By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill, PhD
Day in and day out we can observe the increased number of African people killing each other, mentally and physically abusing each other, stealing from each other, being dishonest with each other, and the list goes on and on. These negative incidents occur, in part, because segments of the African community in the United States are disconnected from the moral and ethical traditions that have characterized relationships among African people in the past. It is critical that we repair ourselves as we build the Reparations Movement.
The problem with segments of African people in this country being disconnected from the great contributions of African people to the civilizations of the world has resulted in far too many of us believing that the current situation in which we find ourselves cannot be changed. Many African people believe that the condition of African people in America is permanent and there is
nothing we can do to change our circumstances. Therefore, this disconnected group of African people has chosen the easy road. They travel on the road of cooperating and collaborating with the forces of white supremacy who continue to demonstrate they will do any and everything in their power to keep African people in this country, and the rest of the world on the bottom. This has resulted in many African people in America (and the world community), developing a “bottom mentality.” In other words, many of our people buy into whatever the white supremacy forces feed us through the media, (mis)educational institutions, and religious institutions.
What we are constantly being fed is that we are on the bottom and we will remain on the bottom. What the white supremacy forces offer individual African people in America is that, as an individual, you can get off the bottom if you join us, if you “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Never mind your group, your family and your cultural ties, “there is nothing that can be done with those people. Join us and everything will be alright.” If you join us, “you can obtain a good job, buy a nice house in a good neighborhood, buy a nice car, take nice vacations, and some of you, whom we chose, can even live with us.”
We were not always like this as a people. We did not have a “dog-eat-dog” mentality and this is what we must examine as we continue to struggle to overthrow the system of white supremacy and its impact on us as a people.
The Creative Force of the universe has endowed us with the capacity to make great contributions to the world. A simple inspection of the ancient Nile Valley civilization of Kemet (Egypt) should inspire all African people to respect their history and to hold themselves in high esteem. Kemet and the Kemetic people, our ancestors, were the creators of math, science, architecture, writing, governance, astronomy, astrology, medicine, art, and so much more. The Kemetic people amassed great wisdom that was left as instructions written in Medew Netcher (Divine Speech) or what Europeans call hieroglyphs.
One place we can examine this ancient Kemetic wisdom is in a book titled, Selections from the Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt gives insight into how our ancestors viewed life, death, human relations, marriage, parenting, use of power, God, family, and the standards of moral and ethical conduct. Reading these spiritual texts elicits strong feelings in and for African people in a most profound and spiritual way. Peruse these words from The Husia: The Book of Ptah Hotep:
”Do not terrorize people for if you do, God will punish you accordingly.
If anyone lives by such means, God will take bread from his or her mouth.
If one says I shall be rich by such means, [he] she will eventually have to say my means entrapped me.”
This passage continues:
”If one says I will rob another, he will end up being robbed himself. The plans of men and women do not always come to pass, for in the end it is the will of God, which prevails. Therefore, one should live in peace with others and they will come and willingly give gifts, which another would take from them through fear.”
Written about five thousand years ago, the wisdom of these words of instruction should cause African people to reflect on their significance as we struggle to create a greater good for our race. The wisdom of our ancestors should give us the inspiration to rededicate ourselves to the continued struggle for the liberation of African people worldwide.
As a race of people our survival and development is dependent upon each other. A greater responsibility is placed upon those of us who proclaim the African Way after the ravaging of African civilizations, African culture, African minds, and African lands.
As I have repeated many times in previous columns, we have a responsibility and a duty to our brothers and sisters to build institutions based on African spirituality, ethics, and morals, and give back that which the Creator has given us, “All Life, Power, and Health, like the Sun Forever.”
I urge all African people to take a meditative moment and look deeply inside of ourselves as a people. Let us restore what the ancient Black people of Kemet called Maat: Divine Order, Harmony, Balance, Truth, Justice, Righteousness, and Reciprocity.
We had, and lived by Maat before the coming of Europeans. We must return to the ways of Maat so we can survive the white supremacy genocidal onslaught. We must look deep into ourselves! And as our respected ancestor Dr. John Henrik Clarke often said, “If we did it once, we can do it again!” In view of what is happening in the world, we must never lose sight of who we are and our condition.
Get Ready For Kwanzaa 2011
In the wake of the rising African Centered Movement in America, it is important that every segment of the African Community in America begin preparing for the Kwanzaa Season. It is estimated that more than 30 million Africans in America participate in some sort of Kwanzaa activity or event.
In order for this occurrence to continue, parents, teachers, principles, ministers, business people, and community activists must begin preparation immediately.
The first question, that obviously should be asked in preparation for the 2011 Kwanzaa Season is: “What is Kwanzaa and why is it so important for African people in America to celebrate?”
In 1966, the Black Power explosion shook up America. The call for Black Power was a major shift away from the Civil Rights Movement, during that era.
The Civil Rights Movement had successfully dismantled the system of racial segregation (by law) in the southern region of the United States. However, among the masses of Black people in America, there was a deeper meaning to the idea of freedom, justice and equality that had not been advocated by the Civil Rights Movement. The call for Black Power by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) and others, gave a new impetus for the Black Liberation Movement in America.
