In the Beginning
“African people are indeed at a crossroads. Only clear thoughts and purposeful actions will determine if we will take the right road. But before we can successfully choose a road, we must solve our problems of spiritual and identity confusion.” -- Dr. Asa Hilliard III
One of the major problems that has created our identity and spiritual confusion is that we have allowed those who would oppress us to tell our story. Unfortunately, they have no interest in telling our story in a way that would empower us.
Surveying the landscape of public opinion and social media one finds an absence of any dialog that illuminates and elevates American culture let alone Afrikan culture. In fact, what we find in American discourse is a burgeoning amount of social and political ignorance. America now has a president who is more ignorant than a third grader. What’s worst is the number of men of Afrikan ancestry who because of agnotology (culturally induced ignorance Proctor, 2008) find it difficult to separate themselves from their oppressor (Kanye). It is time for the Afrikan story/experiences to be told in a way that empowers, illuminates, and elevates Afrikan culture and makes sacred their experiences as a people. There must be a mass movement to end the effects of agnotology in our communities and there must be a telling of that story in a way that would help us end our spiritual and identity confusion.
To do this we must start our story from the beginning of recorded history. We must start from the time man became conscious of himself. Today, there is no argument among anthropologist that human history began on the continent of Afrika. Yet it is never asked what the first homo sapiens thought, what they did, when they became conscious of themselves?
It is as if Afrika remained dark until Europe brought the light. Reality starts with understanding that human beings are social animals. Human beings exist in societies, they exist in groups, and are born dependent with extended periods of dependency. It is there social relationships, Relations with those who give them life, that governs their thought’s and behaviors as they try to resolve or solve the questions of life.
According to western civilization man exists as an independent individual. This is found in the works of Descartes “Cogito, ergo sum”/I think therefore I am and in Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest.
Afrikans understood that the individual exists for the social unit not for himself/herself (Mbiti 1970, Gyekye 1996). Individuality (Genetic Variations Lipton 2016, Diop 1991, Bradley 1991, Bradley 2013 ) becomes important and critical in helping human beings solve or resolve the problems they face. These differences or genetic variations contribute to the survival of the species. A major problem facing any society is maintaining the balance between what the society needs, and what the individual needs in bringing forth their creative spirit. Through trial and error, dealing with climate and environment changes these early humans came to appreciate that human beings are social animals and they respond more effectively and efficiently to these changes when they come together as a group. One of the many lessons early man learned was if it requires effort it requires others.
When a collective group of people come together to solve and resolve the problems they face they create what social scientist call culture. Dr. Maulana Karenga once define culture as the “vast structures of behaviors, ideas, attitudes, values, habits, beliefs, customs, languages, rituals, and practices which give people: a general design for living and patterns for interpreting reality”. Dr. Marimba Ana would add to this definition by saying “Human culture is defined by the shared or common experiences of a particular group (i.e. Biogenic, historical, and environment).” The type of culture, consciousness (mind, thought), conscience (heart, inner spirit), a collective group of people exhibit reflects the type of history, the type of environment they live in (Diop 1978, Bauval 2011, Assmann 2002) and experiences they have undergone as a people.
Ultimately, one must see culture as a tool human being use to deal with the world. It is the instrument humanity uses to confront reality and adapt to that reality. More importantly, it is the instrument we as human beings use to attach reality to ourselves. Culture will determine the kind of consciousness and conscience we will have and the kind of consciousness and conscience we have will determine how we adapt to reality. In this way Consciousness becomes empowering. Power is the ability to do something to change something. This gives human beings the ability to adapt to different situations and to make changes as necessary.
Culture is not static, it is dynamic. Some people of Afrikan Ancestry see Afrikan culture as being stuck somewhere in the 13th century. Afrikan culture is not stuck in one time or space, it is constantly changing and evolving. What makes Afrikan culture empowering is it is designed to operate in the interest of Afrikan people.
Afrikan consciousness and conscience is measured by how it advances its people and maintains their survival. An Afrikan consciousness and conscience must be at the center of their cultural concerns and interest. Human history is the story of the experiences of a collective group of people from their beginning as told by them. Human history starts with the inhabitants of the continents of Afrika. Afrikans are the oldest living humans on earth and have the longest and deepest experiences in human existence. There is no human history prior to Afrikans becoming homo sapien sapien. At the Dawn of human consciousness and conscience our ancestors created what social scientist call values. Values are those things we prefer, those things we see as right, and those things which determines our behavior. Values, culture, Consciousness, and conscience are all types of power.
