Pan Africanism : LANGUAGE: TOOLS OF SELF-DETERMINATION FOR A NEW AFRICAN REALITY...

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Aqil, Jul 28, 2005.

  1. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    By Owen Malik Shahadah

    Words play a critical role in articulating our reality within an Indo-European linguistic framework. We must, as long as we speak non-African languages, find ways to control word usage when it speaks to our condition through a process of assimilating and normalizing words that serve in our interest. It is ignorant to ignore the significance of making a universal Pan-Africanist lexicon that is adopted across the board. And just like there is a body that monitors and controls the English language, we need such a body to serve our linguistic interests.

    The word “slavery,” as an example, needs to be substituted by the words “African holocaust,” and then “African holocaust” must be substituted by the word “Maafa,” which is Kiswahili meaning, "disaster/holocaust" or “terrible occurrence.” Maafa is more inclusive, and better describes the 500 years of suffering by African people through slavery, imperialism, colonialism, oppression, invasions, and exploitation. This example is rooted in seemingly subtle nuances that have powerful ramifications. The complicated dynamics behind word usage is solely rooted in a battle of self-interest. Many times we find ourselves trapped with popular anti-African sentiments, such as “Africans enslaved other Africans,” and “Egyptians weren't black,” etc. We are trapped fighting battles from a strategic disadvantage, because the terms and definitions we employ serve solely in a Eurocentric reality that had been sculptured to destroy our historical foundation – while promoting theirs. If we speak of the African holocaust, then facts of so-called “slavery by Africans” becomes redundant, as the African holocaust does not focus on systems of imprisonment, but moreover, the wholesale inhumane destruction visited upon African people. In addition, the African holocaust is not limited to the transatlantic slave trade, but the broader horror that also encompasses colonial rule.

    How does one arrive at the term “black Africans”? Are there green Africans? Would you speak of “yellow Chinese”? Or “red Indians”? If 95% of Africans are “Black,” then the minority should bear the adjective – not the majority. It is disrespectful to describe Africans with a label based solely on a color, especially when it does not accurately reflect the physical appearance of most Africans. This is made even more offensive when the etymological root of that label (black) is derived from the word “negro,” and is used in place of the word African as a racial or cultural identity. It is strange that despite all the genetic research and advanced human anthropology, we are still clinging to a primitive, 18th-century-post-Darwin model of race, whose sole aim was/is to segregate, de-culturalize and enslave. The concept of a “black Africa” is a Eurocentric term based upon their ignorant, primitive and regressive deductions.

    Arabs and Greeks referred to Africans as "black," but this was not a racial label, and moreover Africans themselves did not adopt it. Like the Phoenicians, who were called the "red people," but no Phoenician would have referred to themselves in this way. The word “Black” has no historical or cultural association. It does not fully articulate the history and geo-political reality of African people. “Black” as a political (or colloquial) term was fashioned as a reactionary concept in the ‘60s and ‘70s against white supremacy, but it was never meant as an epithet for African people, but moreover a transitory term to move a people away from “colored” and “negro.” As a political term it was fiery and trendy, but never was it an official racial classification of a people who have a 120,000-year-old history. Indians are from India; Chinese are from China. There is no country called “Blackia” or “Blackistan,” Hence the ancestry-nationality model is more respectful and accurate: African-American, African-British, African-Brazilian, and African-Caribbean.

    The mass usage of “black” by people of African descent is poor justification for the flagrant usage of the word. Because if that argument is to hold up, it would be justified to start using the “n-word” again, due to the self-destructive resurgence of this word among African-American people. Yes, Africa was a foreign name given to us, but it was given to us by our contemporaries, not our conquerors. In addition, Africa is a name of a place, and Africans are simply people who come from that place. Many fail to see that “black” ultimately sets us outside of our connection to our history and culture. Black does not connect us to Kemet, it only goes back 500 years ago. Hence, “black” people are an “urban” people/culture, and “urban” people's history is five minutes old. In addition, because it is a term placed on us, we have no basis for its control, and hence they are able to say: “Ancient Egyptians weren't black.” Black has no meaning; except the meaning they place on it…if and when they chose.

