July 04, 2006

The Stolen Legacy of Classical African Culture

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Click here: Professor Manu Ampim's research, and scroll down I visited Chicago recently and got a personal view of the new King Tut exhibit that has been touring the country. Surprisingly, there is no protest going on in that city like what was experienced in Los Angeles, during its exhibition.

As a whole, the exhibit was great. But at the exit was the Caucasian picture of King Tut that graces the cover of the June 2005 issue of National Geographic. It stood in stark contrast to what other guests and I had seen throughout the tour.

Frankly, whether intended or not, it was a signal for the Western world to continue its ubiquitous institutional-racism pogrom against Blacks. At the current pace of media on Black history, school textbooks and encyclopedias will still depict Rameses, Tutankhamen, Seti and all the pharaohs of old as sterile race-neutral historical figures.

Yes, it’s better than it was during my school days, but kids today are still confused on the issue, and that shouldn’t be so. An exhibit here in Minneapolis made news a few years ago when a Black kid on a class tour asked the tour guide if the ancient Egyptians were Black and the guide said, “no.”

Her parents were in an uproar, and rightfully so. No other history has been as maligned as that of Africans, and the affronts continue unmitigated today. The response of the tour officials in Minneapolis was that the guide had only responded with what he had been taught.

When Legrand Clegg, and other protesters in Los Angeles confronted the exhibitors in that city, the response of Terry Garcia, of the National Geographic Society was: "In this case we selected a medium skin tone, and we say, quite up front: 'This is mid-range.'" Mid-range from whose perspective is my question?

As an African American, it doesn’t take much analyzation to realize that the natural diffusion between Black classical cultures and Sub Sahara Africa was purposely thwarted to keep Black cultures at bay. It’s tantamount to separating the West from the “Golden Age of Greece, or Rome.”

Meanwhile, things are progressing on some fronts. While visiting New York last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), I perused their exhibit on ancient Egypt and left with a resounding – Amen – it was the best exhibit I have seen to date in an American city.

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June 03, 2006

The Study of Afrocentric Classical Cultures

  Posted by Picasa The question of why we need to study classical Afrocentric cultures is being discussed on many levels today. To most of us, it is the hoped for salve to assuage wounded egos. To others, ironically, it represents an intellectual front that is too far removed from the day-to-day struggles of the common man to matter much.

But is it really too far removed? First, Blacks in this culture have been stripped down to a very limited array of characteristics which, in many cases, creates the conditions that seem to demonstrate that we belong in a collective minority status because of some inherent shortcomings on our part.

Indeed, it does make one feel redeemed to know that ancient Black cultures were creating great, classical architecture, while Europe was still thousands of years from emerging out of the dark forests of the North.

It just makes sense, as a group, to work to dislodge ourselves from the ubiquitous web of racism we find ourselves confronted with. Frankly, we must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure that future generations will enter the world on a ‘level playing field.’

Let me lay out what a level-playing field will look like. Children will enter kindergarten with the same access to ancient Black history as they have to ancient White history. In fact, the demarcations of ‘us versus them’ will be eradicated, as the world’s histories blend seamlessly into the story of mankind as a whole--bereft of racism’s undertones. No longer will we be a people without history, for it will be common knowledge that we started history.

Egypt (Kemet) will be seen as the benign forefather of Greece and Rome; the latter two came along some 2,500 years after the emergence of Kemet. The Phoenicians, best known because of the epic Phoenician, or Punic Wars with Rome, and the legendary General Hannibal Barca, of Carthage, will represent Black contemporaries of Rome and Greece. Note that the ubiquitous depictions of Hannibal today are fallaciously illustrated as Caucasian, for the most part.

The ancient city states of Tyre, Byblos and Sidon, of which Phoenicia derived, will be depicted as Black trading partners with Egypt and Nubia; as will other lands spread out from the Middle East to India. Recent DNA testing proved that the ancient people buried in Phoenicia, modern Lebanon, had the same bloodlines as the ancient Egyptians (Kemetians). Most of the modern Lebanese people, however, are derived from later bloodlines, like modern Egyptians.

