Bright Lights from Our Past Illuminate our Path

Spotlight on a dark foggy stage

Those who seek your oppression will always demonize those who seek your liberation.  

When the Griots of the African culture sat down to share the history of the tribe, it was the duty of the listeners to internalize these stories and become their protectors and promoters to future generations.

Like a chain, these stories connect the past to the present and the future. When that chain is broken, we suffer from the disconnect. It is much like a man with amnesia, wondering around lost and aimless, not knowing his name, who he is, where he belongs, and where he is going.

When Africans were transported across the middle passage by the millions over the course of generations, those who survived the journey were denied their human right to pass along their history and identities to their offspring, breaking that chain and replacing it with shackles around our limbs and even our brains. This was an intended part of the dehumanization of chattel slavery that was inclusive of breaking the human spirit.

And yet as a people, we emulate Maya Angelo’s poem, “And Still I Rise” and still, we rise!

Consequently, we have become a unique people, detached from our history, culture of heritage, language, names, tribal niche, and even our national identities, and still, we rise.  

This has forced us to create our own distinctive culture as African Americans. Even the term for us as a people has evolved over the years inclusive of Negro, Colored, Afro American, Black, and African American.

But where do we find Negroland or Coloredland on the map? The best we could do collectively was to identify a continent, hence AFRICAN American, which has been a mark of our evolution.

Unless your heritage connects you to the Native people of this land, you are descended from another country. Consequently, we have Americans originating from various nations around the world, i.e. Japanese Americans, Mexican Americans, Italian Americans, etc., etc.  

While some may use in addition a continental identity, such as Asian American, or European American, they ALSO have the option of pinpointing accuracy by specifying a country, or even a city, town, or village. Slavery has denied this to us.   

In addition, many of us have assumed names not reflective of our geographical region and origins, but instead bare the verbal branding of those who held our ancestors as property.    

During Black History month, most public schools recycle the same names and events over and over, as if this is the extent of Black history, and it often negates the history of Africa, as if our history began as slaves as opposed to being the first people on the planet-forming the very foundation of civilization.

Today, there is renewed vigor and hostility to double down on keeping our children and adults ignorant of historical truths of America. Under the guise of “protecting our children” from the imaginary boogieman of CRT (Critical Race Theory), books are being banned and people threatened with loss of employment and even violence for teaching the truth of history in our schools. As the saying goes, those who forget their history are destined to repeat it.    

This comes part and parcel with the subtle teachings of racism/white supremacy which reinforces an institutionalized system. You don’t have to call it white supremacy to teach white supremacy.

Our educational system needs a complete overhaul if we are to truly move into the future together as a healthy nation for all of America’s inhabitants.

With modern science, we can now connect the dots once taken from us by using DNA testing, which can trace our lineage to not only our nation of origin but also to our tribal origins as African Americans. This is something I highly recommend as well as taped interviews with the elders in our families. They are walking history books and we would be remised if they die and take that history with them to the grave.  

If one does not know their past, how can they properly diagnose their present and successfully navigate their future?

By Tobias Houpe

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