especially within the UK. UK hits have included "Oliver Twist" by D'banj a Nigerian which reached 9 on the UK Singles Chart in 2012, and "Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad)" by the Ghanaian British artist Fuse ODG, which reached 5 on the UK Singles Chart in 2014. Afrobeats nightclubs are now primary features of UK's nightlife with clubs opening in most major cities.

Other mainstream popularity garnered by Afrobeats is shown in Canadian artist Drake's music. Drake's 2017 album More Life contains many Afrobeats and Dancehall influences.

Afrobeats has captured the attention of many award shows as well. For example, the BET Awards usually highlights the musical genre of Afrobeats and/or other types of music by having the category “The Best International Act.” In the year 2018, the famous Nigerian afrobeats singer Davido won and when presented the award, the audience knew he was from Nigeria. When accepting his awards, Davido says, “My continent has been so blessed to influence other cultures. Let's collaborate everybody.” In this statement, Davido tried to show the audience of American celebrities that African artists would love to collab and make their mark in America. In previous years other famous artists have won the category as well, such as the singer Wizkid (Nigeria) in 2017 and in 2016 the DJ Black Coffee (South Africa) won.

INFLUENCE

According to David Drake, the eclectic genre "reimagines diasporic influences and—more often than not—completely reinvents them." However, some caution against equating Afrobeats to contemporary pan-African music, in order to prevent the erasure of local musical contributions.

Afrobeats is primarily produced between Lagos, Accra, and London. Paul Gilroy, of The Black Atlantic, reflects on the changing London music scene as a result of shifting demographics:

"We are moving towards an African majority which is diverse both in its cultural habits and in its relationship to colonial and postcolonial governance, so the shift away from Caribbean dominance needs to be placed in that setting. Most of the grime folks are African kids, either the children of migrants or migrants themselves. It's not clear what Africa might mean to them"

Many first and second generation African immigrants follow - and produce - Afrobeats music. Fuse ODG, a UK artist of Ghanaian descent, coins #TINA or This is New Africa as a means to change perceptions of Africa:

"This movement will shed light on Africa in a positive way and focus on how we can improve Africa. It's not about just plying your talents in the Western world; it's about going back home and helping Africa."

INTERNATIONAL POPULARITY

Although originally a Nigerian genre Afrobeats has grown in popularity worldwide. It first made its global debut in the United Kingdom with the surge of African immigrants, however the tunes of this genre can now be heard everywhere. Wizkid, Mr Eazi, Burna Boy, D’Banj, 2Baba, Tiwa Savage and Davido serve as prime examples of Nigerian artists who have emerged in the global scale. Afrobeats’ international popularity is likely rooted in the fact that beat/melody resemble a blend of EDM, R&B, and hip-hop thus providing a familiar tune for many. Furthermore, as English is an official language of Nigeria, artists often choose to sing/rap in English, Pidgin English, and/or their local language. Afrobeats have expanded global conversation of Nigeria, which had previously been reduced to political unrest as a result of religious disputes. Afrobeats in a sense has created a platform for which the world can engage with Nigeria's vibrant and rich culture.

American artist including Michelle Williams have used Afrobeats directly in their music or have been heavily influenced by Afro beat songs. This includes William's top hit “Say Yes,” a gospel song based on the Nigerian hymn “When Jesus Say Yes.” The song's beats are said to resemble the popular four-beat of house music, but in fact follows the 3–2 or 2–3 of Afrobeats. This beat is known as the clave and mixes a rhythm with a normal 4/4 beat, it is commonly seen in many forms West African music. Furthermore, there have been many collaborations between performers in the West and Nigerian artists including French Montana and Ice Prince, Rick Ross and P-Square, and Kanye and D’Banj.

While Afrobeats international popularity has considerably grown its primary audience continues to be Africans, especially the diasporic communities that have come as a result of education. Many Nigerian artists tour the U.K and the United States to large immigrant audiences. DJ 3k, a Nigerian-American immigrant, and his brother Dee Money have developed a large network in Chicago, and usually bring Nigerian artists to the city. They have used this as a platform to bring these performers across the United States.

