To Be Afrikan.
By Dr. Marimba Ani
26 February 1999
All people, all over the world, throughout history have shared in common the fact that they belong to a culture of origin. That is a universal reality. Another equally important universal reality is that there are many, many different cultures in the world and each of them is unique.
The uniqueness of a culture is what gives specialness to its members. The members of a culture are bonded together by their shared culture, which gives them a sense of collective identity.
"We are an Afrikan people," simply reveals that there are values, traditions and a heritage that we share because we have a common origin. The cultural process is naturally a ongoing, which allows people to continuously affirm their connectedness through being linked to their origins.
However, the continuity of our cultural identity has been interrupted cruelly and unnaturally by the experience of slavery. We as a people are still suffering from this crime because we have not been allowed to find our way back to the sense of cultural identity and continuity which would transform us into a unified and whole people. We have not been able to function in the world with a collective consciousness that naturally imparts a strong sense of cultural
The term "Maafa" (from the book, "Let The Circle Be Unbroken) is a kiswahili word for "disaster" that we are now using to reclaim our right to tell our own story. Maafa refers to the enslavement of our people and to the sustained attempt to dehumanize us. Because the Maafa has disconnected us from our cultural origins, we have remained vulnerable in a social order that does not reflect our cultural identity.
We are people of African ancestry living in denial of who we are. We have lost our strength as a people. We are losing our children to systems which miseducate them. Our families are disintegrating before our eyes. Our numbers are growing in the statistics of drug addiction and incarceration.
Responsible national Black organizations are seeking remedies to these problems, but we are not speaking with one voice. We need to work together as a family who supports its members and who is responsible for their welfare. We must use the most valuable asset that we have: That is the spirit of our people. It is that spirit that connects us to our Afrikan roots.
Slowly, we are awakening to the need to claim our cultural legacy. The term "Sankofa" from Akan tradition in Ghana, West Africa tells us to return to the Source so that we can go forward with strength and clarity. Culture is a powerful tool for inspiring human beings and bringing them together in a concerted "family" action.
Our cultural roots are the most ancient in the world. The spiritual concepts of our Ancestors gave birth to religious thought African people believe in the oneness of the African family through sacred time, which unites the past, the present and the future.
Our Ancestors live with us. They created the first civilizations thousands of years ago and they suffered the pain of the Maafa. And yet, they were able to endure the most disastrous and dehumanizing circumstances ever perpetrated against a group of people, only because of the power of the African spirit. They did not have the freedom to affirm their
cultural heritage. We now have that choice. In the African view of life it is our responsibility to honor their name.
This is perhaps our moment of truth. We must come together as a family. We must do all that we can do to uplift our people. Otherwise, we are still denying who we are and bringing dishonor to our "family name;" to our Ancestors.
The answer to our social dilemma is the resocialization of our people into the cultural value-system that affirms our spiritual being. Our Ancestors are calling us "home", back to our cultural selves. We must begin the process of Sankofa.
Dr. Marimba Ani, an activist in the African Liberation Movement, worked as field-organizer for the Student Nonviolent Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi in the 60s. She has continued her activism through her scholarship. She has created African-centered theoretical concepts that have assisted in the developing of an African Cultural Science. At this time, she is actively involved in retrieving philosophy and in the re-creation of ritual, so that they can be used for
the transformation and healing of people of African descent
Currently, Dr. Ani teaches in the Black and Puerto Rican Studies Department of Hunter College in New York. She is credited with writing the scholarly works "Let The Circle Be Unbroken" and "Yurugu: An African-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior," as well as articles that have appeared in scholarly journals.
Copyright (c) 1999 Dr. Marimba Ani. All Rights