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AllEyesOnDC

Building a Black Nation, One Post at a Time

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December 2016

Black Liberals, Their Use of “Hotep” and “Ankh-Right,” and a Denial of Nation Building’s Merits

PHOTO: A necklace of the ankh, a Kemetic hieroglyph meaning eternal life. The word ankh has recently become a new tool in insults levied against Black people seeking African consciousness./ Courtesy 

Earlier this week, the third day of Kwanzaa, named for the principle of Ujima, a Kiswahili word meaning collective work and responsibility in the African community, turned into somewhat of a nightmare – and ultimately a re-awakening for this author – when Dr. Umar Johnson, an electrifying, yet polarizing figure in the Pan-African community, released a 45-minute video diatribe aimed at his rival General Sera Suten Seti, a Detroit-based speaker with whom he has had problems for some time.

Johnson’s curse word-laden tirade, filmed in a Florida hotel room, caused quite a stir on social media throughout much of Wednesday and Thursday, especially among Black liberal academics and social commentators who spoke of a “Hotep Civil War.” While most in the “conscious community” chose not to give the squabble much credence, several self-proclaimed Pan-Africanists and leftist Blacks quickly condemned the actions of the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pan-Africanism,” saying he made a fool of himself.

For a few seconds, it appeared that the ilk of Black people in whom the good doctor had found fans and liberal Blacks, many of whom have used “Hotep” and more recently “ankh-right” in their descriptions of folks with Pan-African leanings, could agree on at least one thing — the cult of leadership that inflated Dr. Umar Johnson and General Seti’s egos – and has often led to the impotency of several local and national Black movements in recent decades – definitely impedes our fight for liberation.

Unfortunately, this is the furthest the relationship between those with Pan African leanings and liberal Blacks will ever go if the latter continues to tarnishes Hotep – the Kemetic greeting for peace – and the ankh, the Kemetic hieroglyphic that signifies eternal life, in their dismissive statements about Black people yearning to get in touch with their African roots.

Such a choice of words shows a disregard for an ancient history taken away from African people. Yes, even continental Africans lost modern-day Egypt when the U.S. Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan and other Western leaders created the “Middle East” in the early 20th century. Thousands of years earlier, the Romans and Greeks ransacked Kemet and took many of her possessions. Today, Hollywood warps history, whitening the ancient Black people responsible for mathematics, science, and medicine.

Of course, those of us who consider ourselves somewhat conscious know that we don’t have a direct lineage to Egypt. We also know that American slavery is not the non-melanated people’s first time murdering and stealing from melanated people. Linking the institution of slavery to colonialism on the African continent and Kemet’s fall, helps us find a common oppressor while aiding in the spiritual journey that’s Knowledge of Self.

Many of us who study Egypt, even if for a second, develop an intellectual understanding of the Abrahamic religions that I would respectfully argue goes well beyond that of a good number of Afrikan pastors. Additionally, they are often more accepting of other spiritual systems, including the Yoruba, Akan, Dogon, Voudon, and others.

It’s my hope that Black liberals, and any other group of Black people that has disdain for proponents of African-centered culture, get to embrace their African heritage. Knowledge of Self is a personal process that opens the door to more spiritually fulfilling professional opportunities and connectivity to African people that every Black person should have, even if they don’t feel like attending every study circle or healing circle in the world. In many cases, it also makes one more independently minded.

To the credit of those who critique Pan-Africanism, globalization doesn’t quite afford Black people the privilege of separating from the rest of the world, especially because we don’t control any major resources. In the United States, the racial and ethnic make-up of U.S. residents, particularly those of African descent, has drastically changed since the wave of African independence in the 1950s and 60s. Today, African and Caribbean immigrants and their children count among a significant segment of the Black population in the U.S. Their ties to their home nation and its distinctive culture might not make Pan-Africanism, a call for the collective to unite under one banner, alluring.

For the so-called African American, the United States has somewhat of a misleading position as a stable and developed country. Albeit the signs that all that might be coming to an end within a generation, many descendants of the enslaved Africans who toiled this land feel like they’ve earned a place here. While somewhat noble, this mindset has in part conflicted with the gains that African-centered institutions made in the post-Civil Rights era to create an African identity in the U.S. that combats the poisonous caricature of Black man and womanhood inflicted on our children daily.

