When you want to lose a people from history, you first destroy their self-confidence and historical memory. This is the basis of our dilemma: Our enemy wants us to forget who we were so we will not know what we still can be. This statement is really about conflict in culture and self-confidence. Culture, conflict and self-confidence are reoccurring themes in our lives and in the lives of all people. With our people, these themes take on a special meaning. We created the worlds oldest culture, and we act as if we are not aware of this fact. We have a conflict within ourselves about how to use culture as an instrument of liberation. If we had confidence in our culture, the second rate cultures of other people would not fascinate us. What we do not seem to know is that our oppressor, who created the crisis, in most cases is also having a crisis of self-confidence of different nature. The rulers of the world are in trouble because they cannot continue to rule over us. They have developed some skill in taking advantage of our crisis, but we have developed no skill in taking advantage of theirs. We are following a people who do not know where they are going. Among other things, whites are turning to African religions because Africa is the origin of Eastern religions. Europeans are losing confidence in the gods that they sold to us. European rule over the world has been, and still is, a con-game. We are its victims and we can now decide the game is over. Today, many Europeans are turning toward Eastern and African religions and cults, while more blacks are turning to millionaire gospel peddlers like: Jimmy Swaggert and Billy Graham, who are racists. We live in a world of fantasy, searching for someone to love us, when all we need to do is love ourselves. We need to love ourselves so well that we will begin to make the shoes we wear and the rest of the clothes we wear. We should love to run the stores in our community, and we should do so with pride. According to the Chicago poet, Haki Madhabuti, We are the only people who turn our children, over to the enemy to be educated. We should start educating our children ourselves. Powerful people never educate powerless people in how to take their power away from them. Education, as I have said before, has but one honorable purpose; that is to train the student to be a proper handler of power. At first power over himself or herself. Our communities are small nations under siege. They are about to be taken away from us because we do not realize that we have no place to go and must now take a stand. The Way Out The answer to the question: Are we ready for the twenty-first century is both complex and simple. We need to look back at the early part of the twentieth century in order to estimate what we might have to do in the early part of the twenty-first century. Between the United States, the Caribbean Islands, South America and Central America, there are over 200 million African people, not including those who are hiding the fact. Taking into consideration the newly discovered Africans on the islands of the Pacific and in other parts of Asia, there are at least 300 million people of African descent living outside of Africa. The Africans in Africa number at least 500 million. How did we get to be called a minority, anyhow? In the next century, there will be at least a billion African people in the world. We will be the second, if not the first, largest ethnic group in the world. How do we deal with that? We must look into education for nation-management. We cannot leave it to others to let us know about this. We need to listen to the black men that we have not listened to very well: Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey. Pan-Africanism and African world unity is the real answer. The need is not just to unite against some thingbut to unite for something. When we find ourselves, we will have to understand the role we as a people have played in history and still must play. Nation-management is our only hope. As Professor Willard Johnson of Massachusetts Institute of Technology has said, We can change the worldif first we change ourselves. In a nation of immigrants, the black American is really unique. We are the immigrants who came to the Americas After the middle of the nineteenth century, black Americans in the United States were no longer considered to be African. What to call them has always been a dilemma. W.E.B. DUBOiS reminds us that we were brought to America as temporary immigrants, with the assumption that we would eventually be returned to Africa. He also reminds us that our first institutions bore the name African, such as The African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the African Lodge that became, in actuality, the first black Masonic order established in the United States. In the closing years of the nineteenth century, we began to refer to ourselves as colored or negro. However, neither word has any meaning in reference to the national home base of a people. We did not begin to use the word black until the middle of the twentieth century, during the period of the Supreme Courts decision against segregated schools in 1954 and the rise of the Civil Rights movement after the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955. The word African again became part of our conscious speech after the African Independence Explosion, starting with the independence of Ghana in 1957. With the rise of the Black Studies concept following the beginning of the decline of the Civil Rights movement, the word black became more acceptable to a larger number of Americans of African descent. With the same consideration being given to the Pan- African concept, the word African once more became a part of our vocabulary. What the Africans living outside of Africa began to understand, especially those living in the United States, is that we are a nation within a nation still searching for a nationality. Italian- Americans, German-Americans, Asian-Americans, and other hyphenated Americans do not seem to have any problems referring to the country and the land of their geography as part of their heritage. Some of us are just beginning to be comfortable with the word African. Numerically, in the United States, we are more than a nation, although we are sometimes lacking in nation-consciousness. Professor Ivan Van Sertima has said that we have been