Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Role of History and Culture in The Liberation Struggle

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
November 14, 2009

History is one of the most powerful weapons in the armory of a people to define and empower and defend themselves.

If a people do not place themselves in their proper historical context, then, such a people would be defenseless, powerless and nothingless. As such, it is very vital for a people to write, interpret, and analyse their own history for, by and of themselves. Failure to do so would be fatal for their existence. And their demise would be assured. No people should allow another people to write, interpret and analyse their own history. Most of all, the oppressed or colonised must not allow their oppressor or coloniser to write, interpret and analyse their history. More specifically, we Afrikan people must not allow our European oppressor/coloniser to write, interpret and analyse our history.

We must not allow him to tell us who we are, as a people.We, Afrikan people, must write, interpret and analyse our own perspectives, frame of reference and worldview.

Our European coloniser only writes, interprets and analyses our Afrikan history in order to maintain, perpetuate and strengthen European global supremacy, as part of "the manifestation of the evil genius of Europe". Under this scenario, Europe and Europeans are portrayed as the subject and creators of world history and world events, while Afrika and Africans are portrayed as the Object.

However, the liberation struggle demands that, as an Afrikan people, we must re-write our history so that Afrika and Afrikans are the true Subject and creators of world history and world events.

Our history tells us that humankind was born or created in Mother Afrika, and not in Father Europe. Mother Afrika is the cradle of civilisation. Our history tells us that we are the original peoples with original ideas. Our history tells us that we are true global majority, while Europeans are the global minority. Our history tells us that our past is that as an Afrikan people; our present is that as an Afrikan people; and our future is that as an Afrikan people. And there is nothing we or anyone can do to deny these realities. The liberation struggle demands that the time is now for us to live as our history dictates in every aspect of our daily lives. The time is now for us to Afrikanise ourselves 24-7- 365. The time is now for us to relive, re-practice and return to our original spiritual way of life and belief system. The time is now for us to return to our communal and extended family way of life. The time is now for us to internalise our original Afrikan mindset as we strive for total liberation, as a people, in this new millennium.

Our history tells us that being an Afrikan is an internal or inside job. It does not follow that just because someone wears Afrikan clothes, eats Afrikan foods, play Afrikan music, and even has an Afrikan name that these external actions make such a person an Afrikan. They do not.

Such a person may just only be a fake, superficial, phoney Afrikan or Trini-Afro-Negro.

A person's Afrikanness is, first of all, planted and the seeds are sown in one's invisible, internal, subconscious mind. This is the first stage in this growth process. This spiritual experience is similar to a drug or alcohol addiction when one achieves sobriety. Such a person knows when that time comes or when such an experience is achieved within himself or herself. Such a person also knows that inner, internal, invisible feeling and comfort zone. Such a person knows that a life-long spiritual, subconscious connection has been made with their "higher power" in this case or that spiritual God-force, Amun-Ra, the "giver of life" in the case of Afrikanness. These are two inside jobs. These addicts not only submit but also put their daily life in the hands of their "higher power " just as the new Afrikan also puts his/her daily life in the hands of their spiritual God-force. This internal, spiritual sobriety then dictates, guides and fashions the external, visible, conscious mind-set and actions of this new Afrikan.

The liberation struggle suggests that a people without a sense of history are ill-equipped to visualise and plan a future because of an unclear, distorted and mis-directed picture of their past. It also asserts that a people without the knowledge of "having done", will have grave difficulty in acquiring the positive motivation of "can do". As slain Pan Afrikan Nationalist Bro. Malcolm X, once warned: "If I can convince you that you have done nothing, then you will do nothing." Over the past 500 years, European or Euro-centric scholarship and history have been written to convince the world that Afrikans are a nothing people; a people without a history, culture or civilisation; and that nothing came out of Afrika but uncivilised, barbaric, primitive slaves, savages and cannibals.

As a counter-measure, we must re-write our history to convince the world that Afrika and Afrikans created original culture and civilisations. Indeed, the Nile River in ancient Kemet (Egypt) was known as "the world's first cultural highway." Afrikan people created everything and there would not be a world, Europe or America today in the A.D. Era if there was not an Afrika in the B.C. era. History proves that Afrikans, are an everything, all-inclusive people.

Everything on this Planet Earth came out of Mother Afrika and then spread to the rest of the world. Our history seeks to re-make us the powerful people we once were. Our history does not focus on those Afrikans who picked cotton, etc. on the plantations of the American South or the Caribbean or South America. This brutal, inhumane experience only represents .01 percent of the history of Afrikan people on this earth. This European slavery experience represents our nationality.

Indeed, our interpretation and celebration of our history must focus on those Afrikans who built the pyramids; invented the world's first 365 ¼ day calendar; astronomy, astrology, writing, philosophy, religion, mathematics, paper, medicine, the Caesarean Section, psychology, governance and architecture, just to name a few. This glorious and humane experience represents 99.9 percent of the history of Afrikan people on this planet. This experience represents our Afrikan originality.

