Tuesday, July 22, 2003


There’s an interesting question that’s been bandied about the collective group of American slave descendants, (those that still acknowledge their African heritage that is): Are we better off NOW..being slave descendants here in America in 2003 vs. being indigenous natives in Africa? The first problem when trying to tackle this question is the dilemma of the vast African diaspora. From Northern Algeria to Southern South Africa..the mother continent’s native inhabitants cover the entire spectrum of color, wealth and religion. We’re African descendants, but we have NO IDEA what country in Africa our people are from. Add to that all the mixed-breeding of slaves and the blood that the white masters mixed in..and its d’mn near impossible to backtrack what our TRUE blood heritage is…

Back to Africa?? For WHAT??!! I don’t know nobody over there and don’t nobody over there know me!!

Man..I got a GOOD job at the Post Office, I’m retiring in 8 years with full benefits and a well stocked 401(k)..I’m doing better now than any of those uneducated, starving, HIV infected, nappy headed, broke Africans we see on TV!! I’m GLAD I ain’t no African..I’m from 5th Ward!!!

If they REALLY loved us, they wouldn’t have allowed us to be taken into slavery!! They didn’t give a d’mn about them slaves, everybody is just out to protect themselves!! Hell, they NEVER even came to try and bring us back!!!

The Middle Passage from Western Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas stands on record as one of the most horrific, demoralizing and vicious acts in our world’s history. Slavery is no longer a legal institution in America..but the catastrophic effects of the decentralization, dispersement, and oppression of an entire race of people is still being felt today. A lot of the things that so many cultures can hold dear and exclusive to their own…like language and generations of family history, are things that Black folks have to make it without. Some of the slaves spoke Swahili..or Ebo..or Hausa..or Uruba..or any of the hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects found throughout continental Africa. Not only were slaves separated from their land and language..they were forced to learn English, one of THE most difficult languages there is. I had a Nigerian instructor in college who used to chide us ‘Americans’ all the time…

KANIGHIT?? That makes no sense!!!
KA-NIG-HIT?? What are you talking about?? (I was confused)
K-N-I-G-H-T…(writing the letters on the board then turning around pronouncing it) KA-NIGT!!
That’s knight…like..a knight in shining armor?
I know, but why is there a K and you can’t hear the G??
(shrugging my shoulders) I dunno..it just is.
That’s what I mean…English makes NO sense!

My parents weren’t sticklers for grammar…we could say ‘ain’t’ and ‘fo’ and not be corrected. Probably because my parents were country and used those same ebonical contractions and many more…if my mother was in complete agreement with someone, she’d be quick to say, ‘Sho nuff!’ My father sported an Afro and dishike and knew every soul brother greeting (including handshakes) there was…

What it is Bro? What’s happening my man? Say it loud…

But that was just around family and friends…once we had to go somewhere and talk/communicate with those ‘white folks’..my parents diction and mannerisms changed. The ain’ts were replaced with ‘You are not’..’Fo’ became four..’Sho nuff’ turned into “I know that’s right!” I also noticed this change in speech pattern when they talked on the phone to ‘white folks’ Gone was the folksy comfortableness of conversation, replaced with a more calculated pace and crisper separation of syllables. One instant my mother would be on the phone talking to one of her friends sounding like Esther from Sanford & Son..and the next minute when she’s talking to one of them ‘white folks’ she’d sound like Barbara Jordan.

I used to have this same translator device that I would put up..and make sure my words and speech were as grammatically correct and linguistically conforming as my native Southside Houston dialect would allow. And it wasn’t just the white folks I’d put this ‘switch’ on..if I was trying to increase my station in life around someone engaged in the mainstream society..I could flip it. All of my Sunnyside friends used to say that I talked ‘like a white boy’…all of my white friends in school used to say that I talked like Arnold from Different Strokes. I could make them laugh HARD if I would give them just one, ‘Whatchu tawkin bout Willis??!!’

Some black folks today are ‘reluctant’ Americans. They still hold on to the anger and caution that years of slavery, Jim Crow laws and racism has force fed their souls.

Black man ain’t got no business celebrating no 4th of July! White man didn’t even think a black man was HUMAN when they wrote all that sh’t! Wasn’t no ‘Independence Day’ for Black people!! We do celebrate Juneteenth tho!!

Back in 1822 when James Monroe was president, a group of freed American slaves were relocated back to Africa by the American Colonization Society. They re-settled in a small west African coastal country about the size of Tennessee..they called it Liberia. They even named the capital Monrovia..in honor of the American president. I’m sure the faces of the freed slaves as they boarded the boats headed BACK to Africa were full of happiness, hope and optimism. They were allowed to go back to their mother country and live as free people. Lucky them..too bad ALL the slaves couldn’t return..right?

Today there are rebel factions in the streets of Monrovia hurling mortar bombs and firing machine guns against the ruling regime of the current president, Charles Taylor. Years of fighting, governmental corruption and industrial oppression has turned this country founded by freed slaves into a dangerous and unstable warzone. And as so many of these Liberians anxiously await a helping hand (militarily and economically) from America, I look at the images of a war torn country..with mounting civilian casualties, poverty, maltnutrition and archaic medical facilities..and I sit and ponder, exactly who are the fortunate ones?

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