Our reverence for our ancestors’ sacrifices on American soil shouldn’t negate our need to connect and organize with our brothers and sisters across the globe. Just as young people are fighting police forces in the U.S., young men and women across the Diaspora are going toe to toe with their elected officials, some of whom have U.S. backing. I’m not afraid, nor have I ever been afraid, to admit that Dr. Umar made me privy to these connections somewhat.

However, that doesn’t mean that he, the men, and sometimes women, who Black liberals, including the authors of the widely popular Very Smart Brothas blog, call “Hoteps” aren’t without fault. Their need to boast about their “wokeness” speaks to this.

However, they don’t represent the entire African-centered community. In the interest of preventing the cult of leadership mentioned earlier, people who consider themselves conscious must hold the usual suspects – misogynists, the historically inaccurate, and the often hypocritical – responsible for their actions.

As far as African-centered organizing and nation building in the 21st century is concerned, many of us shouldn’t be close minded to some of what the present day offers. We should also understand, and embrace, nuance in our scholarship so that we don’t create a narrow-minded definition of a truly African-centered lifestyle. Many an organization have crumbled by turning off well-meaning Black people trying to find themselves in this twisted society.

No fellow Africans, I’m not asking us to hide who we are as a people. I’m not telling our people to put down to the RBG flag, to cease all mention of our ancestors or practice of African spiritual activity. I’m arguing that the dearth of intellectual gymnastics among members of the Youtube generation and a disregard for fresh discussions about various aspects of this liberation movement will hinder us.

If we’re to ever realize Nguzo Saba and become a global African nation, organization must be scientific and inclusive of all all aspects – including financial, agricultural, health, and education. It’s time to move beyond the smoke and mirror of social media conscious stardom. Doing so requires using the confidence that comes with that knowledge to launch long-term projects that move us closer to self-determination. It also requires us to be good representatives of the so-called conscious community in the way we spread our message. Not everyone will like us but they should never have to say that we’re disrespectful.

These days, the stakes are higher for African people in the United States, especially now that even some Blacks with Pan-African leanings have, jokingly, used “hotep” and “ankh right” to deride Johnson and others. This proves dangerous at a time when Pan-Africanism is under attack, not only from outside forces, but from those who consider themselves Black.

Shortly after Donald J. Trump’s ascent to the White House, a couple Black thought leaders spouted messages with xenophobic undertones like that in the president-elect’s campaign speeches. For example, Yvette Carnell of Breaking Brown remixed a conservative talking point about immigrants taking low-paying jobs, telling African Americans that to succeed as a group, they need to ignore a bloc that includes continental Africans, Carribbean people, Afro-Latinos, and other Black immigrants. In a later Facebook post, she mocked Pan-Africanism as a relic of the past that has no significance today.

But how can that be the case when Africans across the globe suffer just as badly, if not worse in some cases, as our ancestors in our interactions with the oppressor? Just like we share a common lineage, we have a common enemy in racism, capitalism, neocolonialism, war, and any other tool used to keep our people under siege globally. Kujichagulia, the Kiswahili word for self-determination and second principle of Kwanzaa, speaks to African people breaking free of those chains and controlling their own economies, governments, and schools without any exploitative influence from outside actors.

Personally, I don’t take most critiques of Pan-Africanism or Black Nationalism negatively these days. Rather, maybe because of a fervently curious mind that has taken me many places, I take those opportunities to develop my craft as a journalist and educator so that the concept of Pan-Africanism becomes clearer for my people and works even more wonders in my life and organizing work. That’s all AllEyesOnDC has been: a tour of my ever-evolving millennial mind.

In closing, I say to those brothers and sisters who continue to use “hotep” and “ankh-right” in their talks about African-centered Black people, understand that yes, we hear you, but you’re still losing out on an opportunity to deepen your community work and advocacy on behalf of Black people. Please learn to see those men you call “hotep” as just flawed people, not representatives of an entire movement. Shoot, just gain some international context for what’s going on in the U.S. and I guarantee you’ll see Knowledge of Self much differently.

At least I hope so.

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How an Understanding of Race as a Social Construct Strengthens the Call for Black Liberation

A depiction of Bacon’s Rebellion, the 1676 event believed to usher the start of the racial caste system that legitimized the enslavement of African people in the United States./ http://www.history.com 

In most of the mature conversations about race I’ve participated in, both sides have acknowledged the U.S. racial caste system to be a farce, designed to keep the multi-ethnic, disenfranchised majority from uniting against the One Percent. At that point in the discussion, the party who’s determined to organize solely with Black people, myself in many cases, must answer the question of whether this fact changes how they fight for Black liberation.

