Books by Kalamu ya
The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts
A Revolution of Black Poets
Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology
From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets
Our Music Is No Accident /
What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self
My Story My Song (CD)
* * * *
Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa But I
I-J-K-L: PANAFEST 1994
By Kalamu ya
I: Cape Castle
were early. Or, I should say we arrived before the
procession got to the castle. We had paid attention to
the schedule rather than to the reality of the people
marching through the streets, walking to the castle with
candles. So we arrived when the paper with the numbers
on it said that things should start. Of course, none of
our trio was surprised when nothing had started "on
time." We took the opportunity to explore.
back edge of the castle, we stood in the semi darkness
at the precipice facing the sea. Stood beside the
stood, centuries before a European soldier stood, a
slave trader stood, a ship's captain stood. And perhaps
they and I wondered the same thing. How will this
venture turn out for me? What, if anything, will Africa
mean to me?
it pathetic that it is easier to identify with the mind
set of the colonialists then to imagine all the misery
and anguish of our raped innocence? What did our
ancestors think? Under the conditions they faced, what
was it possible to think? But of course none of our
ancestors were allowed to stand here on the wall and
look out across the water, listen to the waves and
leisurely dream of lands far away.
stymied. I hear the sea. I feel the fort's immensity. I
am covered in the dust of African travel. And I can not
even imagine what to think. This is the trauma of birth.
I am leaving the certainty of a Black womb and cast into
something so shattering I can not even think. No wonder
they characterized us as dumb and stupid. We were
probably catatonic, unable to do little more than move.
dungeons have stone floors. We were chained there.
Pissed there. Shat there. Some of us probably were even
born there. Lay there. Spit and cried. And bled. The
whole life cycle of Africa seeped into and absorbed by
into the unlit magazine (the small room where they kept
the munitions), I try imaging that dark as it appeared
centuries ago. Imagine being wrapped in that dark. You
go down into the dark and everything is damp with body
fluids, and the doors are closed and you are left alone,
chained in your misery. Your sense of sight is useless.
You can't see anything. You wish you couldn't smell
anything. Every odor is pungent. And it seems that
everything you touch moves, or slips, or slides, or is
slimy, or something. Everything is moving except the
dead body next to you, but everything else moves when
you touch it. And of course, in the dark, you hear
everything. Everything. And what you don't hear, you
imagine you hear. You hear memories. You hear that
seabird you heard cawing days ago when they first pushed
you down the stairs into this sinking hole. You hear
your heartbeat. You sharply hear a multitude of sounds.
Noises. You can not imagine what causes all the sounds
you hear. It is sensory overload.
must it have been like to breath there. Every time you
breath in you suck up the tears and terror of someone
next to you. They characterized us as scared of our own
shadows, as believing in ghosts.
you woke up naked, enchained, on a cold stone floor wet
with your own piss that you tried to hold but couldn't,
and your arms are wrapped around your brother who is
dead. Over in another room, your sister is having the
same experience but you do not know what she is
you woke up after a night of shifting shades of
darkness. Of different languages shouted, languages
you've never heard before. Some praying, some cursing
the name of a god you did not even know was a god.
you woke up and found yourself still alive but hugging a
corpse for warmth. It had been cold in that hole, and
you clung to each other for sanity. Clung desperately to
this body which had been breathing when you fell asleep
a few minutes ago, a few hours ago.
the live one was you, could you still be sane?
have to go to Ghana to understand. You have to wade
through the vibrancy of the people and confront the mute
witness of white rock castle. You have to stand facing
the sea. Walk the yard. Look into the darkness you are
afraid to confront even with a torch or flashlight.
bottom of one stairwell where there was nothing except
solid wall surrounding a small floor, even when we shone
the light the roaches did not scurry away.
being there in the dark and insects are crawling all
over you. Across your lips pressed tightly close you
feel little legs running toward your nose and because
you are chained one to another, you can not always get
your hand up fast enough, so you exhale hard trying to
blow the roach off your face or at least keep the thing
out of your nose. This is when you learn to press close
to the person beside you, press your face into the back
of their hair and smell the sweat of their fear all
night and wake up to discover that you have embraced a
dead person. Could you handle it?
