African History Month will counter Euro-centrism with historical truth. As well, it is important to embrace our culture and take ownership of our ethnicity.
Every February, Black History Month is celebrated because of one man. In 1926, Dr. Carter Woodson created 'Negro History Week' and in 1976 it became Black History Month. The world in general and black people, in particular, owe him a debt of gratitude. Unfortunately, during his time period, our minds were poisoned against Africa.
This is best exemplified by the following quote. 'Number one, first you have to realise that up until 1959 Africa was dominated by colonial powers. And by the colonial powers of Europe having complete control over Africa, they projected the image of Africa negatively. They projected Africa always in a negative light; jungles, savages, cannibals. Nothing civilised.
'Naturally it became negative to you and me and you and I began to hate it. We did not want anyone to tell us anything about Africa, much less call us an African. And in hating Africa, and in hating the African, we ended up hating ourselves, without even realising it, because you cannot hate the roots of the tree and not hate the tree.' Malcom X. Subconsciously we are living the legacy of slavery and colonialism, and solely focus on breaking racial barriers. We must cleanse our minds by learning history from our own perspective to comprehend the present socio-economic conditions.
Just as Negro History Week grew into Black History Month to address the changes in society, in the same spirit we must continue Dr Carter's creation by extenuating it into an African History Month. The extenuation would include history of the 150 million blacks in Latin America together with the 50 million in the Caribbean and, more importantly, the history of the motherland.
Not only will we build on Dr Carter's great legacy but by adding the motherland's culture and other history that has been neglected. Such as Blacks in Latin America, where 90 percent of the slaves were sent, mostly in Brazil. The extenuation would encapsulate African history from the dawn of time until the present.
Most notably, because of slavery and colonialism, the culture has been changed in the Americas and altered in Africa. This constitutes an urgent necessity for its people to learn their history from their own perspective. Moreover, modern history is a reflection of the European conquest, according to their interpretations. Learning African history is more important than ever, because of the diversity, in Africa and Diaspora.
In our contemporary world, we have accepted new identities and terminologies. The whole dynamics of Africa, its people and the rest of the Diaspora has dramatically changed. A new geography has been created with the birth of the Americas, over 50 countries in Africa and colonialism has changed the cultural dynamics. It suffices to say that an African History Month would be appropriate. It is essential that we recall our past in order to negotiate the future. The importance of understanding Euro-centrism and ethnicity cannot be over emphasized .
Euro-centrism really began in 1493, because the second voyage was a large-scale colonisation and exploration project. Columbus was given 17 ships and over 1,000 men. Included on this voyage, for the first time, were European domesticated animals such as pigs, horses and cattle. Columbus' orders were to expand the settlement on Hispaniola, convert the natives to Christianity, establish a trading post and continue his explorations in search of China or Japan. Moreover, the conquest of their land would provide gold and other wealth to Europeans. Encouraged by their successes, they embraced Euro-centrism, using the gun to conquer and the bible to deceive.
Colonialism proved even more successful in later centuries, eventually reaching the level where Europeans could conquer and rule not only the Americas but also Africa. During this process, they realised that forcing their culture on their victims was more potent than their guns.They renamed rivers, cities, lakes, created countries, continents and forced their culture on all of their victims. And European endeavors in all of these continents continued to be hugely profitable. So Euro-centric beliefs seemed to be continually confirmed as both true and useful and they gradually evolved into the Euro-centric world-model of modern times.
Euro-centrism's views of Africa were most famously expressed by Scottish philosopher David Hume: 'I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences.' Whilst some changed slightly over time, there were still some who continued to hold these derogatory views. In the 19th century, the German philosopher Hegel simply declared: 'Africa is no historical part of the world.'
Later, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Professor of History at Oxford University expressed openly the racist view that Africa has no history, as recently as 1963. When this model was fully developed, in the 19th century, it created its own conception of the history and geography of the entire world. And it became the mirror in which Europeans came to see themselves and their own past. Before the European Conquest, the world was abundant with homogeneous societies. Many African cultures were uninterrupted for thousands of years . All this changed when the slaves were scattered and forced to accept foreign cultures.
During the seasoning or the breaking in period, Africans were forced to learn different cultures, speak a variety of European languages, embrace Christianity and were denied any connection with Africa, thus becoming Negroes. In the framework of colonialism, the Africans in Africa suffered a similar fate. That was implemented by their educational institutions and the missionaries. The denial of culture and adisconnection from Africa produced Negroes. 'African History Month' is essential to recognise Euro-centrism in order to counter it with the historical truth. It is important to embrace our culture and take ownership of our ethnicity.
Just think: Several generations ago in America, we were known as Negroes. The 1960s' was the era of African revolutionary wars and the Civil Rights Movements. Black was considered beautiful and slogans, like 'We are black and proud' became prominent. Once Negro became stigmatised, black was ubstituted.