    The notion of some invisible border that divides the north of Africa from the south is rooted in racism, which, in part, assumes that a little sand is an obstacle for African people. This barrier of sand hence confines/confined Africans to the bottom of this make-believe location, which exists neither politically or physically. The Sahara is a broad desert belt that encompasses countries like Mali, Sudan and Mauritania, and hence they are neither “sub” nor “North African.” In addition, many African communities historically have traveled freely across this European barrier set for Africans. The famous hajj of Mansa Musa traveled through North Africa in the 13th century, so why do we assume Africans would be confined to this nonsensical designation called “sub-Saharan” Africa? Again, Eurocentric dialectics is at play in the insatiable need to categorize and define things solely on superficial and limited physical observation. This is a mindset that they cannot escape, and the only way they can process reality. Hence, sharp definitions and physical quantities are pre-emphasized in their mental navigation of the world around them. Interestingly, most non-European cultures embody a more spiritual approach to reality, which is expressed in language, culture, and their perception of the world.

    Sub-Saharan Africa sets-up the premises for the confiscation of any “civilization” that happens to occur in African territory. These malicious definitions have been inherited by the victims of European imperialism, and normalized into African language and reality. “Sub-Saharan Africa” is a code word for primitive Africa – a place that has escaped advancement. Hence, we see statements like: “No written languages exist in sub-Saharan Africa,” and “Egypt is not a sub-Saharan African civilization.” Sub-Sahara serves as an exclusion that moves, jumps, and slides around to suit the European negative generalization of Africa. Hence, they would exclude the Sudan, Ethiopia, Mali and Niger from sub-Saharan Africa if it suits their argument.

    Europeans place an emphasis on written script, and subsequent definitions of “advance” and “primitive” are rooted in this pre-concept. It can be said, however, that most of the world has – historically – an oral tradition. However, both formulas for preserving history and communication can be found in Africa – oral and written. Traditionally, Europeans, in their historical attempts to exclude Africa from civilization, have hit upon an obstacle when the Amharic language exists in Ethiopia. To solve this apparent contradiction, the argument moves to: “It was introduced from another people.” At no point in time can Africans be allowed to be seen to have fostered anything that Europe labels as artifacts of civilization. So, both the invisible border comes into play and civilizations are assigned to North Africa (“non-Black”), or, alternatively, gifts given to Africans from external non-African sources.

    There is no supposed cultural divide between northern and southern Africa of any significance not found between other African nations. In this respect, to discuss Africa from the context of “sub” (a word that has links to “sub-human,” “sub-culture,” etc.) renders an absolutely distorted view of African cultures north and south of the Equator. Viewing culture from these limited vantage points poisons the flexibility and deeper appreciation of the subtle complexities shared by these unique cultures. In a nutshell, it is more obstructive outside of science and rooted in extreme racist politics. There is more similarity between the Mali culture and the culture of the nomadic Berber people than Bantu groups in the Congo. Amharic culture can be argued to have a deeper relationship with Yemen (which it annexed in antiquity) than Ghanaian culture. So a black-and-white view of African culture only serves racist generalizations.

    Historians would like to point to the unilateral influence on African culture by non-African people. Never is Africa seen to be the givers of cultural influences outside of its locality. This was extended to the extreme when they said that Nubians offered a supposed Caucasoid Egypt nothing…they were benefactors in the shadow of greatness. The influence of Egypt beyond this area was said to be non-existent as Egypt was married to Mediterranean culture. All educated scholars know now that linguistics, culture, et al. were exchanged with Egypt, an indigenous African civilization. It is silly to assume ancient Egyptians made numerous references to Punt (Somalia) and Ethiopia, and we are to assume there was no exchange or influencing of each other.

    To be Semitic means to speak a Semitic language, and in this regard all of Ethiopia, all of Somalia, and all the Hausa are Semitic. This means the largest linguistic group in Africa is a Semitic one. However, if Semitic means “mixed,” then the majority of Semitic people are Arabs. How can Russian Jews be Semitic? They are racially European, culturally European, and linguistically European.

    Africa is the second largest continent – divided into a collection of post-colonial “sovereign” nations populated with a variety of ethnic groups, not tribes. The Fulani are 20 million strong – that is not a tribe. The word “tribe” only seems to apply to non-European ethnic groups, and it comes with a notion of backwardness and archaic values. The word “ethnic,” when used as “exotic,” is also incorrect because it normalizes European culture, placing all other cultures on the outside of this “standard human culture.” In this instance, “ethnic” exists as some exotic, trite sub-culture, only for the entertainment destination of the European cultural tourist.