From Middle Africa, the Dravidians who settled southern India and the southern Asian countries where Fiji Islanders, Papua New Guineans, Melanesians and Polynesians still abound will begin to make more sense in geographic terms to future non-colonized Blacks.

Africa south of the Sahara, meanwhile, will be proved to have been purposely cut off by the colonizers to disallow the natural diffusion of ideas and culture that would have afforded it the ability to blossom like other areas. Fortunately, Ghana, Mali and Songhay, for example, will serve as representative samples of cultures that arose despite deleterious onslaughts against them.

The term “classical” means of the highest order. It relates to the best a people have been able to produce, not the worst. When we show people the best of themselves, and their culture, they rise to the visions and views they hold in their minds and spirits.

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April 15, 2006

Thutmoses III and the New Kingdom’s Expansion

  Posted by Picasa The New Kingdom in Ancient Egypt (Kemet) represented the zenith of Egyptian culture. It was the era of Tutankhamen, Akhenaten, Hatshepsut and Rameses the Great. Ironically, it arose following the humiliating defeat and subjugation to the Hyksos, an Afro-Asiatic nation that overran Kemet and maintained power in the North for over 130 years.

In around 1480 B.C. Thutmoses III, a Theban, rose to power having been co-regent with the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, his stepmother, until her death. Modern Europeans refer to him as the Napoleon of the ancient world and not without good reason.

He expanded Kemet’s borders to her most far-reaching boundaries and initiated an imperialism that there-to-fore had been unheard of. The nation before the Hyksos had been protected and shielded by the desert on both sides and had been comfortable in its relatively secluded oasis along the Nile River. Thus, Kemet had in its earlier periods no need to look outward. But look outward Thutmoses did. He engaged in 17 military campaigns and never lost a battle.

Known as a strong but fair-minded leader, Thutmoses III was beloved and respected during his reign, which re-established control over Syria and Nubia. His victory over the King of Kadesh at the Battle of Megiddo, just months into his tenure, quickly established him as a military genius. He went on to capture territory as far east as the Euphrates River.

One of his hallmarks was the practice of awarding medals to outstanding soldiers who exhibited exemplary prowess on the battlefield -- a custom emulated by America’s George Washington, who introduced the Purple Heart to U.S. forces.

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March 06, 2006

Protecting the Spirit of Black America, Today

  Posted by Picasa It is one of the most enduring images of Olympics sports history; an image that will inevitably frame the Olympic story of our era. Two-hundred meters gold-medal winner Tommie Smith and bronze-medal winner John Carlos raised clinched black-gloved fists in support of the ongoing Civil Rights Movement in America.

This seminal moment captured the imagination of a generation and contributed to the thrust of the movement.

That’s why I’m rather perplexed by the apparent lack of consciousness among entertainers, in popular culture, who rationalize their complicit corroboration with those whose aim is to crush the spirit of Africans in America.

Reportedly, Damon Wayans, the actor, has recently attempted to copyright the word “Nigga” for a clothes line he has in the works, revealing a callous disdain and social disregard for the masses of Africans, throughout the Diaspora, who might encounter his Nigga brand. It’s likely that he’s ignorant of how semantics can impact the spirit of a people. But just as likely, he doesn’t care, which is even worse.

Let’s define the term "spirit.” It is the inner essence and thought life of an individual, a nation or a people transcending what is seen on the outside. Each individual has an inner life world that is at best nurtured and protected by the cultural forces that be, but in the worst-case scenarios is attacked, vilified and violated.

There has been a very real thrust to diminish the energy and vital force of our struggle, and the hearts of our people. Traditionally, we buttressed our spirits with our songs, whether in popular culture or our spiritual foundation the church.

In the glory days of “Soul Music” we could count on our vocalists, whose roots derived from the church, to evoke lyrics of spiritual sustenance; vocals that penetrated the soul and revived the broken in spirit--so we marched on. Amidst a backdrop of societal oppression--we trudged onward. The church and our music helped us to fan the flames of an inner pilot that could not be extinguished by institutional suppression of our cultural heritage

Wayans, and those of his ilk, meanwhile, represent a new breed of celebrity ready to sell their brethren down the river for thirty pieces of silver. That was not the case of brothas like Tommie Smith and John Carlos. They turned their backs on product endorsements and, instead, faced death threats and censure from those who opposed them.

