Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

9Feb/150

Expanding Our View of Black History & Black History Month: The Forgotten Heroes Of Black History

In case you missed it, I wanted to share a really great discussion hosted earlier this afternoon by Brother Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live. The discussion was about the meaning and underlying significance of Black History Month, and also specific figures in our history that don't get as much attention in America's annual February interpretive dance around 'respectable' Black facts and Black figures.

One of the most important points I took from this discussion is that our challenge is to take ourselves seriously enough to study, and critically examine, all of the complexity in our long and rich history, beginning many centuries before the invention of a European. Moreover, we have to do this critical study using our own African cultural and historical lens, and not interpreting our experiences over the centuries through a European and/or American historical, cultural and intellectual lens.

From HuffPost Live, February 9, 2015 (Earlier this afternoon)...

Each February the nation recognizes the achievements and societal contributions of black Americans. We take this time to remember the invisible heroes of black history who have helped pave the way for equal rights.

Guests:

  • Dr. Brittney Cooper (New Brunswick, NJ) Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University
  • Dr. Greg Carr (Washington, DC) Associate Professor of Africana Studies & Chair of Afro-American Studies at Howard University
  • Dr. Treva Lindsey (Columbus, OH) Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Ohio State University

Hosted by:  Marc Lamont Hill

4Feb/140

The Negro Digs Up His Past, Arthur Schomburg’s Example

The Negro Digs up His Past

In his 1925 essay, The Negro Digs Up His Past, Arthur Schomburg highlights three major points about the increasingly systematic study of our history and culture...

Gradually as the study of the Negro's past has come out of the vagaries of rhetoric and propaganda and become systematic and scientific, three outstanding conclusions have been established:

First, that the Negro has been throughout the centuries of controversy an active collaborator, and often a pioneer, in the struggle for his own freedom and advancement. This is true to a degree which makes it the more surprising that it has not been recognized earlier.

Second, that by virtue of their being regarded as something "exceptional," even by friends and well-wishers, Negroes of attainment and genius have been unfairly disassociated from the group, and group credit lost accordingly.

Third, that the remote racial origins of the Negro, far from being what the race and the world have been given to understand, offer a record of creditable group achievement when scientifically viewed, and more important still, that they are of vital general interest because of their bearing upon the beginnings and early development of culture.

In this critically important essay, Schomburg carefully chronicles the early and evolving effort among our ancestors to document and share information about our history as African people, dispersed throughout the world though we may be.

In closing, Schomburg acknowledges the hard work remaining, and the work for which there will continue to be great resistance, the placement of African people, history and culture into its/our proper context - at the center of world history and civilization...

Of course, a racial motive remains – legitimately compatible with scientific method and aim. The work our race students now regard as important, they undertake very naturally to overcome in part certain handicaps of disparagement and omission too well-known to particularize. But they do so not merely that we may not wrongfully be deprived of the spiritual nourishment of our cultural past, but also that the full story of human collaboration and interdependence may be told and realized. Especially is this likely to be the effect of the latest and most fascinating of all of the attempts to open up the closed Negro past, namely the important study of African cultural origins and sources. The bigotry of civilization which is the taproot of intellectual prejudice begins far back and must be corrected at its source. Fundamentally it has come about from that depreciation of Africa which has sprung up from ignorance of her true role and position in human history and the early development of culture. The Negro has been a man without a history because he has been considered a man without a worthy culture. But a new notion of the cultural attainment and potentialities of the African stocks has recently come about, partly through the corrective influence of the more scientific study of African institutions and early cultural history. partly through growing appreciation of the skill and beauty and in many cases the historical priority of the African native crafts, and finally through the signal recognition which first in France and Germany, but now very generally the astonishing art of the African sculptures has received. Into these fascinating new vistas, with limited horizons lifting in all directions, the mind of the Negro has leapt forward faster than the slow clearings of scholarship will yet safely permit. But there is no doubt that here is a field full of the most intriguing and inspiring possibilities. Already the Negro sees himself against a reclaimed background, in a perspective that will give pride and self-respect ample scope, and make history yield for him the same values that the treasured past of any people affords.

May Schomburg's example continue to remind us that there is no substitute for deliberate and thoughtful study.

Our Ancestors deserve nothing less.

Our future generations are depending on it.

27Dec/130

Kwanzaa, Day 2 – Kujichagulia / Self-Determination: Remembering the Great Carter G. Woodson

As many of you all know, this is the second day of Kwanzaa, the cultural celebration that seeks to honor the best of what it means to be African, specifically through a ritual process of remembering and reflecting on who we have been, who we are, and who we must still become.  This is done more concretely through our reflection on The Nguzo Saba (the seven core principles), one daily from December 26th through January 1st.

The second principle is Kujichagulia, a Swahili word meaning self-determination.  Within this context, self-determination refers to the responsibility and obligation of African people throughout the diaspora to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

In recognition of Kujichagulia, I'm sharing a short biographical video tribute (approximately 10 min.) to our great ancestor, Dr. Carter G. Woodson.  Woodson's example highlights the importance of African people doing the work to tell our own story - to define ourselves - on our terms and through our own historical and cultural lens.