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The Art of Collecting Black
9/17/2014 5:13:43 PM

By Hakim Abdul-Ali

I love the study and preservation of collecting anything dealing with African and Afro-American cultures. It's a lifelong passion that consumes me with an avid desire at every available interval of spiritual and academic reflections that occurs in my daily thinking norms.

While on that thought, I'm recalling that just the other day I had the pleasure of speaking with a new devotee to this intellectual field of study. The individual was a sister of color who knew that I reported on and collected Afro related things big time and she wanted me to help lead her in the right direction about what to collect.

That's a vast ocean to swim in and I told her that when it comes to "collecting things Black," she should keep an open mind, because the realm of Blackness covers so many interesting and rewarding venues, past and present, until the hobby is a fascinatingly open safari expedition. She seemed to be a little confused by my remark, so I tried to break it down to her rather simplistically speaking from my own specific and general interests and pursuits

First, I told her that I believe that you must have a refined inner desire to seriously want to learn about "our-story" and then with that desire intact, one has to hit the road in search of things Afro related in furthering his or her desire to want to study, collect and preserve anything relating to the Black experience worldwide. That's a heavy mouthful to say because some folk may ignorantly forget that Africa is the mother of all nations and to learn about the Motherland is the beginning of acquiring worldly knowledge in its proper context.

I mentioned to the young sister that I,and other serious collectors like me, particularly are interested in collecting rare books, autographs, religious histories and "our-storical" documents about the African experiences in the world, including those about the Africans living in the West. Any and everything Black is important to collect in the minds of aware and dedicated African minded on collectors.

Take for example, the area of collecting Afro-centric photographs has always been a supreme collecting preoccupation of mine because I sincerely believe that a picture tells a proud story. I truly value the visual "treasures" that are in my personal photographic collection they so are close to me in ways that I can't easily express because, some of them are more than a 100-years-old, are likened to "instant ancestors" of mine.

These "instant ancestors" are photographs of tH Black experience that I have personally collected over 50 years of travel throughout world. I truly love looking at them because they make me see what some Black folks had to endure to lay down the survival carpet for me, you and future Black generations have to walk upon.

I firmly and resolutely believe that we have so much to give in recognition of the memory of those "instant ancestors." We are standing on their shoulders, if you catch my drift, and unfortunately, some "colored" folk have forgotten that reality if they knew or thought about it before.

That led me to tell the young sister that I was proud of her for wanting to collect because we, as today's African descendant folk, have much to thank some of the people who are depicted in my photo collection. They studied, collected and held the rope of Black unity for the folk during their time and we must and should now do the same, especially if we are to rise above self- ignorance and abject stupidity.

To that end, "Collecting Things Black" entails collecting magazines, sports related items, political things, art items and entertainment memorabilia, etc. In my view, any and everything that tells a story, good or bad, about the Black experience is valuable to collect because in the the long run of the collecting game, it's contains knowledge about how we are viewed and or depicted by ourselves and others. We must be our own researchers and teachers.

I also told the young sister that there's no limit to what we can and should collect because it's about keeping the vibrancy of intimate and personal Black Studies alive and well within our spheres. The sister mentioned that she's trying to get her younger family members to talk to some of their older and senior family members to learn more about their family's history.

That a key topic for any Black minded collector to consider because the grave doesn't yield comments. Now is the time to reflect for all of us, just like the aware young sister, to revive "The Art of Collecting Black" because if we don't do it now, "Who will?" The Black experience is for real. Research, collect and teach about it. For today and always, that's, "As I See it."


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