By Hakim Abdul-Ali
I’m a self-obsessed lover of collecting anything relating to the cultures of Black folk wherever they reside. Label me what you want to, but that’s where my heart and soul are at when it comes to always wanting to fulfill my thirst and hunger for more Black “Our-story.”
Every once and a while I take stock of my rather large collection of Afro-centered items that are in my personal collection and home library. This collection has been growing, off and on, since the mid-’60s, and I humbly admit that I treasure it immensely.
Being the collector that I am requires a certain amount of dogged “stick to it” initiative, if there is such a term. Most obsessed collecting souls like me don’t really care what others think or say about us when it comes to preservation because we’ve been on this isolated mission and labor of driven love for so many decades until only the dedicated collectors, past and present, knew and know what our struggles and joys are about in indulging in this scholarly pursuit.
On many occasions, I feel very fortunate to be able to address and inform so many apparently unaware folk about the continued importance of collecting and preserving “our-story” in whatever format it takes place. You name it, from collecting books, artifacts, magazines, photos, art works, newspapers to, well, just about anything about the African Diaspora in general, and anything specifically related to our culture, it’s all worthy of being collected and preserved.
To some collectors, that also includes some of the more reprehensible items that is out there because they too are sordid examples of why we must show how certain racist elements in American and other non-African societies stereotyped and depicted the Africana peoples through wanton images and biased miseducation. Many collectors feel that much is to be learned by seeing, firsthand, how these negative images and items helped shaped the twisted mores and demented psyches of so many past non-African ethnicities in their bigoted supremacist views about Black people.
Sadly, you still see clandestine remnants of those intolerant views in many political parties, educational environs and different societal settings of the world, especially here in America. Anyone of color knows that he or she “Must Never Overlook” the undeniable fact that racism and prejudice are oftentimes vivid in some American sectors, even among the so-called hip morally inclined and the toney politically correct folk of today.
As a thinker, I’m reminded that “It Must Never Be Overlooked” of how insidiously American “His-story” is, has been and seems to forever portray the darker hued souls of “hue-manity” everywhere in subservient roles and demeanors. This systematic plan and stealthy implementation on the part of the “his-storically” cruel enslavers and calculating educators of colonialism has left many folk of African descent desperately scrambling to gain a foothold in their own victimized minds about who they are and how do they make being Black relevant in a totally Euro-influenced dominated world.
I can’t overlook that fact as I see so many Black folk in America and beyond hide their their natural personas to adopt the “I wanna look like someone else” identities in copying others’ looks and appearances. If what I’m saying is a falsehood, then why is that the natural hairstyles of some people of color, for example, is made to be a foreign and unwanted symbol of yesteryear’s once proud identity (by them).
Back to the collecting aspect now, as I recently viewed part of my once ten thousand piece prized personal collection (I lost two-fifths due to the flood of the century of three-years-ago that hit the Lowcountry), I see so much in my remaining items that it makes me realize that it has been worth my toil and efforts to collect and preserve over these many, many decades. I’m particularly humbled by viewing the old postcards of Blacks from the 19th century to the 20th century that are still in my valuable collection. They are awesome!
When I speak of my valuable collection, please don’t assume that I’m being narcissistic because I’m not. Contrary to that erroneous assumption, I’m rather commemorating the greatness of my people’s strengths, agonies, sufferings, courage and uplifts in the greatest untold, under publicized and horribly minimized ethnic Holocaust done to any bygone group of people, bar none.
I could only be talking about the African Holocaust, but in light of someone else writing “his-story,” we objectively know that no oppressed grouping can never, ever expect there to be true, authentic and legitimate stories to be told about them unless they, themselves, tell it like it is and was. That’s why Black “Our-story” must be continually and thoroughly researched, compiled and taught by us everywhere so that the truth about things like, e.g., African, Arab and European roles in slavery and the exposing of colonial religiosities and their effects upon the minds of past, present and future generations of Black folk needs to be fully examined, explained and comprehended.
“It Must Never Be Overlooked” that until, and when, this is done, the arenas for self-examinations for what has been tragically and systematically done to the dissected African soul in the West for over five centuries, and now in parts of today’s victimized and exploited Africa itself, things will never be fully encompassed. Legitimate research, and I do mean legitimate research, along with an unswerving commitment to the tasks at hand, will, hopefully, produce a new dedicated group of modern scholars who will dedicate themselves to correcting some, if not all, of the bogus lies about Africa and its noble heritage.
Today is not a period in anyone’s history to play games of denial and forgetfulness because those stances are self-defeating as the global African experience has become marginalized in so many quarters until it’s no laughing matter. We must incorporate disciplined time slots in our daily lives, in our own homes, businesses, schools and religious groupings, etc., to enhance “our-story” in order to cultivate a new spirit of learning and knowing more about our culture.
Muhammad Ali once said, “I try to learn as much as I can because I know nothing compared to what I need to know.” That says so much about what I’m trying to relate to you today because the former late great boxing champion hit the bull’s eye with that statement.
Count me there also because I openly say to you that, even though I’m a self-avowed Black “Our-storical” collector and a proud lover of my culture, I’m still a student at this juncture, forever seeking more info about authentic African and Afro-American “Our-stories.” It’s an endless pastime of mine seeking knowledge and continually collecting so that I can authenticity speak about what I’ve learn about the Motherland and her scattered descendants everywhere, and Black folk truly are everywhere—a factor “that must never be overlooked,” or forgotten.
So, as the ceremonial American observances for so-called Black History comes to its monthly end, and as it begins to fade into calendar oblivion for another year, I say to you that, if you’re of color and are aware of what time it is that we are “really, really” living in, then you’ll realize that the study, research, collecting, teaching and preservation of things relating to Black culture “Must Never Be Overlooked.” Let’s get busy.
Understanding this by one and all will alleviate much of the misinformation and miseducation that exists among between us and divides us in some sectors such as our personal comprehensions and outward indoctrinations. If you call yourself Black, African or whatever, first know what you’re talking about when you do.
My final words today come from none other than the great “our-storian” Carter G.Woodson. He related, “The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other people.”
What Mr. Woodson, the father of our Black History national observances, said “Must Never Be Overlooked.” Think about that if you will, but do it with an aware mind.
For today and always, “ As I See It.”