    The notion that free Africans were slaves degrades the reality on the ground in Africa, and makes the assumption that our ancestors were born into that condition; that their reality was and always is slavery. However, the term “enslaved” offers a radical and more accurate reality, for it describes a condition placed upon our ancestors. Hence, captive Africans came across the Atlantic and were subsequently enslaved. Never were they slaves, because this is not the natural condition of African people. Writers of history who are ignorant of this reality set up a relationship between black and African, African and slave, and in this cocktail Africa and all its contents becomes a completely negative entity that offers our imaginations nothing more than images of slaves, poverty and backwardness.

    The system of imprisonment found in Africa prior to European enslavement was not slavery, but vassalship, or indentured servitude. Too often chattel slavery is married to the systems found in Africa, which then sets up all kinds of nasty arguments rooted in mitigating the African holocaust, alleviating European responsibility, and putting Africans as the sole bearers of the sin. If forms of slavery are diverse, then one word for a complex, multifaceted system is inadequate. If the Inuit people of the Arctic have more than 20 words for “snow” to articulate its variety, why then must we limit ourselves to one term in relation to slavery? Clearly Arab enslavement of Africans contrasted the European enslavement of Africans, and the non-free class within the Islamic Songhay Empire was different from captivity among the Ibo or the Ashanti.

    Fundamentally, academia must advance and embrace new terminologies for these different realities. But when a disempowered people are forced to use the tools of their oppressors, it is little wonder more voices don't see the anti-scholarship principle found in the abhorrent generalization of enslavement; a system so diverse that in one system you could be a king while in another you were little more than a domestic animal.

    We must not walk on the outside of our own history in humanity, and thus a challenge to systems that remove us from this noble place within human history needs to be critically and objectively re-evaluated. To continuously fight an opponent who makes the weapons we fight them with means victory will always escape us. This is why no matter how close we come – we lose. Unlike other groups, we fail to institutionalize and control concepts and definitions relevant to our reality. We only need to look at the current anti-Islamic campaign to see the role of language usage in a battle for supremacy and mind-control. Today the word “terrorist” might as well mean Muslim. They employed a strategy that started by saying “Muslim and terrorist” and “Islam and terrorist.” These words always accompanied one another. Once the marriage had been established, either word; may it be “Muslim” or “terrorist,” conjured up the other, thus Muslim implied terrorist and terrorist implied Muslim.

    This is just a new example of the route and methodology in re-routing words to serve an objective. The Western controlling powers have the single most powerful weapon at their disposal: mass media. And thus concepts, precepts, ideas and ideologies can be communicated in the blink of an eye. Thus we must also find a way of communicating our new realities to our people, and it must start with those in positions of mass interface with the public: writers, musicians, politicians, et al. employing these terms. This is a key part in our path to self-determination, and must not be underestimated or overlooked if freedom and destiny are to be ours. There is no line drawn under words, and the future of linguistics in articulating our reality for our empowerment is a continuous journey. Its ultimate destination is when the African languages are completely used in our communications. As African people, we must seek to redefine our reality, and part of this redefinition must begin with the terminologies we use to define ourselves, and the terminologies others use to define us…

    “Until lions tell their story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” (African proverb)

    www.africanholocaust.net/
     
  2. anAfrican

    anAfrican Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Oh, the power of words!

    Thank you for bringing this to the Family! I just hope/wish that this would get as much attention as the on-going preoccupation with sex that is flooding this forum!

    About the only thing I could find to "differ in opinion" with is an internal dichotomy inherent within this posting: Given all the supporting argument about the abuse of the words that have come to be used to denigrate us is this:
    It still "keeps us seperate from" the nations that we have come to regard as "home". We are Americans, Brits, Brazilian, Carribbean, not a "sub-set" of our political nations. I feel that such a move, at least here in America, is at the root of the divison of this nation, allowing the repugniklan theft of our American heritage. (Too true; many will suggest that "look around you! do you really think that you are an American?!", which is putting the cart firmly before the horse!! Because this [Ethnic]-American bit has been put forth, accepted and vigorously defended, those adhering and advocating this position are accepting and acknowleging their "sub-American" status.) (I like this word that I have coined: "repugniklan" - most actions of the republican party have been quite repugnant for a very long time. Also, why can't America seem to get rid of the racism? The klan has morphed into politics/business/entertainment/everything!)