matter what you know intellectually, you have to go to
Ghana to even begin to grasp the magnitude of this
deflowering of our innocence. I always thought the
middle passage was where we suffered, but climbing back
up the steps out of the dungeon, I now know. I know. Men
separated from women. Each of us going through hell and
having no words to tell each other about it. Only the
look. Only the haunted look of surviving the castle
a human being when you are marched into the fort, and if
you survive howsoever long you are held captive there,
if you survive you face the middle passage. And if you
survive that, you face chattel slavery in the new world.
any human remain human after centuries of that? Look at
how fanatical the Jews are after less than two decades
of Hitler (1933 - 1945).
has been among us for generations.
psychosis as a people started in the castles. At the top
of the steps, pausing as I cross the doorway into the
yard, I wonder what cure can there be for the illness
that the castle wrought?
too much to think about. There are no words for this
story. There is no language to talk about this. Tarzan's
yells? The chants of traditional Africa? Standard
American English? No, none of that is enough to
communicate the transformation that the castle wrought.
never known this before. I may have thought about it a
little, but never really imagined it. When I left New
Orleans, flying north to New York and then southeast
across the Atlantic into Africa, I had no way of knowing
that everything I thought I knew about how we became
Africans and what being an African (in the generic
sense) meant had to be revised significantly in the face
of the reality of the castle.
East Africa. I stood in the sand and touched the
chains. I understood slavery. I had seen ancient auction
block in Africa. In the Caribbean, even in the USA. I
had read books and talked with wise women and men, but I
never understood before now the profound reach of
want to know why we hate ourselves and each other. Why
African dictators can be so brutal sometimes. Why we
have these blood feuds which divide us even more than
fighting Europe unifies us. Why we never ever seem to be
able to get it all together. If you want to understand
anything, everything. You must visit the
Ghana and realize that this experience was the birth of
both the African and unavoidably also the nigger.
the African and the nigger were conceived in the mind of
a White man, and born in the womb of the slave castle
because only the African and the nigger survived that.
When you left the castle either you were dead or you
were irreversibly changed forever. Some of us became
more of one than the other, but all became at least a
little of each. We became really Black (and blue) there
in the stone wombs of those castles.
became something new. We became an African: an all
encompassing identity that overrode whatever social
identity we had, and, at the same time, we became that
traumatized individual who can never fully trust his
brother, never fully love his sister, never again fully
be a member of the group, the tribe, the village, the
land because most of us were captured by Black hands and
sold into slavery.
understand the mitigating circumstances.
understand that the chiefs were often overwhelmed and
forced to either capture others and sell them into
slavery or watch their own people be marched off to
understand that more than a few fought, and that our
weapons of warfare were far inferior.
understand that many of the chiefs had no idea of what
slavery meant in the new world and how it was so unlike
being a slave in Africa.
understand all of that now, but a few centuries back,
enchained in that roach laden, dark, filthy, lightless
hole, I am not sure what I understood, or even if there
was anything I could have understood.
does an adult understand that everything they have been
they no longer are, and, while reflecting on that
awesome thought, simultaneously understand that an
identity they could never have conceived on their own,
they are now in the process of becoming?
the case with all humans, while most of us are not
stupid, the majority of us are not geniuses—it
would have taken an African genius to figure out slavery
at that moment. What slavery meant, how it happened, and
how not just to survive, but to overcome. Based simply
on the weight of numbers, the luck of the draw, there
were probably more than a few geniuses among the
millions who passed through those holes.
learned I wasn't one of those geniuses when my little
white candle faded momentarily. Nia had handed the
candle to me as I was the first to charge into the
magazine. Earlier in the evening I had already gone part
of the way in and had looked down through a portal at
the processioners exploring the dungeon below where I
stood. I had not felt any fear or any spirits for that
matter, so I did not hesitate to take the candle and go
further into the magazine.
resolutely into the unknown, I probably appeared to
fearlessly trod down the steps. There was nothing there,
just a dead-end cavity. After we saw nothing but a wall
and a low ceiling, some bats and insects, everyone
turned to go exploring other parts of the castle.