Our history informs us that our nationality is an accident of birth that is based on European enslavement, colonialism, imperialism and supremacy. It represents an indictment from Father Europe.

However, our originality is based on our direct Afrikan heritage/ Afrikanness and this is no accident. Originality represents a gift from Mother Afrika. This interpretation and celebration of our history proves that we are the people of yesterday and tomorrow, while Europeans are only the people of today. We, Afrikans, are the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

It must be properly understood that without a proper interpretation and analysis of our history, then the liberation struggle will be exercise in absolute futility, at best. Our history's role is to facilitate, to define, re-locate, re-direct, fashion and mould the liberation struggle. Our history's role is to equip us with the necessary tools and ammunition to formulate plans for the future. Its role is to enable us to engage in critical thinking and analysis of the multi-faceted problems and issues that affect and impact on us as a people. As the deceased Afri-centric historian, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, correctly observes:

"History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. The role of history is to tell a people what they have been and where they have been; what they are and where they are. The most important role that history plays is that it has the function of telling a people where they still must go and what they still must be."

The reality is that cultural revolution is necessary today as a result of 500 years of European colonialism, imperialism, and supremacy. Such a revolution is all the more vital among oppressed peoples, in general, and people of Afrikan decent, in particular, as a result of European enslavement a la Afrikan Holocaust or MAAFA. Cultural revolution must involve total decolonisation if liberation is to be achieved and maximized. Anise asserts that: "Total national liberation must manifest in the establishment of a revolutionary culture as the foundation of nation-building."

Cultural dependency cannot co-exist on the same road to liberation. This only represents cultural confusion and congestion at its zenith. Something would have to give way to the other.

Liberation calls for the exercise of "mass culture", not "elite culture". It must represent the cultural values of the masses and not those of the chosen few in society. If it does not, then this change will only lead to further nation or internal self-imposed divide and rule and inequality in the short-run and violence in the long-run. It must be clearly understood that the liberation struggle is "an act of culture". Cabral also asserts that: "Culture and struggle come to influence one another reciprocally. Culture, the foundation and resource of inspiration for the struggle, begins itself to be influenced by the struggle; this is reflected in the conduct of social groupings and individuals as well as the unfolding of struggle itself".

In the past and present, culture has never been regarded as relevant to socio-economic development in TnT. The cultural impact was absent, by accident or design and even political leaders have tended to neglect the detrimental and direct correlation between cultural imperialism, economic dependency and under-development. It is time that we realise that cultural factors are paramount in the process of genuine liberation. Tall buildings do not develop or industrialization make. They can engender superficial success or bring about disaster, as they have undoubtedly done for TnT.

In TnT today, we do not have an inward-looking, self-reliant, cultural approach to liberation. Instead, we have pursued and accepted foreign Euro-models.

As was enunciated in the 19th Century: "The country that is more developed industrially, only shows to the less developed, the image of its own future". That is, the future for which TnT is striving - the achievement of first world developed nation status or to become the new United States of Trinidad and Tobago. This only tantamounts to the Euro-American re-colonization of TnT.

We cannot talk about national liberation when over 75 percent of TnT's TV programs originate from Euro-America.These programs were once described by deceased William Demas as "brainless", "junk" and an "insult" to the intelligence of our people. In terms of the liberation struggle, television programs must be used for re-education, development, transmission, strengthening and location of a cultural identity for entertainment and to ignite the spirit of TnT nationalism. As of this writing, TV programs and commercials have completely Kentuckyfried, Mc Donaldarised, Royal Castled, Pizza Hutted, Pizza Boysed, Mario's Pizzarised, Burger Kinged, Ginzanos Subbed, Church's Chickened, Subwayed and Popeyed Chickened & Seafooded TnT's cultural/culinary values and way of life 24-7-365. Instead of having family evening dinners at home, these domestic meetings are now held in Euro-American, unhealthy, fast food eating venues. Trinis like foreign! And the shameful, sad, realistic irony is that 95.0 percent of the patrons of these eating outlets are Afrikan-Trinis.

This is unabashed cultural insanity, dislocation and retrogressive human behavior. The bottom-line is that Trinbagonians are neurologically culturally brain-damaged, brain-dead, anesthetized and culturally comatose.

However, the dangerous and scary tragedy is that Trinbagonians are walking around as if nothing is dysfunctional and/or wrong with their cultural body-politic; they are operating as if there is no problem. "We like it."

As a result of this cultural madness, TnT not only has physical vagrants on its streets everyday, but also cultural vagrants who wear Afrikan clothing once a year at the Emancipation Carnival Day celebrations... one-ah-day-Africans.

