Education for a New Reality in the African World
by John Henrik Clarke
Part 1 of 10
A Single Focus With Many Dimensions
Education for a new reality in the African world must have a single focus with many dimensions that take into consideration the fact that African people are universal and the most dispersed of all ethnic groups. African people can be found in more parts of the world than any other ethnic group. Africa, of course, is their homeland, but through curiosity, need, forced migration and serving as mercenaries in the armies of other nations, Africans have migrated throughout the world and in many ways they relate to all the ethnic nations of the world. To this end I invite you to read three different special issues of the Journal of African Civilizations, edited by Professor Ivan Van Sertima, “African Presence In Early Asia,” “African Presence In Early Europe,” and “African Presence In Early America,” because there is a need to locate African people on the map of human geography and to restore African people to the respectful commentary of history.
If Africans are to be judged by the current headlines in the newspapers the judgment will not be in their favor—with the murder of Africans by Africans in Rwanda, with a nation like Nigeria, which could have been Africa’s finest example of a functioning African nation, turning inward on itself, and a nation like Ghana, where Nkrumah took Africa for her political walk in the sun, now a nation of Jesus freaks selling the land, including the gold mines, to foreigners. Without some understanding of how Africa was programmed into this disaster, the picture of Africa, of course, would not be favorable. If one took the time to look beyond the headlines and discover why and how the African dream was turned into an African nightmare one might have some understanding of the African crisis and some human sympathy.
In the years after the emergence of Kwame Nkrumah, l957-present, Africa was programmed to fall apart. The two generations educated after the independence explosion were educated to imitate Europeans in the handling of power. Figuratively speaking, the European political coat will never fit the African body. Africans were not educated to take over Africa by Africans using African methodology. Nearly every African head of state today has an African body and a European mind. Those trained in the United States have only a variation of the European mind. Because African people the world over are a ceremonial people, they often engage in ceremony and miss the substance. This is why in substance, the civil rights movement was basically a failure, the Caribbean concept of federation and unity was also a failure, and the Organization of African Unity was the saddest failure of them all. Until we are adult and face the reality of why these failures occurred we will not be prepared to establish an educational program that would enable us to face the reality of the immediate tomorrow of African people.
The main focus of an education for a new reality in the African world must have as its mission the restoration of what slavery and colonialism took away. Slavery and colonialism took from African people their basic culture, their language, their concept of nationhood, their manhood and their womanhood. They mutilated and tried to destroy their traditional culture and reduced Africans to beggars at the cultural and political door of other people while neglecting the job of restoring their own culture, the main thing that could have sustained them.
The Africans needed a value system of their own design. Most important in the education to assume the responsibility of nationhood, Africans needed to be educated to be the managers of the wealth producing resources of their own country. All over the African world we need fewer parades, fewer demonstrations, fewer pronouncements, less hero worship and more closed door meetings to plan the strategy of African survival throughout the world. We need to study how other nations rose from a low to a high position in the world and did what we still have to do.
Both my colleagues and my students have grown weary of my using the case of the rise of modern Japan. They say the Japanese are racists. They are, but they did for themselves what we still need to do—they retained their culture. They did not let the conqueror interfere with their way of life or tamper with the concept and image of god as they conceived god to be. Throughout the whole of the African world most Africans who call themselves civilized, and here I have to question their definition of the term, worship a concept and image of a god assigned to them by a foreigner. Because the Japanese refused to allow their conquerors to do this to them they recovered from defeat and rose to a position in a world where their former conquerors are asking them for space in their commercial world.
The Japanese did this without demonstrations, shooting a gun or asking the permission of their conqueror. They did this because they could talk strategy among themselves and not have anyone run to their conqueror and betray the strategist. They realized something that the people of the African world have not yet realized. There is no way to move any people from a lower to a higher position unless they are willing to accept some form of collective discipline. You can not move an unruly mob into anything but chaos. Sometime we are democratic among ourselves and not able to get anything done because we are not able to decide what needs to be done.
Europeans and white people in general have become masters of image control and mind control, which is sometimes one and the same. The most devastating of all European image control is their control over the definition and the image of God. Very few black ministers or laypersons dispute the white picture of Christ painted in Europe 1500 years after Christ was dead. Most people in the civilizations of the world generally look at a spiritual deity that resembles themselves, mainly the father in their home, be this right or wrong. Why are we an exception?
Let’s look briefly at what this image does to our mind and the mind of our youth. The image of Christ, the son of God is one color, policemen are the same, judges in the courts, in most cases, are the same. What are these images saying to our youth—that the color they wear is incapable of holding power. When one goes to the black church and looks at the Sunday school lesson, all the angels shown there are white. These pictures tell your child that he or she is not capable of being an angel.
If you are now asking the question, what has this to do with education for a new reality in the African world, then you need to ask the question until you find the answer. Why not answer the question with a question to yourself: Am I not as worthy of exercising power over myself, within my family, within my community, within my nation, as anyone else? If I am not prepared for it, do I have the mental capacity to prepare myself for it? Do people holding power have a mental capacity in excess of mine? If so, why? We live in a society that programs us into doubting our capacity to be the masters of ourselves and the circumstances under which we live. The rulers of this society and other societies have made a mystery of the ruling of nations. They say outright, or imply, that this is an achievement beyond our capacity.
If we had a thorough knowledge of our history for just one thousand years before the slave trade, we could put this matter to rest. There were great independent states along the coast of East Africa before they were destroyed by the Arab slave trade. There were great independent states in the Congo before they were destroyed in 1884. There were great independent states in inner West Africa that lasted one hundred fifty years into the slave trade period. One independent state, Songhay, ruled exceptionally well by Africans, conducted trade in the Mediterranean and in southern Europe, had a great university, Sankore, at Timbuctoo and a university city devoted mainly to education. While the ruling family was of the Islamic faith, this was not an Arab achievement; there were no Arab teachers at the University of Sankore or Jenne.
This is why throughout this paper I will be consistently referring to the fact that we have to look back in order to look forward. The past illuminates the present and the present will give us some indication of what the future can be. Education for a new reality in the African world has to be three dimensional in its approach.