“he warped time and space to deliver a message to eternity.” – Early Samuel R. Delaney
Delaney won the Nebula prize his science fiction novella Babel 17 in 1966, and won the Nebula and the Hugo Award for his 1968 novella titled, Time Considered as a Helix of Semi Precious Stones, and his monumental novel Nova was one of the best SF novels of the sixties.He was described by critic Algis Budrys as ‘the best science fiction writer in the world’, all this for a writer who happened to be Black, or Afrikan American, writing in a genre that was not yet considered the forte of Black people, whether writers or readers.But we have always told fantastical stories and some have written them too, but how many of us read them? Perhaps it was the titles of science fiction novels that tickled my poetic fancy, as I have always been into more political reading, but then again, there are vast landscapes and expansively intricate sub-political plots in many science fiction novels. I still look forward to finding Delaney’s short-story titled,”We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line,”
Good Music possesses a similar power to great fiction, fictions that alter reality, inspiring us to achieve hitherto unimagined feats.
One of my favourite artists today is, Janelle Monae’, she is into Science Fiction, it is evident in the design and cinematography of her videos, but more apparent in her debut album The ArchAndroid, as well her latest visionary offering Dirty Computer. Monae’ is among those creators that others call Afro-Futurists. It is a term that some embrace and some refuse to be subsumed under,just as the likes of Ben Okri and Amos Toutoula and Octavia E. Butler refused to be labeled as Magic Realists, or Fantasy writers. Although the latter is better known as a pioneering Science Fiction writer, she too is much more than any label. It is my wish that one day soon, such creators become more popular and read widely especially among Black communities, their stories could be the missing connection that we need to not only make sense of the dread conditions of Black existence, but they also offer impressive ideas and solutions towards what we can become if we were free to self-determine.
One day soon, I shall write about what I think about the potential impact of Black writers on society, if only reading was as popular in Southern Africa as it is in other parts of the world. There are just so many ifs and buts.Like, if only more young Black folks would listen to jazz, alternative electronic music as well as more Afrikan traditional sounds.There are so many writers, but who reads? SO many visual artists, but who is viewing and purchasing their work, so many producers of great art, inventions and progressive ideas, but so many impediments, mostly due to the sheer amount of historically based social ignorance.
Sometimes I write a few short stories which can be slotted into the genre called Science Fiction or Fantasy. I have not published any of these except for submitting some to some competitions where I have made the top 5 or top 3 of the selections, nevertheless, I can state unequivocally that I am a lazy writer. I should be writing everyday or at least producing a single short-story a week, considering the amount of ideas that flow through my head on a daily basis, even my dreams are the stuff of sheer mad-genius. Even though I am interested in writing fiction, I am more passionate about sociological writing, if I had the vocabulary I would write more about music. There is no excuse these days for not having a vocabulary or at least some knowledge about any subject – I mean, we have the internet. There is very little that cannot be known, at least at the novice level, as long as you have wifi or data.
“My heart yearns for the glory of an Africa that is gone. But I shall labour for the birth of a new Africa, free and great among the nations of the world.”
– Anton Lembede
“Many African nationalists do believe that Western imperialism was an exercise in divide and rule. The argument sometimes sounds like the following, ‘We were all Africans until colonialism split us into Ugandans, Kenyans. Ghanaians, and Ivorians.’ The logical jump is the assertion that Africans must ‘therefore’ have previously been just ‘Africans’. It is not a simple case of the very word African being itself non-African in origin, however true that may be. Rather it is a case of the inhabitants of the continent having known other, often narrower, group identities than ‘Ugandans’, and ‘Ivorians’ before colonial rule.” – Ali Mazrui, The Africans: A Triple Heritage
Did the experience of colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade unite us as Afrikans only to divide us as Blacks? Can we not be simultaneously proud to be Black and retain our loyal identity as Afrikans, or is it a case of not being able to functionally coexists with both?
Today I am hearing more and more of my comrades advocating for a return to African Nationalism. They are evoking the likes of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, Marcus Garvey and various other Afrikanist leaders from the bygone era. They state that the term Black no longer suffices as a definition of who we are, as people of this rich continent we should simply be known as Afrikans qha. I find it alarming and quite regressive, because I assumed we were all on the same page regarding the histories related to our being defined from without as well as from within.What alarms me even more is that these are comrades with whom we have spent almost a decade promoting Black Consciousness according to how we have read and understood it from the great activist Bantu Steve Biko. But today it appears as though we have not really understood Biko at all, or at least not the same way. This is not surprising, as Black Consciousness is neither a dogmatic doctrine nor a set of rules set in stone.