Because I had descended the steps first and held the
candle, I felt like I was the only one who walked around
on the floor.
been at the bottom too. This place does strange things
to your sense of perception. Even though we were a group
crowded into such a small space, I felt utterly alone.
started back up, my candle faltered while I was still on
the bottom step. I looked up and could hear voices above
me and see pinpoints of light bouncing off the curved
wall, but around me and behind me was darkness and all I
could think about eleven o'clock that Friday night on
the 9th of December, 1994 was getting out of there.
candle flared back up quickly—it
was less than a second. But in that second, all I could
think about was getting out. Getting out.
The castle changes you
J: Only the Strong Survive
know that the world is never the same after "the man"
shafts whatever he encounters.
process of being shaped into
Africa, Africa was also
raped and robbed. Africa suffers from the trauma of that
rape and robbery. The lost of millions and millions of
her strongest people. The lost of self esteem as her
elders were rendered impotent, her traditions shattered,
her culture trampled by the unmerciful wheels of
commerce. The pain, the disease, the shame, the slavery.
Centuries after centuries.
European chattel slavery, a century is three
generations, at best. Imagine over nine generations of
us ground to human meal betwixt the rock and the hard
place of racism and capitalism.
Auschwitz was one
Elmina was Auschwitz nine times over.
built one church, Tarzan
built the castle. A fort
was his foothold and from there he swung through the
countryside. But regardless of what Tarzan said in the
bush, the fort reveals his real intentions.
According to one of our guides, the
coast of Ghana
contains twenty-eight of the thirty-some existent
castles. Pre-Hitler, concentration camps of whitewashed
stone with holding cells instead of ovens. The vast
majority of these thick walled way stations were the
beginning of a long journey into an unimaginable new
identity. Instead of a train ride to a ghastly hell of
tattoos and death, the ticket of slavery led to a long
boat ride into a living hell of generations of chattel
existence for those who were so unfortunate as to
survive -- and while millions and millions of us died,
we were so strong that millions also survived.
every five of these wombs, these wounds on our humanity
where we bled, and bled, and bled and dropped pitiful as
poisoned cattle. For every five of these social cankers
blighting the body of Africa's west coast, four festered
on Ghana's shores.
castles were the dining rooms of Europe's ascending
traders picked over us, sucked the strong ones, the
succulent ones, the ones who would build up
industrialism, capitalism and all them
isms. They ate us, belched and threw the bony ones of us
aside, scraps for scavengers.
Europeans literally consumed us in these castles,
greedily shoved us through the maws of the front gates
and defecated us out of small holes in the rear of the
castles, loading us onto the ships, where we were packed
into the bottoms destined to become the fertilizer of
the "New World's" phenomenal economic growth.
was the cook and we were the meal.
scavengers of land, sea and air grew fat on the edge of
Ghana. Huge, slow moving crabs feasting on fingers,
toes, intestines and the soft parts of the face. Big
bellied vultures plucking the delicacy of eyeballs.
Huge-eyed hyenas laughing in the night dragging off
thigh bones. The
castles supplied nature's clean up crew
with plenty, plenty dark meat.
every five of these terrible, fetid dining halls, four
were in Ghana. Our flesh was not all Ghana born, indeed
a small number of us came from as far as the East
African coast, but even if we were born two months-walk
away, no matter, four out of five of us left Africa with
Ghana dust in our nose, coughing and hacking up blood
Harmattan winds covered us with dull red
granules of Saharan sand. Ghana air was the last of
Africa we breathed.
there is no surprise that
Ghana is where the idea of
Pan Africanism was really born. Here is where Africa's first
bloody birth was consummated. Here is where
Walter Rodney got their intellectual
ancestral start. Right in these slave castles:
Coast, Elmina, and twenty-six others. Locked up within
these walls, our great philosophers first achieved the
understanding that we were all Africans with the same
immediate destiny: over the wall in death, on the ship
if we lived.
those who avoided capture because of stealth, or because
of resistance, or because of, well, because of just
plain luck, no matter, because even those who avoided
captivity were traumatized in the bush by the cruel
beauty of Tarzan. Whether Tarzan
was called plantation
master, or governor sir, or savior
you think the sudden shock of experiencing de-evolution
at this level will produce at least one or two profound
philosophers? In the castle we were stripped of
everything except the essential spiritual kernel of our
African was the indestructible seed we carried into the
Americas as we were literally wrenched naked out of
Africa. When this philosophical seed sprouted, it would
flower most articulately from the mouths of those
thousands of miles and several generations removed from
Du Bois returned to work and die in Ghana
Du Bois the philosopher was spiritually born in
the castles of Tarzan.
