African Liberation Day: a perspective
Africa Day or African Liberation Day , however re christened, is sadly losing meaning for Dominicans compared to the 70's, 80's, and even the 90's as the world became a global space, village or even bedroom.
During that period there was the search for identity led by the Rastafarian and Black Power movements and strengthened by the liberation music of the 60's and 70's. There was a consciousness, a cry for liberation, identifying with a black God with kinky hair and not the ironed, permed or jerry-curled version of Michelangelo, the one, it is said, who was commissioned to confuse the image in the minds of Black people.
We were taught to love black and just about tolerate whites in a very subtle way as a payback for the injustices meted out to us on slave ships and 400 years of slavery, Peter Tosh would like to remind us.
It served its purpose as we also put right as in the popular rendition by 'Burning Spear", that Christopher Columbus was a 'dammed blasted liar' when he said that he discovered the West Indies..
The discovery that Blacks invented many things that whites took credit for, such as blood transfusions, heart transplant operations and the famous light bulb that Thomas Edison took credit for. Indeed we were getting somewhere with self-consciousness led by Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and accentuated by events such as the independence of Zimbabwe, the freeing of Nelson Mandela and the independence from Britain for most countries of the region.
Africa was being liberated through minds and through its leaders rising to prominence. African Liberation Day celebration took on some meaning locally as 'itals' really became vital for coined phrases such as " livity' and granny's bush medicines rose to prominence once again revealing the natural attributes of traditional medicine, now packaged for sale at local supermarkets.
Blacks could now be employed at certain banks; no longer were we influenced to believe that black faces frighten customers at the banks; children of poor people won scholarships and became scholars, doctors and lawyers. So much so the little black boys are now having the girls of prim- and-proper, light-coloured upper-class families precariously poised behind them on bikes all over the city of Roseau to the dismay and outrage of their parents who have no choice but to re-adjust their spectacles; their grandchildren were not going to be what they previously imagined.
Whether for political expediency or not, there was a general acceptance of Africa or perhaps some acknowledgment of a measure of 'African-ness".
But guess what, the moves to make the celebration or observance an African or black thing has slowly but surely returned to being a Rasta thing.
I have taken part, and still do, even if I am part of the one-hand–full of ball heads at the celebration. This year at Harlem Plaza was no exception; in fact, one of the brethren joked, or perhaps was serious, when he identified me as "a comb hair Rasta."
The more things change, the more they seem to remain the same. Only a few committed to the struggle came to the activity mainly from the Nyabingi group, it must be said. Full marks to the leaders who gathered the " ones and ones" and try to educate them through their chants, solidarity messages, food, art work, music of what Africa represents but on the other side of the coin the standards represented is shameful to say the least.
Does it now mean that a people so great who boast of the first universities ever, have been reduced to such a level of disorganization and unprofessionalism in this era? Certainly we can no longer blame it on mental slavery. There were some signs of progress with respect to our activities and planning of African Liberation Day celebrations as was witnessed a couple decades ago. Certainly the celebration cannot be reduced to smoking of chalice- herbs or the intermittent shouts of "Jah!" in the free but enclosed environment of the Harlem Plaza. Where is the structure or order as little black girls and boys look on?
What about demonstrations of the knowledge and use of herbs at our schools, how to cook and prepare that nutritious ital dish, properly organized concerts, poetry competitions on the Mother land, film shows; training in sculpture/painting, documentaries on famous African leaders are just some of the positives that can be done and at minimal cost.
Many persons have said that during the liberation struggle "the truth will reveal "(Nasio too). And the truth does reveal that not only whites have meted our great hardship on the human race; there are bad and wicked black people too who captured their own brothers in Africa and sold them off to white planters. Therefore I have accepted the fact that 'a man is still a man, whether he's black or white; the only difference is whether he's good or evil'- thank you Morgan Heritage.