From the Editor’s Keyboard

Celebrating Black History: Memory of a Legacy and Destiny

By  | 30 January 2010 at 03:01 | 487 views

African Americans and Africans have made giant strides over several decades, pursuing a very passionate, historic struggle. It has been a long, bumpy drive. Whether for emancipation and freedom from institutionalized slavery, colonialism, civil rights struggle for equality, fighting discrimination or apartheid, unique to South Africa. But invariably, endemic ignorance is likely to handicap naive folks, who prefer to isolate themselves from their history and destiny. Real progress that has already been bagged should not be allowed to erode. To be Black is incongruous with the moult of blackness or darkness. Contextually, Black means not simply the pigment of one’s skin, but the presence of black DNA. But blackness is a state of mind that mirrors paralysis – blurred with darkness, ethnic malady - rooted in blindness symptomatic of chronic ignorance. Like a malignant cancer that fizzle the foundation and progress thus made within the global Black hemisphere.

Education cloned from a visionary blueprint of enlightenment, helped in navigating a pivotal pathway, geared toward reversing the tempo and status of Blacks. Who once were deemed domesticated hands or peons: later emerged to be 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 stigma and low self esteem. Dr. China Onyeani’s national best seller Capitalist Nigger –The Road to Success is a must read for every person of African Heritage. His spider web doctrine opened my eyes to reality, and I’m sure it will open others too, after reading this ground breaking book. It’s an explosive and jarring indictment of the Black Race naturally endowed like other races. Our people are still vulnerable to becoming unproductive and dependent on other communities for their survival. When are we going to arrest being economic slaves and playing the victim mentality?

Transformation of the mind harvests a positive persona, including the fruits of good and relevant education. One size fits all mentality 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 like 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 and platform geared onto emancipation and the necessary legislation, 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 sudden accident. They were inspired by others before them. But support from the Black community to keep writers and artists afloat are still necessary as it is in dire short supply. If our legacy must survive from generation to generation, investment from our own people and communities is vital, with a free flow of funding and appreciation of our culture and history. Money is the palm oil that lubricates the engine of survival of our unique heritage.

Historically, King Jimmy and Bunce Island wreckage in Sierra Leone were fortresses and auction blocks used as 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. They are enshrined in the landscape of United States, displaying 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 some unexpected camps? Probably, this immoral, lucrative and pioneering adventure was meant to endure forever.

The advent of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a prolific, dynamic preacher, with sound education, who mastered biblical principles, graduated from the University of Humankind. He artistically fused theology with humanity, articulating 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 did blossom 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 ahead with his dream. Indeed his message fathoms beyond himself.

Unlike the perpetuation of violence reported in troubled African countries: like Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria 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 romanced the world’s heart and soul landing him the accolade – Nobel Peace Prize. MLK is the youngest to ever receive the Nobel 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 theater. Langston Hughes articulates the visionary prowess 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 all over again. Rev. Jesse Jackson is a champion of the civil rights movement, while President 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 horizon, a nation plagued with systemic, subtle racism and discrimination. The bones of Dr. King would rejoice, knowing that the seed he long sowed did not die prematurely, but has blossomed with infused chlorophyll evident on plants like President Obama. 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 aftermath of the Haiti quake, are attracted towards Obama’s vision of healing and unification. It was evident during the Democratic primary in Iowa, a predominantly bone-white state. His historic win was a strong wave stalling the wind from then Senator Hillary Clinton’s ship that seemed confidently sailing toward victory. Conventional thinking suggests that a Black man cannot win elections in Iowa. But the opposite trend of thoughts prevailed, proving the critics wrong. Obama’s vision and inspiration for change became 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, 2008 Obama won a landslide victory in South Carolina, tapping a biracial coalition, earning 55% of the total votes cast: defeating Clinton and Edwards put together. The momentum helped to steer his ship on a steady keel as February 5 Super Tuesday hurdle approached to compete for 22 primary states.

But Kenya, a poster child of Africa and the ancestral home of Obama’s late father, was experiencing a full blown wave of violence, after the results of Kenya’s rigged elections were announced. The western media reacted with alacrity labeling 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 © 2010

Roland Bankole Marke is a Sierra Leone writer 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. Visit his website: