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Darryl James: Black History or African History?

[Darryl James is an award-winning author who is now a filmmaker. His first mini-movie, “Crack,” was released in March of 2006. He is currently filming a full-length documentary. James’ latest book, “Bridging The Black Gender Gap,” is the basis of his lectures and seminars. Previous installments of this column can now be viewed at www.bridgecolumn.com. James can be reached at djames@theblackgendergap.com.]

It’s Black History Month and wherever you are, you should be either studying Black History, or planning to create Black History.

 Instead of discussing some great achievements by Black men or Black women, I’d like to discuss the great achievements that lie ahead of Africans in America.  Those great achievements can only occur after we define ourselves with some practicality and foresight.
When it comes to Black History, most Africans in America start studying sometime around the beginning of the slave trade and bring it through to about the middle of the twentieth century. That’s a very short history for a people with such a rich background.

The problem is that we either define ourselves based on our attachment to America, or based on our attachment to Africa. As a people, we become fragmented, because some of us want no attachment to Africa and some of us want no attachment to America.

Further compounding the problem are two facts: One, that racist Americans (including some self-hating Negroes) want to deny us the birthright to this nation purchased by the blood, sweat and tears of our slave ancestors. Two, that some confused and self-hating Africans want to deny us the birthright to the African continent based on our “impurity,” after being mixed with other races over the centuries.

The argument really comes down to consciousness, because perception is reality.  Whatever we perceive ourselves to be comes into existence.  Our perception of ourselves does not have to be based on what the Devil’s children in white or black face deliver to us. Our perception of ourselves must be based on whatever we deliver to ourselves.

Personally, I believe that nearly every ethnicity in America except Blacks have it right.  Italians are still Italian even if they speak no Italian and have never seen Italy.  There are Polish people in this nation who define themselves as such even though the original Polish person in their family came to America four centuries ago.

But what of the African American?  We are the only people in this nation who continue to redefine ourselves based on things outside of our consciousness.

Now, I already know that we are not a monolithic people.  Some of us will go one way and some will go another.  That having been said, if you are not with me, I’d like you to turn away, because I will not be speaking to you or for you.

I split African people from Black people in consciousness only.  This is because they have two different ways of thinking.  The Black man across the planet has embraced such titles as Negro, Colored, Afro-American, African American, Haitian, Jamaican, West Indian, Brazilian, etc.  All of these titles are basically false, because travel to a land named “whatever” does not make you a person of “whatever” culture, or alter your cultural identity to “whatever.”  There is a physiology, a psychology and a spirituality that Africa delivers to the African across the globe whether you embrace it or not.

From nation to nation, we can feel the same musical rhythms, we can feel the same history of attack, oppression, separation and confusion and we can feel the same spirituality if we embrace these things.  No matter where you happen to be born on the planet, there are things within you that make you the physical and spiritual manifestation of Africa.  You can reject this ideology and become American, Canadian, or whatever, but reality is not your friend and you will continue to be confused while failing to evolve.

Black people who define themselves based solely on their land of residence are defining themselves based on self perception, which is sad, because all of the lands outside of Africa continue to reject us, even as many of us attempt to embrace them.

People argue that we built America, and it is a great nation, so we should claim it as our own. I agree with that to a point, but because of the beautiful, rich and lengthy history of Africa, I would rather align myself with the history that begins on that continent than any nation.

As an American, Black history begins with slavery. African history begins with civilization. 
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