By Hakim Abdul-Ali
Today, I’m going to talk about a very personal and close subject to my heart, and that’s the aspect of collecting, specially collecting Afro-related items. This reviving topic has been on my mind since I had a very rewarding talk via telephone with a fellow collector and writer from Chicago named Muhammed Al-Ahari about two nights ago.
Mr. Al-Ahari, a learned Ph.D. candidate in Islamic Studies, is the kind of intellectual soul and collector who is a joy to rap to and discuss timely and scholarly things with. He is very knowledgeable about many things-in-general, so much so until I literally get intellectual goosebumps bumps whenever I speak to him.
I usually leave my conversations with Brother Muhammad, a longstanding schoolteacher by vocation in the Chicago area, feeling buoyed by his commitment to present day academia’s need for improvement and his overall awesome concern about the universal status of where legitimate, factual education is headed today in this country and beyond. He views the collecting and preservation efforts of one’s cultural heritage as important keys to self-help initiatives in these areas.
Needless, to say, I sincerely feel that way also because without the knowledge of self and who the Creator Alone is (or isn’t), where are we headed? The universal aspects of legitimate knowledge being taught in many of our nation’s plantation, oops, l mean, inner city school systems, leaves much to be desired. For America’s so-called minorities, the traditional educational processes in this nation are (and always have been) a second-class experiments of the worst kinds because very it’s obvious that on some political fronts, very few involved folks seem to care. Do you agree?
Moving forward, I’m an old school preservation type collector who knows the intrinsic values of collecting and preservation. I was taught early on by my parents and others that much wisdom lies within and between the pages of bygone books, magazines, photographs and pamphlets, etc.
It’s in my genes to collect, so when I speak about a topic like “Preservation is in the Blood,” I mean just that. I love knowing about historical and “our-storical” occurrences, even the tragic events that have, unfortunately, documented America for what it truly has been under the cloaks of bigoted injustice and racial separation.
As the contemporary streets of this country’s ghettoes and barrios so poignantly state,” It is what is, Homey.” America’s current multi-ethnic communities of people of color need to know that they are represented at the conference tables of respect and honor just like any other ethnic grouping.
I think to myself now about who’s really going to be the inheritors and preservers of the distinct non-colonial truths about people of color in this day and age looking forward? Do you see where I’m coming from? Think! With respect to all Americans, everyone’s culture and heritage needs to be researched and documented for what it is—the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. The miseducation of “The American People” started with the lies of its early educational systems processes, forever indoctrinating many in a web of faux racial supremacy that sadly still exists today in the hearts, thoughts and minds of many folk at this very second.
Truth is the light, and as an advanced collector in many arenas, I must give credit and respect to the great past bibliophiles and other assorted collectors of the Afro-American culture. These admired compilers were oftentimes criticized in many instances for their obsessions in the gathering realms of collecting.
Many were called hoarders and the like, but if they weren’t “touched” by their obsessional drive to collect where would the majority of the items filling today’s elite museums and galleries about the Black experiences have come from? You need to stop right there and digest what I just put before you. Hmm.
Call visionaries whatever you want, but please politely and profusely never forget to label them correctly “committed geniuses” because their isolated visionary efforts to preserve “our” cultural stories yield so much insight about the Black experiences-both amazing and horrifying. “Preservation was in Their Blood.”
It’s in mine just as I think that it should be in yours and others who know that only “we” can tell our own stories, including the pains, agonies and triumphs that go along with living in a “his-storically” racially divided nation. A silent or slight recognition of our past heroes and sheroes is not enough in the month of February.
So, I have to salute all of the bibliophiles, artists, scholars, collectors, book sellers, photographers, novelists, educators, and preservation die hards, just to name a view, who know and knew what real Black “Our-Story” was and is all about. These unparalleled beings obviously were and are souls who had and have the preservation activism running through their veins.
In many scenarios, some of these past and present noble past souls were accomplished beings and most were unknown folk. The one thing that they had in common was a tremendous dedicated pride in being who they were and knowing that they were proud of their culture and heritage.
Regretfully, I don’t see that on many fronts today, and I stand to be corrected if what I’m thinking is in error. Before you answer, if you’re of color, please tell me who you know in your immediate inner circle who is preserving and maintaining anything about ou culture on a continual basis? Think before you speak.
In conclusion, I love the passionate hobby, or obsessed preoccupation, that this collecting memorabilia field of activity brings to my mind-set. I make no apologies to that task at hand, just like the above mentioned past greats, because, to me, knowing about you and your past is a one serious venture that requires individual awareness first.
No system will ever tell the truth of its captured and enslaved masses. It’s left to the descendants of those brutalized folk to research, collect, preserve and maintain their own stories, and it begins with collecting and preserving their own family histories as best they can or know it.
Gaining knowledge of self has to be in one’s blood, and if you’re truly going to call yourself educated, then everyone’s lineage is important. It must be a given that to know oneself, it must be a desire in the blood, or it should be.
Again, think about it because the Africana that is in all of the Motherland’s scattered families throughout the globe must know that Black is beautiful in so many norms of existences. “It’s in the blood.” Study, preserve and teach your heritage. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”