When the smoke cleared from the Watts Rebellion in 1965, an organization emerged in the Los Angeles, California area, called US. Its leader was Dr. Maulana Karenga. After intense study of African cultural traditions, Dr. Karenga and the US Organization established the only nationally celebrated, indigenous, non-heroic Black Holiday in the United States and they called it Kwanzaa.
The concept of Kwanzaa was established for Africans in America and was derived from the African custom of celebrating the harvest season.
In Dr. Karenga’s own words he says, “The origin of Kwanzaa on the African continent are in the agricultural celebrations called the ‘first fruits’ celebrations and to a lesser degree the full or general harvest celebration. It is from these first fruit celebrations that Kwanzaa gets its name which comes from the Swahili phrase Matunda Ya Kwanza.”
Further, “...Matunda means fruits and ya Kwanza means first. (The extra “a” at the end of Kwanzaa has become convention as a result of a particular history).”
Kwanzaa is officially celebrated December 26th to January 1st and each day a value of the Nguzo Saba (seven principles of blackness) is celebrated. The Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) are:
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia ~ Self Determination
To define ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves, instead of being defined, named, created for, and spoken for by others.
Ujima ~ Collective Work and Responsibility
To build and maintain our community together, to make our sisters and brothers problems our problems, and to solve them together.
Ujamaa ~ Cooperative Economics
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia ~ Purpose
To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba ~ Creativity
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.
Imani ~ Faith
To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
With the assistance of current Malcolm X President Anthony E. Munroe, the Kwanzaa Celebration Committee, over the past several years, has sponsored Kwanzaa Celebrations and activities during the seven day observance. These celebrations have drawn thousands of people and added to the growing Kwanzaa Movement in the Chicago area.
Kwanzaa is a step in helping African people in America to fulfill the need and desire to be a united people, with a common set of experiences that lead us toward a common set of goals and objectives for freedom, independence and liberation.
Kwanzaa: The Challenges of a New Season
As we enter a New Kwanzaa Season, we must remind ourselves of the continued challenges that we face. The fundamental issue that Africans in America must face is centered around the continued assault by the systems of racism and white supremacy that keeps us in bondage, servitude, and often times, confusion. What is at stake is our survival as a race of people. We must come to grips with the following challenges as we enter a New Kwanzaa Season.
Family Development: There is no question that the African in American family is in major disarray and is in need of major repair. Without strong African in America families, raising and nurturing our children, the future will remain bleak. Families are the foundation for the survival and development of a people. African men and women need to close ranks and reestablish the tradition of strong Black families in America.
Economic Development: Many Africans in America women and men continue to remind us that we earn in excess of 600 billion dollars a year in this country. The tragedy of this economic potential in the African Community in America is that the overwhelming majority of this income we earn, we spend with other people and not with our own. Other people still continue to dominate and maximize profits from our communities for their own advancement. When are we going to stop this awful practice of allowing other people to benefit from the dollars we earn?
Political Development: We have often said that politics is the science of who gets what, when, where, and how. And in this regard, we should recognize that the white power structure and its Black allies are doing everything possible to rupture our continuing movement for Black political empowerment. In electoral politics the lessons are clear. Personality clashes and individual personal conflicts have no place in the world of politics! The only thing that matters is what is best for African people in America. If we don't remain unified politically, we will not benefit from our efforts to increase Black political power in Chicago or in any other cities in which we live.
Cultural Development: Why should other people profit from our artistic and creative endeavors? It is clear that we are a creative people with a unique culture of our own. However, in this area the writers, poets, musicians, dancers, singers, actors, etc. must strive to control what we create and the entire African Community should aggressively support their efforts.
International Affairs: We must work harder to support the struggle of our brothers and sisters in Africa, the Caribbean, and South America in their continued liberation struggle for land and independence.
Historical Discontinuity: It appears the more we are oppressed under the system of racism and white supremacy, the more we forget our history. One generation from the next has difficulty remembering our great struggles, battles, and movements.
Harold Cruse points out in his book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, “The farther the Negro [Black person] gets from his [her] historical antecedents in time, the more tenuous become his conceptual ties, the emptier his [her] social conceptions, the more superficial his visions.”
It must be clear, at this point in history that African people need to determine for ourselves solutions to the many serious problems we face. We should realize going into this New Kwanzaa Season that no one will do for us what we really need to do for ourselves.
It is time we begin providing for ourselves in all areas of life. No longer should we listen and adhere to how other people define us and our struggle. Accomplishing the objective of elevating our struggle to a higher level will require that we become more skilled in organizing our communities toward our liberation and freedom.
As an old African proverb points out, “Those who are dead have not gone forever. They are in the woman’s womb. They are in the child who whimpers.”
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Conrad W. Worrill, PhD, is the National Chairman Emeritus of the National Black United Front (NBUF). Click here to contact Dr. Worrill.