Posted by: Khepera | Thursday, 1 January 2009

John Henrik Clarke’s Earthday


[This is from my friend Runoko Rashidi]

1 January 2009

Greetings Family,

Hapi New Year! I sure hope that it is a happy one! Today we celebrate the anniversary of Dr. John Henrik Clarke — one of our greatest and best loved historians. I have nothing but fond memories of him.

I met Dr. Clarke in the early 1980s and over the years shared a very good relationship with him. I visited him in Harlem and we spoke at many conferences together. One year we traveled to a conference in Costa Rica together.

I always found him to be kind and accessible and honest. And he was always very encouraging to me. I could tell so many stories about him! I will share just this one with you — a story that I have never written down.

Dr. Clarke had a way of calming you down and simplifying things. Here is an example: In 1996 I was invited to an all expense paid trip to Australia to lecture at a historic Aboriginal Australian conference. But I could not go! I had signed a contract to lecture to a tour group aboard a cruise ship in Egypt. Most people would be delighted at such an opportunity to go to Egypt and at first I was too. And then the opportunity to go among Aboriginal Australians came along!

Egypt is a great place but I had been there before. I’d never been to Australia and I had a fascination with the sisters and brothers there. I really wanted to go. But the folks handling the Egyptian tour would have none of it. As far as they were concerned I had signed a contract and they intended to hold me to it! So Gracelyn Smallwood in Australia told me not to worry about it. That they would be having conferences in the future and that I should honor my contract. Reluctantly, I agreed.

These sisters and brothers in Australia were so kind to me. They told me to select an alternate presenter; that they would cover that person’s costs and all would be well. So, after much deliberation, I selected my good friend and favorite research associate James E. Brunson.

When I returned from Egypt and James got back from Australia I called him and we had a long and, for me anyway, a depressing conversation. One of the reasons that Dr. Clarke and I admired each other is our commitment to Pan-Africanism. He was one of grand old men in the arena and he saw me as an up and coming Pan-Africanist scholar. I would love for all Black people in the world to declare that allegiance to Africa and proudly proclaim their African origins.

But, according to James, and I was to later find this out for myself, Aboriginal Australians truly see themselves as Indigenous to Australia. And, in general, they don’t give a hoot about DNA studies and paleontology that suggest otherwise. Neither James or I would argue with them. We must respect their world view. Nevertheless, it bothered me. So I referred to, for me probably the final word on all things Pan-African- -Dr. Clarke.

Late one night I called him. He could tell that I was distressed and asked me what the problem was. So I told him. I said, “Dr. Clarke a friend of mine went to Australia, talked to the sisters and brothers there and they said that they were not African.” Dr. Clarke’s response was typical. He said, “Runoko don’t worry about it. I can take you down 125th street in Harlem and show you the blackest person there and he will say we are not African. Wait until Africa get’s strong and you will see just how many Africans there are!” I regard that as the essential John Henrik Clarke and everything seemed alright after that. I doubt that Aboriginal Australians would see it that but but I sure slept well that night!

Of all of the scholars that I have met, admired, and loved, I think that Dr. Clarke and Dr. Hilliard are the ones that I miss the most. They were so human. And they had a way or reaching out and encouraging you. And they always seemed to be there for you and to make time for you.

Anyway, I could go on and on and on. But I won’t. So, Dr. Clarke wherever your spirit resides just know that we miss you and salute your great works, and the time that you spent with us. I miss him very much! Even now, in my fatigue and sometimes after the completion of a long trip I think to myself that I should give him a call and share the details with him!

Dr. Clarke was also special in the sense that at the end of his life he was still most positive and optimistic about his people. And he did not compromise. He would tell you like he saw it.

What I have enclosed here is a brief bio of Dr. Clarke by the Soul School Institute. They also included a partial bibliography of Dr. Clarke’s writing. After that comes a comprehensive article by Dr. Clarke called “Why Africana History?” Then comes a newspaper article written by a sister in New York about a presentation that I gave that Dr. Clarke showed up right in the middle of. It was the last time that I saw this great man and it was a most memorable and moving experience. And last, comes Dr. Clarke obituary. He wrote it himself! I hope that the four of this pieces and my brief recollection of the man reminds us how great the great John Henrik Clarke remains for us.