The variability in this genre allows for the production of a variety of songs, each one more exciting than the next. Regardless, it consistently relies on a set of heavy beats that make this music easy to dance to, which acts as a major draw for the genre. Furthermore, many major artists of Afrobeats have opted to sing in a manner that resemble those of American rap and hip hop. Furthermore, these melodies are often occupied by opulent music videos filled with picturesque mansions, expensive cars, and other tropes familiar to American music videos. Other Nigerian artists have found inspiration in South Africa, mixing Afro-house, popular in South Africa, with Afrobeats. Artist like Patoranking have looked to the Caribbean for inspiration, particularly Jamaican dancehall.

Notable musicians whose music have been classified as Afrobeats:

D'banj
2Baba
P-Square
Wizkid
Mr Eazi
Davido
Tiwa Savage
Afrikan Boy
R2Bees
Sarkodie
MzVee
EL (rapper)
Castro
Stonebwoy
D-Black
Edem
Faze
Bisa Kdei
Mr Eazi
Yemi Alade
Willie XO

A music festival that's recognized worldwide is One Africa Music Fest. The festival has four different locations: New York City, Houston, London, and Dubai. One Africa Music Fest showcases modern Afrobeat music and talent.

As stated on the official website, the main focus of the music festival is to help strengthen Africa's position in the entertainment industry on a global level. The festival also wants to create awareness to display the positive side of Africa that people don't usually know about. This Afrobeats music festival promotes collaboration between other artists, businesses and communities.

Afro Beat Fest is an annual festival in Newark, New Jersey celebrating African culture including music, art, fashion, dance, crafts and cuisine

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Serena Williams Builds Schools In Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya And Jamaica.

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Serena Williams recently built a new school in Jamaica! While some celebrities simply write a check for a good cause, Queen Serenado not resign to work hard! She has published photos and the inaugural video of the school in Jamaica where is she painting from school and get their hands dirty while doing the building.

Its non-profit association, the Serena Williams Fund in partnership with Helping Hands Jamaica have partnered to build the Salt Marsh Elementary School. The mission of his charity is to help "the individuals or communities affected by to violence, and [to ensure] equal access to education. "

https://youtu.be/bQgCGXY2ODo

This is the third school Serena built. Previous high schools have been created in partnership withBuild Africa School in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

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DOs & DONT’s: How To Disagree With Someone More Powerful Than You.

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Your boss proposes a new initiative you think won’t work. Your senior colleague outlines a project timeline you think is unrealistic. What do you say when you disagree with someone who has more power than you do? How do you decide whether it’s worth speaking up? And if you do, what exactly should you say?

It’s a natural human reaction to shy away from disagreeing with a superior. “Our bodies specialize in survival, so we have a natural bias to avoid situations that might harm us,” says Joseph Grenny, the coauthor of Crucial Conversations and the co-founder of VitalSmarts, a corporate training company. “The heart of the anxiety is that there will be negative implications,” adds Holly Weeks, the author of Failure to Communicate. We immediately think, “He’s not going to like me,” “She’s going to think I’m a pain,” or maybe even “I’ll get fired.” Although “it’s just plain easier to agree,” Weeks says that’s not always the right thing to do.

It’s a natural human reaction to shy away from disagreeing with a superior.

Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts on how to disagree with someone more powerful than you.

Do:

>> Explain that you have a different opinion and ask if you can voice it.

>> Restate the original point of view or decision so it’s clear you understand it.

>> Speak slowly — talking in an even tone calms you and the other person down.

Don’t:

>> Assume that disagreeing is going to damage your relationship or career — the consequences are often less dramatic than we think.

>> State your opinions as facts; simply express your point of view and be open to dialogue.

>> Use judgment words, such as “hasty,” “foolish,” or “wrong,” that might upset or incite your counterpart.

(Source: hbrascend.org)

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How Afrobeats Made African Brits Proud Of Our Heritage.

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For fans of Afrobeats, grime and hip-hop, the surprise release of a remix to Wizkid’s Ojuelegba featuring Skepta and Drake was the stuff of musical fan fiction. The collaboration between three undisputed genre giants was always likely to be an event. But for some it was a throwaway line in Skepta’s verse that really struck a chord.