It is at this juncture that we have to distinguish the vital difference between Emancipation and Liberation within a cultural context. The fact of the matter is that the current celebration of Emancipation has been practised in a Euro-Centric, dysfunctional context. It is devoid of its original, Afrikan historical context or Afrikanness; hence its obvious ineffectiveness in either empowering Afrikan-Trinis or being regarded as a serious, concerted and planned challenge to European supremacy. There is a vital endemic disconnect between Emancipation Day celebrations and the totality of the Afrikan historical experience on this planet. In other words, every August 1, Afrikan-Trinis wear very expensive Afrikan clothes, albeit costumes, at the historical site at the old Treasury Building, where the Afrikan slaves received the news of their so-called Emancipation from their Euro-British slaves - masters. At this site, Afrikan-Trinis not only beat Afrikan drums and Steelpans but also chew Euro-American made gum in the boiling hot sun in the early morning. This is cultural insanity, contradiction and inconsistency at its TnT asinine zenith. It represents past Euro-British colonisation and present Euro-American re-colonisation in the era of supposed political independence, or, as the deceased Afri- Centric historian, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, describes it, "flag independence". These Afrikan-Trinis would then march through the streets of Port-of-Spain and end their pilgrimage at the Queen's Park Savannah - a physical venue named in the image and likeness of the very same Euro-British slave - masters who enslaved and freed/emancipated them. This is cultural insanity, contradictions and inconsistency at its TnT asinine zenith. This Euro-centric action proves that the descendants of those Afrikan slaves may have been freed physically, between 1834-1838, but their actions in August 2009 prove that they have not been emancipated mentally.

As Bro. Malcolm X once observed: "The white man took the chains from our feet and put them on our mind". In other words, physical slavery has been abolished, but mental, psychological or scientific slavery is still alive and kicking in TnT. 24-7-365. True liberation, within a cultural context, does not reflect what Afrikan-Trinis wear on August 1 but their values and way of life from August 2 to July 31, every year, surely do. Emancipation means that Afrikan-Trinis are freed and Afrikanised for one day, but for the remaining 364 days, they are Euro-Americanised in their daily lives. "We like it." As a result of the current celebration of Emancipation Day, what we have in TnT are nothing but one-ah-day Afrikans. If any reader doubts this writer, please observe the clothes these same Afrikan-Trinis wear during these other 364 days; observe the foods these same Afrikan-Trinis eat during these 364 days; observe the Gods the Afrikan-Trinis worship during these 364 days.

The cultural reality is that Emancipation is nothing but an event to make Afrikan-Trinis feel good about themselves; at least temporarily. On a permanent basis, they are a powerless, defenceless people. Wake up, my fellow Trinis and smell the coffee; its Afrikan/ Black; its not Dougla, "Trini-White" or Red as in "Redman". Emancipate yourself from mental, cultural Euro-imposed slavery.

Free your subconscious mind from Euro-centric garbage and cobweb so that total liberation can flow and be fruitful in this new millennium. Our Afrikan ancestors demand nothing more; so let us give them nothing less. Liberation demands that Afrikan-Trinis should stop celebrating Afrikan History Month in November and celebrate Afrikan Liberation Year instead. Emancipation Day must thus become part of Afrikan Liberation Year. Liberation demands that Afrikan-Trinis should renounce the Red, White and Blue psychologically and culturally, and embrace and operationalise (on a daily basis), the Red, White and Black, and the Red, Black and Green. At the global, macrolevel, Afrikan cultural potency demands that in this new millennium Afrikan-Trinis be Afrikan 24-7-365.

It is a full time job of consciousness with overtime expected. Emancipation Day only provides for part time, temporary work with no overtime expected or desired. It only produces dislocated, mis-directed and ahistorical feeling good Afrikan-Trinis. "Afrikans must live in the hope that, in the process of time, their turn will come when they will (once again) occupy a prominent position in world's history and when they command a voice in the (global) councils of nations (as they did in the B.C. Era)." For whereas Emancipation deals with local Trini-cultural national identity, Liberation deals with global, international Pan Afrikan cultural nationalist identity. Whereas Emancipation Day gives Afrikan-Trinis a fish so that they can feed themselves for one day, Afrikan Liberation Year teaches Afrikan-Trinis how to fish, so that they can feed themselves for the rest of their lives.

Whereas Emancipation Day focuses on that period of history when Afrikans were powerless and Europeans were powerful, Afrikan Liberation Year focuses on that period of history when Afrikans were powerful and Europeans were powerless.Whereas Emancipation Day focuses on the Nationality of Afrikans in the A.D. era, Afrikan Liberation Year focuses on the Originality of Afrikans in the B.C. Era. Whereas Emancipation Day focuses on Afrikans who picked cotton etc. for Europeans, Afrikan Liberation Year focuses on Afrikans who educated Europeans, built their first university (University of Salamanca in Spain in 900 A.D.) and built pyramids etc. And whereas Emancipation focuses on the 0.1 percent of the history of Afrikan people, Liberation focuses on the 99.9 percent of the history of Afrikan people on this planet.

"Afrikans of TnT unite; we have nothing to lose but our minds."

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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