And so, I guess that for now, this completes this little series on great African historians. I have provided offerings of Chancellor James Williams, Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. Ben (who is still with us), and now John Henrik Clarke–all born within ten calendar days of each other. They were all great scholars but equally great African patriots. Let’s, as we cherish their memories, do the best that we can to follow in their footsteps. It will help make the world a much better place.

In love of Africa,

Ruoko Rashidi Okello
Global African Presence

********************

THE GLOBAL AFRICAN COMMUNITY

H I S T O R Y N O T E S

GREAT AFRICAN HISTORIANS– JOHN HENRIK CLARKE (1915-1998)

*Published by the SOUL SCHOOL INSTITUTE

Posted by RUNOKO RASHIDI

The Events which transpired five thousand years ago; five years ago or five minutes ago, have determined what will happen five minutes from now; five years from now or five thousand years from now. All history is a current event.”

–John Henrik Clarke

The Scholar-Warrior, John Henrik Clarke was born on January 1, 1915 in Union Springs, Alabama. His family were sharecroppers and at the age of our, the Clarke family moved to Columbus, Georgia.

Dr. Clarke’s early orientation toward history came from his great-grandmother who was affectionately called, “Mom Mary.” She told her great-grandson about the trials and tribulations of the family. The young Clarke worshiped Mom Mary but he was in conflict with her. His great-grandmother told him that everything in the Bible was true and not subject to questioning. Clarke, who taught the Sunday school junior class did not find Africans in their own land. “I see people going to the land of Kush, which is present day Somalia, and they got white. What are all these white people doing in Afrika? There were no Afrikans in Afrika, in the Sunday School lesson.”

Driven by his thirst for knowledge of his people, Dr. Clarke hopped aboard a train in 1933 and headed for Harlem. He threw himself into research on African history. He was encouraged in his studies by the celebrated Arturo Schomburg and other history giants.

Dr. Clarke taught at Hunter College and Cornell University where he pushed for the establishment of Black Studies departments. Dr. Clarke was also one of the founding members of the African Heritage Studies Association. He was the intellectual mentor of Malcolm X and helped write the charter to the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). John Henrik Clarke was a prolific writer, superb teacher and ardent Black Nationalist/ Pan-Africanist.

BIBLIOGRAPHY — JOHN HENRIK CLARKE

1. American Negro Short Stories
2. Black American Short Stories: One Hundred Years of the Best (edited)
3. Black Families in the Amrican Transition (edited)
4. Harlem: A Community in Transition (edited)
5. Harlem: Voices from the Soul of Black America (edited)
6. Malcolm X: The Man and His Times (edited)
7. Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa (edited)
8. William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond (edited)
9. Slave Trade and Slavery (John Henrik Clarke and Vincent Harding, eds.)
10. Pan-Africanism and the Liberation of Southern Africa: A Tribute to W.E.B. DuBois (edited)
11. New Dimensions in African History: The London Lectures of Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan and Dr. John Henrik Clarke
12. African People in World History
13. Africans at the Crossroads: Notes for an African World Revolution
14. Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism
15. The Early Years
16. The Lives of Great African Chiefs
17. History and Culture of Africa
18. My Life in Search of Africa

*The Soul School Institute, Box 1872, Baltimore MD 21203-1872

******************************

Why Africana History?

By John Henrik Clarke (January 1987)

Africa and its people are the most written about and the least understood of all of the world’s people. This condition started in the 15th and the 16th centuries with the beginning of the slave trade and the colonialism system. The Europeans not only colonized most of the world, they began to colonialize information about the world and its people. In order to do this, they had to forget, or pretend to forget, all they had previously known about the Africans. They were not meeting them for the first tine; there had been another meeting during Greek and Roman times. At that time they complemented each other.

The African, Clitus Niger, King of Bactria, was also a Cavalry Commander for Alexander the Great. Most of the Greeks’ thinking was influenced by this contact with the Africans. The people and the cultures of what is known as Africa are older than the word “Africa.” According to most records, old and new, Africans are the oldest people on the face of the earth. The people now called Africans not only influenced the Greeks and the Romans, they influenced the early world before there was a place called Europe.

