Any set of conceptual, paradigmatic, philosophical, theoretical, or ideological premises, even if supposedly liberatory in origin or intent, if grounded in absolutist premises which pose simplistic responses to complex quandaries, can potentially become instruments of oppression.
One should guard one’s mind accordingly.
Africans in the US are compelled to embrace everyone’s nationalism and liberatory struggle but our own. We are routinely presented with “radical” politics that seek to elevate some group of social actors, while within such configurations we are often fodder or our destiny an enigma.
Many of us in our search for healing, understanding, and purpose have unwittingly taken on ideologies which cultivate aversion and hopelessness. These state that we are alienated from a broader African world community or that African men and women are stark rivals or worse, fetters on our collective welfare. These are poisonous ways of thinking.
One of the most striking challenges of living in a society with “fundamental alienation” as its asili (foundation, essence) is that it infects us on every level. Many of us, in our quest for wholeness & meaning have taken on more of this poison via the ideologies that we imbibe.
We are beset by the fact that the most accessible solutions or answers also happen to be those which are most divergent from an African worldview. As such, we should never be surprised that the most popular or progressive discourses amount to little more than celebrations of alienation. This is why Mama Marimba Ani says that “To be Afrikan is the revolutionary act of our times.” She recognizes being African as an imperative for both personal and social transformation. An African worldview not only informs how we live as individuals, but directs us to reshape the world.
Thus, if we truly understand re-Africanization then, it is not a means for conformity to or within the dominant order. It is an imperative to dismantle a social order that creates and sustains conditions of alienation and to replace it with one that creates and sustains life, power, and health. True re-Africanization then, is nothing short of revolutionary thought and practice.
Language is a carefully maintained border in the domain of social relations wherein power disparities exist between cultural groups. The languages of the colonized may be subject to marginalization, containment, or expungement. They serve as signifiers of inferiority or subordination.
I was walking through the halls of the university and saw a flyer for a Yoga class with the tag line, “find inner peace”. For Africans, is it rational to seek inner peace without also disrupting the condition of isft that envelops us since the personal and social are entwined?
Jacob Carruthers stated that “The Niswt’s overall function, like that of Wosir, is the establishment of Maat in Tawi, i.e., to establish conditions where enlightenment will prevail over ignorance.”
isft is a Kemetic word that can be translated as wrong-doing or disorder.
niswt is the title of the ruler of Kemet. Pharaoh is a foreign term.
wosir is the divinity that the Greeks called Osiris.
tawi was the national name of Kemet. It referred to the united two lands. tawi literally translates as “two lands”.
Many claim that ideology enables us to better see. This is only partially true. Ideology draws our attention to particular things or ideas in such a way that it also blinds. Thus one must resist the seduction of ideological myopia and its reduction of reality to absolutisms.
On this day, January 1, 1804, Africans in Haiti declared their independence from French rule. This day served as one of the most significant historical developments of the 19th Century, not only because it served as a beacon of hope for Africans elsewhere to continue their struggle against European tyranny, not only because it demonstrated the African principle of complementarity–in that African women and men took up arms and marched side-by-side into battle, but also because the Haitian struggle was just as significant philosophically as it was militarily.
In his work The Irritated Genie, Jacob H. Carruthers discusses the philosophical implications of the liberation struggle. He recalls Bookman’s prayer, where Bookman Dutty concludes with the remark, “Throw away the likeness of the white man’s god who has so often brought us to tears and listen to liberty which speaks in all our hearts” (Carruthers 1985, 22). Regarding Bookman’s invocation Carruthers writes, “This evocation on the night of the celebration of the Voodun Spirit, Ogun, the ‘God’ of war, was more than a call to arms; it was even more a summation of the historical experience of the Blacks on the Island of Santo Domingo and indeed the diaspora in general. At the same time, this prayer was not a mere ‘Ideological’ statement, it was all of these, but more importantly it was the expression of an Afrocentric Worldview” (Carruthers 1985, 22-23).
Carruthers thus reminds us that the Haitian struggle was not merely to throw off the yoke of European dominance, but also to create conditions wherein the African way could flourish unperturbed by the military, economic, or epistemological tyranny of Europeans. This is significant because the European campaign to reorder the world has been totalizing in its effects.
