Jacob H. Carruthers and the Restoration of an African Worldview: Finding Our Way through the Desert

Finding Our Way Through the Desert: Jacob H. Carruthers and the Restoration of an African Worldview offers a critical examination of the ideas and work of Carruthers, a key architect of the African-centered paradigm and a major contributor to its application to the study of Nile Valley culture and civilization. Herein, Kamau Rashid explicates some of Carruthers’s principal contributions, the theoretical and practical implications of his work, and how Carruthers’s work is situated in the stream of Black intellectual genealogy. Essential to this book are Carruthers’s concerns about the vital importance of Black intellectuals in the illumination of new visions of future possibility for African people. The centrality of African history and culture as resources in the transformation of consciousness and ultimately the revitalization of an African worldview were key elements in Carruthers’s conceptualization of two interrelated imperatives—the re-Africanization of Black consciousness and the transformation of reality. Composed of three parts, this book discusses various themes including Black education, disciplinary knowledge and knowledge construction, indigenous African cosmologies, African deep thought, institutional formation, revolutionary struggle, history and historiography to explore the implications of Carruthers’s thinking to the ongoing malaise of African people globally.

Order here: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781793608505/Jacob-H-Carruthers-and-the-Restoration-of-an-African-Worldview-Finding-Our-Way-through-the-Desert

Capoeira to Cultivate the Body, Mind, and Spirit

I taught Capoeira this morning. I gave each student a homework assignment based on things that they did during class. The homework assignments related to movement skills, coordination, or motor control.

I maintain that many of the things that we do within Capoeira actually impacts our lives outside of Capoeira. That is, the comportment (i.e., the embodiment) of the Capoeirista occasions changes in how our minds and bodies relate to movement. Capoeira teaches proprioception (i.e., bodily awareness) laying a basis for improving our coordination and control. The skills that Capoeira teaches are transferable to things both mental and physical. The assignments that I gave, while on the surface pertain to the use of the body, also, necessarily relate to the cultivation of the mind and spirit. I feel that such holistic cultivation is a uniquely powerful aspect of this art.

Blade as the apex of late 20th Century cinema

They are calling Blade ahead of its time. I never saw it like that. To me it was a quintessential reflection of the times in which it was created. It echoed themes from a lot of the science fiction/action cinema of the late 20th Century:
-A shadowy cabal seeks to control the destiny of humanity
-Martial arts a central to its visual spectacle
-Guns, guns, guns…and swords
-An ambiguous hero who reflects a loss of faith in moral purity
-A protagonist who epitomizes coolness, wittiness, and masculinity

Again, I think Blade actually aptly reflected its times. I think that this is why they are struggling so to reboot it. What cultural material can such a film draw upon today that would be equally compelling? Blade represented the culmination of a range of cultural themes which had been expressed in cinema since the 1970s. I believe that this is why it was so beloved, and also why, it cannot be easily duplicated–after all, even the sequels of Blade fell short of the magic of the first film. Though this image from the promotional material for the second film was pretty amazing.

Fabrications of Consciousness

I saw Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One yesterday. In the film, AI is the antagonist. One of the primary threats discussed throughout is the ability for conflict and chaos to be created and sustained through the manipulation of information.

This is an apt film for the times in which we live where many people’s capacity to discern what is true and false, what is a fact or an opinion, what is credible or non-credible is virtually non-existent. Ideas have consequences and erroneous ideas can have grave ones. This is especially so as we hurtle towards a future where scientific and political literacy become ever more important in order to make sense of a rapidly changing world.

African spirituality eschews abstraction

I came across a post on a social media site which featured a video of what appeared to be an African American woman thanking God for slavery, which supposedly saved her from being somewhere in Africa worshiping a tree. A commentator who re-shared this post indicated that he would rather worship a tree since trees are, after all, real.

His was a good commentary on the logic of African spirituality, that is that it eschews abstraction and elevates that which gives life to the status of the divine. After all, why shouldn’t humans worship the trees, the sun, the earth, and those other things upon which life depends?

Below I list a few examples of how Africans recognized nature as divine from the Akan, Igbo, and Yorùbá traditions.

DivinityAspect of natureCulture/tradition
AnyanwuSunIgbo
Asase YaaEarthAkan
AlaEarthIgbo
Ṣàngó (Changó, Shango, Xangô)LighteningYorùbá
AmadiohaLightening and thunderIgbo
Nana Adade KofiLightening and ironAkan
Ògún (Ogun, Ogum)IronYorùbá
Ọ̀ṣun (Oshun, Ochún, Oxúm)River, fertilityYorùbá

Maat or Isft

Black/African people have a deep ethical tradition that is not only ancient, but is one that has largely survived our experiences of slavery and colonialism. Despite this, there are many who wish to assert that decadence is our way, that degeneracy is the essence of who we are as a people. These people have not only unmoored themselves from history, they have accepted a falsified consciousness of who we are.

Spirituality and revolution

There is an imperative for social change that is articulated in the spiritual systems of many African cultures. The demands for honesty, righteous character, service to one’s community, frugality and restraint, reciprocity, discernment, and sacrifice are not merely matters of personal, spiritual cultivation. Nor are they born of a lack of concern for the physical world that we inhabit. These are commitments that require a parallel commitment to self-transformation and the revisioning of the world.

For instance, to be mAa xrw (true of voice) in a world awash in the currency of lies can be costly. But this is a necessary disposition if isft (wrong-doing) is to be appropriately understood and corrected. To strive towards the practice of mdw nTr (divine speech) is not only a matter of seeking to build bridges between the kmtwy (African/Black people) of the present world and the deep thought of their ancestors. mdw nTr, as a body of living practice, requires that the world be refashioned wherein alienation is not an inevitable outcome of the human condition.

There are other, innumerable examples, but I submit to you that only WE can save us, and that our culture is one of the most underutilized assets in this struggle.

Nature, humanity, and the divine

A few days ago I posted something about the implications of the desacralization of nature and the erosion of humans’ relationship with it. I was happy to see that this topic was recently addressed on the Medicine Shell. The reality is that not only was Africa historically wealthy in terms of our ancestors’ knowledge of nature, but also their ability to apply such wisdom in ways which were sustainable. The loss or suppression of this knowledge vis-á-vis enslavement, colonization, globalization, and modernization–all processes of westernization–have not only attenuated our connection to the natural world as a people, but have limited our consciousness to a paradigm of life where nature is seen only for its extractive, instrumental value–a form of relation that has and will continue to be disastrous for humanity.