By Corey Gilkes
September 03, 2011
In the days just before and after Emancipation Day I paid close attention to many of the comments and discussions on certain radio talk shows and in the newspapers and frankly I don’t know which side worries me more: those who oppose Emancipation Day or those who support it. Is kinda like de time when people responded to the charge by evangelist Benny Hinn that he saw plenty voodoo in Trinidad. Those simplistic bible-wavers who agreed with him as well as many who angrily denied what he said both had one thing in common: a profound lack of knowledge about and contempt for that ancient belief system. Likewise, many who don’t approve of Emancipation Day and things openly African displayed very clearly near complete ignorance about Africa.
In my opinion, the way in which Africa and Africentricity is viewed tends to be overly one-dimensional and occupies worldviews that are deeply racist, sometimes very sophisticated but still racist. True, much of the political and economic landscape of Africa reinforces racist perceptions of corrupt, simple-minded, backward, totalitarian states. The ravages of drought, famines and HIV don’t seem to help much either. But by and large, many of those who cry down things African do so from views that portray Africa in ways that are at best skewed.
But then again, so do many people who claim to be Africentric.
Frankly, far too many Africentrists (and I use that term as loosely as Ramcharitar, Job and Baldeosingh do) hug up Africa and appeal to “de black man” in ways that pander to narrow tribalism, ethnic insecurities and ideas of entitlement that I’d argue is not what Africentricity is truly about. And another thing, why, why, WHY in 2012 am I still hearing talk about “de Black man” “de African man” in a manner that clearly does not include the black woman……..unless of course she fits into some idealised image that almost always resembles the idealised Old Testament or Arabic Islamic woman. As my mother used to say, wha shit is dat?
If there are any young readers of this article who may be trying to formulate ideas, philosophies, models, etc. that could one day transform T&T from the labasse it is becoming, rest assured that 90% of the people who claim to be standing up for Africa and “de black man” never read a line written by Cheikh Anta Diop, Ifi Amadiume, Gloria Emegwali, Ivan Van Sertima, Charles Finch, Asa Hilliard or John Henrik Clarke, far less anything by Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere or Amilcar Cabral. They know nothing of Ptah-Hotep but can quote at length what they think is written in the Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Acts, Revelations or Mark or some surah. So in many ways they are no better than those who see in Africa only backwardness, laziness, corruption, totalitarianism or see just a cash cow to be milked to line the pockets of an elite few, but not much else.
The Africa that I know about has its problems, its wars, its corrupt leaders, its AIDS and so on. Please keep in mind though, that much of this did not come about in some internal vacuum no matter how its spun by the Ramcharitars and Jobs of this world (Honestly I can not comprehend how someone can acknowledge the atrocities and mischief Europe and the US has done and is still doing as we speak via multinational corporations and still proceed to attack the Africans for their misfortune). This Africa has a pre-Christian, pre-Judaic, pre-Islamic tradition and cultures of openness and communalism that we can still draw from today. This is especially the case when one considers that today mankind is feverishly searching for ways to counterbalance the ethic of competitive acquisition, materialism and a view of the natural world as something to exploit in a linear fashion. At a period in which ideas and indigenous forms of knowledge are fast becoming the new fields to be mined, colonised, exploited and privatised (and guess who’s leading that charge again?), we need to vigorously examine, defend and utilise the ideas we created, that we gave to humanity.
This is not necessarily meant to be some anti-capitalist rant but anyone who is honest or really studies the philosophical and epistemological constructs that inform the Western capitalist (and communist) ethic would realise just how unsuitable and skewed that system is. By its very nature capitalism provides its haves and have-nots. Interestingly, instead of the theorists blaming the system, they shift it to the individual. This, however, is perfectly understandable when one examines many of the philosophies that inform it and realises that at the core is a common ideology that assumes the natural inferiority of certain human beings.
So, as Dr John Henrik Clarke wrote so many years ago, if the European developed systems like this to deal with their own selves, what do you think they are going to do to you? Over and over we see that in traditional medicine, engineering, to say nothing of the mineral resources, Africa feeds the West with much of what it needs to benefit its people, so what’s Africa to you?