idea of unifying Africa and expelling Tarzan
within the restrictions of the slave castles where
hundreds of thousands of us died in captivity waiting
sometimes as long as a year for a ship to transport us
until imprisonment in the
castle, some of us were
willing to coexist, to accommodate, to seek what would
later, in the post cold war world of international
relations, be called "détente". We already knew
resistance. But, within the castle was born the
philosophy that there can be no coexistence with this
must be expelled.
debate still rages today. Some of us can not live
without Tarzan. Some of us can not live with him. All of
us are having a hard time living.
K: Pick Your Favorite
Since 1918 there have been forty-eight
Tarzan movies. Forty-eight. 40 + 8.
Tarzan of the Apes
Romance of Tarzan
The Revenge of Tarzan
The Return of Tarzan
The Son of Tarzan
P. Dempsey Tabler
The Adventures of Tarzan
Tarzan and the Golden Lion
James Pierce or Frederick Peters
The Mighty Tarzan
The Tiger Tarzan
Tarzan, The Ape Man
Tarzan The Fearless
Tarzan and His Mate
The New Adventures of Tarzan
Tarzan and the Green Goddess
Tarzan Finds a Son
Tarzan's Secret Treasure
Tarzan's New York Adventure
Tarzan's Desert Mystery
Tarzan and the Amazons
Tarzan and the Leopard Woman
Tarzan and the Huntress
Tarzan and the Mermaids
Tarzan's Magic Fountain
Tarzan and the Slave Girl
aka Tarzan and the Jungle Queen
aka Tarzan and the Jungle Queen
Tarzan's Savage Fury
Tarzan and the She-Devil
Tarzan's Hidden Jungle
Tarzan and the Lost Safari
Tarzan and the Trappers
Tarzan's Fight For Life
Tarzan the Ape Man
Tarzan's Greatest Adventure
Tarzan the Magnificent
Tarzan Goes to India
Tarzan's Three Challenges
Tarzan and Jane Regained... Sor of
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold
Tarzan and the Great River
Tarzan and the Jungle Boy
Tarzan's Deadly Silence
Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion
aka Rubber Tarzan
Tarzan, The Ape Man
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord
of the Apes
Isn't the reoccurrence
a bit redundant?
No. Not really. Not
unless you think colonialism is redundant.
I wish I heard more
drums in the night. In Africa. Meaning the natives are
restless. I would feel better if we were restless. Much
The real Africa is life
without western morality clouding the issues. Without
the eternal heaven hanging over our heads. Without the
eternal hell burning our feet. How is it we are always—in all and every way: physically, mentally,
spiritually, realistically, and, above all,
imaginatively—we are always closer to hell than to
Does god want us in
heaven? Why make heaven so hard to enter and so far away
from our reality if god really wants us there?
I can not imagine
I can not imagine
To be is to change.
That which is unchanging does not exist. The very
definition of what something is is what something isn't.
In that sense in order for Christians to believe in
heaven, they must believe in hell. Now, did god create
heaven and hell or did man?
"You can say that
again, old chap."
"Shall we finish our
fifty questions?" Tarzan
does not wait for me to answer.
"What is an African?" Tarzan
does not wait for me to
answer. "That's a man who has gone through hell and
believes in dying to get to heaven. Isn't that
something?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer. "What
is a heathen?" Tarzan
does not wait for me to answer.
"That's a bloke who refuses to go through hell, would
even commit suicide rather than submit, but at the same
time he's not dying to get to heaven. Isn't that
something?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer.
"What's a bloody revolutionary?" Tarzan does not wait
for me to answer. "That's a guy who's living in hell, is
willing to kill you to get out, and doesn't believe in
heaven? Which one are you?" Tarzan does not wait for me
Back in the States it's
hard not to believe in White people. They're everywhere.
