Black History vs African Heritage: Retrospection and Pride
I remember being a small child with an intense longing to experience and understand different cultures. The uniqueness in our varying skin tones, to the various languages that are innate to our individual ethnicities have always been intriguing to me. I am one who has always recognized color, for I am not color blind. I see the distinction between my nationality and all of the other origin's that make up the worlds' population, and I bask in the beauty of it. I’m from Los Angeles, California and have been blessed to be exposed to other cultures. I’ve spent the night in the homes of friends from India, to the Fiji Island. Friends from numerous Spanish nations like Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and even the Dominican Republic. I have had Asian friends, and at a young age I learned the differences between the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and even the Thai. For they share similar features, but do indeed have vastly different languages, holidays, and customs. This used to make me wonder why we (my race) the "Black" race, didn't have our own language and customary traditions. Why don't we celebrate Christmas and weddings any differently than others, and by others, I do mean Caucasians; because oddly enough, our learned traditions only mirror theirs. History and facts suggest that this is at the cost of slavery, and the grand conspiracy of indoctrinated white supremacy, which is the bane of what America’s entire existence is based upon. Be that as it may, why weren’t we able to preserve any of our African heritage? Why don't we have our own languages and holiday's (outside of Ebonics and Black History Month)? Why don't our homes reek of peculiar scents left behind from special spices and blends used to create our authentic meals? The Jamaicans, Belizeans, and people from the Caribbean Islands do... but not us. We don't have accent's exclusive to only us, we just blend in, yet stand out, ever so stoutly. Especially our men..
However, as I got older I came into the realization that Blacks do have a heritage. It’s rather oppressive, but nonetheless ours (by default). The Black race is indeed an African nativity of people, but where in Africa, which African tribes? Which side of the Nile River did our ancestors once reside? What is our language, and why didn't it stick? Other civilizations came to America to colonize, but were able to hold on to their identities. Why weren’t we…? Who am I kidding..? The difference is- others CAME here to colonize, we were STOLEN and BROUGHT here to build the American colony and economy. #MyBad!
But even now, in 2016, a 13 yr old Hispanic teen would be able to tell you where his/her family's heritage derived from, and the same with an Asian American. But not us. Most Black teens would only be able to tell you what parts of the US their other family members have settled. Why wasn't our history and heritage preserved for us? Why is the only historical information taught to us in school about the African culture, oppressive and sad? This used to kill me on the inside, and I vowed that once I got "grown" (a colloquialism/expression heavily used in Black households. Once "you get grown" sky seemed to be the limit for you! lol) I would somehow figure out where I'm actually from, learn of my "real" heritage and learn to speak my language. Now.... in 2016, I also realize that learning my language might have been a bit of an ambitious goal (lol), but I was very fascinated with language as a child (and I still am)! ;)
The last year has been one of great retrospection for me. From visiting exhibits on African American culture, slavery, and even Birmingham's very own Civil Rights Museum, "Black" heritage has begun to unfold before my eyes. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the President and First Lady of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and several active members, and since then the history of our plight has become HD clear. The motion picture 'Selma' heightened my feelings and understanding and has let me to know that even after 50 + years forward, the battle is not yet won; and we still have so much further to go. 51 years ago the SCLC and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) organized a march that tens of thousands of people of different nationalities came together for, in efforts to gain voting rights for “Negro’s”. The 54 mile march from Selma, to the front stairs of the Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery wasn’t as easy as coming together and going forward with the plan. The CIA and many other people in powerful positions stood at a disposition on all things Civil Rights and forward progression for blacks. It took three attempts to actually make the pilgrimage. On the 1st attempt, on Sunday, March 7th, 1965 the SCLC and SNCC attempted the march. It ended before it even truly began, in a blood bath at the bottom of the Edmond Pettus Bridge. This event left one person deceased and many others beaten, bruised, and bloody. Thus, the aptly named commemoration of “Bloody Sunday”. On the second attempt, Dr. King’s intuition and prayer led him not go through with the march. Good thing he listened to his gut, because even more evil was lurking, waiting for the marchers to come through their counties, so that they could ambush them. Finally, on the 3rd attempt, with a protection order from President Lyndon B. Johnson and the company of 100’s of Federalized Alabama National Guardsmen and FBI agents, the 5 day journey began.
CLICK LINK FOR FULL MLK BLOODY SUNDAY ARTICLE- http://www.lifeculturepeople.com/culture-2/2015/10/3/martin-luther-king-jr?rq=mlk%20
Last year, Life. Culture. People. was blessed to be invited to attend the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) ‘Selma to Montgomery 50th Anniversary Kick-Off Gala’. There we had the immense opportunity of interviewing a few Civil Rights legends, which lent a hand at understanding the plight of African Americans. Then we ventured on to Selma, and saw the 1st African American President of the United States give a nearly spiritual speech on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The same voting rights that our radical leaders marched and protested for us to have are the same voting rights that are under efforts of reform now. Times have changed, and things have advanced, but things are still very much the same. Unarmed black men are still dying, black women are still being raped, mistreated and manhandled by policeman when in their custody, and injustices served by the judicial system still exists. Vigilantes’ are still taking matters into their own hands, and are still getting away with it, just as they did in the 60’s and before. Black lives remain as disposable to the nation as they did during the slave trade, and still remain so, now. Only difference in those times and today, is that our black men now aid the revolution of African extinction, and help to take our own lives in violent nonsense. How can anyone else take our lives seriously and hold them at a respectful decorum if we don’t? What needs reforming is the mindset of the Black race.
