by Kenny 'Cinque' Anderson
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”- Dr. Garter G. Woodson founder of Negro History Week the forerunner of Black History Month.
As a conscious Black man, Black History Month is a sacred month! A collective time to reflect on the souls of our people, all of them, but especially the spirits of our freedom–fighting Ancestors; the martyrs who sacrificed and gave up their lives for our freedom!
Over the years, I’ve noticed a significant lack of interest in Black History Month. Last year, 2015, thirty-nine years after the founding of Black History Month, the vast majority of Black people I observed didn’t spend one day out of February to show love to their Ancestors and honor their own great history. However on February 14th these same Black folks were all caught up in a Eurocentric pseudo love day ‘valentines’.
I often hear many Black men say, particularly religious ones, regarding remembering and honoring our history, “Why do we have to talk about the past”; “It’s not about the past, it’s about the present”. My response to them is: “If the past is not important why do you read the Bible, it’s a religious scripture of the ancient past.”
I often ask these same Black men, “Why are you a Christian, it’s an ancient religion of the past.” I tell Black men if they knew about the racist past of Christianity in America there would be a greater understanding of their own history.
Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Negro History Week, stated: “It is very clear, then, that if Negroes got their conception of religion from slaveholders, libertines, and murderers, there may be something wrong about it, and it would not hurt to investigate it.”
I tell them all of the Holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter) they celebrate are from the past. I tell them that the 4th of July is a white patriotic holiday from the past that has nothing to do with Black freedom; in 1776 our Ancestors were still enslaved.
I go on to tell them that Halloween is a pagan European holiday from the past. Valentines Day is a European holiday from the past. Memorial Day is another white patriotic holiday that honors veterans of past wars.
Getting back to the Bible example, I ask Black men: “If history is not important, why do they honor the Old Testament ancient Hebrew prophets of the past like Moses, Noah, Lot, Enoch, and Isaiah, who lived over 3,000 years ago?”
I ask them why ancient Hebrew religious history and the Jewish holocaust are more important than Black history and the Black slave holocaust? As professor Molefi Kete Asante remarked, “We have a formidable history, replete with the voice of God, the ancestors, and the prophets.”
I ask them why the Hebrew prophet Moses is more important than our own ‘Black Moses’ Harriet Tubman, who led the Underground Railroad and delivered thousands of our enslaved Ancestors to freedom. I ask them why they can believe that God spoke to Moses through a burning bush 3,000 years ago, but they can’t believe that God spoke to Nat Turner through revelation signs in the sky - 183 years ago.
I ask them why the ancient Old Testament prophets are more important to them than our own antebellum prophets Demark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner, David Walker, and Henry Highland Garnett.
I ask them why is Israel a more important spiritual geography than the South (New Afrika) where the land is filled with the blood and the soil enriched with the bones of our enslaved Black forefathers; as professor Asante further stated: “Afrocentrism teaches us to honor Jamestown where the first bloods truly destined touched the American earth; to honor the sacred spot where Nat Turner planned his revolt in Virginia. We have within our own history the most sacred and holiest places on the earth.”
I tell Black men since we don’t view our historical suffering as sacred, we don’t safeguard our history, and this is the reason why corporate America uses Black History Month as an advertising tool to exploit the Black consumer market.
I tell them that Corporate America won’t advertise and exploit Jewish historical suffering, because Jews don’t allow it! Their history is too sacred and too important to them. We’ve allowed the souls of Black folk to be commercialized and trivialized.
I ask many Black men why do they honor the sacrifices and suffering of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago but they don’t honor the sacrifices and suffering of their own enslaved forefathers, many who suffered more than Jesus.
I tell them though Jesus was nailed to a cross he was not castrated. Indeed, many of our forefathers were hung from trees, lynched - crucified from trees and their penises cut off. After being lynched, they were cut down, bodies tied to horses and drug around. When the horse dragging stopped their bodies were set afire, barbequed, and body parts sold as souveniers.
What I tell them is that nowhere in the Bible does it state Jesus was enslaved by the Romans. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that the Romans stripped Jesus of his name and Jewish culture, like our forefathers were stripped of their African names and culture.
I tell them that they call out Jesus’ name daily and weekly, but they won’t call out their forefathers name once a year during Black History Month. They’ll pray to Jesus, but won’t pour libations in remembrance of their freedom–fighting forefathers. They’ll thank Jesus for sacrificing his life to save them in the afterlife, but won’t thank their forefathers who sacrificed their lives for our freedom in this life.
I tell them it is tragic as Black men that we have been racially oppressed, socialized, and miseducated to believe honoring other people’s history is more important than honoring our own. That other people’s historical suffering is more important than our own; as Reverend Daniel Aldridge stated:
“We speak more in our churches of the enslavement and exodus of the people of Israel than we do our own Black enslavement and exodus. The result of all this is that we have produced and continue to produce a culturally illiterate people. A people whose spirituality is rooted in the history, experience, traditions, and culture of another people. This historical and cultural lobotomy, this failure to develop and institutionalize a collective ancestral memory has resulted in not only the control of our minds, the internalization of our oppressors’ concept of us, and this would be bad enough in and of itself, but even worse this destruction of our collective ancestral memories has resulted in the pulverization of our souls and the colonization of our imaginations.”
I told some Black men what if during Black History Month we recognized our ancient African Orishas 'God-sent forefathers' and invoked them to be a daily inspiration in our lives.
I told them that in Yoruba Afrikan traditional spirituality the Orishas are the archetypal messengers of Olodumare ‘God Almighty’; they provide us with guidance and ideal attributes to model.
I told them that these Male Orishas provide Black men with exemplary character traits that can strengthen our manhood to effectively deal with ongoing racist challenges; theses Orishas are:
*Shango – Warrior King; the rebel Orisha - the leader of rebellion; he is willful, intelligent, energetic, proud, and conscious of his value; his weapon is the double-blade axe.
*Ogun – Male Orisha warrior and a powerful spirit of metal work; Ogún is the god of iron, war, and labor (struggle). He is the owner of all technology and because this technology shares in his nature, it is almost always used first for war. As Elegbá opens the roads, it is Ogún that clears the roads with his machete.
*Obatala - Father of all Orishas and also the owner of all ‘Ori’ (Spiritual head, super-mind); Obatalá is the source of all that is pure, wise, peaceful, and compassionate. He has a warrior side though which he enforces justice in the world.
*Orunmila – Male Orisha of wisdom, knowledge, healing, and divination.
*Elegba – Male Orisha messenger and authority; trailblazer (path-opener).
*Oshosi – Male Orisha spirit associated with the hunt, forests, animals, and wealth. He is spirit of meals, because it is he who provides food. He is associated with lightness, astuteness, wisdom, and craftiness in the hunt. He is contemplative, loving the arts, and beautiful things. He hunts with a bow and arrow hunting for good influences and positive energies.
I tell Black men regarding economics that the reason why other ethnic national men dominate all the businesses in our communities and economically exploit us is due to them honoring their history and forefathers more than we do; they have more historical and cultural esteem, as professor Amos Wilson stated: “We enrich the Koreans and other ethnic groups, support them, help feed their children, while ours starve and die, rob and steal, and do the kind of things we don’t approve of. This is a result of a people who have forgotten their history.”
I tell Black men that until we become conscious of our history, view it as sacred, protect it as precious, honor our prophetic forefathers and learn from them; we will continue to suffer from racial oppression, as John Henrik Clarke stated: “You cannot successfully oppress a consciously historical people.”