Imagine it required generations to accept to be addressed as black instead of Negro. Unfortunately, neither word identifies land or culture.Because, there isn't a Negro-land, nor Blackens-tan, nor Black-land. The most important factor is that it disconnects the African descendants from Africa. Most notably, it promotes and perpetuates the divide-and-conquer theme. Just as Negro has outlived its usefulness, so has 'black' because it does not describe ethnicity. It is a colour and nothing more.
If we have kinky, coarse or nappy hair and our facial features consist of broad noses, thick lips and our bodies contain melanin, the chemical that defines our pigmentation, regardless of embracing different cultures , the ethnicity still remains the same. Additionally, the term 'from African descent' is rhetorical and serves no purpose because that is seldom mentioned by any other ethnic group. After scores of generations, they are still referred to as the respective cultures: Chinese, Indian, Japanese, English, German and so on.
Although, it is impossible to identify the exact location on the motherland, the word 'African' should be used with its appropriate sub-categories regardless of whether it refers to descendants from the Diaspora or those on the continent. Hence, when referencing ethnicity, the descriptive word should always be 'African.' The descendants should be identified by inserting African or Afro before their birth country. The following are examples: Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, etc. And conversely, the motherland's reference would be Nigerian, Ghanaian and so on.
Finally, taking ownership of the word 'African' would negate the nonsense that Egypt, Carthage, Great Zimbabwe, Ethiopia or the Moorish civilizations are not black; simply because all of these civilisations are located on African soil. Furthermore, the Japanese, Chinese or Koreans are never questioned about their ethnicity. Most notably, those three cultures are distinctly different. Moreover, neither of these groups identifies themselves as being yellow. They are considered Asians. We must take charge of ethnicity as Africans, regardless if on the motherland or from the Diaspora. More importantly, together with Euro-centrism understanding the importance of ethnicity are both keys to the development of the African History Month.
WHY AN AFRICAN HISTORY MONTH?
In order to compare the present with the past, we must remember the conditions when Dr. Woodson created Negro History Week. Jim Crow segregation and lynching were common. The Berlin conference occurred in 1884 that led to the partition of Africa. Black Wall Street was destroyed in 1921 and Marcus Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in 1925.
In this hostile atmosphere, in 1926 Dr Woodson almost single-handedly created 'Negro History Week'. In 1976, it was lengthened into a month-long celebration and renamed Black History Month. Britain adopted this holiday in 1987 when it emerged as part of the African Jubilee celebrations for the Marcus Garvey Centenary. This was an outstanding achievement by one of our greatest heroes. The holiday served its purpose well. Obviously, the issues of Euro-centrism and ethnicity could not be addressed in the white supremacy era. Now its time to pass the baton and extenuate his legacy. By addressing forbidden issues extending the narrative of Black History Month will be
inclusive of the motherland history. To set the background for an African History month, a brief encapsulation of history before and after 1492 is required because the geography and cultures of the world were quite different then. In ancient history, the term 'African' would have had no meaning. People defined themselves as members of kingdoms and regions. When you consider the fact that the culture has in some ways been altered in today's modern world, these identities were still of people of the continent we call Africa.
The African continent is now recognised as the birthplace of humanity and the cradle of civilisation. We still marvel at the great achievements of Kemet, or Ancient Egypt, for example, one of the most notable for the early civilizations, which first developed in the Nile valley over 5,000 years ago. However, even before the rise of Kemet it seems likely that an even more ancient Kingdom known as Ta Seti existed in what is today Nubia in Sudan. This may well have been the earliest state to exist anywhere in the world.
The African continent continued on its own path of development, without significant external intervention until the 15th century of our era. Some of the world's other civilisations such as Kush, Axum, Mali and Great Zimbabwe, flourished in Africa in the years before 1492. In this early period Africans participated in extensive international trading networks and in trans-oceanic travel. Kilwa had established important trading relations with India, China and other parts of Asia long before these were disrupted by European intervention.
The Moors conquest of the Iberian peninsular began in the 7th century and led to the occupation of much of Spain and Portugal for several centuries. The Moorish invasion re-introduced much of the knowledge of the ancient world to Europe. However, Spain expelled the Moors in 1492, the same year of Christopher Columbus' voyage. Western culture deliberately omits African history before 1492. The transatlantic enslavement distorted Africa's views of the history and importance of the continent itself. It is only in the last 50 years that it has been possible to redress this distortion and to begin to re-establish Africa's rightful place in world history.
It is important to recognise two major omissions in the celebrations. One is that black history began in 1620 when the first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Completely ignoring the Latin American slaves who arrived more than one hundred years earlier. And the other presupposes that our history didn't exist before contact with the Europeans.The African History Honth will address ancient Africa, the Caribbean and Afro-Latino history. Moreover, history cannot be planned because it's the record of the past. However, it has a tendency to repeat itself in some form or another. Therefore, it's important to learn from the past glories and bitter defeats, especially from mistakes and failures.
All the above-mentioned are necessary to prepare for the future. If we ignore history, then we will meander and drift where the world will take us. The purpose of the African History Month is learned from these events and develop a strategy to address our everyday encounters, and this will help guide us in planning our future.