We can and have developed it and adapted it to many other progressive ideas of the 20th and 21st century, such as Black Existentialism, Afrikology, Intertextuality/Intersectionality, Black Feminism as well as Afro-Pessimism as developed by the likes of Frank B. Wilderson.
These and more are all part of the Black Radical tradition and form part of the a people’s movements towards liberation. But beyond scholarship, there have been global musical ideas and innovative artistic expressions based on the foundation of functional Black Consciousness.So what makes it different from Pan Afrikanism or even Afrikan Nationalism as advocated by our honourable predecessors from Garvey to Nkrumah to Nyerere,Cabral, Sankara, Toure’ and others?
Let’s begin by hypothetically accepting this geographically based definition,by agreeing that an Afrikan person no matter where she may be born or resides is still an Afrikan first, This means that all people of colour from the continent known as Africa, to the Brazilians, the Carribeans ( also known as West Indians), the Dominicans, some from South America as well as other parts of the Diaspora are to be identified as Afrikans first.
This definition is in spite of whether they personally identify as Afrikans of with the country of the birth, by virtue of being brown skinned or tan or as dark as ebony, they are African first.
But then there is a conundrum here, there are various peoples from all over the globe who appear dark skinned and yet they have not been in Afrika for several centuries. We can begin with the obvious Australian Aboriginals, New Zealanders, some peoples from the various Asian Islands, various so called Indians from that sub-continent as well as peoples from Mesopotamia and the Middle East who do not identify as Arabs, and some of those who do due to their religion. Are we saying that our Afrikan NAtionalism should exclude all these people even though they have suffered and continue to suffer the tribulations of anti-Black and racially based capitalist brutality?
Are we saying that only Afrikans in the continent are worth fighting and sacrificing for? Where does Afrikanness begin and end. I also need to know whether the knowledge based and technocratic economies of today …or rather can Afrikan Nationalism benefit the younger generation and assist them to become the best that they can be today? Is it a question of identity or is it really about loyalty and patriotism? If that is the case, does patriotism and loyalty to a continent progressively lead to social wellbeing or is it a question of being part of the nationalist ego?
Is music the ultimate expression of human freedom? Having written so much about the music called jazz and the socio-political nuances it often carries, I do feel like I may be laboring the point just a bit, but each time I look through my old notes, I keep finding half-finished essays and quotations connected to this phenomenon. The aim is to elaborate on the various ways in which Black peoples invention is misappropriated to their detriment, but I am also investigating how music and other art-forms are the spaces where possibilities for deeper intercultural communication can be articulated and convergence of humanity can be established. It is not an easy road towards harmony. But as we have heard and witnessed, music is a great equalizer, or is it really? Because what does it really mean to be equal, and when can the Black peoples of the world get their dues? As a cultural currency music is unmistakably translucent, anyone who has a heart can captivate us with song and even their understanding earned through learning or experience. Anyone who has a heart can feel and express it, so how come the racial stereotypes and abuse of power still persist?
A case in point is a quote attributed to Greg Thomas, dated February 6, 2012.
“Jazz, an art form given birth in the United States by descendants of the formerly enslaved has a complicated relationship with race. Although race as a popular idea has no basis in biology, many people mentally adhere to the idea of diving groups of people based on ‘race’ as opposed to understanding how groups of people evolve or regress, via culture, so very real social dynamics and results exist based on the belief in race. A key purpose of this column is to explore culture vs race as it manifests in the discourse of Jazz, historically and presently. “ – Find this and other articles on this subject here:
Another great and more detailed article is this one by Stanley Crouch, a veritable writer, jazz activist and critic.
I have chosen to highlight these two articles according to their merit and scope but I also deliberately chose two writers from the two ethnic backgrounds in question. The white man’s and the black man’s perspective gives a balanced understanding of what is at stake. Perhaps jazz like many forms of art born in the pervasive climate of racialized capitalism is as Bud Powell put it ‘A Dance Of The Infidels’ and we cannot remove it from its milieu, maybe then the best that one can do is enjoy it without visceral interrogation. But then the music itself kind of forces one to delve deeper than the sound. The creative impulse, themes and motivations of the musical creators compel us to Listen deeper, beyond basic enjoyment.
Elsewhere, writing about himself, Crouch states: ” He came into politics slowly, through art, as a child, he had posters of Dizzy Gillespie hanging everywhere, formed a jazz club in high-school and was an actor and director with the Watts Repertory Theater, in the wake of the Watts riots of 1965, he was caught up in the black nationalist movement, but he became a traitor to it later because he was bored with the militant strategies. The movement, he wrote, “helped send not only black America but his nation itslelf into an intellectual tailspin on the subjects of race, of culture, of heritage, where there was not outright foolishness, there was a mongering of the maudin and a base opportunism.” –
The above is taken from some of his essays in his first book, ‘Notes of a Hanging Judge“, (Oxford University Press, 1990), originally published in the Village Voice that same year.