If we let another group influence our values, culture, consciousness, and conscience, they have power over us and use it to empower themselves. When we speak of Afrikan culture we must make sure it is not reactionary. Even though Afrikan Culture on the continent and in the diaspora has gone through two thousand seasons of death, destruction, domination, and deception caused by white supremacy; this cannot be the determining factor of who we are as a people. If we are to change the conversation found in public discourse, then people of Afrikan ancestry can no longer adopt those things that do not illuminate and elevate our culture.
Afrikan stories of creation/genesis are the first stories and the longest running stories. With the birth of humanity, we find Afrikans were the first humans that brought moral ideas and ideals into existence. When we study Afrikan thought and behavior we are studying the first thoughts and behavior of human kind.
Afrikans established their collective thought and behavior around 4 major concepts that social scientist (Wright 1976, Mills 1999, Berger & Luckmann 1966) have deemed important in the development of civilization:
1. Social Theory: determines the destiny of a people by establishing guidelines for life.
- It defines their relationship with other living things,
- Values and rituals
- Methods of education
- How enemies are dealt with
2. Social Order: Fundamental way in which the various components of society work together to maintain the status quo.
- Social order is an on-going human production
- It is produced by man/woman in the course of his/her on-going externalization
- Social structures, institutions, social relations, social interactions
- Cultural features such as norms, beliefs, and values acceptable thought and behavior
3. Social Contract Theory: it is a way a group of people who are equals agree to establish civil society and or government.
The Social Contract is several contracts in one:
a) “Contract” an agreement between two or more people to do something.
b) Political Contract: is an account of the origins of government and our political obligations to it.
c) Moral Contract: is the foundation of the moral code established for the society, by which the citizens are supposed to regulate their behavior.
4. Ideology: The body of concepts and models reflecting social needs and aspirations of a group or a culture
- forms a System of ideas and ideals
- forms the basis of economic or political theory
- forms societies beliefs, ethics, doctrines, creeds, faith, teachings, theories, and philosophy
It was our Afrikan ancestors who conceptualized and conceived Ma’at (Truth, Justice, Righteousness, represented as the Feminine principle of creation) as an interrelated order of existence in human functioning and human development (Karenga 2006, Assmann 2002, Diop 1978, Obenga 1992). Ma’at became the central element in what was meant to “be human”.
To answer Dr. Hilliard question of choosing the right road we must recover, remember and restore the what, the when, the how, the why, into our who. To paraphrase Dr. John Henrik Clark, it is the duty of the social, the political, and the economic scientist to answer the question: how will my people maintain, sustain, and perpetuate themselves on this earth? In other words, how do we solve or resolve the problems of food, clothing, shelter, safety and security needs (Maslow, Diop) as a collective group of people. History and heaven are waiting on us. Ase!!!
References and Bibliography:
Wright, B PhD (1976) essay “Mentacide”
Berger, P. L. and T. Luckmann (1966), The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, Garden City, NY: Anchor Books
Mills, C.W. (1999), The Racial Contract. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press
Carruthers, J. (1995), MDW NTR: Divine Speech. Red Sea Press, Lawrenceville, NJ
Assmann, J. (2002). The Mind of Egypt History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs. New York: Metropolitan Books Henry Holt & Company, LLC.
Browder, A. (1992), Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization. Washington, DC: Institute of Karmic Guidance
Hilliard, A. G. III (1997), SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind. Gainesville, FL: Makare Publishing Co.,
Ani, M. (1994), Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. Trenton, NJ: African World Press
Karenga, M. (1982), Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles, CA: Kawaida Publications
Karenga, M. (2006). MAAT: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.
Obenga, T. (1992). African Philosophy. Paris: Per Ankh s.a.r.l.
Mbiti, J. S. (1970). African Religions and Philosophies. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday.
Diop, C. A. (1978). Cultural Unity of Black Africa. Chicago: Third World Press,
Diop, C. A. (1991). Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology.
Brooklyn: Lawrence Hill Books
Gyekye, K (1996). African Cultural Values: An Introduction. Legon, Ghana: Sankofa Publishing Company
Bauval, R., Brophy, T (2011). Black Genesis: The Prehistoric Origins of Ancient Egypt. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions Bear & Company
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation in Psychological review. Richmond, CA: Maurice Bassett Publishing
Proctor, R.N. (2008), Agnotology: The Making & Unmaking of Ignorance. Rosewood, CA: Stanford University Press
Lipton, B. H. (2016) Biology of Belief. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Inc.
Bradley, M. (2013). Chosen People From The Caucasus. Third World Press
Bradley, M. (1991). The Iceman Inheritance. Canada: Kayode Publications