“For us the return to Egypt in every domain is the necessary condition to reconcile African civilization with history, to build a body of modern human sciences and to be able to renew African culture…Egypt will play the same role in the rethinking and renewing of African culture that ancient Greece and Rome play in the culture of the West (including North America)”
— Cheikh Anta Diop
“Black Americans” occupy a unique position as a people in this country and, by extension, North America. I say unique because we are the only people who have gone through a deliberate process of erasure, an erasure that has stripped from our conscious awareness a collective sense of cultural continuity beyond our immediate experience in North America. The erasure has had a profound effect on the psyche of our people and continues to have a negative effect in many diverse ways.
As a people, we experience great difficulty in coming together or coming to a consensus in order to act in the best interest of our collective selves. I believe that the collective paralysis we are witnessing today is tied to the perpetual process of erasure.
Erasure of identity is the stripping from a people conscious awareness of their sense of cultural continuity. Life beyond this time has taken us through a most excruciatingly brutal and painful catharsis of suffering that occupies our mind constantly. Over the past 400 years, we have journeyed through a cold and blistering “winter of the soul.”
Being a Black person studying cultural healing ways and ways of knowing health, I am making the connection between the personal path to healing and the community’s path to healing. The first area to confront directly is the memory, which is where personal healing begins. I developed selective and short-term memory loss to avoid reliving the pain, yet suppressing the pain did not allow me to eliminate it, but actually caused me to interact with it repeatedly in the unconscious mind.
Moving from the personal to the collective, I see that as Black people in America we tend to have short-term memory, which is not due to chance, but through design. To reinforce a state of functioning in the short-term memory, we are strategically educated to know very little about our history and our heritage as a people.
Today we function, to a large degree, without guidance from our Ancestors to guide and direct us through this “white winter” of our soul’s journey. Today, the African soul cries out for a healing, a reconnecting with its roots, a healing that is both psychological and cultural. It seeks to reestablish a connection with the bonds of its ancestral knowledge.
Our willingness to accept the name “African American” affirms and acknowledges the deep subliminal and psyche need we feel to reconnect with our Ancestors. Thus, the purposeful act of naming ourselves allows us to accept the fact and reality of being African people in America.
I have found in studying ourselves in terms of behavior that our actions are inconsistent with deeply held beliefs, values and sacred ways of knowing. Our actions are mostly informed by the implanted words, names, concepts, and the culturally endowed vocabulary of those who forcefully pierced our consciousness with a deliberate focus to empty our memory of originality, spirituality and connection to the creator acting through creation.
Today, we are afraid to be African because of the erasure process. The process did happen, but it only exits on the surface. To dig beneath the surface, we clean the lens of our eyes, watch, listen and function within, and we groove in harmony with our wisdom and the vibes allow us to recover. We can now replace fear with knowledge, because we are still here. We do not have to ask permission to be African as Africans tied to Kemet; we have evidence, confidence and faith in being African.
We are in a position to claim Egypt as knowledge, philosophy and a system of thought. The very same erasure that has crippled and warped our psyche and our development over the past 400 years as Africans in America now drives our thirsty souls to seek and drink at the well of our ancient ancestors of Kemet.
As Africans in America, we are a people ripped from the breast of our mother — Africa. What child does not cry with pain and loss when rudely and cruelly taken from the warmth and comfort of its mother’s breast? What mother does not tremble and weep with aching tears of her hopelessness and loss, her arms stretched towards the heavens — empty?
The European in America has always affirmed his connection to Europe through his surname. He has always been a European in America. However, while affirming himself and his identity to a European origin, he has sought to deny the African in America the same right to a cultural and psychological place of origin.
This lack of a sense of community of culture and place (Africa) has left African people fragmented in purpose as we are physically under attack in many areas of the world. The essential need for Africans today is to find a unity of purpose in place, culture and spirituality.
We have found the grooves in the fabric of our consciousness as we acknowledge and embrace ourselves; we reconnect to our cultural, intellectual birth Mother — Kemet!
Hotep! Thank you for allowing me to be part of you!
Elder Atum Azzahir is executive director and elder consultant in African ways of knowing of the Cultural Wellness Center. She welcomes reader responses to [email protected].