By Hakim Abdul-Ali
Black History Month is in full swing across the United States of America. It’s a grand time to reflect upon the past and present ebony heroes and sheroes of the world for all that they accomplished and achieved in the throes of injustices and discriminations galore.
I’m a humbly proud brother of color, and I love to research, study, collect and archive all things relating to the Afrikan local, national and global experiences. In so doing, I feel a symbiotic connection to all of these great folk of my global culture in whatever niche, discipline or facet they attained recognition.
Because of that reality, I always understood the importance of maintaining, e.g., certain books, vital documents, postcards, sheet music, manuscripts, recordings, art work, photographs and videos, etc. Everything relating to the cultures of Afrika has some relevant meaning in my view because collecting is and has been a requisite art form for the consciously aware factions within the Afrikana Diaspora to inaugurate.
This imperative art form, and believe me it is exactly that…a needful art form, is unlike any other hobby or passionate activity. To be a devoted researcher and collector of any and everything that you can legally put your hands on relating to the Black experience is a challenge well worth accepting for all aware Afrikan descendants to engage in.
I’m sharing that with you, and especially with the young people of color, who, for the most part, haven’t got a clue as to the value of what Black “our-storical” items and general memorabilia is worth because, in many instances, many of today’s youth are disconnected from substantive archival awareness. Sadly, there’s an overwhelming segment of them who can’t tell you the first thing about many prominent Afrikan local, national and worldwide “our-storically” figures and events because, very simply, it wasn’t emphasized, taught or valued in the least in their worlds of existences.
As an ardent collecting griot of sort, it’s my duty to at least leave a little “something, something” in the forms of insight and counsel for the youth to think about and understand about the importance maintaining global Afrikan “our-storical” cognizance. Maintaining and collecting “our-stories” and artifacts, at all costs, may be deemed powerful, but it can’t be if you don’t have it, and, conversely, you can’t use it, if, again, you don’t possess it.
I’m in my seventies now, and I’ve been collecting things “colored,” Negro, Black, Afrikan and Afro-anything labeled since I was eight or nine-years-old. This is a lifetime passion of mine which was initially instilled in me by mother, an honored schoolteacher, and my father, an artist, who loved to collect things, paint and draw.
They both explained to me that to be an Afro-American and having knowledge of my true Afrikan self were the greatest tools to possess when dealing with the system’s programmed miseducation about “colored” folk. I owe so much to them because all of the knowledge I’ve gained thus far by being a heralded collector is from their initial introduction in my life of seeing things Black related, which were first in our own home.
To the ebony descendant youth of the world, I encourage them to study and collect, where and when possible, any and everything relating to the global Black experience and learn the truth behind what you have in your possessions. Learning is a full time voyage from the cradle to the grave, and between discovery and truth and between miseducation and falsehoods, lies much wisdom, if you sincerely desire to want to uncover the veracities of all things Afrikan.
The living experience, en total, is an excursion into all the realms of knowledge that exists everywhere when one truly seeks the the genuineness about anything or anyone. I believe that to want know about one’s “legitimate” ethnic story, minus an oppressor’s chauvinistic indoctrinations, requires a serious and committed soul of color’s dedicated, unwavering discipline.
In my case, and during my own journeys of collecting for more than sixty years, I’ve been many places, in many diverse lands, and I’ve always seemed to find at least one item or two for my collection. Some of these things have the DNA signatures of some of the famous heroes and sheroes of the global Afrikan Diaspora written and inscribed in them, and they are valuable treasures to be very upfront with you.
I’m not alone is this collecting field as I’ve had the prosperity of knowing many more committed researchers, historians, collectors, scholars and “our-storians” through brotherhood and acquaintance connections to gain further info about this art form. I also have the pleasure of knowing other archivists and preservationists of things relating to the global ebony cultures, who are lovers and respecters of things Afrikan.
Most of these folks are academically qualified to the highest and are some of the most notable present day collectors around. Their collections include astonishing collections of jazz, blues and reggae music, rare and deluxe books, art works, sculptures and assorted memorabilia items that would blow your collecting mindsets, and I say that most respectfully.
I have many other casual, general collecting buddies who I’ve taught the importance of maintaining one’s personal Afrikan heritage based collections and libraries. The real point in mentioning the aforementioned casual collectors is to give you, the youth and other readers, a sense of connectivity to interested and established collectors, who are probably right in your midst, and are researching Afrikan Black “Our-Story” now like I hope that some of you are already engaged in and, if not, you’ll be doing very shortly.
You can search any and everywhere for Afrikan related “our-storical” and memorabilia type things with your family and friends at thrift stores, book sales and don’t forget the Internet. I must add that I believe that sometimes you don’t have to look any further than your own family archives, making collection family pictures, relevant documents and the like visible key to your initial discovery lists.
In concluding this piece, I want to encourage the youth to engage in this very necessary art form. It’s crucial to maintain your culture because that’s how you learn and pass it on in your families and families-to-be.
So, to the youth, the future you may assume lies ahead of you but, in reality, the future is now, if you prepare and educate yourselves while preserving your noble heritage. Be studious and remember that a soul without knowledge of self is nothing more than a being who is “soulless.” Happy collecting. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”