The Europeans, since 1440, have been reorganizing the world. The world we now live in was organized by them. They conquered the lands of all continents and unilaterally redesigned the social and biological modes of existence. They changed the course of rivers, removed mountains, and built deserts. They created scarcity in the land of abundance. They moved populations from one continent to another. They created new races. They established themselves as the master race and all others as their servants. They made what they like good and everything else bad. In order to liberate ourselves we must take the world and then reorganize it according to our worldview. Only then will mankind be allowed to live in harmony with the universe. Only then will we be truly free. (Carruthers 1999, 261)
Those daring Africans who took part in the Haitian Revolution were driven by a belief in the possibility that if they acted to seize their freedom, then such actions might bear fruit in the world. Even as they continued to toil under the lash of the French on sugar plantations, they saw their yet unrealized goal of freedom as possible, if only they dared struggle to be free. Their actions were driven by a truth, one which was apparent to them, but not to Europeans. “The truth is that the African people will never permanently be enslaved or oppressed” (Carruther 1985, 111).
This is Imani in its clearest form. What we are struggling for is not for a place within the established order. We are seeking to bring into being a world in our image and interest. It is a struggle to make Maat, the Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) principle of order, harmony, and balance the fundamental truth of our reality. We are therefore working to concretize a vision of the world articulated in Haiti’s monumental accomplishment, a world wherein we as African people are able to determine our own destiny. This is our struggle, and we believe with all our hearts in its ultimate success.
Carruthers, Jacob H. 1985. The Irritated Genie: An Essay on the Haitian Revolution. Chicago: The Kemetic Institute.
Carruthers, Jacob H. 1999. Intellectual Warfare. Chicago: Third World Press.
The mind is endowed with infinite potential. In fact, the mind is the wellspring that has enriched human life since its inception on this planet. When we survey African history, we are continually astounded by the grand potentiality of the human mind, in particular its capacity to create ideas, objects, and conditions that optimize human life.
Today, African people find themselves living in a world shaped by the Maafa—the interrelated process of slavery, colonization, and its legacy. We reside in a world that has been shaped by tyranny and plunder, one wherein the deprivations, campaigns of destabilization, and alienation continue characterize our existence.
We are even taught that we are bereft of possibility, that we have arrived at the end of history, and that the established order—despite its inescapable problems—represents the best possible expression of human potentiality. All of these messages are not happenstance, but have been devised specifically to impoverish our imaginations and deaden our creativity.
However, for those of us who know our history, we know that these things are untrue. We know that our history provides a testament of African ingenuity, and that, as Marcus Garvey has said, “Whatsoever things common to man, that man has done, man can do.” Garvey reminds us that history, beyond being a chronicle of the past, is also a measure of human capacity. Our history is no different, for its reveals to us that we are capable of building vast cities, maintaining effective and just governance, developing ecologically-balanced food systems, preparing our youth to be the stewards of our future, devising profound and stirring art forms, and creating practices and principles that gives the people a powerful and expansive sense of identity, purpose, and direction. In effect, history teaches us what we have been and what we might become. It is the deep well of knowledge that fuels the imagination, and enlivens our creativity, a creativity that once awakened, is boundless in what it can achieve. This is the essence of Kuumba.
A person posed the following question: Since most of our ancestry derives from West Africa, why does African history always focus on Ancient Egypt?
My response: I don’t think that African history only focuses on Egypt (Kemet), however the focus on Egypt among African Americans goes back to the 19th Century, wherein its grand legacy was seen as a means of redeeming the false notion that Africa was devoid of history and that Africans had never created a great civilization. If we were to survey the historiography of 19th and mid-20th Century African American intellectuals, we do see a significant focus on Egypt, but there were also a fair number of intellectuals writing about other, later civilizations; consider for instance Du Bois’s groundbreaking texts The Negro and Black Folks Then and Now, as well as Carter G. Woodson’s The African Background Outlined. All of these texts offer a fairly balanced treatment of Black history.
To be sure, there are critiques to be made of a “lop-sided” focus on Egypt, particularly if such a study does not alleviate our often impoverished knowledge of the rest of Africa. Many argue that as Diasporan Africans, we should be more acquainted with the history of West and Central Africa. I agree with this, but also add that it is important to understand African history as a continuum that spans from ancient Egypt and Nubia to the present day.