“When I was in school, being African was a diss. Sounds like you need help saying my surname, miss,” reminisces the grime star. And with those two sentences, Skepta transported UK-based members of the diaspora back to our collective childhoods, in which “African” was part identity, part insult.

https://soundcloud.com/skepta/ojuelegba-remix-ft-drake-skepta

It’s the shared secondary-school anecdote of most second-generation immigrants: a nondescript classroom with a teacher at the front who takes a deep breath before butchering your name, much to the amusement of sniggering students. A combination of Oxfam ads and Red Nose Day campaigns convinced classmates that their pocket money was somehow keeping our entire continent afloat. If you were African, it was universally understood that you were perpetually starving, and the food you attempted to conceal in your lunchbox from cafeteria scrutiny was sniffed at for “smelling funny”.

The constant derision inevitably led to a generation of African students abridging surnames, staunchly denying “rumours” they were from the continent and adopting imaginary Jamaican parents along with a culture that wasn’t their own. Those who stood firm were met with merciless name-calling and mud-hut jibes.

But the anti-African sentiments that were so strong during my day have since been replaced with an unshakeable sense of pride; a change that has been hugely influenced by music. The emancipation of the African schoolkid was due to Afrobeats – an umbrella term for the new wave of African pop that takes cues from hip-hop, grime and house music – and now the thought of ever having been embarrassed of our ancestry is, well, embarrassing.

Most of us were already well acquainted with Afrobeat (without the “s”) thanks to our parents blaring Fela during church car journeys. But the internet ensured that Afrobeats, which started shaping Lagosian adolescence through the mid-2000s, also shaped a minority of Londoners.

The Afrobeats golden era coincided with my generation’s coming of age – in 2006, we gushed about walking down the aisle to 2Face Idibia’s African Queen as we hurriedly made it our Sony Ericsson Walkman’s ringtone.

A year later P Square’s Do Me had made it to MTV Base and Olu Maintain’s Yahooze had Nigerians singing about the internet scams that usually caused quiet embarrassment.

PSquare Do Me - https://youtu.be/3mHMWO-mM

By the time 9ice released his game-changing anthem Gongo Aso, we had been inundated with our own icons whose swag rivalled that of American rappers.

Afrobeats artists were the best PR team we could have ever asked for. Talented, arrogant and unapologetically African, they sang of the realities of poverty, but also of love, sex and heartache. Society had previously seemed unable to accept that Africans could be multifaceted human beings.

Soon our parents’ favourites crept out of hall parties and into nightclubs – on a night out, Bunny Mack’s Let Me Love YouDaddy Lumba’s Aben Wo Ha and Magic System’s Premier Gaou all signified the start of what could only be an awesome Afrobeats set. Our parents stifled smirks at seeing a younger generation defined by the same music as theirs.

https://youtu.be/ivfxKKode4k

If 2006-2008 marked Afrobeats’ prime era, then 2008-2011 is when the genre went platinum. With Wizkid, Sarkodie, Banky W, Ice Prince, Castro and Don Jazzy’s Mo’ Hits crew dominating playlists, it wasn’t long before they entered the mainstream charts, with Akon, Chris Brown and Rick Ross all attempting to ride the waves it had made overseas.

Kanye West even signed D’banj to his record label in 2011, but our collective pride didn’t come from his validation, we simply felt smug at the fact we’d been in on it first.

A deluge of UK Afrobeats artists emerged, whose dual identities doubled our pride. But it was much bigger than the music: once-rejected Ankara and Kente fabrics re-entered our wardrobes way before Topshop cottoned on. The impassioned lyrics made those of us who hadn’t learned our native language determined to do so, and those who had felt like they knew the passwords to a secret clubhouse.

For all these reasons, the significance of Skepta’s line is not lost on us young African Brits – especially as they sit on top of the sounds that essentially saved us from the tyranny of inner-city school.

“I had to tell my story, cause they’d rather show you black kids with flies on their faces on the television,” is how Skepta finishes his verse. Thankfully, the diaspora learned long ago to stop waiting on TV for positive images of Africa that never came. Instead, we found the vibrancy, energy and richness of our cultures in our iTunes library.

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