An African identity

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An African identity(NNPA)—Black people all over the world have a rich and diverse historic legacy and a future that is full of promise, opportunity and prosperity if we continue our struggle for true freedom, justice and equality without engaging in self-denial, self-destruction, disunity or any form of mis-education.

For centuries, there have been systematic and ruthless attempts to deny African people the fundamental human right of self-determination and self-identity.

The “Black Consciousness Movement” in Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, South America, and throughout the Pan African world was successful in countering the false stereotypes, negative images and prejudices that for centuries attempted to lay a pseudo-intellectual justification for slavery, economic exploitation and subjugation of hundreds of millions of African people throughout the world.

It is, therefore, unfortunate today that there are some among us who are ashamed of their African heritage and identity, who are ashamed of their Blackness and their African roots. Of course everyone is entitled to freedom of their own individual self-expression.

The point is that when the so-called Tea Party and others from the far right fringe social element in the United States present negative caricatures of President Barack Obama from a racial and ethnic perspective, the African-American community must address in an open forum the suggestion that there is something wrong or politically incorrect concerning our African heritage.

How is it even possible while we are witnessing the first African-American to serve as president of the United States of America, some well known African-Americans would be willing to state publicly: “I was born here in the United States…?  I don’t have any connection to Africa…?”  The issue is White supremacy often has the victims of that ideology apologizing for or avoiding the positive assertion that we are an African people.

Years ago, Dr. Carter G. Woodson warned about the “mis-education” of the Negro and the tendency to engage in rhetoric and actions that deny our heritage and actual history in the evolution of humanity.

Yes, there are real social, economic, political, religious and cultural challenges facing African-Americans in 2010. Yes, we all need to hold each other more accountable for the state and plight of the majority of African-Americans who are still struggling to improve the overall quality of life in our communities.

But no, this is not the time for brothers and sisters in our communities to turn against one another, especially over some false notion that we are without a race, an ethnicity, a culture, a heritage and a proud history that we must convey from one generation to the next.

The struggle for freedom, justice and equality transcends race and racial prejudice. But as Brother Malcolm had to remind us: self-hatred and self-denial are serious impediments to advancing the cause and purpose of our liberation as a people.

I attended the 2010 White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the 2010 Annual Legislative Week of the Congressional Black Caucus. Both events were brilliant examples of both the progress that we have made as a people in America and the challenges that lie ahead.

It was good to see so many young African-Americans eager and hungry to learn more about the history and contemporary dynamics of our struggle for empowerment. W.E.B. Dubois, Frantz Fanon, Marcus Garvey, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Fannie Lou Hammer, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Elijah Muhammad, Booker T. Washington, and thousands of other freedom fighters want us to stay focused, and not lose that which we have earned.

We have come a long way, but we still have a long ways to go. Let’s collectively look into the mirror of history and not to be ashamed, but inspired to press forward with the purpose of freedom and equality for all.

(Benjamin F Chavis Jr. is a national civil rights leader and senior adviser to the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of the Education Online Services Corp.)

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