Kheper and Maat: The Kemetic conception of the consubstantiality of the cosmos and humanity (an excerpt)

Yet we are reminded of Dr. Carruthers’s thinking about centrality of Maat as a governing principle in the affairs of humanity. Maat provided the basis for Kemetic governance, established the form and character of Kemetic deep thought, established the conceptual framework from which the Kemetyu (people of Kemet) studied the cosmos, and so on. Thus Maat’s role in the terrestrial (ty gbb or Earthly) sphere, like her role in the celestial, was the establishment of transcendent order. This is even apparent in periods of calamity or social upheaval, where Maat is invoked as the natural condition, which subsequent to the expulsion of isfet (disorder), must be restored. The ontological significance of this point cannot be understated, for while Maat is the antithesis of isfet, Maat is the natural and optimal condition of the world. Isfet is an aberration, one that can only be corrected via Maat’s reascension.

Just as Kheper represents an iterative cycle, this cycle is bound within the ethical and cosmological framework of Maat. And while the disruption of Maat may occasion the dominance of isfet during periods of crisis, isfet was always perceived as an ephemeral condition. This view was based on the worldview of the Kemetyu which viewed time on both the cosmic and social scales, cosmic time pertaining to the grand scale of happenings since the sep tepy, and social time pertaining to the affairs of humanity. These were not opposing temporal frameworks, as the sep tepy was frequently invoked as a standard via which Kemetic society could be measured. This is also evident with the invocation of weheme mesu (the repetition of the birth), which like the invocations of sep tepy called for a restoration of Maat in national life. This circumstance offers the greatest profundity with respect to the significance of these ideals for African people today.

Taking the easy way out: White saviors and Black education

Black children don’t need White teachers who believe that they are saviors. Black children need the system of White supremacy to be annihilated so that problem of structural racism can be addressed definitively. Sadly people are more interested in being domestic missionaries in Black communities than dealing with the system which creates and sustains conditions of oppression. This is, after all, much easier and much less dangerous than confronting White recalcitrance, privilege, and hostility.

To put it more clearly, Black folks are quite capable of solving our problems. We are, unfortunately, beset by a system which has worked in wondrous ways to constrain our capacity. One fine example of this is the assassination of Black leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His death is hardly anomalous, but is merely an echo of the global tyranny rained down upon Black leaders who have had the audacity to insist that African/Black land, labor, and resources were theirs to use as they would; that Black folks have, like all other people, a basic right to self-determination. These assassinations were the opening salvo for more destructive campaigns which have effectively crushed movement after movement for self-determination domestically and around the world. It is the height of hypocrisy to revere Dr. King, while failing to recognize the call for radical social transformation that he advocated for when he said, “The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”

Again, Black folks don’t need White missionaries. We need liberation, and White folks desirous of “making a difference” should start by dismantling the system that benefits them and hurts us so greatly. Their unwillingness to collectively embrace such a struggle is proportional to their irrelevance to our efforts.

Imani (Faith)

 

There is an African proverb that says “We must act as if it is impossible to fail.” This means that we cannot allow fear and doubt to diminish our spirit. Success is not just a matter of physical action, but it is also a matter of mental clarity and spiritual resolve. By mental clarity I am referring to the quality of a mind that is at peace, untroubled. Spiritual resolve is the intense focus of one’s entire being, an inner resonance that delivers a sense of affirmation that one’s actions are just, one’s path true. Faith therefor is our ability to both overcome the fetters that might sap our will, in addition to our capacity to cultivate a character of determination. In this sense, faith is not simply a matter of belief, but is also a living practice, the elimination of doubt, fear, worry, disbelief, and the like through the regular engagement with and affirmation of reality.

For us this reality is quite simple. Watu wetu ni katika vita! Our people are at war, and have been since the beginning of the Maafa—the interrelated processes of slavery, colonialism, and their aftermath. Imani or faith provides the resolve and clarity to press on, to carry on struggle, to thrive to succeed despite the seemingly impossible odds against us. Imani is a belief in our highest potential, a belief that nothing can stand against us. It is a belief that we, when fully determined, are incapable of failure.

Heri za Kwanzaa.

Kuumba

Each of us, no matter how small, how young, how old, and so forth possess unique talents, gifts, insights, and abilities that if directed towards the aim of our liberation provides a rich and valued contribution. This is part of Kuumba, acknowledging that we all have role to play in our struggle, and dedicating ourselves to this. Some of us will contribute as storytellers, musicians, and poets. Some of us will contribute as architects, scientists, and doctors. Others will contribute as lawyers, educators, scholars, and so forth. Ultimately, whatever the form of our contribution, we must all aim to leave our community better as a result of our efforts.

This is particularly significant if we look at the principle of Kuumba historically. When Marcus Garvey had assessed the paucity of African power and determined to change this by creating the Universal Negro Improvement Association, this was applied Kuumba. His example is notable because he sought to build all of the social systems needed to ensure the survival of African people. We would do well to study the legacy of Garvey and the many others who have applied their genius to solving the malaise of the African World Community.

Kuumba is the application of creative intelligence to the transformation of the African world.

Heri za Kwanzaa (Happy Kwanzaa)!

Nia

“Dr. Anderson Thompson states for a people to lose their culture – the knowledge of who they are – they lose the very foundations upon which their individual existence and their society is based. For African people, this loss must be offset by way of the African Principle. The African Principle equips and guides each African person with a grand vision of the future; this is a vision extending beyond personal interests. As such it becomes the embodiment of the vital interests and moral foundations of the African world community. Ultimately, the African Principle equips and guides each African person towards a grand vision of the future.