So when will music and arts escape from the racial traps that have been constructed by capitalism and opportunism?
In the infamous Ancient ciKemetic/Egyptian Book of the Dead, which should be known as the Pert em rhu or Coming Forth by Day or the Book of Awakening there are various chapters written as rituals for the living and the dead. The ancient Egyptian traditions are very similar to what is still practiced by AmaZulu and many other Bantu peoples.
Let us begin by quoting from one titled The Chapter of Making A Man To Return To Look Upon His House on Earth, where it states: “The Osiris Ani saith : – I am the Lion-god who cometh forth with long strides.I have shot arrows, and I have wounded my prey. I am the eye of Horus, I traverse the Eye of Horus in this season. I have arrived at the domains.Grant that the Osiris Ani may come in peace.I have advanced and behold, I have not been found light in weight, and the Balance is emptied of my case.”
This book also called the Papyrus of Ani is a great example of how ancient Afrikans viewed and in some instances still view Death. From the modern Zulu to the Oromo in Ethiopia to West and Central Afrika the passage from the living to the dead is seen as just one among many stages of the Spirits existence. Of course Afrikans are not the only ones who held this view, but it appears that many of the peoples of the world have developed an entirely negative attitude towards death and even life after retiring from the physical body.
By mentioning this I also imply that there are various manifestations to the notion of the body. The question is, how and why do embodied spirits attain a Spiritual life and how and when do ethereal bodies attain physical being?
Our ancestors seem to have devoted themselves to elaborate rituals and cults dedicated to just these questions. Similar to Abantu, the Egyptians also believed that ancestors had an interest and an abiding life among the stars and they either rested, worked or returned from there periodically. Note:
“The Neteru who are in the sky are brought to you, the neteru who are on the earth assemble for you, they place their hands under you, they make a ladder for you that you may ascend on it into the sky, the doors of the sky are thrown open to you, the doors of the starry firmament are thrown open for you.”
As the dead were identified with the Neter Ausar/Osiris, the Neter was also linked to the constellation of Orion, this linked the dead to the sky ‘gods’ in a perpetual cycle of coming and going from death to life and the eternal circle goes on. The fact that the name AmaZulu means the the people of the Heavens is not coincidental, to the Zulu the ancestors assume the status of gods or divine beings, it is to them we pray and it is through them that we ascend or even descend to the Creative Source of all life. The accepted norm is that no one approaches the Divine Source of life directly, it is through the ‘dead’ who are alive in the Heavens and in the Netherworld that we can reach the divine realms.
In many Afrikan cultures the very young as well as the very old are revered as potentially divine, its not rare to here a Zulu man refer to his youngest son as Mkhulu (Great One or elder) and to his daughter as Gogo (Grandmother or Khokho which means Ancestor). These are small signs that depict how perpetual the cycle of life is, we should call it the cycle of becoming.
“Knowledge Makes A Man Unfit To Be A Slave.” – Frederick Douglass
“The creativity and pathology of the human mind are, after all, two sides of the same medal coined in the evolutionary mint …something has gone wrong …man is predisposed towards self-destruction. The search for the causes of that deficiency starts with the Book of Genesis and has continued ever since.” – Arthur Koestler, The Ghost In the Machine, 1976
There is Life and there is Death. There are those among us who have sworn allegiance to either one or the other. There are also the in-between folk, those who are merely slaves to the rhythm or the circumstances of their environment and socialization. There are spreaders of good news and there are also merchants of disorder and fear. Some do both without realizing the contradictions in their double messaging. Conspiracy theorists in my view, represent the latter.
Many are keen to expose the ‘secrets’ that have been deliberately hidden by various interests, while others earnestly seek the truth, but then there are those who are gullible enough to swallow everything that they are given without proper analysis. There are extremes to everything, and in the age of information technology, it is of utmost importance to triple check ones facts before taking anything as it is given. Race is one of the theories that has long been debunked as having no scientific foundation, it has been found that we all emanate from the same Ancestors. Yet due to socio-economic systems and traditions and log held prejudices, race and ethnicity remain the most divisive and polarizing issue in the 21st century. Even though W.E.B. Du Bois wrote more than a hundred years ago that the problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the ‘colour-line’. Today, many debates from business, commerce to religion and even technological progress find a way to digress into racial territory somehow, mainly because much of the inequality still prevailing in the world is based on racism. Race is a conspiracy theory, one that is thousands of years old, but has been perfected or perverted in the past three or four centuries. Nevertheless, I am compelled to ask, is the Homo Sapien/Human Race the only race or sentient in the universe?
