Beat It : Kabuika’s Blog

26

Jun

by admin

Several years ago, I wrote a letter to Michael Jackson, thanking him for saving me and my sister. I never did mail that letter, but somehow my letter ended up printed in a newspaper and I told my story on VH1. So here it is…

Dear Michael Jackson,

My name is Kabuika Kamunga. One of your songs saved my sister and I in the Congo. Back home in the early 1980s, Congo’s President Mobutu oppressed the population with his military regime.

“I will arrest any woman who wears pants,” soldiers boasted in the streets.

Unfortunately, the law gave them the right to do so. According to the dictator, pants were European symbols and thus forbidden.

“But pants are fashionable,” I thought.

My Belgian classmates wore them all the time. And at 16, I was willing to take the risk of getting arrested. So my sister Noelle and I often wore pants to go school. Since we drove to school, I felt we were pretty safe. And when I had to stop and pump gasoline, I usually scanned the surroundings to check if there were any soldier around. Noelle and I promised each other that if we ever got caught, we would start speaking English to make believe that we were not Congolese.

One day we got caught. Two soldiers zoomed in on us, as Noelle and I were wearing our favorite pairs of blue jeans.

“Papier!” The soldiers shouted at us in French, demanding to see our ID. The threatening look on their faces did not leave any room for negotiation. Jail was where they intended to send us. That’s the place where people disappeared and women got raped. We had to avoid going there at all cost.

I looked at my sister. English was our way out of this mess. The problem was we barely spoke English. However, I knew the words of Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It” by heart and Noelle knew one line.

I turned to her with a well-acted perplexed look on my face and we started to “speak” the song.

Me: “They told me don’t you come around here. Don’t want to see your face, you better disappear. The fire in their eyes and their words are very clear…”
Her: “Yes, yes, yes, so beat it. Just beat it.”

The soldiers looked at each other wondering who we were. Noelle and I were the image of confusion itself, we shrugged our shoulders and continued speaking.

Me: “You better run, you better do what you can. Don’t want to see no blood, don’t be a macho man. You want to be tough, better do what you can…”
Her: “Yes, yes, yes, so beat it, just beat it.”

This went on for a while. The soldiers did not understand a word of what we were saying. Finally one of them shooed us away.
“Ceux sont des étrangères! They’re foreigners!”

Noelle and I looked at each other, then started walking away still reciting the song:

Me: “No one wants to be defeated”
Her: “Yes, yes, yes, just beat it.”
Me: “Show me how strong is your fight.”
Her: “Yes, yes, yes, just beat it.”
Me: “It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right…”

When we finally got to the safety of our car, we burst out laughing. We congratulated ourselves for tricking the military, thus the government.”

So, thank you Michael for your song “Beat It”.

Sincerely,

Kabuika