Healing Our Nation
The nation needs healing. We must start with the self. The social construction of race must be devoured. Either we all become white and privileged, or Black and privileged. We have saturated what race can tell us as a demographic indicator. Who are the poorest, the most criminalized, the least healthy and educated? What else do we want from racial categories. How do people identify with them collectively?
The African Diaspora populations, especially in the US and the Caribbean seem to hold different identities with Africa and with blackness. We must create a new gaze from the person to the collective. Band, tribe, nation, planet. Healing Our Nation must begin with oneself. We all have histories.
This short 5 part essay jumps and skips around a bit to make a few points briefly about African dispersed groups from books I have accessed around me. One point has to do with the identification of the African Diaspora people, (Okpewho, Boyce Davies & Mazrui, 2004) a position interrogating the outlook of those who have migrated or been displaced from Africa, termed Afrocentrist, and the other termed Atlanticist, those who think instead too much has happened to the African in the centuries Black people have been living in western societies to continue under the African umbrella. At the same time today we recognize Africa as the home of all Homo sapiens human evolution. All humans can be appropriated AFRIKIN, one species, one origin, one man and woman, because we can all have babies.
African populations on the continent and those who have been displaced or willfully migrated often need an identity healing. Africa is still overshadowed by old myths of what it means to be Black, or African, often configured in negative clothing. The experience has been challenging for many at home and abroad, no matter the route.
The interest in this brief discussion is the idea of nation building and what is referred to as the African Diaspora, especially that of the US and the Caribbean. Collective identities are important. Many people are encompassed in Diaspora, not just those from the African continent. In highlighting some of the challenges briefly one might remember Na’im Akbar began his introduction in the nineties to his Breaking the Chain text (1996) in reference to African Americans with the statement: Slavery is the modern genesis experience for Africans in the Western World. (p3). The recollections of those involved moving from chattel enslavement, to the back of the bus, to free South Africa, and the contentions of tribalism have not allowed for the exorcism of racism and the collectivity of one Africa in the hearts of African Americans and others. Instead, they have increasingly become nationalistic within their national context of the US Black and White, while distancing themselves from Africans on the continent, and out of the yards of the Caribbean.
A part of the assimilation process in the US has always been to give you a new name. Africans in North America have settled for Black. New comers have resisted it. Haitians fought for their national identity on the census records and soon there was a category for West Indian. Identity in the US has always changed with migration. Africans became Blacks or African American. Identity to a color rather than a geographic location encourages a disassociation with the homeland. Hispanics have been given a new name in their increased migration. They are not called Hispanic in their native countries. They had national identities too. The everyday man in the Caribbean, countryman, man in the hills, farmer, workman, fisherman and so on: one by one from earliest times, easily recognized a common identity with the motherland. You are me Lakumi BabaluAye, Santeria, Maroonage, Kumina, Poco culture and so on, Rastafari, embracing the love of self, that was silently brought with them.
Holding on to the religiosity and spirituality that nurtured us scattered throughout the world, holding on and adding on to our memories of ancestry and diasporic dispersions to guide our future we endured. So it remains today. Nothing remains the same. Everything must change with time. The call is again necessary to awaken the westernized North American, African, Latin American, Central American, and American European that his homeland and identity is a Diaspora identity because in the west the issue of white and black has been maintained as an ethnocentric duality invented to make one superior to the other. It must end!
Written by: Ida Tafari
Stay informed by joining the movement.