I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, so I have stayed away from most conversations regarding secret societies as well as speculative theories about extra-terrestrial life. However I have done my reading and I have been intrigued by the subject of Sumerian and Ancient ciKemetic/Egyptian history, especially the creation stories found in these interesting cultures as well as what they teach us about our propensity to Create and to destroy. While I have studied ancient Afrikan history as a Pan Afrikanist, I have primarily concentrated on connections with inner Afrika and its Diaspora but have not thoroughly explored the connections with the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian history, aside from Israel/Palestine. The purpose of life is to Know Oneself, the purpose of the Soul and the possibilities of the mind and body as well as to Love and nurture Nature and others. At least this is my purpose. All my learning is channeled towards this goal.
Accepted knowledge is not always wisdom, many things considered true yesterday have been revealed as false or simply debunked as either fables or myths. Some are even considered delusions. But as I have written elsewhere, myths and legends are also useful to know and even to create during the evolution of the story of our existence as humans or whatever we are in the universe. But what is the danger of taking ourselves too seriously and what are the dangers of not taking ourselves and our potential or capabilities seriously?
It has been written that mankind or humanity is inherently flawed. Religions use terms such as the Fall ( referring to the ejection of Adam and Eve from the Edenic garden), the Death of Instinct and the fault in our stars to terms such as ‘Sinful Nature’ or “Born of sin” as espoused by the Christians who offer a Messiah as the solution towards salvation. Basically, all religions have their messiah’s and even Science has its great inventors, discoverers and pioneers. Much of what we learn we eventually unlearn in later times, there is a succession of clarifications and exposure to more knowledge as we advance towards an improbable future. Life is both bitter and sweet and everything else in between, it is the contradictions and unanswered questions that often give us the best taste of who and what we are and what we are becoming.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” E.M. Forester
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? – Not much.” – Jim Rohn
After studying and reading a whole lot of books and videos, lectures and listening to audio as well as peoples theories of creation and the purpose of humanity on Earth, I have come to several conclusions which I shall expand on later. Here are just Four:
- There is No One God but Many Gods/Divine Beings
- Creation Is Perpetual and So is Entropy
- Music and The Language of Sound, Rhythm and Vibration are the Most Profound ‘Inventions”
- Living and Dying Are Choices We Make Prior to Entering the Body as Well as During Our Incarnation
Even though the title of this essay says ‘God Did This To You …”, I have concluded that not only is there no single entity which is the Creative Force or God of all of this, there are multiple Origins, yet they work in both harmony as well as contestant. This is not to say that there is no design, it simply means the designers are multifarious as well as coordinated from various elemental processes.
But allow me to go back to Koestler’s statement about the search for the cause beginning with Genesis. Of course I refute that notion because it is subjective and only deals with one perspective of the numerous creation stories and how as different peoples we interpret the existence of evil and good. As there are many gods/Gods, there are many forefathers or progenitors of the Human race. But staying with the usual Biblical story, lets hear what Graham Hitchcock has written concerning the genesis of the earth and the place of humanity in it. In Chapter 21, titled A Computer for Calculating the End of the World, he quotes, the Hebrew bible as well as the Mayan Popol Vuh, to compare them and elucidates further on the similarities as well as the geographical, anthropological, mathematical intricacies of ancient calendar making. Here is the famous passage from the Book of Genesis:
“The Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil. Now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever, [Let Us] send him forth from the Garden of Eden.”
The Mayan’s attributed their wisdom and origins to the First Men, God-like beings of Quetzalcoatl, also known as Mahucutah (The Distinguished Name); Mayan Popol Vuh states: ” these forefathers were endowed with intelligence, they saw and instantly they could see far; they succeeded in seeing; they succeeded in knowing all that there is in the world. The things hidden in the distance they saw without first having to move…Great was their wisdom; their sight reached to the forests, the rocks, the lakes, the seas, the mountains, and the valleys. In truth they were admirable men …They were able to know all, and they examined the four corners, the four points of the arch of the sky, and the round face of the earth.”
Hancock states that the achievements of these First Men angered some of the gods/Gods who stated that “It is not well that our creatures should know all …must they become equals to ourselves, their Makers, who can see far, who know all and see all? Must they also be gods?”