When the early Europeans first met Africans, at the crossroads of history, it was a respectful meeting and the Africans were not slaves. Their nations were old before Europe was born. In this period of history, what was to be later known as “Africa” was an unknown place to the people who would someday be called, “Europeans.” Only the people of some of the Mediterranean Islands and a few states of what would become the Greek and Roman states knew of parts of North Africa, and that was a land of mystery. After the rise and decline of Greek civilization and the Roman destruction of the City of Carthage, they made the conquered territories into a province which they called Africa, a word derived from “afri,” and the name of a group of people about whom little is known. At first the word applied only to the Roman colonies in North Africa. There was a time when all dark-skinned people were called Ethiopians, for the Greeks referred to Africa as, “The Land of the Burnt-Face People.”

If Africa, in general, is a man-made mystery, Egypt, in particular, is a bigger one. There has long been an attempt on the part of some European “scholars” to deny that Egypt was a part of Africa. To do this they had to ignore the great masterpieces on Egyptian history written by European writers such as, Ancient Egypt, Light of the World, Vols. I & II, and a whole school of European thought that placed Egypt in proper focus in relationship to the rest of Africa.

The distorters of African history also had to ignore the fact that the people of the ancient land which would later be called Egypt, never called their country by that name. It was called, TA-MERRY or KAMPT and sometimes KEMET or SAIS. The ancient Hebrews called it MIZRAIN. Later the Moslem Arabs used the same term but later discarded it. Both the Greeks and the Romans referred to the country as the “Pearl of the Nile.” The Greeks gave it the simple name AEGYPTCUS. Thus the word we know as Egypt is of Greek origin.

Until recent times most Western scholars have been reluctant to call attention to the fact that the Nile River is 4,000 miles long. It starts in the south, in the heart of Africa, and flows to the north. It was the world’s first cultural highway. Thus, Egypt was a composite of many African cultures. In his article, “The Lost Pharaohs of Nubia,” Professor Bruce Williams infers that the nations in the South could be older than Egypt. This information is not new. When rebel European scholars were saying this 100 years ago, and proving it, they were not taken seriously.

It is unfortunate that so much of the history of Africa has been written by conquerors, foreigners, missionaries and adventures. The Egyptians left the best record of their history written by local writers. It was not until near the end of the 19th century when a few European scholars learned to decipher their writing that this was understood.

The Greek traveler, Herodotus, was in Africa about 450 B.C. His eyewitness account is still a revelation. He witnessed African civilization in decline and partly in ruins, after many invasions. However, he could still see the indications of the greatness that it had been. In this period in history, the Nile Valley civilization of Africa had already brought forth two “Golden Ages” of achievement and had left its mark for all the world to see.

Slavery and colonialism strained, but did not completely break, the cultural umbilical cord between the Africans in Africa and those who, by forced migration, now live in what is called the Western World. A small group of African American and Caribbean writers, teachers and preachers, collectively developed the basis of what would be an African-consciousness movement over 100 years ago. Their concern was with Africa, in general, Egypt and Ethiopia, and what we now call the Nile Valley.

In approaching this subject, I have given preference to writers of African descent who are generally neglected. I maintain that the African is the final authority on Africa. In this regard I have reconsidered the writings of W.E.B. DuBois, George Washington Williams, Drussila Dungee Houston, Carter G. Woodson, Willis N. Huggins, and his most outstanding living student, John G. Jackson (now deceased; editor). I have also reread the manuscripts of some of the unpublished books of Charles C. Seifert, especially manuscripts of his last completed book, Who Are the Ethiopians? Among Caribbean scholars, like Charles C. Seifert, J.A. Rogers (from Jamaica) is the best known and the most prolific. Over 50 years of his life was devoted to documenting the role of African personalities in world history. His two-volume work, World’s Great Men of Color, is a pioneer work in the field.

Among the present-day scholars writing about African history, culture, and politics, Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan’ s books are the most challenging. I have drawn heavily on his research in the preparation of this article. He belongs to the main cultural branch of the African world, having been born in Ethiopia, growing to early manhood in the Caribbean Islands and having lived in the African American community of the United States for over 20 years. His major books on African history are: Black Man of the Nile, 1979, Africa: Mother of Western Civilization, 1976 and The African Origins of Major Western Religions, 1970.

Our own great historian, W.E.B. DuBois tells us, “Always Africa is giving us something new … On its black bosom arose one of the earliest,if not the earliest, of self-protecting civilizations, and grew so mightily that it still furnishes superlatives to thinking and speaking men. Out of its darker and more remote forest vastness came, if we may credit many recent scientists, the first welding of iron, and we know that agriculture and trade flourished there when Europe was a wilderness.