    Aye, "the power of the press". Just think what might could happen if "USian" Africans started to use the power that we do possess in the media (rap music, talk shows, movies) to speak to the disrespect that is less than our due? (Perhaps a "media blitz" under the title of "Less-Due Dis"? <g>) If we could just get Harpo Productions to do/support some stuff that was targeted at more the the stay at home housewives?

    (Sometimes I almost wish that I had been able to better tolerate the state of the american educational system long enough to have had more practise at putting my thoughts into essays like this. But then, if I had, I'd have been just a socially programmed/brainwashed as the rest of this country/planet!)

    Thank you, Brother Aqil for bringing this!! DO IT SOME MORE!!!
     
  3. Deepvoice

    Deepvoice Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Thank you Aqil man. I've been trying to say that to my mother and father for a long time. There is no black land,language, or customs, and there will never be any. When you group all dark skin people up and call them one without any regard to what that particular ethnic group or tribe did in history its almost like you are wiping them completely out of existence. Marginalizing any man or nation essentially takes away from their own individuality and even worse their humanity. Its worst than saying all black people look alike. Just because the man down the street is over 6 feet tall and has a deep voice doesn't make him my brother. What an oxymoron everyone knows that black is void of color but yet the term is used to denote people of color in this country, you wouldn't walk up to an Asian and call him chinky eyes would you?
     
  4. Deepvoice

    Deepvoice Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I once heard a saying that "he who has the power of define controls the mind", we are like their alter ego or the yin to their yang. They need us to point out all the good that is within them.
     
  5. Sun Ship

    Sun Ship Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Thanks for sharing….good read!

    One thing I find interesting is that this piece gets not into the deep etymological essence of word meaning, but the given semantic values of words. This is more about the power of socio-political cultural identifiers rather then definitions that deal with true intrinsic meaning of what is an African…because the term Africa, at this time, is still considered a foreign loan word and it’s origins and meaning is still being debated about amongst etymologist. As we contemplate terms and symbols that truly define us, we must consider looking deep within and not just be influenced or react to the ignorance of Europeans.

    But in reference to what’s being explored in this article, we may also have to reconsider names like Nigeria, Niger, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Morocco, Sudan, Ethiopia and Mauritania…for all of the names of these African countries still are based on foreign loan words that in some way are related to defining African countries or the original people based on the profuse melanin in their skin or their Black/dark complexions.

    As I said before, "Before we discount our complex as a powerful symbol remember, Melanin is part of our integrated circuitry (an amorphous semiconductor) and is not just a superficial covering or a passive color."

    I had once heard it said that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad use to teach that, “Black was not a color but a state of being”.

    Again, we need to stop being so linear in our thinking…
     
  6. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

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  7. Deepvoice

    Deepvoice Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    In everything there is nothing
     
  8. plainrhythm

    plainrhythm Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu"

    a person is only a person throught the community of people...

    it's xhosa.

    i really appreciate this Aqil... this forum is good for those who need to revive what was almost lost in a history.

    THREE CHEERS FOR YOU!!
     
  9. Sun Ship

    Sun Ship Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Thank you brother oldsoul for helping our brothers and sisters out here…we are trying to rationalize something that is beyond the limits of the rational mind…as I try to say…light is only the visual symbolic resonance of energy that has emanated from an source or power greater or more substantive than the light itself. And color is a byproduct of lights complexities, basically a phenomenon of light.

    Black is more than just a color, but a state of being, a dimension, and a source. Black produces life (carbon) Black is the primordial mother of light and color (dark matter), and Black also absorbs light (Black holes, melanin)…white folks don’t want you to work this knowledge, they rather you bamboozle yourselves.

    Webster dict.
    Main Entry: dark matter
    Function: noun
    : nonluminous matter not yet directly detected by astronomers that is hypothesized to exist because the visible matter in the universe is insufficient to account for various observed gravitational effects

    This is real stuff…WAKE UP BLACK FOLKS….!!!
     
  10. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    You know what this reminds me of brotha Sun Ship? that "core" I mentioned in the thread Galactice Superwaves :pool:
     
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