We have to wake up and realize that the battle is not over, and in the words of the legendary Sister Souljah- “WE ARE AT WAR!”
We have to start organizing in cities all across the country, just as they did in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. We have to rise up like the Black Panthers and move as serious militants do, if we’re going to galvanize change. We have to be nonviolent, educated and organize intelligent call to action programs. We have to learn our Constitutions and understand the laws of the land so that we can intellectually chart these courses for change. Where are groups like the Nation of Islam? All that still truly exists today is the NAACP and the SCLC. We have to instill in our children, friends, co-workers, and those alike that the battle is everyone's. Not just adults, not just Blacks and those of the minority groups, but all of ours as Americans. The youngest freedom marcher to be documented in history is a very special lady by the name of Sheyann Webb. She was just eight years old when she used to sneak out of the house for night marches, and ditch school to be part of whatever city wide rallies were taking place on any given day. Viola Luizzo packed up her car and headed cross country to Selma, to be part of making a difference and cause change. She was a White woman with a few small children at home at the time, and left the safety of her nest to get in the trenches and march alongside thousands to help stir change for Blacks. Her philosophy was that the battle was not just ours (Blacks), but it was a battle that all of humanity should take as their own. I had the privilege of conversing with her daughter, Mary Luizzo Lilleboe, and she shared many charms of wisdom and virtue with us. She let us know exactly how her mother felt about the cause that she essentially laid down her life for, and how just how dedicated and committed to the advancement of African Rights’, the late Mrs. Viola Luizzo was.
Where are the female revolutionaries like Harriett Tubman, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown? Tubman freed over 300 slaves, in 13 expeditions through the underground railroad. She also taught over 60 ex-slaves the underground railroad system so that they could continue to free the enslaved. Where are the radical revolutionaries of the New Millennium? Where are the abolitionists who are willing to stand in the lime light and demand change?
I now recognize that Black Heritage is rich in culture, and does indeed have its own identity. It is not the same as African culture, because “Blacks” were not fortunate enough to maintain the cultural heritage of the Mother Land. That is why we don’t know which tribes we originate from, or our ancestral language. “Blacks” are from the United States, and our tribes started here in the boroughs of ghetto’s nationwide, post slavery. If you really think about it, we are broken up into unique Americanized people groups. Our entire existence is heavily saturated in struggle, oppression, bigotry, and violence. I know we are more than our American history suggests, and I also know we didn't magically appear in Africa, just in time to get snatched up in the slave trade. We have an entire history that starts long before the 1800's, and it's a beautiful, peaceful, civilized history, that taught the world the basis of everything it is and knows today. Oh, accept for all the violence, thievery, mischief, evil, and hatred.
We are a strong, resilient nativity of people that has risen above our intended existence in this land. When our ancestors were stolen from their homeland, our coexistence was conceptualized as property amongst Americans, one step above beasts of nature. Keeping us unaware of our African customs and heritage is by intricate design, to keep us lowly, humble, and obedient. We were not supposed to become even half what we are today.
We were seen as animals that didn’t have the right to think for themselves, and showing any sign of intelligence was enough to get you killed. There was only one thing worse than being a “Nigga” on a plantation; and that was being a “Smart Nigga” on a plantation! You had to decide whether or not to suspend your intelligence and undeniable instinct to be free, in order to stay alive. Displaying any signs of disapproval, pride, or dignity, resulted in severe punishment or death. A black man’s intelligence was very much a threat in those days, as it is today.
We were kept weakened by fear, ignorance, degradation, and dehumanization tactics, and were supposed to remain disposable objects... Objects of sadistic perversion, violence, boredom, and hatred. Their natural fear and inferiority complex to the abilities of the strange looking, big, black, beast man, was supposed to continue to motivate their behaviors to keep us ignorant and unaware. That is why the thought of us organizing has always been perceived as a threat, because they did not want us to conspire against their conspiracy to control and manage our population. If slaves had an inkling of an idea of what they were truly capable of, and what our people were the originators of, we’d have better understood our innate talents, gifts, and connection to The Most High; which would have caused us to organize a rebellion.
I have learned, accepted, and have become profoundly proud of "Black Heritage", but also extremely disappointed, hurt, and disgusted by European colonization tactics. How could an entire nation of people agree it necessary to disrupt another entire nativity of people’s way of life, and commission them to slave the livelihood Of their colonies into existence? Furthermore, why would they steal the Africans’ heritage, religion, sciences, and creations, and call them their own? How come they couldn't be great? Why can’t the African people be attributed to the majesty of the Pyramids of Giza…why would they say that they were built and designed by aliens instead? Why couldn’t they tell the truth...? Why couldn’t they give us credit for civilizing their forefathers and teaching them how to colonize? Why couldn’t they do it peacefully, as Ancient Africans did? Why would they get so jealous, hateful and bent out of shape that we were the originators of life and the fullness thereof, that they literally came a took EVERYTHING away? Why couldn’t they just respect it, mind their business, and leave us to our own?
I’ll never understand those feelings of hateful ambitions because they do not lie within me. I’ll never understand the type of hardened heart it takes to watch generations of people live and die within the constraints of my plantation or nation, and not feel condemnation. How come guilt didn’t lead to their repatriation, or at the very least, freedom, sooner? I can’t imagine any of those ideas regarding another human life, but I am committed to discovering the fullness and beauty of African antiquity and culture.
Peace. Love. Live. Life.