Many ancient traditions speak of God, gods, deities, Neteru and demi-gods. They speak of various forms and levels of worship, but what connects all these religions is either adherence to particular orthodoxies and even slavish devotion to the Names of their particular deities. There is power in the Name of YAH, or Yehoshua etc the Judeo-Christian ones say, and there is no salvation outside the chanting of the name of Lord KRSHA, the Vedic school of Krishna Consciousness teaches, even among the Yoruba and the Santeria adherents there Orisha are conjured and they are invoked through their Names and through rhythmic music. Well I say that everything that has a name can be claimed and can be tamed. Humanity may have been created as slaves and flawed in many ways but both our resilience as well as our imaginations and audacity to seek to KNOW MORE and KNOW BETTER as well as our often Unpredictable behavior are elements that endow us with the ability to reach further than our Creators have planned for us. We must not be arrogant though, our ancestors have also revealed to us that we are far more than Flesh and Blood and that we are capable of ascending to heights they too have not been to. As low, depraved and pathetic as we can sink, similarly we can become far more than even we can imagine, it is more than just an intellectual or scientific existence, our Spirit as well as our DNA is equipped to allow us to keep reaching further and further into the past so as to be able of reaching as far into the future and into space as possible.
One of the most influential books in my intellectual and activist life has been W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, published in 1903. This book not only opened my eyes wider to the challenge of racial justice but also endowed me with the tools I needed in order to discern between race hustlers and authentic justice activists. Du Bois is among the most revered founding fathers of Pan Afrikanism. He was there at the beginning structures of the men and women who organised themselves not only for diaspora emancipation projects, but worked tirelessly for the liberation of Afrika’s various countries, and his last days were spend in Ghana wherein he lies buried. Like many Pan Afrikanists of his day, and even many of us today, he was mostly concerned with the building of properly equipped and ideologically sound institutions for the development of Black people. I hereby would like to quote him where he wrote about the establishment of Afrikan American colleges.
“The function of the Negro college, then, is clear. it must maintain the standards of popular education, it must seek the social regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of problems of race contact and co-operation. And finally, beyond all this, it must develop men. Above our modern socialism, and out of the worship of the mass, must persist and evolve that higher individualism which the centers of culture protect; there must come a loftier respect for the sovereign human soul that seeks to know itself and the world about it, that seeks a freedom for expansion and self development; that will love and hate and labor in its own way; untrammeled alike by old and new.
Herein the longing of black men must have respect: the rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points of view and make their loving, living and doing precious to all human hearts.” – page 73 ( The Souls of Black Folk )
When I read such words, written so long ago by men who strove for real justice and whose primary focus was on freeing their own kind yet whose scope was truly about freeing the whole human race, I shudder in shame. Somehow with all our technology and knowing, we have not really achieved the great feats that these men and women fought and worked so hard for. Yes of course there are many shining examples of Black excellence, there are now many schools and institutions that do great work in our communities globally, but the missing link is still unity of purpose. Many are either divided by religious dogma while others have perished through the corrosive egotistical character of their founders or inheritors. All in all, we are moving forward, but rather slowly or too gradually. This is why it appears as if the posturing and shock tactics of radical Black political activists are our main hope. Groups such as the Economic Freedom Fighter, the Black First Land First movement and others appear as the clearest choices for people who have long given up putting their hopes in standard political processes. But herein lies the difference between the likes of Marcus Garvey, Du Bois and other Pan Afrikan leaders of the past, while they were engaged in political processes, they were also engaged in community uplift projects that were entrepreneurial in nature, but above all that, they were also educators and institution builders, the foundations of which are strong because even after a century we still look to them for guidance.
chorus: deep into the core
we keep digging for more
so what, if we’ve died
a million times
at least we tried
someone deep in our tangled past decided
that wealth was stronger than death
the lie was repeated enough times
we now take it as indisputable fact
so true is our belief in the gold, silver and paper trail
we have trained our young to hold on to the dragons tail
or take the bull by the horns
ignoring the man with the crown of thorns
today there is hardly anything which is not up for sale
mothers sell their daughters and honor won’t prevail
presidents sell countries while peddling morality tales
miners have been slaughtered but leaders still come up for air
shono phela mlobi wezimfihlo
kwashona bani wavusa wena
nethestamente elisha sha?
gazi leminikelo mithi yemi-
hla ngeminhla, zintelezi nemi-
empeleni kawusiyo Mbongi
bheka zandile nezinyosi zitinyela kwasani
thina balobi singofakazi bokuhle nokubi
izehlo ngezehlo, izinsizi namabika, iminjunju nemikhosi
lobani ke, nizishaya izihlakaniphi
amaqiniso ebe efihlwe emqubeni
emqulwini nokuqoshwe emigedeni