After engaging in many discussions and deliberating in my private time, I would say no and yes.

Knowing that the Elites created the concept of race in the U.S. doesn’t discourage me from solely organizing with Black people on several fronts. The global Black race’s survival depends on our ability to do for self, whether that’s in Liberia against impeding foreign investors or in D.C. amid mass gentrification. As a reporter, if I want my people to survive, I must do my part by writing about and reporting on issues concerning Black people in D.C., the U.S., and abroad. As an educator, I must teach Black, and Latino, children about our common African heritage.

This mission for Black self-determination equally applies in the home. My beau is a Black woman. I will eventually become the head of a Black family. My life is beautifully Black, more so because of my passion for combating the all-out assault on Black people in this country and abroad.

This begs the question of whether, by overtly celebrating and protecting my Blackness, I’m becoming a prisoner of the very box that I’m trying to escape. By solely organizing with Black people, am I participating in the race war that the Elites are creating from afar? By echoing my warrior ancestors’ call for a united African nation, am I just as evil as the white people who want to exterminate my race? These are real questions that often come from friends, colleagues, strangers, and whoever else asks about what some would consider my obsession with living Black.

To them, I say that by affirming my African heritage in this pseudo-racial caste system, I redefine Blackness. Coming to terms with my precarious status as a so-called first-generation Black American helped me realize this. As a teenager in what was once called Chocolate City, I often felt that I had to choose between being a Liberian and being a Black American. At the George Washington University, I saw similar schisms between continental and diasporic Africans. Such experiences further compelled me to live an honestly Black live in this country and reject any temptation to let go of Mama Africa.

While not directly affected by the U.S.’ slave-holding history, by being born and raised in the United States, I’m subject to the laws, standards, and Eurocentric thinking created to impede African American progress. In my adolescent years, I had to decide between adhering to the cultural norms that my parents taught me, or following the way of life prescribed to my peers through BET videos and misinformation from malignant media sources and traumatized people. To be totally fair, the young African-American men I grew up with, many of whom came from loving homes despite what the media tried to tell my Liberian-born parents, had to make the same decisions despite their upbringing.

Making that connection between me and my friends showed me that as a young African man in the Babylon system, your home life didn’t matter to an extent if it wasn’t centered in an African cultural identity or a yearning for such. If the definition of Black as given by America has no positive semblance of Africa, both continental and diasporic Africans struggling to find their way will suffer in the end by strictly adhering to those values.

By stepping outside of the ethnocentric box that America created for Black people, we can tap into our African heritage and learn about a history beyond slavery that confirms our humanity and divinity. Our ancestors who walked this land during the rise of the American empire had similar goals, despite the Babylon system’s efforts to wipe away memories of those movements.

In recent years, I’ve gained a more globalized perspective, working alongside like-minded Black youth and learning about the African heritage I share with them and other Africans around the world – particularly the Caribbean and the African continent. Upon learning about some of our ancient history and struggle against the European minority, however I found more than enough reason to organize solely with Black people, despite knowing what I’ve come to find out in discussions — that this racial caste system thrives from division of non-wealthy white and Black people.

At a time when, as an aggregate, Black people in the United States are behind in many facets of living, I, nor other Black people, don’t have much time to convince white people of our humanity or to educate them about the fallacy of the racial caste system that continues to benefit them. Additionally, the very people who benefit from white supremacy are descendants of the Europeans that have committed numerous atrocities against African people and other melanated groups long before Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, an event that marked the beginning of chattel slavery by inheritance. Though the American Elite created “white” and “black” to destroy any possibility that impoverished people would unite against them, the “white” people who enjoyed the benefits of the system were already well on their way to controlling the melanated people’s way of life.

Not too far from where Bacon’s Rebellion happened, the English unleashed physical and germ warfare against Indigenous Americans upon landing on their shores decades earlier. Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer whose legacy the Babylon system celebrates every year, and his goons dealt a similar fate to the “Indians” they encountered in the 15th century. Columbus’ contribution to the cause kicked off a long period of Western imperialism and the Transatlantic slave trade, also known as Maafa, which means the African Holocaust.

Centuries earlier, the Greeks and then the Romans took over ancient Kemet after acquiring the vast wealth of knowledge that the Egyptians had. The Portuguese and other European groups took the system of wartime indentured servitude developed by Africans (the one often mentioned by white people in discussions about race) and turned it into an inter-generational marker of poverty and economic exploitation. The Industrial Revolution, a period of great economic growth for Western nation-states, paralleled the rape and plunder of the African continent and people. All the while across the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. government ran Indigenous Americans off their land.