They do everything. They have great luck. Like— this
is the absolute last part of the book to be written;
everything else is complete except this little section,
and yesterday this airforce pilot who was shot down in
Bosnia walks out the forest essentially unharmed. This
is the kind of shit that makes you think White people
are invincible. They trumpet it in all the media. Thanks
to CNN we have instant pictures. They start talking
about survival training. His radio. His rations. His
gun. And above all his belief in God and country. How he
never gave up on western civilization. Wow. I wonder if
this guy could have survived slavery. Wow. That's a
"wow". Surviving slavery. But nine generations later, we
are not feted, we are laughed at. And we are also
confused. Too confused to answer fifty questions from
And it's hard to
believe in Black people.
"I believe in Blacks.
That's why I made so many movies. I know your potential
better than you do."
"You know us better
than we know ourselves?"
"As long as we're
talking about the you that I created, of course, I do.
But the rub, old chap, is that it's not about you.
is not about you, even though you may believe in Tarzan. Tarzan
is about me."
He sees I don't believe
him, no, that I don't understand him. I believe him. If
I didn't believe him, he couldn't appear as Tarzan. His
naked truths wouldn't be clothed in myths.
"Do you realize that
movies are American creations. Yet, you
blokes didn't have any African colonies even though you
had one of the largest and most influential populations
of Africans on the face of the earth. Besides my movies
are philosophical. They're about desire and fantasy, and
framing reality to conform to said drives. Whites were
my audience more than you guys. You guys were . . . oh
what's that term you use in Louisiana for something
extra, lagging, napping, oh it's one of those French
"Yes, that's it.
Lagniappe! That you guys believed in me was lagniappe.
Each of my movies was really designed to justify my need
to bugger you. My need not just to conquer you but to
desire you. Me, Tarzan. My movies are the only place
where it is respectable to 'go native'. Sure, I'm the
king of the jungle, but the point is not only do I own
the jungle, I also desire the jungle. The jungle is not
my home but I desire the jungle." Tarzan falls suddenly
silent. His face clouds.
"Is that why there have
been more Tarzan
movies than any other single character?
I don't think Jesus has had as many features."
"Jesus would never have
made it without me."
"What do you mean?"
elementary, old chap. You wouldn't, indeed you couldn't
believe in Jesus except that I conquered you. My gun.
My bible. My language. My morality. Those are the real
holds up the brandy sniffer. Quickly
throws back the entire contents. "Besides, don't you
understand that Tarzan means one thing to you and
another thing to me." Pause. Tarzan looks at the brandy
bottle. Pauses. His face brightens. "Enough. It's not
good to get drunk in the presence of one's lessers."
walks off into
the night. He has left a sign on his chair: "The Never
Ending Saga—Coming Soon To Theaters Everywhere.
L: What Time Is It?
On our third day in
Ghana we traveled to
Cape Coast for a week long
colloquium which opened with a special candlelight
procession to the castle. Because we were so late, after
checking into the guest house, we drove straight to the
castle and arrived before the program began.
Time is just another
means of oppression. Tarzan
introduces the concept of
schedules, a clock that must constantly be adjusted to
the sun, and a calendar that is always falling behind.
Every four years they add a day trying to catch up. If
we counted like that in traditional society, they would
call us stupid. Since they are not stupid, they just say
Calendars and clocks
are conveniences of government, necessitated by the need
to time the arrival of troops, of ships, of supplies.
"Tributes must be paid
on . . ."
"Taxes are due on . . ."
"You may apply for your
license to sell the things you have made between . . ."
"The plane arrives
at . . ."
"The ship leaves on . . ."
Show me a government
with an army and I guarantee they will have a calendar
Calendars and clocks
are a hold over from creating a culture in a climate
that would kill you if you did not plant at a certain
time of the year.
Calendars and clocks
are not needed near the equator where the weather is
roughly the same year round. You can plant yesterday,
today and tomorrow. So here we are imitating Tarzan
with our pieces of paper. Putting numbers next to
everything we want to do. A time for this. A date for
that. And when we fail to be on time we blame ourselves.
