By Hakim Abdul-Ali
There are times in my life when I have to step back and seriously reflect about many isolated, disturbing and poignant issues that affect me as a thinking “hue- man” being of color. “Life’s occurrences are symbolic metaphors in so many instances” is something that I always have to remind myself of.
Such was the case last week when I was visiting an Afro-conscious shop called “The Central Station” in North Charleston, South Carolina. Its progressively minded and dynamic young owner, Jeffrey “Uni” Nickelson, caught my attention with a striking tee shirt that he was wearing.
On it was a word in big bright red letters that read “KEBUKA!” and underneath it was a figurative depiction of about eight suffering humans packed together in a upside, downside pattern format. This noticeable design reminded me of past artistic drawings of enslaved Africans in the bowels of slave ships that I’ve seen all my life.
And under this striking patterned design was the two-lined caption in bold letters that read “Remembering The Middle Passage Through The Eyes Of Our Ancestors.” To say that this hit me with a renewed starkness that made me immediately think of the transformative oppressive contemporary plights of the African descendants’ struggles here in the USA and beyond is to be putting things mildly.
Upon scoping the wordage and internalizing the ever-powerful underlying message on the tee shirt, I had to ask Brother “Uni” what was the word “KEBUKA!’s” origin and what was it about because I had never heard of it. He told me that he wasn’t sure of its exact origin but he said the shirt was a gift to him by a very African-centered and minded brother.
After checking his sources, Brother “Uni” related that “KEBUKA” was a word of Kikongo (African) origin meaning, and in simplest terms, it meant to “remember.” It’s also meant that we Africans (and African descendant souls) everywhere must struggle to remember the most hidden intricacies of what we have been made to lose and we must use that memory to rebuild our futures in line with those ancestral traditions.
After reflecting upon and hearing Brother “Uni’s” explanation of this meaningful reality, I had to write what I’m writing today because what he laid on me was some heavy and necessary insight. After all, today’s concurrent Black struggles everywhere are about struggles for “hue-man” dignity, survival and equality amidst the virulent socially opposing ethnic politically racist supremacist ventures of today.
That’s why the word “KEBULA!” on that tee shirt sent an ever-present reminder to me that we must never forget what happened to the enslaved Africans of yesteryear. It truly was the world’s most oppressive, unforgettable cataclysm, and that African Holocaust is something that you never hear anyone talk about, nor discuss in colonial “his-storical” instruction source books of miseducated deceptions.
The undeniable truth is the light, especially when it comes to the miseducation of the oppressed ethnic “colored” masses in this country and beyond. Sometimes, I wonder how can some Black, African, or whatever people of color call themselves, rationalize not wanting to know about their true, legitimate and authentic heritage.
No, the “actual” reality is that unless African folks of all color designations everywhere wake up and smell the coffee and do for self, like so many past revolutionary elders, queens, heroes and sheroes once taught, we will forever become inconsequential fossils. Yes, my beloved, believe or not, “Black is Beautiful,” and Africa is the Motherland of everyone’s known origins, even if some now may want to whimsically deny same.
That’s why “Remembering The Middle Passage Through The Eyes Of The Ancestors” is a critical land mark of daily conscious striving for me and, if you’re of color, I feel that it should be for you too. The essence of knowing one’s self and heritage with esteemed pride and dutiful awareness, in my view, is to eternally respect and to never forget their ancestors just like every other non-African group of folk apparently do in respecting, celebrating and honoring their own.
Somehow, that makes sense to me even as I see other religious groups, e.g., say (rightfully) “Never Again” when it comes to making sure that what was despicably and horrifically done to their ancestral lineage
never happens again. With that being a politically and morally correct reality today for others, sadly, the Black experiences in the much of the worlds of today’s mega-biased supremacist cauldrons has been left by the waysides of equality and justice for all and few seem to care.
I do, but I don’t think I should expect another soul of “hue-manity” to love me if I don’t, first, love who I am. When any group of ethnic folk don’t apply that rule, then they’ll suffer forever from their oppressors’ bigotries, racialisms and dogmatic supremacies galore that have left a prejudicial stain on their individual and collective survivals and consciousnesses.
Seeing the young Brother “Uni’s” tee shirt, and his obvious intelligent sense of pride in being Black, was a reminder to me of what the epoch of the ’60s’ consciousness meant to me and to all those of my era way back then. You see, Black Unity and the
remembrance of what my ancestors went through never left my mind-set as I, unhappily, think it may have evaporated from other “soul” folks’ mind-sets.
Life is an evolving struggle and no one can define freedom for any oppressed people of color, especially for those who’ve lived under the pseudoscientific illusions of equality and justice for all, without paying a price for terminal ancestral forgetfulness. Maybe, that’s why the recent “Black Lives Matters” movement is under attack from all quarters without understanding that if Black Lives don’t Matter to Blacks, then who in the world will it matter to? Think!
When I think of the enslaved Africans in the slave ships to hell and back, a penetrating pain surrounds my body, mind and thoughts with anger and disgust. That’s why “Black Lives Matter” do matter, now and forever, and the slogan “Never Again” is a motto that relates equally to all African liberation causes, just as it relates to any other global religious or ethnic grouping’s liberation efforts from systematic political oppression and spiritual injustices.
The word “KEBUKA” pronounced “kay-boo-kah” resonates within me because it tells me that as an aware African descendant being, even in this day and time, I must never forget what my known and unknown ancestors from the Motherland had to endure during the hellish arenas of slavery’s torments and horrors. Brother “Uni” and those who are conscious like him haven’t. Have you?
I trust that you haven’t, because we all stand on the backs, shoulders and spirits of our ancestors who went through so much for us to be where we are today. “Our Black Ancestors’ Lives Mattered.” I’ll never forget my ancestors and what they went through. I hope you don’t. For today and always, that’s, “ As I See It.”