Author: Brennan E. Wells
On one dreary and cloudy day on the campus of PVAMU I, as I often did, found myself walking across the main thoroughfare of campus towards the Woolfolk building. For those who did not attend this “HBCU”, the Woolfolk building houses the forgotten social sciences, such as history, political science, sociology, and philosophy, amidst the STEM craze the country is now in. For this particular purpose, I traversed my way towards Woolfolk for the sole philosophy professor PVAMU houses. It was in the cramped comfort of this professor’s books, Black liberation posters, and advice that can only come from a well read individual that I first found Steve Biko.
Steve Biko is the modern day founder of Black Consciousness and a liberation revolutionary that led campus activism in South Africa during Mandela’s exile. I say modern day, because the first instance of Black Consciousness comes from David Walker in his tome, “David Walker’s Appeal“. From the readings thus far of Steve Biko insights offered to South Africans in their struggle for liberation I have amassed what I believe to be the founding principles of Black America.
Often after every march, protest, or rant by a collective of African/African Americans in America comes forth the question of, “what do we do next”? Should you hear this question come from your comrades or even yourself, then a return to true Black consciousness is needed. White Racism comes in many shapes, forms, and fashions and in this context, being under the yoke of oppression for such an extended period of time dulls the imagination of Black America. Hence, we find the need to ask “what do we do next”? We no longer think as we originally did, because White Racism thought for Black America for far too long. We no longer believe as we should, because dreamers hung on southern trees. Yet I offer three (for the sake of length and brevity) of what I find to be the most important principles that are associated with the origins of the Black Woman and Man.
- A Sense of Self and Spirituality
Western civilization has been cast as over civilized and for good reason. While in contrast the Black Woman and Man before stolen from their homeland had a deep sense of religion and spirituality. This same sense of religion and spirituality was called pagan by the “Christian” missionaries who introduced the concept of Hell and gnashing of bone to the Black Woman and Man and more by fear than the tenants of Christianity converted our ancestors from their own God to another.
With this forced conversion came along too the belief that the White missionaries were in the right and the Black persons in the wrong. Moreover, a strict sense of morality as the White missionaries saw it came as well, along with a new way in which to conduct life. Here I find the most egregious harm done to the African people. Reclaiming what Black America sees as the proper way in live a life to the fullest must be accomplished. To know that we are the trustees over our own lives and how we choose to commune with nature and God is right our own right.
To see a non-Black go visit with his or her neighbor they will be greeted with a, “how may I help you”? This is common among Western civilization because these persons have been bred on transactional interactions. That for someone to come to you, there must be a purpose or hidden agenda even. This is not so within Africa in the heyday of the principle of community. For Blacks, to go to visit with another person or friend was to fellowship with another simply for the joy of fellowship. This was a reward in it of its self. For communication is more than a service for Blacks but enjoyment, connection, and sometimes a spiritual act.
Even tribes who went to war with one another in The Motherland would aid other warring tribes, should they find the other in need. This is how deep the sense of community goes, that not even war could separate the need to support one another in distress. So I challenge you the reader to regain this sense of community for you and your friends. Not to see another Black Woman or Man and think “what must they want now”, but rather a chance to fellowship with your brethren.
- Music and Culture
If there is music in America it is so, because of the Black Woman and Man. Music and culture are part of the reason our ancestors survived the inhumane treatment of slavery that was thrust upon them by White oppression. From soul, rhythm & blues, jazz, rock, rap, hip-hop, country to pop. A majority if not all of the foundations for these genres originate from our people. I do not say this to encourage a rampant listening of all genres, instead, I speak on the aforementioned to highlight the value our people place in music and culture.
One only has to look to the Oscars and recent movie releases to see our people, Black people breaking barriers in White America, because of the profound intellect Black America has in this area of thought.
This subject may come as obvious to some, but I speak on it, because of its importance and to encourage all who read this peace to embrace our heritage through music, dance, film, art, poetry, prose, and any other forms music and culture may come in. Additionally, that we are not to be shamed in our expression or consumption of history lived through our every day.
To know these principles is to live these principles and to live these principles is to embrace them and share them. Before we can discuss the politics, economics, and social plights we must recognize our principles, return to them, and give them a voice in our everyday lives and actions. These principles may solve issues before the need of discussion is even reached. Just as restarting your cell phone may solve technical issues, before you have to call the manufacturer.
I realize this piece should have been penned long ago, so I apologize for the wait. Do you the reader agree or disagree? Are there principles that should have made this list? This is our community after all and I go only as far as you go and vice versa. So please, leave your comments in reply.