Dr. DuBois tells us further that, “Nearly every human empire that has arisen in the world, material and spiritual, has found some of its greatest crises on this continent of Africa. It was through Africa that Christianity became the religion of the world … It was through Africa that Islam came to play its great role of conqueror and civilizer.”

Egypt and the nations of the Nile Valley were, figuratively, the beating heart of Africa and the incubator for its greatness for more than a thousand years. Egypt gave birth to what later would become known as “Western Civilization, ” long before the greatness of Greece and Rome.

This is a part of the African story, and in the distance it is a part of the African American story. It is difficult for depressed African Americans to know that they are a part of the larger story of the history of the world. The history of the modern world was made, in the main, by what was taken from African people. Europeans emerged from what they call their “middle-Ages,” people poor, land poor and resources poor. They raided and raped the cultures of the world, mostly Africa, and filled their homes and museums with treasures, then they called the people primitive. The Europeans did not understand the cultures of non-Western people then; they do not understand them now.

History, I have often said, is a clock that people use to tell their political time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they are and what they are. Most importantly, history tells a people where they still must go and what they still must be.

There is no way to go directly to the history of African Americans without taking a broader view of African world history. In his book Tom-Tom, the writer, John W. Vandercook makes this meaningful statement:

A race is like a man. Until it uses its own talents, takes pride in its own history, and loves its own memories, it can never fulfill itself completely.

This, in essence, is what African American history and what African American History Month is about. The phrase African American or African American History Month, taken at face value and without serious thought, appears to be incongruous. Why is there a need for an African American History Month when there is no similar month for the other minority groups in the United States? The history of the United States, in total, consists of the collective history of minority groups. What we call ‘American civilization’ is no more than the sum of their contributions. The African Americans are the least integrated and the most neglected of these groups in the historical interpretation of the American experience. This neglect has made African American History Month a necessity.

Most of the large ethnic groups in the United States have had, and still have, their historical associations. Some of these associations predate the founding of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, (1915). Dr. Charles H. Wesley tells us that, “Historical societies were organized in the United States with the special purpose in view of preserving and maintaining the heritage of the American nation.”

Within the frame work of these historical societies many ethnic groups, Black as well as white, engaged in those endeavors that would keep alive their beliefs in themselves and their past as a part of their hopes for the future. For African Americans, Carter G. Woodson led the way and used what was then called, Negro History Week, to call attention to his people’s contribution to every aspect of world history. Dr. Woodson, then Director of The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, conceived this special week as a time when public attention should be focused on the achievements of America’s citizens of African descent.

The acceptance of the facts of African American history and the African American historian as a legitimate part of the academic community did not come easily. Slavery ended and left its false images of Black people intact. In his article, “What the Historian Owes the Negro,” the noted African American historian, Dr. Benjamin Quarles, says:

“The Founding Fathers revered by historians for over a century and a half, did not conceive of the Negro as part of the body of politics. Theoretically, these men found it hard to imagine a society where Negroes were of equal status to whites. Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, who was far more liberal than the run of his contemporaries, was never the less certain that “the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government.”

I have been referring to the African origin of African American literature and history. This preface is essential to every meaningful discussion of the role of the African American in every aspect of American life, past and present. I want to make it clear that the Black race did not come to the United States culturally empty-handed./span>

The role and importance of ethnic history is in how well it teaches a people to use their own talents, take pride in their own history and love their own memories. In order to fulfill themselves completely, in all of their honorable endeavors it is important that the teacher of history of the Black race find a definition of the subject, and a frame of reference that can be understood by students who have no prior knowledge of the subject.

The following definition is paraphrased from a speech entitled. “The Negro Writer and His Relation To His Roots,” by Saunders Redding, (1960):

Heritage, in essence, is how a people have used their talent to create a history that gives them memories that they can respect, and use to command the respect of other people. The ultimate purpose of history and history teaching is to use a people’s talent to develop an awareness and a pride in themselves so that they can create better instruments for living together with other people. This sense of identity is the stimulation for all of a people’s honest and creative efforts. A people’s relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother.

