Opinion

Black History: Flashback of a Legacy and Destiny

1 February 2008 at 22:24 | 768 views

By Roland Bankole Marke

African Americans, like Africans have made giant leaps over the years, pursuing a passionate, historic struggle. It has been a long, bumpy drive towards emancipation and freedom from institutionalized slavery, colonialism, civil rights struggle for equality, and fighting discrimination or apartheid, unique to South Africa. But invariably, endemic ignorance appears to handicap naive folks, isolating them from their history as well as their destiny. Progress that has been bagged seemed to be unconsciously eroding. To be Black is incongruous with the mould of blackness or darkness. Contextually, Black means not only the pigment of one’s skin, but the presence of black DNA. While blackness is a state of mind that mirrors paralysis - blurred with darkness, ethnic malady - rooted in blindness, to reflect chronic ignorance. Like a malignant cancer, that fizzle the foundation and progress thus made within the global Black hemisphere.

Education cloned from a blueprint of visionary enlightenment, helped to navigate a pivotal pathway, geared to reverse the tempo and status of Blacks. They were once deemed domesticated labor or peons: to emerge as technocrats and champions of their own destinies. Characterization of the ‘N word’ or the ‘Noose,’ similar to the connotation ‘Your humble servant’ earlier employed by colonial subjects to address their masters, register negativity, resulting in low self esteem.

Transformation of the mind harvests a positive persona, the desired fruit of a relevant education. One size fits all philosophy is not a dynamic system of education, like falling manna from above. Educating Blacks had ignited through a tedious, painfully slow, incremental process of agitation. That was initially championed by civil rights movements, spearheaded by formidable leaders, including Fredrick Douglas, Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Jesse Jackson.

Visionary legends had erected the cornerstone or platform geared onto emancipation and the necessary legislations, breathing oxygen into folks’ empathy through a dramatic evolution. Forerunners of MLK had begun Black consciousness, through self education and personal stride to embrace formal education. Through Arts and Culture reflected in Black music, literature that includes the literary form. Ground breaking foundation stones were visual preparing the way for the eventual evolution of Black history. The birth of Black writers and artists did not happen by accident. They were inspired by others before them. But support from the Black community to keep them afloat is still necessary as it is in dire short supply. If our legacy must survive from generation to generation, investment from our own people is vital, with a free flow of funds and appreciation of our culture and history.

Historically, King Jimmy as Bunce Island monuments in Sierra Leone, are ruins of fortresses, auction blocks of slave sanctuaries that still stand: similar to the Old Cahawba auction block, now “Alabama’s most famous Ghost Town: the Gullah rice plantation in South Carolina, and the mass graves of African slaves in New York. And are enshrined in the landscape of United States that display structural evidence of the notorious and shameful blemish of slavery. Some folks might suggest that slavery was probably a fairy tale. Emphatically, it was real, cruel and an explosive-emotional chapter in Black history. It’s easy to say, “Time to get over it.” But how could therapy begin its course, simply by forgetting about a genuine legacy of history? Is the Holocaust not a vital part of Jewish history, which triggers emotional and political crossfire from unexpected camps? Probably, this immoral, lucrative and pioneering adventure was meant to flourish forever.

The advent of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a prolific, dynamic preacher, with sound education, who skillfully mastered biblical principles, graduated from the University of Humankind. He artistically fused theology with humanity to articulate his universal, soul inspiring vision. MLK emerged the ideal genius of his times. He was anointed to lead oppressed people, preparing them for a necessary transformation of the lives of others too. He believed in concerted, collective bargaining. Collective resilience as tenacity soon blossoms into strength. “We must take fear and by the miracle of love, change it into hope,” MLK said. He was perceived a pariah, and was unpopular during his lifetime. Contemporary clergymen at the upper echelon considered his movement “Unwise, untimely.” But they could not dissuade him from moving forward with his dream. Indeed his message fathoms beyond himself.

Unlike the perpetuation of violence reported in troubled African countries: like Kenya, Somalia or Sudan, he advocated for nonviolence in his quest for social equality and justice: irrespective of color, race or creed. The universality and dynamism of his vision soon romanced the world’s heart to land him the accolade - Nobel Peace Prize. His prophetic, explosive speech “I have a Dream” became a catalyst for change that resonates in various circles of life, even in today’s cut-throat political platform. Langston Hughes articulates his perspective in his poem “Dreams.”

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams die
Life is a broken-wing bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Those who argue that progress has been negligible in the flight to fight for civil rights should think again. Probably, they should conduct brain storming exercise anew. Rev. Jesse Jackson is a champion of the civil rights movement, while Senator Barack Obama is a product of it. Jackson had won over a dozen primaries and caucuses in 1988, during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But when presidential hopeful Barack Obama born of hybrid breed, stormed the campaign trail quoting from MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech: reality settles that the Unites States seemed prepared to pluck the discordant chord of racism, inequality and injustice, trademarked by Jim Crow and Jena justice systems. It seems a new dawn is in the air, for a nation plagued with systemic, subtle racism as discrimination. The bones of Dr. King would rejoice, knowing that the seed he sowed did not die prematurely, but has blossomed with refreshed, infused chlorophyll evident on visual plants. Is Obamamania history or hysteria? Only time will tell.

MLK had argued that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. A nation now sagged by the politics of division, expensive-prolonged wars or Katrina personified storms: seemed attracted towards Obama’s vision of healing and unification. It was evident at his victory during the Democratic primary in Iowa, a predominantly bone-white state. His historic win was a strong wave to stall the wind from Senator Hillary Clinton’s ship that seemed confidently riding toward victory.

Conventional thinking suggests that a Black man cannot win elections in Iowa. But the opposite trend of thoughts prevailed, to prove the critics wrong. Obama’s vision and inspiration for change grew more potent to be derailed by the crossfire from vicarious vehicular traffic. Presently, the struggle has intensified into a vicious racial rivalry for dominance. On Saturday January 26, Obama won a landslide victory in South Carolina, attracting a biracial coalition, earning 55% of the total votes cast: defeating Clinton and Edwards put together. The momentum helps to steer his ship on a steady keel as February 5 hurdle approaches, to compete for 22 primary states.

But Kenya, a poster child of Africa and the ancestral home of Obama’s late father, is experiencing a full blown wave of violence, after the results of Kenya’s rigged elections were announced. The western media reacted with alacrity to label the violence ethnic cleansing. But foreign correspondents have failed to recognize the social, political and economic forces that plunged this country into mayhem. Kenya is fighting inequality not ethnicity. A week after the dawn of violence in Kenya, maids, guards and nannies did not show up for work, because their shacks located in the slums and ghettos had been destroyed by their neighbors. While their well to do friends, neighbors or relatives in their neck of the woods, felt the impact of the extra burden of having to do their domestic work without any help.

MLK admonishes us all: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” If Blacks should cash the legitimate check that would herald a renaissance - freedom: from America’s bank of equality and opportunity, without the check being returned with a notice ‘Insufficient Funds.’ Then we should heed King’s advice, because his truth is universal.

“Injustice anywhere is a treat to justice every where.”

Roland Bankole Marke 2008

Roland Bankole Marke(photo) is a Sierra Leone author with three books under his belt: Teardrops Keep Falling, Silver Rain and Blizzard and Harvest of Hate: Stories and Essays. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Contact him at: bankole@mindspring.com or 904-645-5738

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