Education for a New Reality

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Education for a New Reality in the African World Contrary to a misconception which still prevails, Africans were familiar with literature and art for many years before their contact with the Western World. Before the breaking-up of the social structure of the West African states of Ghana, Mali and Songhay and the internal strife and chaos that made the slave trade possible, the forefathers of the Africans who eventually became slaves in the United States, lived in a society where university lif
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    Education for a New Reality in the African World   Contrary to a misconception which still prevails, Africans were familiar with literature and artfor many years before their contact with the Western World.Before the breaking-up of the social structure of the West African states of Ghana, Mali andSonghay and the internal strife and chaos that made the slave trade possible, theforefathers of the Africans who eventually became slaves in the United States, lived in asociety where university life was fairly common and scholars were held in reverence.To understand fully any aspect of African American life one must realize that the AfricanAmerican is not without a cultural past , though he was many generations removed from itbefore his achievement in American literature and art commanded any appreciableattention. That is why African and Africana history should be taught every day, not only in the schools,but also in the home and African American History Month should be every month. We needto learn about all of the African people in the world. The idea of an education for a newreality in the African world was already old, with me, before this decade. The serious studyof the plight of African people all over the world, in all ages, conditions and geographical settings, has been the main part of my life’s work. It is the all consuming passion of my existence. It is something I do, just like breathing is something I do. It is a subject which, if Iwere to talk directly on it for more than twenty minutes, I would have to talk on it for at least a year. To begin, let’s consider the word BLACK.  Black is an honorable word and I am glad to see so many people lose their fear of using it:however, black has its limitations. Black tells you how you look without telling you who youare. A more proper word for our people, African, relates us to land, history and culture. No    people can be spiritually and culturally secure until they answer to a name of their ownchoosing — a name that instantaneously relates that people to the past, the present, and the future. In his book, The Name “Negro”: Its Origin and Evil Use, the Caribbean writer, Richard B. Moore, has said: Slaves and dogs are named by their masters. Free men namethemselves. In his book Mr. Moore expresses something that is increasingly rare in thepresent academic environment —a conviction based on research and reason. “Humanrelations,” he says, “cannot be peaceful, satisfactory, and happy unti l placed on the basis of mutual self-respect. The proper name for people, has thus become, in this period of crucialchange and rapid reformation on a world scale, a vital factor in determining basic attitudesinvolving how, and even whether, people will continue to live together on this shrinking planet.”   Richard B. Moore gives us much to think about in a world where Europeans and whitepeople in general went to such great lengths to distort world history. Europeans benefited,greatly, from this distortion and it is clear that they knew more about history than they areprepared to admit. They had to know a great deal about history in order to distort it soeffectively, and then use this distortion as an element of world control. They knew thathistory is a two-edged sword that can be used both as an instrument of liberation and aweapon of enslavement. They knew that then and they know it now that history, like a gun,is neutral; it will serve anyone who uses it effectively. We must understand that all the worldwas changed to accommodate the second rise of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenthcenturies. Followed swiftly by the European conquest of most of mankind, this conquest wasachieved by the astute use of two political instruments — the Bible and the gun.The Europeans, in addition to colonizing the world, colonized information about the worldand the writing of the history of the world. They were so successful that today there is not a single book in existence with the title, “World History,” that is an honest history of the worldand all of its people. World history lost its broad definition and became a rationale forEuropean conquest and control — a means for the glorification of European people at theexpense of other people and nations whose civilizations were old before Europe was born.The first European attack was on African culture. Their next move was to deny that thisculture ever existed.A look at African cultures, especially in West Africa, will show us what an education for a new    reality in the African world should be about. There is no way to talk about this educationwithout looking again at the roots of world history and the interplay of the histories of  various people. The scholar who knows his people’s history and its relationship to the historyof the world should start with the bold assertion that Africa is the basis of world history, andthat African people are the mothers and fathers of mankind. Scholars the world over mustbe courageous enough to make this assertion and prepare themselves academically toprove it.The special role that history assigns to the scholar eludes most of us: the role is simple,therefore it is very complex. In most societies the scholar is not required to labor in thefields, to draw water, nor to bring wood for the fires. At this point you might ask what is thescholar required to do? What is his or her special mission? What is the assignment? Thescholar is the clock-watcher of history and the keeper of the compass that must be used tolocate his or her people on the map of human geography. The scholar will be able to tell thepeople where they have been and what they have been, where they are and what they are.Most importantly, the scholar should be able to prophesy and predict where his people stillmust go and what his people still must be. The scholar should be able to find the specialclock that tells his people their historical, cultural and political time of day. The role of scholars to us as a people is to end part of our special tragedy because for too long, figuratively speaking, we have been telling our time by our oppressor’s clock. By his clock it could be midnight in December because he is losing control of the world. We, estranged inthe Western World where we are neither guest nor citizen, are re-merging with hope flowingbefore us like a river — by our special historical clock. It is a morning in spring. We are in anextraordinary situation so let us use our imagination to create an extraordinary way of looking at it.For the moment, let us take our crisis out of the framework of history and sociology, andinstead regard it as a drama with many dimensions and with long historical roots. Thedrama is not pure: it is part comedy and part tragedy, sometimes it will be a satire andthere are even elements of farce. It is a mystery play about the greatest crime evercontrived by the mind of man. The recurring theme of this drama is rape, the rape of acontinent, the rape of its people.This rape set in motion an act of protracted genocide that lasted for five hundred years and    has not completely exhausted itself today. The aftermath of this crime is the basis of theblack world drama and the crisis that no black scholar can avoid. With this said we can now,figuratively, put the players on stage. In the unfolding of this great human drama that we are calling the “Black Crisis,” the characters will play every role from saint to buffoon. The first scene in the play is pleasant and here is nothing that suggests future developments.Some sailors have arrived on the coast of West Africa. The year is 1438. The Africans withtheir customary hospitality to strangers have invited the sailors to dinner, a scene that willbe repeated many times before it is turned into a tragic occurrence. The Africans did notknow the temperament of these strangers, nor did they sense their ambitions nor the intentthat was hidden behind their smiles. These sailors have come from a thawed-out iceboxcalled Europe. A people who were as violent as the climate that produced them. A peoplewho were reaching out from their hostile land searching for new gold, new labor, and a newsupply of food. They find all of these items in Africa and they do not buy or bargain for them,they take them. In the second scene of our play’s first act, the d inner is over and the guests begin lookingaround the house of their hosts. They like so many of the things they see, including the wifeof the house. Suddenly all expressions change. The guests take out their guns, rape thewife, enslave the both of them and force them away from their home to labor in the farreaches of the world. Thus the long night begins. The curtain falls on the first act of a longplay that, in many ways, is still on the road. My basic point is that all black scholars in theWest, and most of them in Africa, have been reacting to the consequences of this play.Their dilemma is how to interpret these events and their far-reaching tragic aftermath.Their consequences are the primary content of their literary heritage and out of this materialcame the slave narratives, the spirituals, and the blues. I am talking about something that isboth historical and topical, which helps to explain why we can better understand the presentby looking through the lenses of the past.We need both vantage points in order to understand the present. We, as a people, eachtime we forget that our African-ness is our rallying cry, our window on the world, and thebasis of our first allegiance, find ourselves in serious trouble. To explain this fact I mustmake an admission that breaks my heart, as well as it might break yours.
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