This grand vision of the future articulates where we are going as a people. It provides a framework via which each of us might understand our role and contribution. It provides a focal point for our collective consciousness—attuning us to the most pressing questions that we face, and marshaling our intellectual and material resources to address them. A grand vision of the future moves us beyond the tendency to drift aimlessly in a sea of other people’s priorities and worldview. It places us squarely on African ground, from which we can define reality for ourselves, and from this point of clarity—reshape the world.”

-From “Anderson Thompson, Intellectual Warfare, and the Foundations of the Chicago School of African-Thought” by Kamau Rashid

Ujamaa

I have often lamented the fact that I went through undergrad and grad school (two times) and came out at the end of each process looking for a job. I’m not saying that seeking employment was equivalent to failure, but no job will provide the type of economic development that OUR communities need anywhere in the world.

Our communities are characterized by what Walter Rodney called “underdevelopment”. They have been exploited by the avarice white supremacy and capitalism. Many of us, stricken by the psycho-social malady that Kobi Kambon calls “cultural mis-orientation”, in addition to physical assaults, displacement, and structural change have been constrained in our ability to martial a collective response to this condition. Nonetheless, we know, just as our ancestors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries knew, that our collective fortunes, our ability to be self-sufficient, our ability to refine and defend ourselves and our culture is contingent on us controlling our economies.

Thus Ujamaa–cooperative economics–is and remains an imperative, one that we must model in our families, our educational institutions, our religious institutions, and in every space that we inhabit. This does not have to be an abstract affair. Growing food in a garden teaches us the importance of feeding ourselves on a larger scale. What’s more, it teaches the skills, that when scaled up, enable for us to cobble together a potential food system. Studying “alternative medicine”, creating programmatic and institutional models for promoting physical and mental well-being enables us to begin building a community-based health system, one that when networked to other systems–including allopathic systems with Black healthcare professionals–teaches us the value and necessity of caring for ourselves. Ultimately, whether we are focused on any of the six levels of institution building (as taught by the Council of Independent Black Institutions)–education, food, shelter, clothing, health care, and defense–we are engaged in the process of nationbuilding. This is what Ujamaa teaches. This is what it necessitates. Taking small steps now can lead to magnificent accomplishments in the future.

Heri za Kwanzaa Jamaa (Happy Kwanzaa Family)!

Kujichagulia

Our movement has been defined by constant and incessant acts of self-determination. Whether we are referring to the maroon tradition among enslaved Africans in the Western hemisphere, the Stono Rebellion of 1739, the declaration of Haitian independence in 1804, Denmark Vessey’s planned insurrection of 1822, Harriet Tubman’s defiant quest to free enslaved Africans, Martin R. Delany’s work in support of emigration and nationalism in the mid-1800s, Benjamin “Pap” Singleton’s support of the Black Exodusters in the 1870s and Black emigration abroad in the 1880s, Marcus Garvey’s work to empower the global African community, Drusilla Dunjee Houston’s contribution to the reclamation of African history, Carter G. Woodson’t declaration that mis-education is the dominant institutionalized form of socialization afforded to Africans in America, Kwame Ture’s 1966 call for Black Power, Black people in the U.S. recognizing themselves as an African people, the movement for Re-Africanization that ensued with great ernest in the 1960s in the context of the Black Power Movement, the Republic of New Afrika’s declaration of independence on March 31, 1968, the Black independent schools movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the creation of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations in the 1980s, and so on. We continue to engage in acts of Kujichagulia (self-determination). Declaring our commitment to reclaim our culture and restore our sovereignty are acts of self-determination.

Umoja

Heri za Kwanzaa Jamaa (Happy Kwanzaa family)! A long, long time ago, when I was first introduced to Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba this is how I learned Umoja: To strive for and maintain unity on seven levels: self, family, neighborhood, community, nation, race, and world.

Let’s practice Umoja in all that we do, recognizing that unity is strength, and that the various differences between us are not unbridgeable chasms. They are a ground of struggle that enables us to forge even stronger bonds that steel our resolve against our enemies, both internal and external, who would act to undermine the well-being of our people.

Kwanzaa as a reflection upon past and future

Originally printed in the newsletter of Indigo Homeschool Association.

Kwanzaa represents a contribution to the on-going process of re-Africanization that many Africans in the U.S have been undertaking in the wake of the maafa—the interrelated processes of enslavement, colonialism, and their aftermaths. Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, sought to create a shared cultural experience among Africans in the United States that would serve to remind them of their African heritage, reinforce values which would serve to advance their struggle for liberation, and demonstrate the capacity of a self-determining people to create moments in time and space where they declare their intent to reflect upon themselves, their legacy, and their future.

The experience of Africans in the U.S. has been characterized as an incessant assault upon their minds, bodies, and institutions. Yet despite these efforts we have consistently looked back, struggling to reclaim an African heritage many thought lost to us. This is evident in the 19th Century when Martin R. Delany attempted to lay claim to ancient Egypt as a quintessentially Black civilization. In fact Delany’s 1859 visit to west Africa was an attempt to establish a settlement for African Americans desirous of leaving the U.S. Thus Delany’s efforts represent a process of looking back and forwards to Africa—looking back for the African American past, and looking forward for the African American future.
In short, Kwanzaa provides an occasion to engage in such lofty reflection. It enables us to take account of our past deeds, and to commit ourselves to a future which seeks to restore African people to their traditional greatness.