Wednesday, December 15, 2010
18. The Cultural Unity of North American Africans
Toward Unity of North American Africans
18. The Cultural Unity of North American Africans
The North American African is a unique phenomenon in the western world. Although he shares common features with his brothers and sisters throughout the Americas, i.e. Central, South American and the Caribbean, who are descendants of kidnapped Africans, the North American African is special only because he survived in the belly of the beast, that great whore Babylon. While his folks endured colonialism apart from the motherlands of the colonial empires in France, England, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, the North American African suffered domestic colonialism, especially after the revolution of 1776. Thus the domestic colonial masters held a tight grip on his mind, body and soul. While residual African culture persisted in North America, in other parts of the Americas, African expression was more pronounced, such as Condomble in Brazil, Santeria in Cuba, Vudun in Haiti.
In North American such spiritual expression was syncretized in the Holy Ghost church and other Christian expressions. Actually, it was the black classical music called Jazz that gave expressions similar to his aboriginal African soul. Like Vudun, Jazz allowed democratic expression of his spiritual consciousness, though the same was allowed in the Christian ritual to some degree, for even his brand of Christianity was suspect and was allowed only with a representative of the slave master present at his sacred services, unless the slaves were able to steal away to Jesus in the woods where the ritual was used to unite Africans for resistance and revolt. See Negro Slave Revolts by Herbert Apthecker.
While African culture enjoyed more vitality in other parts of the Americas, in North America we again must view Christianity as the main outlet for the expression of African consciousness.
After all, the very structure of the Christian myth/ritual was synonymous with his condition of oppression. As Rev. James Cones makes plain, his condition under the cross and lynching tree was in harmony with the crucifixion of the Savior Jesus. The story of the suffering Jesus was the identical story of the North American African who was daily crucified but eventually after long suffering that lasted centuries, was resurrected from the grave of ignorance and passivity, and slowly began his ascension up to the mountain top in the manner of Jesus and more precisely like Sisyphus in the Greek myth. Or shall we say he is also like Hiram Biff in the Masonic myth who was knocked in the head and placed into a shallow grave, from which he is able to resurrect and ascend.
But the North American African also found solace in the Old Testament stores of Moses and the children of Israel. America became that old wicked pharaoh who wouldn't let the oppressed go home. Or the Negro was Jonah in the belly of the whale, or Shadrah, Meschak and Abendigo in the fiery furnace who were delivered. In short, the common theme for the North American African's version of Christianity was liberation, from Nat Turner through Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X which injects the Islamic survival in North American African culture, since it is suspected 20% of North American African slaves were Muslims. The slave narratives are clear evidence, along with the Mississippi Delta music called Blues that havs been traced to African Islamic culture. Of course there are many who say Muslims were already before Columbus, who saw mosques on his way here. And there is evidence Muslims traveled here during the Ghana, Mali and Songhay empires, from the tenth century to the Middle Ages. Certainly, Columbus would not have made it here were it not for his African Muslim navigators. The Moorish Science teachings of Noble Drew Ali are adamant that the Moors (Africans) were here centuries before the Europeans. See Othello's Children.
With the coming of the radical 1960s, the North American Africans shifted more to their Islamic heritage because it was found more in tune with the times, especially after the Civil Rights movement reached a dead end and black power came to the forefront. With the injection of Islamic consciousness into the national struggle, we see a shifting from Christian to Muslim and Yoruba names and practice. Noble Drew Ali, Master Fard Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X set the stage for black consciousness in North American Africans. There was also an infusion of East African Swalili culture from Ron Karenga's US organization with the spread of the Kwanza ritual, adopted from the ancient harvest festival. Karenga's Kwanza ritual has become widespread although his Seven Principles or Nzogu Saba is rarely practiced except during the ritual days. If it were ever practiced it would advance our national struggle on all levels of cultural expression. But this is true for Elijah Muhammad's do for self economic and political philosophy as well.
The present economic crisis is causing many North American Africans to consider other possibilities of economic survival since we see the American economy has gone global without any consideration for white workers, let alone North American African workers who've never enjoyed the American economic dream except during emergency such as World War II.
With the election of Obama as President, North American Africans have given America what may be her last chance to convince the descendants of kidnapped and enslaved Africans that they are truly a part of American culture. But the last two years have given us no indication we should surrender our aspiration for national liberation. With each passing day, North American Africans are losing faith in America and Obama, for he has revealed himself to be nothing more and nothing less than a politician who will do whatever is necessary to carry out his agenda, not the people's agenda. As dire as economic matters have become, we still have no tangible program to address unemployment or the massive home foreclosures that will continue along side the economic meltdown. The time Obama spent on the health plan was noble but misplaced since without jobs how will people pay their insurance bill?
North American African culture struggles around the primary problem of constructing and stabilizing family life in the midst of the chaotic American decline. We shall be forced to rely even more on our African consciousness and cultural traditions as the American empire and republic withers away.
The commonalities of North American African culture survive in spite of cultural colonialism from the wider community, although the bombardment of European American culture takes its toll on those who worship the white version of Christianity, to those brainwashed with the white supremacy school curriculum, to the Jewish produced unconscious rap music and the negative aspects of hip hop culture. On the positive, hip hop culture has continued the North American African tradition of originality and creativity, in language, poetry, music, dress, dance and other artistic expression, including a profound desire and attempt at economic independence.
A journey from coast to coast, from the funky North to the Dirty South will reveal similar cultural expression with a few nuances in language and dress. From San Francisco's Fillmore to New York's Harlem, Bloods are basically the same, same walk, same talk, same music, same dress, same food, same behavior. Now the Dirty South may indeed have slightly different survival techniques. For example, when I went to copy my manuscript How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy, the sister clerk at Staples in South Carolina asked me where I was from. Jokingly, I said, "From here."
She said naw you ain't.
I said why you say I ain't from here?
She replied because we don't use that term white supremacy down here.
Okay, I'm from Cali.
Truth is North American Africans in the South have a way of dealing with the white man in order to survive in a still very racist environment. They say we Cali and/or Northern or Up South North American Africans come down south with language and behavior that will only cause problems for the natives and once we get the white man upset and about to lynch people, we leave, but they are stuck with the peckerwood, who will indeed lynch them at worse, fire them from their minimum wage jobs at the least. So the South has a very necessary different psychosocial linguistics, entirely different from Up South where we may tell the white man to go to hell without reprisal.
Of course some might say the north is no different, for we are lynched every day up north by the police, if not each other. So this is merely an indication of the need for continued national struggle coast to coast. Regional divisions are mostly superficial, for there are blacks up north who will not drive their new car to work, for fear the white man will know too much about their business. And there are blacks who refuse to buy my books during lunch hour because they are afraid to return to work with them for fear they may get fired for possessing incendiary literature.