But we set ourselves up for our own fall.
everywhere, calendars and clocks are everywhere. And
everywhere we use Tarzan's calendar and Tarzan's clock,
even if we already had one of our own. Even if people
keep going the way they did for centuries, rising with
the sun and resting with the moon. We can not escape
the tick tick tick of Tarzan's time whip. As long as we
have to conform to Tarzan's time, we are not free.
* * *
Ghana teaches you the
wisdom of patience, of moving on a human scale, of
taking conditions into consideration, of being
inclusive. That's what the elastic time concept is
Africans know time should be made to fit people rather
than people forced to fit time.
When we get to the
airport to leave
Ghana, we are informed that the
outbound flight is delayed four hours. Instead of round
midnight, estimated time of departure is now 4:00 a.m.
in the morning—emphasis on "estimated." It seems the
plane had to go to London and was delayed in London
which meant that it will get to Ghana late, which means
that it will leave
And what is wrong with
that? What is wrong with dealing with changing
conditions. Industrialism was the rule of the assembly
line, the time clock, the schedule, and there was
nothing human about it. We bent to it, conformed,
fought, resisted, submitted, tied our stomachs in knots,
made Excedrin rich. Headaches became the order of the
day, and we keel over at forty-five, victims of Type A
heart attacks and strokes.
At the end of your
life, a clock will not be the measurement of your
contribution so why let a mechanical object determine
how you move about and interrelate with others?
I have never forgotten
Malcolm X's admonition to organizers to respect people's
time and to try always to be on time in keeping one's
word. But I doubt Malcolm would mechanically apply that
dictum, especially to the point of being impatient when
people exhibit a non-Western sensibility.
Working in cultural
production in the Caribbean throughout the '80s taught
me to appreciate that the hustle and bustle
characteristic of the business world in the USA just
doesn't cut it in many places outside of the tyranny of
computerized time keeping. My rule of thumb for doing
business in the developing world is to plan no more than
two appointments a day—one in the morning, one in the
afternoon, and to count myself lucky if I accomplish
I know there are those
who think I'm simply making excuses for people who would
be better off joining the industrial world and learning
to be punctual. I know there are those for whom the
maxim "time is money" is gospel. But what is time to
poor people, people who don't have a chance in the world
of making a million dollars in their lifetime?
Regardless of what being in the West might teach us,
time is not money. Time is simply a measurement of
change. Where change is slow moving. Where change is
routine, grinding relentlessly the same, day after day
after day. Where indigenously determined order is
constantly subverted by external authority. In those
places, time is, relatively speaking, expendable.
Once immersed into the
Third World, time, as both a thing and a concept,
becomes subordinate to people. Life ceases to be
measured by the ticking of a clock or the speed by which
things are made.
Making widgets on time
is not living. Relating to others is living.
Loving one's neighbor—do we even know who our neighbors are? Rearing
children. Dancing with friends. Sharing conversation and
music. Traveling with a soul mate. Eating fresh food.
Learning what one doesn't know. That's living.
Cape Coast at night
we would sit out under the tree and talk. The art of
conversation as the main source of adult "entertainment"
is passé in the contemporary West, and I realized just
how unfortunate that was as we sat exchanging ideas,
drinking tea, water, juice, and getting to know one
another in ways that don't happen at meetings and
conferences, or at panel sessions and at formal
Making quiet love in
the morning, aroused by the continuance of a
conversation that started yesterday is living. Being
artificially aroused to sexual activity by subliminal
advertising, or by explicit equations of random
copulating with happiness and satisfaction is not
living. That's being sexually manipulated.
Once away from the
constant stimulus of violence and sex which is the
social ambiance of America, after awhile the body
adjusts. I could actually hold a conversation with a
woman without wondering how it would be to be in bed
We are under an
unrelenting mindfuck in the USA, behavior modification
so severe that it twists our every perception of what
the nature of social relationships ought to be. Because
we go through life looking only for what we have been
told to look for—at 9:00 a.m. a meeting with . . . at
7:30 p.m. we'll meet for dinner at . . . at whatever
"tick-tick-tick" time we will whatever . . .
lost. We find ourselves unable to reach out, unable to
communicate with others.
Our ability to see what
is in front of us becomes very, very myopic because we
spend most of our time looking for the scheduled that is
not there rather than appreciating the unscheduled that
is always there.
