Black People : Back To Africa

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by Pharaoh Jahil, Sep 11, 2004.

  1. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Back to Africa

    By Mwatabu S. Okantah


    I understand, now, why Langston Hughes titled one of his autobiographies, " I Wonder As I Wander." The wondering and the wandering began in my life at about the same time I discovered my affinity for the work of Hughes, and several other black writers: Zora Neale Hurston, Aime Cesaire, Gwendolyn Brooks, Leon Damas, Lance Jeffers and Toni Morrison. I did not realize then that this wondering and wandering that began in some distant place in my mind would lead me to my own cultural heritage in West Africa. I did not realize then that there was relief to be found waiting inside the culture, that there was peace to still the tension; self-knowledge to embrace the alienation.

    I only knew that I hurt inside my sense of my own emptiness. I could not describe it. Yet, I knew the prison of being ashamed of my blackness. I knew the shackles of being ignorant of the very things that gave black life meaning. Fifty years removed from Hughes and the rest of the so-called "New Negroes," the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. My first trip to West Africa, in March, 1988, with a group sponsored by the Rotary Club, had served to confirm the ideas I embraced at the beginning of my own journey toward self-awareness. Our history begins before the black experience in the so-called "New World." Yet, I, too, could not avoid the inner turmoil of being an "Afro-American Fragment." I knew the white-blind of not knowing who I was; of having only a vague sense of my own identity.

    In 1903, W. E. B. DuBois wrote that "the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world; a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world." Our history is a living, evolving thing. We must ask ourselves, "What seeds did our ancient African ancestors sow such that we reaped our descent into captivity and this harvest of American days?" Our history has pushed itself forward through the rise and fall of empires; through the holocaust of enslavement and forced exile; through names and faces we will never know, save in dreams and imagination.

    The questions remain the same. Too many black people in America are still fragmented inside this same pain. I remember those days. Meeting my first "African-from-Africa-African," while I was a student at Kent State, literally shocked me into the mirror, staring into my own face, wondering, "If he is an African, what does that make me?" Africa. I only knew Tarzan, National Geographic, Shirley Temple, Buckwheat and Stymie, blaxploitation films, J. J., and the rest. The nagging question of identity drove me in search of Africa inside myself. Who was I? Who was this people? Just how had we come to be?

    I arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, on December 31, 1989, armed with my faith and the force of my own destiny unfolding. I also had graphic instructions from Nigerians I knew living in the States, two letters of introduction to deliver to strangers I would have to locate, and a recommendation for a "good' local hotel. I would begin 1990 in Africa. Even then I felt the need to begin preparing for the 20th century's end. I was in Africa again. I felt my adrenaline flow. I felt that intense excitement, that controlled fear I used to experience during my days as an aspiring wide receiver at Kent State; days that seemed so distant now. I was acutely aware of all the activity swirling around me. I was standing next to Kehinde Odubiyi, a Nigerian student returning home from Seattle. We had met standing in a line of Africans speaking mostly in French , at the Air Afrique terminal in New York; that we had English in common calmed my nerves as I thought about the chaos I knew I would encounter at Murtala Muhammad International Airport.

    Africa. Almost immediately, you notice the faces. Looking back, it is utterly amazing that as a people we approach a new millenium with no real clue as to our proper name. Some of us are still Negroes. Are we just blacks? Are we just Americans? African-Americans? What? Or, is the real question, who? When you arrive in West Africa, you realize the sheer folly of the debate. You see it in the faces. Kehinde and I passed through customs without problems. Standing, waiting for our bags, another Nigerian traveler asked me if I could recognize any of the people as my people? I responded, "They are all my people." Kehinde smiled, and then guided me through the rush of boys who wanted to carry the bag of the dreadlocked "Black American." Kehinde negotiated a taxi and a "black market" money exchange. For safety reasons, he convinced me to stay at the Lagos Sheraton for at least my first night in the city, and he saw to it that I arrived in one piece.

    On the morning of my first full day in Lagos, I was up early for breakfast, made arrangements to hire a car and driver, and returned to my room to gather my thoughts as well as my things. When I came back downstairs, I heard the sound of drums and a flute coming from the hotel lobby. I remembered it was New Year's Day. Instinctively, I moved toward the music. I saw my driver and motioned for him to wait. The musicians were warming up. They were the African Heritage Dance Troupe. They would be performing in the hotel throughout the day. I made eye contact with the flute player. During a break, he introduced himself as Umobit Christopher and we began to talk. I told him I knew no one in Lagos, and that I possessed two letters of introduction from a Nigerian friend in Cleveland who also managed an African dance troupe. Umobit rather matter-of-factly asked the name of my Nigerian friend. When I said Emanuel Ayeni, his face went blank. He knew Ayeni. They had worked together before Ayeni rather abruptly left for the States. He described Ayeni and named members of his troupe. I was stunned. Even before delivering my letters, a sign. I had met someone who knew Ayeni in the lobby of a hotel where I was not supposed to be staying.

    Lagos. They call it the New York City of West Africa. People everywhere. Streetwise reality African-style; a cacophony of tropical sounds. People sitting on stoops, porches, balconies and outside hallways. Children playing in alleys, in courtyards. Vendors lined along both sides of the streets. Vendors hawking their goods at intersections everywhere. Traffic. In Lagos, they call it, "go slow." Taxis. Rickety cars. Luxury cars. Riding local buses, people asked if my hair was real. They wanted to touch my locks. Walking the streets of Suru Lere, I saw an angry crowd capture and beat a would-be thief, or, as they called him, "Tief Tief." Ikeja. Palm Groove. Lagos Island. I was fixated on the faces. It was all so strangely familiar. It was comforting. Black people are black people everywhere on this earth. Sowande was right. Indeed, the world is a village.


    http://www.africaresource.com/voi/okantah3.htm
     
  2. toylin

    toylin Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I want to go to Africa. Shoot. I've never been futher than Canada.. never even been to Mexico. This is a great piece about searching for an identity, and then finding out you already have one. Thank you for posting.
     
  3. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Peace,



    Glad you enjoyed Sis. You know, when I take my first trip to the Motherland, I might not come back! :sand:


    P.S, Im feelin' your signature..What you know about Buju Banton? lol
     
  4. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Thank you for the posting

    Thank you for this posting. I have been blessed to visit Afrika twice and they were the best journeys I've undertaken. I will post on this experience soon. The posting above allowed me to recall my own with joy. I know that some people have had what they perceive as negative experiences in Afrika, but mine were just the opposite. They were wonderful.
     
  5. toylin

    toylin Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I hear you. I've always wanted to visit the home of my foreparents, my ancestors. I used to have dreams about Africa. Now, tell me, how can you have dreams of something you've never had?

    Make sure you send me a postcard!

    P.S. Check your PM.... :deal:
     
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