Despite coming from various pre-New World nations, we melanated people share a common oppressor, but more so a common spiritual energy. Long before the European left the caves and embarked on its centuries-long campaign of destruction, people of African descent laid the foundation for many of the technological advancements we see today. The land mass that was Pangea serves as a testament to this common heritage. Over the decades, several African scholars, including Runoko Rashidi, have been able to find elements of African cultural influence in paintings, sculptures, and writings from all over the world.

Racial classifications – Black, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, etc. – do nothing to highlight the complexity of our ethnic, tribal, and cultural origins. Those markers signify economic fortune and reinforce limited, poisonous ideas about melanated people that the oppressor developed. In the spectrum of race, Black and white fall on opposite sides. As Walter Rodney eloquently explained in Groundings with My Brothers, people all around the world, based on their current economic and social situation, have some latitude in choosing where they land on that scale. In many modern societies, the melanated people who attain all an institution offers don’t challenge persistent ideas of whiteness. By design, its melanated people who uphold the racial caste system by not challenging whiteness.

The Babylon system has gone above and beyond to maintain whiteness, a concept that always faces extinction, in other forms.  Irish and Italian immigrants, Ashkenazi Jews, Catholics, and other white outcasts have been absorbed into so-called white American family as melanated groups continuously broke institutional barriers throughout the years. In exchange, those groups would hold down melanated groups.

These days, white “Hispanics” are becoming the next group to enter the white race. Many of these “Hispanics” may have enjoyed similar privileges as the lighter members of their home nations. Anywhere in the world, it doesn’t gain anyone profit to go against the oppressor. To act as though that’s the case makes the assumption that the oppressor got everything in its possession through hard work rather than theft and trickery of the truly enlightened majority.

When looking at the creation of America’s racial caste system through that lens, the original intent to continue the global oppression of melanated people has become clearer to me, even if it has kept some poor whites at the bottom. If the oppressed melanated people who bring up this racial caste system in race discussions truly understood the true nature of the Western beast, they would combat it by self-classifying as Black in a manner that reveres their connection to the Most High and respects the struggles of Africans abroad.

From what I’ve seen and heard, not many of my sisters and brothers have done that, choosing instead to not connect with Africa. Unlike other oppressed groups, we have no direct connection to Mama Africa, due mainly to enslavement, but because many of us don’t want to know about it in the Age of Information. Sadly, we’ve been conditioned to not follow our predecessors in organizing with Africans abroad; we see our issues as separate from theirs.

In closing, for us to truly break out of this pseudo-racial system that critics of Pan-African ideology bring up time and time again in arguing against race consciousness, Black America must end its love affair with the white force that has oppressed its people globally long before Bacon’s Rebellion.

Unifying with the oppressor’s henchmen (middle and lower-class whites) with the hope that they will tear down Babylon with us is not the answer. The only unity this journalist and educator will unequivocally endorse is that among melanated people – including Africans, Indigenous Americans, and all those in between. In no way does this conflict with the call for Black unity as for this plan to truly come to fruition, Black unity must be examined through a global prism, where those who fight for Black self-determination in America think of themselves as Africans.

Having that common consciousness can lead us out of ignorance and into a situation where we can respect our common heritage with other Spirit Beings, eventually letting go of the Eurocentric ideas that perpetually destroy our souls. How’s that for destroying a racial caste system?

U.S. Capitalism and the Miseducation of the African Child: An AllEyesOnDC Reflection

A montage of Young Thug and an airport employee he harassed./ Courtesy photo 

My first holiday season as a full-time high school teacher has served as a firsthand lesson about the teenage consumerist, and I’m not pleased.

On the week that quarterly progress reports went home, a few of my students, many of whom haven’t put in much work for several weeks, lobbied for some extra credit and other tricks that would boost their dismal grades. They did this not out of a commitment to academic excellence, but fear of losing them oh-so precious Christmas gifts.

Though slightly disappointed, I wasn’t surprised to hear that truth. Since I started teaching full-time, I’ve seen up close the conditions that stunt our children’s character development and spiritual growth. Doing my job has been an exercise in getting teenagers to see the Kings and Queens in themselves and value the process of learning. Teaching English and Language Arts becomes the perfect conduit to fulfill that mission and get a sense of what motivates the young people. As the days and months went by, the more I realized money was the change agent they valued.

