Thursday, March 12, 2009

The tortured waning of Social Consciousness...

We have been handed down a vision of a slave man roaming the desert sand - a perfect image of our hollowed chiefs today. Language he had not, not ours, not his own. It had been voided out of him, his tongue cut from his mouth. He pointed to the gaping cavity. Thinking he still had a soul, however mutilated, we imagined he was after sympathy. We were mistaken - he was pointing to the hole with pride. They who had destroyed his tongue, they had put pieces of brass in there to separate the lower from the upper jaw. The slave thought the brass a gift. Its presence made sweet the absence of his tongue. He communicated his haughty pride to us, indicating in the sand with precise remembrance when he had achieved each piece of brass, what amazing things he had been made to do in order to be given them...  -  Ayi Kweh Armah (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania  October 1972)
I recently attended a forum which dealt with various aspects of Black history. On the campus of a local University, the panelists and participants grappled with questions about the relevance, significance, and/or need for observances of black history month in the age of Obama. And as I sat and listened to the participants and the questioners, I was stricken by how little of the struggle and how few of its actors were known to the youth in attendance. Certainly everyone was familiar with Dr. King and his dream, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad and such... But few had any real concept of our role in the development and evolution of the American ideal.

Few were familiar with the concept of America's "Original sin"; Sengbe Pieh and our nation's struggle with the foundational and quintessential American question of 'what does it mean to be free?'; Lincoln, Liberia, and our history of redacting History; Sojourner's plea, "Ain't I a Woman?", and what that represented in the dual contexts of suffrage and slavery; the "Black Codes", Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and their relationship to America's chronic economic and social inequalities; Dubois' 'Color Line' from the Niagara Movement to the NAACP and the evolution of social protest; Woodson's treatise on Miseducation; Scott vs Sandford, Plessy vs Fergussen, Brown vs the Topeka Board of Education, and the many other pivotal cases that formed the ideological core of the Civil Rights movement;  A. Phillip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and their relevance to the movement of organized labor; Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Chisolm and the challenges and changes they brought to the Democratic party and process; Bayard Rustin, Dr. King, and the complex relationship between the LGBT community and the Civil Rights movement... 

These pivotal moments; their substance and context forming both the soul and scars of our nation, remain largely undiscovered and unexamined by our next generation of leaders. I sat with a historian friend of mine and wondered aloud how we had gotten to this place...

Will someone please talk me down?

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Jung/Myers Briggs

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
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