locked in a 500-year room tragically shielded by a curtain marked Slavery. Our desire to look behind and beyond that curtain is what the concept of Black Studies was all about. We African people of the world, along with the Chinese, are the only people who might number a billion people on the face of the earth. African people are the most dispersed of all of the worlds people. When you consider the fact that between the Caribbean Islands and the large number of African people in South America, especially Brazil, which has the largest number of African people living outside of Africa, there are at least 200 million African people in the Western hemisphere. When you consider the large number of African people in Asian countries and on the Pacific Islands, there are more than 100 million African people living in the Eastern hemisphere. This does not include the 100 million people living in India, referred to in a recent book as the Black Untouchables. There is a need now to read or reread Sir Godfrey Higgins book, Anacalypsis, originally published in 1833, which deals with the dispersion of African people throughout the world. Our presence and the culture that we have created have influenced the whole world. Because of racism and the colonization of the information about history, we are considered strangers among the worlds people and called many different names in the many places where we live. The name that is applicable to all of us, wherever we live on this earth, is African. Whats in a name? Shakespeare said, in effect, A rose by any other name is just as sweet. That is all right when you are dealing with roses, but when you deal with people you have to be more precise. Jesse Jacksons announcement that black people in the United States should be called Africans caused me to sigh with some boredom and ask, What else is new? I, personally like Jesse Jackson and have no fight with him in this regard. His remarks and the numerous radio and TV talk shows that recently discussed the name prove to me that the public pays more attention to politicians than they do to scholars. Since the mass forced emigration of Africans outside of Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, during the slave trade, which contributed to the economic recovery of Europe after the Middle Ages, African people in one way or the other have been searching for their African selves. What we need to learn here is that in the European conquest and colonization of most of the non-European world, they also colonized information about the world. They knew then what most of us dont seem to know now: You cannot successfully oppress a conscious historical people. Once a people knows who they are, they will also know what they have to do about their condition. To make a people almost assume that oppression is their natural lot, you have to remove from them the respectful commentary of their history and make them dependent on the history of their conquerors. To infer that a people have no history is also to infer that they have no humanity that you are willing to recognize. African people the world over need a definition of history that can be operational in different places at different times and operational everywhere African people live. Because we are the most dispersed people on the face of the earth, our operational definition of history must be universal in scope, applicable to people in general, and to African people specifically. This is my definition: I repeat, “history is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. The role of history is to tell a people what they have been and where they have been, what they are and where they are.” The most important role that history plays is telling a people where they still must go and what they still must be. No people can move into the mainstream of history and be respected when they answer to an ethnic name not of their choosing and worship a God-concept not of their choosing. All people develop within a culture container that includes their geographical background, their religion, and their method of surviving in their original habitat. When you take a people out of the cultural surroundings in which they originally developed, you take away part of their humanity. African people living outside of Africa are so obsessed with surviving under conditions that they did not create that they often lack a universal view of their condition and how it started. The writer, Lerone Bennett, Jr., has said,
We have been named, we should now become namers. In the process of reconsidering ourselves and our role in world history, our initial assignment is to find the proper name for ourselves. The name colored means nothing because all people are colored, one way or another. The name negro should mean nothing to us because there is no such race of people or person. Some Spaniard or Portuguese took a descriptive adjective and made a noun out of it. We as a people are neither a noun nor an adjective. Those who responded, pro or con, to Jesse Jacksons suggestion that we use the name African also clearly indicated that they had not read any of the reasonably large body of literature on the subject. Among some of our scholars this debate has been going on for almost 200 years with small audiences that obviously did not understand the nature of the debate. There are times that when a people answer to a name that they did not choose for themselves they fall into a condition that they also did not choose. If you answer to the name dog, in some ways you will become a dog. Over 100 years before the abolition of slavery, our scholars were addressing themselves to this situation. They were close enough to the name African to have no compunction about using it. This is a late seventeenth and early twentieth century debate. The Brazilian abolitionists of African descent argued among themselves whether they were Brazilians or Brazilian-Africans. Paul Cuffe, the first black American sea captain was very clear about his African name and his African heritage. In the non-fictional historical writings of our first novelist, William Wells Brown, the word Ethiopian was often used synonymously with African and black as though they were interchangeable. I now refer to the book, Search for a Place, that contains Martin Delanys report on the NigerNew England blacks emerged, they mainly used the name African in