The arguments of the turncoats, like Wayans, is that they are just responding to the forces of the marketplace. My response is: so were the slave traders of Africa’s past.

How can we protect the spirits of people culturally? We must affirm them through our literature, our songs, our historical heritage, our legacy and our God.

Taking away the positive legacy and traditions of a people is spiritual violence. And to replace it with belittling imagery and semantics is spiritual homicide.

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February 06, 2006

Male-Female Relationships, a Key to Liberation

 Posted by Picasa A strengthening of Black male-female relationships is key, I believe, in rebuilding functional African-Americans families. Colonialism, in this hemisphere, intentionally worked to weaken this primary institution that is clearly a building block of any forward-moving people.

Egypt and classical cultures are the focus of this weblog. Thus, we look this month--Black History Month--at the importance of marriage and male-female relationships among our ancestors.

Reliefs and pictures indicate that the men and women of Ancient Kemet (Egypt) worked closely together and viewed the marriage relationship as significant, and highly esteemed. Men and women are shown holding hands, and children are often pictured in conjunction with their parents.

Husband and wife spent time chatting, enjoyed music together, and threw parties and social affairs together. The wife often went along with her husband on hunting forays to keep him company. In addition, Egyptian women shared with men important legal rights that in many other nations were totally alien to them.

Egyptian husbands realized that it took two to make a marriage. Wise advice to a husband: "Thou shouldst not supervise thy wife in her house, when thou knowest she is efficient. Do not say to her: 'Where is it? Fetch it for us!' when she has put it in its proper place. Let thine eye have regard, while thou art silent, that thou mayest recognize her abilities."

In Ancient Kemet women were allowed to own land, operated businesses, testified in court, and brought actions against men. The women of Kemet enjoyed greater freedom than any of their counterparts from other parts of the ancient world.

More advice to the men: “If you take a wife...Let her be more contented than any of her fellow-citizens. She will be attached to you doubly, if her chain is pleasant. Do not repel her; grant that which pleases her; it is to her contentment that she appreciates your work.

”If you are wise, look after your house; love your wife without alloy. Fill her stomach, clothe her back; these are the cares to be bestowed on her person. Caress her, fulfill her desires during the time of her existence; it is a kindness which does honor to its possessor. Be not brutal; tact will influence her better than violence; . . . behold to what she aspires, at what she aims, what she regards. It is that which fixes her in your house; if you repel her, it is an abyss. Open your arms for her, respond to her arms; call her, display to her your love."

Excerpts from The Precepts of Ptah-Hotep
2200 BC

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January 02, 2006

Imhotep, the Father of Medicine, Architect…

 Posted by Picasa Imhotep has been described as one of the most fascinating people of the ancient world. Considered a genius, he rose from the ranks of the none royals of Kemet (Egypt) to become even more recognized than the pharaohs he served.

Called the Father of Medicine, Imhotep outlined more than ninety anatomical terms and forty-eight injuries in a papyrus he wrote, known today as the Edwin Smith Papyrus. Historians tell us that Imhotep "diagnosed and treated over 200 diseases, i.e., 15 diseases of the abdomen, 11 of the bladder, 10 of the rectum, 29 of the eyes, and 18 of the skin, hair, nails and tongue. Imhotep treated tuberculosis, gallstones, appendicitis, gout and arthritis. He also performed surgery and practiced some dentistry. Imhotep extracted medicine from plants. He also knew the position and function of the vital organs and circulation of the blood system."

In later centuries, he was revered by the Greeks as Asclepius, the god of medicine. And it is believed that he initiated a school of medicine in Memphis, which was noted for over two-thousand years as a place of learning in the ancient world. Today, the serpent and staff symbol of the American Medical Association is derived from traditions surrounding Asclepius.

Also an architect and statesman, Imhotep is attributed with constructing the first pyramid of Egypt, the Step Pyramid, in honor of Pharaoh Djoser, at Saqqara. It still stands today and has been called one of the outstanding engineering feats of the ancient world.

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