Reinterpreting Black History Month in Africa: Relegation of African History by Africans in Africa

Guest Post by Mokitimi T. Ts’osane

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Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

February and October in the US and UK respectively mark the Black History months dedicated to the emphasis of the importance of black participation and experience throughout history.  Black History Month has been a time when the lives of famous African icons throughout history are discussed and Africa’s legacy relayed.

Initially, the Black History Month was a product of Carter G. Woodson’s unyielding will to showcase the richness, beauty and diversity of African culture and Africa’s contribution to civilization and development of the Earth. In 1926 Woodson created the Black History Week which the Association for the Study of African American Life and History changed to the Black History Month in 1976 in honour of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In the UK, Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga and fellow activists for cultural and social change influenced, advocated and initiated the Black History Month in October 1987.

In both the US and UK, the Black History Month is the only time when the white patronised, controlled and directed education systems give an ostensible impression of compromise towards African History. It is no different from renting a space in an environment with a dominant structure invented to abet and aid the landlord not the tenant.

The Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) decision is indicative that even courts of law defer to the public opinion or the Executive wishes in their quest when push-comes-to-shove in trying times. In an opinion written by the Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Supreme Court ruled that black “people are not included and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizen” in the Constitution, and can therefore never claim any rights or privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to the citizens of the United States.” In 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the Supreme Court sanctioned discriminatory “Jim Crow” legislation using the doctrine of “separate but equal” but reversed the same doctrine in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) when radicalism was slowly shifting the scales of justice.

The Black History month just like emancipation, civil rights, and mixed schools is a strategic compromise born out of necessity and socio-political expediency when radicalism was on the rise. Additionally, they were strategically used to cool down the riled up Africans who were demanding equal treatment and opportunity.

In addition, they were also strategically used to give Blacks an impression that African/ Blacks’ contribution in History was appreciated while in-fact it was an act of subterfuge aimed at achieving cynical ulterior motives. Given Chief Justice Taney’s decision, should Africans view Abraham Lincoln’s adamant and incessant opposition to the judgement as being a heroic act which ultimately led to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as a glorious act in which a white man fought for and emerged as a saviour of Africans in the US? What this implies is that if it was not for a white man, Africans would not have been “citizens” of the US, in which case a white man is seen as a hero over atrocities which his own grandparents orchestrated. It is a distortion and perversion of history if this is the case.

Despite the Black History Month, African history for those in Diaspora (and regrettably, in Africa) remains subservient to the white culture because it is also worked out in conformity with the white biases and prejudices with the fundamentals necessary to empower Africans omitted and relegated. Only non-contextualized individual accomplishments are celebrated without regards to the depth and breadth of Black’s contribution in history.

Authentic contextualising of Negroes’ historical contribution throughout the history would serve as a reference point to present a timeline free of any prejudicial mist of distortions. However, do Negroes expect those who have always declared them inferior, put their minds in chains,” destroyed their cultures, wiped out their traditions, replaced their language” (in the words of Jean Paul Satre, in the Preface to Franz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth”) exploited their vast natural resources and enslaved their able social capital, declare Negro History as equal and accord it as much significance in their curriculum?

While Black History is pushed aside in white dominant societies and in their education system, it is ludicrously baffling for Africans in Africa to join in on a particular month to celebrate their contributions in history. Indeed, it has taken the Black History Month for Africans in Africa to remember that Africa has a history aside from the one told from a white man’s perspective as others never studied African History or at most never did pay much attention to even admire or care about Munhumutapa’s Great Kingdom during History classes.

Incredulously, Africans in Africa embracing the Black History Month is not a gesture of support to Africans in Diaspora but a desperate façade of attention to their History side-lined in their own education system and various institutions (Professor Carter G. Woodson’s “Miseducation of the Negro” is relevant in this context). Africans neither own nor control their minds, economy, education, statistics, political systems and media.