their writings and references to African people. When the Barbadian, Prince Hall, founded the first black Masonic order, he called it the African Lodge. When Richard Allen and other black religious dissidents founded the independent black church, they called this church The African Methodist Episcopal Church. Our first stage comedians were often referred to as the African clowns or the Ethiopian rascals. Edward Wilmot Blyden, in his famous inaugural address at Liberia College, in 1881, spoke of the images about ourselves that were created by other peoples interpretation of what we are and what we should be. Dr. Blyden said in his address: We shall be obliged to work for many years to come without the sympathy or understanding we need to have. He also said that we as a people are in revolt against the descriptions of African people in travelogues, textbooks and in journals by missionaries and mercenaries. He further explained that we often strive to be those things most unlike ourselves, feeding grist into other peoples mills instead of our own. He concludes, Nothing comes out except what has been put in and that, then, is our great sorrow. Professor Blyden continued this emphasis in other works like, On African Customs, and his greatest and best-known work, Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race. In the closing years of the nineteenth century, when George Washington Williams was writing the first formal history of the African people in the United States, The History of the Negro Race in the United States, he introduced the book with an argument he seemed to be having with himself about the word African as opposed to negro. He must have lost the debate with himself, because in spite of favoring the word African he used negro throughout the two-volume work. The greatest intellect, in my opinion, that we have produced outside of Africa emerged in the closing years of the nineteenth century. His name is W.E.B. DUBOiS. His book, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States was published by Harvard University Press. Booker T. Washington and his educational theory of self-reliance emerged during the same period. These two minds, using different words and methods, guided the Africans in the United States into the twentieth century. We were now using the word negro or colored in order to distinguish ourselves from the Africans living in Africa and those living outside of Africa. However, the word negro was not extensively used in the Caribbean Islands nor in South America. In his famous appeal of 1829, David Walker had used the word colored. In our publications and documents the name negro became our new mark of identity, as reflected in publications like the Negro Year Book, edited at Tuskegee Institute by Monroe Work. In 1915, when Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and later the Negro History Bulletin, Africans in the United States were more or less settled on the word negro. The literary movement of the 1920s, sometimes called The Negro Renaissance or the Harlem Renaissance, had its emphasis in two different places: one in the reclaiming of the African past and the other in surviving the conditions that African people had to live under in the United States, the Caribbean Islands, and in South America. Interests merged at this point and some intellectuals began to think of a Pan-African movement that would encompass all the African people of the world. In 1927 the Jamaican, Raphael Powell, seriously questioned the use of the work negro in his book, The Human Side of a People and the Right Name. Mr. Powell dedicated his book to the human race, especially to those who have been taught to believe that they are other than what they are and to those who will think with a mind of reason, logic and common sense …. Mr. Powells opinion was that Ethiopian was co-ordinate with Mongolian, Malay, Indian and Caucasian as ethnic labels and that the word negro was not only a superfluous term but one that carried with it a connotation of contempt, opprobrium and inferiority. Mr. Powell further stated, Biblical literature has not a single reference to black men as negroes although black men figure repeatedly in Bible lore. He said, In Africa, as elsewhere, neither color nor language can serve as criteria of the homogeneity of race. From Willis Huggins Forward to this book, I extract the following quotes: If not strange, it is at least unique, that American-born Africans became negroes in common parlance, while American-born Europeans, or Asiatics, remain Italians, Poles, Koreans, Japanese or Tibetans. Although it is too late for peoples of African descent to trace their lineage to any particular African tribe, yet for all that, they remain Africans. What is needed in this matter is new education; unbiased instruction which should lead to the recognition of particular African peoples for what they are, i.e., Basutos, Buandas, Nubiaris, Senegalese. Dr. Huggins summation of Raphael Powells finding is that this will require the preparation of simple texts in ethnology and anthropology by experts and there placed in the common schools and used in lecture forums. Mr. Powell continued his inquiry in other books, No Black-White Church and The Common Sense Conception of the Race Problem. Dr. Huggins further stated that, Mr. Powell is on the right track in running down the word, negro for he sees that just as the word Aryan has come to plague Western Europe today; he predicts that the word negro will rise in the future as a plague to America and the Western world. Mr. Powells book is the first extensive investigation into the semantics of race as it refers to African people. In the early 1960s Harlem bookstore owner and political activist, Richard B. Moore, formed a committee to tell the truth about the word negro. Mr. Moore and his committee were of the opinion that the word needed to be dropped from our vocabulary as having no relevance to the identification of a people. In his book, The Name Negro, Its Origin and Evil Use, he said, Slaves and dogs are named by their masters. Free men name themselves. Mr. Moore further stated that the proper name of any people must relate to land, history and culture. He emphasized that black tells you how you look, but it does not tell you what you are. Africa is the home of a variety of people, of many shades and colors, but mainly they are black.