By Hakim Abdul-Ali
It’s that annual time again in the village of Black Awareness in the USA for the celebration of Black History Month. Conscious ebony souls are rejoicing in anticipation of the numerous local and national events that are set to occur during the month and all around the bald eagle’s territorial landscape for this celebrated occasion.
Being an outspoken and unashamed lover of my ethnic heritage, I must testify that the month of February alone does not totally satisfy nor fulfill my appetite for absorbing the richness of my people’s struggles, miseries, accomplishments, sufferings and glories. “For All That It’s Worth,” so-called Black History Month is, in reality to me, only a part of what I consider should be a year round Black “Our-storical” occasion, if you catch my flow.
I truly love the fact that I consider myself an aware brother of Afro-consciousness, and I, again, openly make no apologies for expressing that sentiment outright. Being proud of my African-American heritage is one thing that I hold personally near and dear to my soul’s inner essence, despite the fact that even in today’s advanced technology driven world, there are far too many ethnically labeled Black folk who I believe maybe (and are ashamedly) hiding in the shadows of self-hatred for being Black.
This is something that I still see today as the ever-present and infamous color line of racial articulation is very much alive in the mind-sets of many confused brothas and sistas of color everywhere. I know it’s real because there are many folk of color in my worlds of existences, who specifically and casually talk to me about the subliminal fact that, in today’s modern Black culture, things like skin pigmentations, are viewed in irrelevant and sometimes jaundice lights, with no pun intended.
It seems to me that to express being Black and proud today indicates a militant stance to some hiding and abstract-minded souls, as opposed to one of having extreme love and dignified pride in one’s uniquely created ebony self. Denying one’s true identity, while under attack from so many legions of hidden bigotries and from the countless day-to-day subtleties of ethnic class and religious biased differentials in the world-at-large, is and can be a death knoll to being and accepting who you really are.
Maybe, because of that ever-present actuality, and “For All That It’s Worth,” I feel an urgency to remind myself, you and all other concerned folk of color, that being of the African Diaspora is to exhibit a sense of pride that we all should embrace and bear with honor and dignity. That’s a point some of the previously mentioned “hiding folk,” who are, and maybe, considered to be people of color, tend to forget.
You see, that frustrating reality is a veritable truth that some pretenders can’t hide, but they surely tend to deny for some whimsical reason or the other.
Listen, “Black is Beautiful” is more than a handy catch all phrase for the uneducated and uninitiated among the ebony souls of this land and beyond to carelessly chant from time-to-time.
To this point, I recall something that a noble African-American woman, educator and civil rights leader, Mary McLeod Bethune, who lived from 1875-1955, once said, “If our people are to fight their way out of bondage, we must arm them with the sword and the shield and the buckler of pride—belief in themselves and their possibilities based on a sure knowledge of the past.”
Before moving on, I’d like you to internalize the pervasive wisdom of Sista Mary’s thoughts “For All That It’s Worth.” The thoughts of this “our-storical” great carries a mighty intrinsically cosmic identity message to me, and it should to you, especially if you’re aware that being African in so many areas of the globe today is still an endangered existence, both ethnically, sociologically and politically speaking.
“For All That Its Worth,” the problem of having darkened skin tone for some “colored” folk is very much an issue of grave importance upon them and on the psyches of an overwhelming segment of the world’s biased societies. “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholders,” but, sadly, with the so many negative images of people of color flowing through the flaming existences of racism and bigotry in today’s global environs, it’s become tougher to love one’s ebony self when you’re secretly ashamed of who you are while trying to look like and identify with another’s culture and physical identities.
If you’re of ebony color and, hopefully, not living under a rock, you know the lifelong, catastrophic effects of racial apartheid that it has upon your sense of wellbeing, outer identity and inner self-love. The truth, “For All That It’s Worth,” and it must told, is that in so many untold areas, skin color (still) regretfully plays a part in everything that’s seen and represented as what pristine America is supposed to be like.
From the reels upon reels of racially crafted Hollywood films and images of who the beautiful folk are, and are supposed to ideally look like, to the predisposed colonial narrow-minded instructional textbooks of purposeful miseducated deceptions, race has, still and probably always will play a significant part in how most segments of non-African extraction view people of color. Sometimes, it’s done in clandestinely ancient politically correct themes, and in other modern alt-right declarations, it’s verbalized right before your face as seen daily in the current news and via the internet.
You can take that thought of mine and dispute it “For All That It’s Worth,” but American racism is a documented “his-storical” fact, just look at the “his-story” books of yesteryear. I’m definitely old enough, even if you aren’t, to know of those realities of never forgetting that no one but our own experienced folk should authentically tell “our-story.”
So, I feel culturally compelled to inform you that an anonymous slave was related to have uttered, “If you want Negro history, you will have to get it from someone who wore the shoe, and by and by, one to the other, you will get a book.” Think about that if you dare and tell me if “our-story” never told is “our-story” never known.
With the undisputed fact that very little in the form of authentic Black Studies is apparently being taught to the youth of today on a regular and meaningful basis, it makes you wonder, “For All That It’s Worth,” what’s really happening to the future of Black “Our-story” being preserved with a long term academic prognosis in view. To some folk in our culture that’s a real issue of grave concern, and to others, well, you know, they could care less, but I most certainly do. I hope that you do also.
My focus in my column is on preserving “our-story,” and that’s where my head’s at right now as I posed the above mentioned, ever-so-pertinent and extremely relevant question to you and others. Before attempting to answer that, please listen to what the late novelist and activist James Baldwin said on the subject of American history.
The esteemed writer and thinker said, “I want American history taught. Unless I’m in the book, you’re not in it either. History is not a procession of illustrious people. It’s about what happens to a people. Millions of anonymous people is what history is all about.” The provocative statement by Brotha James expresses why Black “Our-Story” must be told by us to us, and others, if they objectively want to know the real truth about us, them and American history, “For All That It’s Worth.”
I love my cultural lineage of being born in and of the African-American Diaspora. It makes me love the Creator Alone, Who (Alone) created me and you, so that we would be humbly proud of our births and existences with no malice towards anyone. Never be ashamed of who you are. Others shouldn’t be ashamed of who they are either.
Some unfortunate intolerant racists, bigots and chauvinists never comprehend that, therefore, making it harder for them to recognize the undeniable fact that we all were and are (all) created “hue-man” by the Creator Alone. We don’t need the myths and lies of “his-storical” prejudices to guide us any more. It’s time to study and learn the truth of self and advance to the levels of respectful cultural intelligence.
It’s on you now, so don’t hesitate to move on in learning about yourself and your culture. Oh, by the away, with lasting reference to what James Baldwin offered, I’d like to suggest to you to read two books written by a non-African-American scholar named James W. Loewen. They are called “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “Lies Across America-What Our Historic Sites Gets Wrong.” Believe me when I tell you they are interestingly imperative must reads.
In conclusion, and “For All That It’s Worth,” I’ll leave you with a quotation from the late political activist and renowned cultural writer Dick Gregory who said, “American history is a myth and (it) can only be accepted when read with blinders that block out the facts.”
Take it or leave it, but the truth is what it is. Search for it, and remember to hate no one in the process, but always learn to love yourself first. Please learn about your true culture in order to know who you are.
For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”