During our studies about grammar and literary devices, we discuss local and national politics, sociology, economics and more via news articles and readings I would assign the class. My students have also reflected on their short lives during in-class writing exercises. Through reading their responses to thought-provoking prompts, I’ve come to understand their desire for wealth and comfort, particularly because they wrote, with a lot of spelling and grammar errors, about the circumstances that brought forth their unstable lives.

Though I don’t doubt that money will change their lives for the better, I in good conscious cannot let them rely on the dollar bill alone. As a college-educated professional, I have a certain amount of privilege that some would say disqualifies me from prescribing a solution to my people’s salvation that doesn’t involve money. However, my experiences around well-to-do people and my knowledge of what folks of that ilk have done from their ivory towers has radicalized me in a sense and made me more cognizant of the sickness that Carter G. Woodson vividly described in Miseducation of the Negro.

Long before formally entering the education profession, I’ve witnessed the morally corrupt nature of many “accomplished,” degree-holding people. Instead of chasing knowledge and inner understanding, those who would become members of the Black elite covet tables at clubs, the latest clothes and shoes, and the status of your favorite trap rapper. Among the Black men, no matter the income level, words like “bitch” and “hoe” always ring out. In general, Black men and Black women lashed out at one another. Yes, I grew personally and professionally in school and in the professional world, but that system didn’t allow enough, if any space for independent, African-centered thought that could cleanse my soul. That’s why at times, on-campus activism, while meant to be a chance to help others, felt more like a popularity contest and notch on the resume rather than a fight to improve life on campus for Black people.

My real education took place a couple years after completing undergrad when I built on my studies of Malcolm X’s fight for oppressed people globally. By learning about my people and their struggles, triumph, and pre-Maafan history, I grew more in love with myself and hungrier to learn more about which was hidden from me. My lessons spanned many disciplines, compelling the maturation of my musical tastes, changes in how I address women, and an evolution in political thought more in line with independent thinkers, not those caught up in the two –party system.

By now, some of the folks – white, Black, Latino, and beyond – with whom I went to school are well on their way to becoming mavens of their industries. However, if everything goes per the real ruling elites’ plan, many will perpetuate the misinformation and exploitation of oppressed people in their subservient roles. Instead of using their power to affect change, they mock those without for suffering in a system that clearly doesn’t favor them.

This sentiment strikes home, for Black people are the primary culprits in this travesty, thanks in part to our conditioning by standards imposed by white people over the centuries. That’s what people like Keith Ellison, who like President Barack Obama had to denounce a Black leader/group for political points, must think about as they compete for roles within the American oligarchy.

That’s also why my students extol the wealthy athletes and entertainers more than the social justice advocates, inventors, business magnates, and the like, even as they fail to live up to the legacy of Ossie Davis, Jr., Ruby Dee, Nina Simone, and others. One of these entertainers by the name of Young Thug recently flaunted his “wealth” at an airport and disrespected two employees.

To carry our fight for liberation forward, young people must yearn to make the world a better place and combat all forms of evil. That cannot be done in environments where material wealth is the goal. I’m not saying that to criticize parents aiming to curb negative behavior by withholding gifts, but to challenge us as a People to push our youth to strive for their best so that it benefits the global ecosystem, not just their ego.

That’s hard to do when college is marketed more like a check on the Successful Adult To-Do List more than an opportunity to grow internally. This makes it more important that we encourage education beyond the confines of academia. Without a thirst for knowledge, how else will the youth be able to critically think long after their formal education ends?

They won’t. Their lives will become a cycle of work, sleep, and happy hours. Right now, that’s how many of the hamsters live on the wheel. If it’s not the degree, the money or fame, it’s holiday gifts that keep us going. You could say that the material possessions have become our carrot stick, to our detriment.

Let it be known that this generation, criticized and looked over by many elders in our community, will be the ones to take this global movement for African liberation to new heights. That’s why the powers that be, through its political, business, and media arms, keep our African and indigenous American children away from their true history. Our adherence to the codes of consumerism that make our children slaves to the corporation seals the deal.

Given the nature of the rat race that’s capitalism, one would argue that we don’t have enough time to care, but it’s imperative that we make time. Our children deserve that much. By no means does that mean keep the gifts away from your young ones this year. However, you should be having a conversation about the need to learn and improve as a human being, something my father used to call “eating book.” Let’s encourage this dialogue and push our young people to create their own happiness, not that which is manufactured by the one percent.

The world will be a much better place for it.

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