We had gone for a
performance at the National Theatre in Accra. When we
got there we found that it was really an upscale,
Eurocentric oriented, US$50 per person fashion show with
music performances interspersed. Rather than waste
money, we decided to get something to eat in the
adjoining cafe. After eating, Nia and I were sitting and
talking. A fellow passed. I said he looked like he was
from Trinidad. Something told me to speak to him. I
spoke up, but he was already well pass me. He didn't
hear me. I hadn't spoken very loudly. Then he came back
and sat at the next table from us, talking with some
people he obviously knew.
I looked at Nia. I
decided to try again. I reached over, "Excuse me. Are
Trinidad." He was. "How did you know?" One
thing led to another. We introduce ourselves and
Bob Ramdhanie, Administrative Director of
Black Voices, an acapella, female singing group from England, joins our
table. We talk. Delightful coincidences abound. I have
played selections by Black Voices on my radio program in
New Orleans. Bob also knows
Marta Vega of the Caribbean
Cultural Center. Plus, he was a participant in one of
the England based regional meetings of the Global
Network for Cultural Equity. I am representing the
Global Network at PANAFEST. We begin talking about
people we both know in England. Before the night is
over, Bob introduces us to F. Nii-Yartey, the Artistic
Director of the
National Dance Company of Ghana, who in
turn invites us to see a children's dance program which
we otherwise would not have checked out.
The next evening, Nia
and I attend Nii's program which focuses on the world of
the children who basically live on the streets of
The dancing was
exuberant, some of it on a par level with any of the
professional companies we have seen at PANAFEST. There
was a strong element of Western pop dance incorporated
into many of the moves. I could not help but smile
because what is generally identified as Western or
American pop, is actually African American.
Even though much of our
culture is presented under the general rubric of
"Western" and even though the "star" performers are
often Whites, the fact is, at its core, Western musical
culture is African.
Part of Nii's praxis of
choreography was the stylization of everyday movements.
Children as young as five and six years old were
performing as though they were professionals. At some
point the dance floor was filled with at least forty
children creating scenes of chaos, brutality, caring,
anger, love. All with a minimum of dialogue. It was
Suppose I hadn't
reached out to
Trinidad? My tendency is to remain aloof,
but everywhere we went in Africa, people were there,
people who, to an extraordinarily large degree, shared
our interest in Africa and development. In the West we
ride through our lives encased in shells and don't
routinely reach out to others.
In the West we are
living under threat of a slave culture, a culture which
enslaves and arrests the human spirit. We don't trust
each other. The person we talk to might turn around and
rob us. Kill us. Steal our dreams.
It's not about
rejecting Euro-centric concepts of time in an abstract
sense but rather about making the embracing
of other humans the primary consideration of our living.
Choosing to elevate the creation of community rather
than the manufacture of things. The patient embracing of
each other, in all our contradictory and sometimes
inspiring, sometimes disappointing humanity, rather than
the artificial adherence to a schedule which forces us
to flagellate ourselves with the Western whip of time
until our social backs are bloody.
How can we be free if
we have neither the time nor the temperament to love and
relate to each other?
* * * *
hGhana became African's first country to gain
freedom in 1957 and has since grown tremendously both politically
and economically. Kwame Nkrumah is known as the country's founding
father and we meet his daughter Samia Nkrumah in our next story --
who is determined to follow in her fathers footsteps.
* * * *
Ghana Music Video /
The Curse of Gold—Ghana /
Rice Farming in Afife, Ghana
Busy Internet Ghana /
Africa Open for Business—Ghana /
African Slave Castle /
Basil Davidson's "Africa Series"
But Equal /
Mastering A Continent /
Caravans of Gold /
The King and the City /
The Bible and The Gun
West Africa Before the Colonial Era: A
History to 1850 (Basil Davidson)
African Slave Trade: Precolonial History,
1450-1850 (Basil Davidson)
John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk
The Slave Ship
music website >
writing website >
daily blog >
* * * *
* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
* * *
The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance
Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It
By Les Leopold
How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions: Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy? How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again? And what can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell victim to Wall Street's exotic financial products. Readers learn how even school districts were taken in by "innovative" products like collateralized debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They'll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again. The Economy
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
posted 7 August 2010