Perhaps, this is why Africans in their own land still relegate their own history so much so that they are reminded by a particular month celebrated in the West that Africa has a history to be celebrated. It is quite safe to assert that Africans in Diaspora during the Black History Month make more strides in advancing the African course than Africans in Africa. The best Africans in Africa have done was to sell out and kill those who are trying to fight for Africa’s course the same way Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, and Muammar al-Gaddafi were in an attempt to gain power assisted by whoever has any interest in the elimination of the incumbents.

This is not in criticism of the efforts Africans in the West have embarked on to counteract the injustice and neglect of Black’s influence in History within the system they find themselves in. Carter G. Woodson made a bold initiative worthy of applause in a society where a Negro is still undermined, denigrated and accorded an inferior status.

However, it is dreadful how Africans in Africa claim to be masters of their own territories. They are the only legitimate holders of the use of coercion but their whole system of governance is a stooge, at all levels, that succumbs to the demands of those who did all in their power to extinguish any spark of genius in the Black race. This was among other things achieved through keeping Black People ignorant of their greatness in History, their ultimate capability in development and socio-economic potential succinctly outlined by Cheik Anta Diop in most of his books.

It is a pity that the popular saying that, “if you want to hide something from a black person, put it in a book” holds a lot of water. Africans rarely ever consider their own literature.  Given the extent of the syllabuses, only a few Africans are repetitively acknowledged while all the time blacks in white controlled curriculum are perpetually reminded on primitive, savage, heathenish quality of the African background. Besides, a single month dedicated to African literature is an immeasurable understatement given the extensiveness of African history, which goes, may be as far as the beginning of humanity.

African children are manipulated, deceived and indoctrinated with propaganda instead of being taught from an early age in Cambridge oriented so-called education systems. Africans are taught not to regard highly their own traditions and culture and embrace everything western influenced. For example, on 31 May 2018, one South African Minister criticised a performance where school girls proudly wore their traditional attire. The Honourable Minister was outraged, expressed disgust and wanted to launch an investigation into the matter.

This is illustrative of the level from which cultural genocide is effectively being implemented by the Africans on other Africans and the contempt from which they hold their own culture. According to Dr. Ama Mazama in the “Encyclopedia of Black Studies” edited inter alia by Molefi Kete Asante, “it is a clear indication that cultural genocide continues unabated.” Is it not enough to conclude that Africans are prisoners of western ideological preconceptions and misconceptions? Why do those on the highest echelons of Executive power see our own traditions and culture through lenses of those who have done so much harm to Africa? Who is the enemy here?

This is a question for the populace and electorates who entrust these people with their own power. Apart from school, children at a young age are indoctrinated with Christian dogmas by parents, teachers and priests and coerced to obey without question through fear of hell.  Are Africans not prisoners of western ideological conceptions despite claiming sovereignty?

Almost half a century into most African states’ “independence from the western colonial powers”, the torch of African liberation most fared for in the delivery of the promise of liberation has not been burning, why? It is time for Africans to ask questions that matter for the development of this marginalised land like Dr Walter Rodney.

Black History Month, though subverted and arrested by the white controlled systems, is an opportunity for Africans to reclaim the greatness from whence they come from as a motivation to the future they want to pave. It is a reminder that every second of every minute presents an opportunity for Africa to emancipate herself. This begins from psychological slavery as Franz Fanon advised, historical distortions as noted by Cheik Anta Diop, miseducational mental indoctrination and slavery as Carter G. Woodson implored, socio-political underdevelopment as considered by Walter Rodney and linguistically as examined by Wa Thiong’o Ngugi.

All this is reminiscent of the fact that Africa has a duty to reclaim its Stolen Legacy which would ultimately please George G. M. James. Do they even teach Negroes during the Black History Month that there is a connection between columbite-tantalite (coltan) smuggled out of Africa and the rise in power and prominence of major electronic companies and it is paid in African blood?

John Perkins, author of Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, has made remarkable confessions behind the drive and the modus economic hitmen use to achieve the objectives of their masters. In “A Game as old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption,” other professionals make telling and instrumental confessions about how selfish other countries work in order to preserve their prominence. It is up to Africans each day to carry on where their forefathers left off, embodying a commitment to reclaiming the African regeneration, restoring psychological independence and ensuring sustainable development.

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