I repeat:

History is a clock that people use to tell their political time of day. It is a compass that they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It also tells them where they are, and what they are. Most importantly, an understanding of history tells a people where they still must go, and what they still must be.

Early white American historians did not accord African people anywhere a respectful place in their commentaries on the history of man. In the closing years of the nineteenth century, African American historians began to look at their people’s history from their vantage point and their point of view. Dr. Benjamin Quarles observed that “as early as 1883 this desire to bring to public attention the untapped material on the Negro prompted George Washington Williams to publish his two-volume History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880.”

The first formally trained African American historian was W.E.B. DuBois, whose doctoral dissertation, published in 1895, The Suppression Of The African Slave Trade To The United States, 1638–1870, became the first title to be published in the Harvard Historical Studies.

It was with Carter G. Woodson, another Ph.D., that African world history took a great leap forward and found a defender who could document his claims. Woodson was convinced that unless something was done to rescue the Black man from history’s oversight, he would become a “negligible factor in the thought of the world;” Woodson, in 1915, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

Woodson believed that there was no such thing as, “Negro History.” He said what was called “Negro History” was only a missing segment of world history. He devoted the greater portion of his life to restoring this segment.

Africa came into the Mediterranean world mainly through Greece, which had been under African influence; and then Africa was cut off from the melting pot by the turmoil among the Europeans and the religious conquests incident to the rise of Islam. Africa, prior to these events, had developed its history and civilization, indigenous to its people and lands. Africa came back into the general picture of history through the penetration of North Africa, West Africa and the Sudan by the Arabs. European and American slave traders next ravaged the continent. The imperialist colonizers and missionaries finally entered the scene and prevailed until the recent re-emergence of independent African nations.

Contrary to a misconception which still prevails, the Africans were familiar with literature and art for many years before their contact with the Western World. Before the breaking-up of the social structure of the West African states of Ghana, Mali and Songhay, and the internal strife and chaos that made the slave trade possible, the forefathers of the Africans who eventually became slaves in the United States lived in a society where university life was fairly common and scholars were held in reverence.

To understand fully any aspect of African American life, one must realize that the African American is not without a cultural past, although he was many generations removed from it before his achievements in American literature and art commanded any appreciable attention.

Africana or Black History should be taught every day, not only in the schools, but also in the home. African History Month should be every month. We need to learn about all the African people of the world, including those who live in Asia and the islands of the Pacific.

In the twenty-first century there will be over one billion African people in the world. We are tomorrow’s people. But, of course, we were yesterday’s people too. With an understanding of our new importance we can change the world, if first we change ourselves.

*******************

THE GLOBAL AFRICAN COMMUNITY

H I S T O R Y N O T E S

JOHN HENRIK CLARKE’S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL OBITUARY

By DR. JOHN HENRIK CLARKE

Posted by RUNOKO RASHIDI

Posted by NEWS SERVICE
July 27, 1998 at 13:02:52

On January 1, 1915 when I was born in Union Springs, Alabama, little black Alabama boys were not fully licensed to imagine themselves as conduits of social and political change. I remember when I was about three years old, I fell off something. I do not know what it was but I remember Uncle Henry putting some water on my head and I really do think that instead of the “fall” knocking something out of me, it knocked something into me. In fact, they called me “bubba” and because I had the mind to do so, I decided to add the “e” to the family name “Clark” and change the spelling of “Henry” to “Henrik”, after the Scandinavian rebel playwright, Henrik Ibsen. I liked his spunk and the social issues he addressed in “A Doll’s House.” I understood that my family was rich in love but would probably never own the land my father John dreamed of owning. My mother, Willie Ella Mays Clarke, was a washerwoman for poor white folks in the area of Columbus, Georgia where the writer Carson McCullers once lived. My mother would go to the houses of these “folks” and pick up her laundry bundles and pull them back home in a little red wagon, with me sitting on top. At the end of the week, she would collect her pay of about $3.00. My siblings are based in the varied ordering and descriptives that characterize traditional African diasporic families. They are Eddie Mary Clarke Hobbs, Walter Clarke, Hugo Oscar Clarke, Earline Clark, Flossie Clarke, Alvin Clarke and Nathaniel Clarke. Together, in varied times and forms, we have known love. My loving sister Mary has always shared the pain and pleasure of my heartbeat in a unique and special way.

We have sung our sad and warm songs together. But, we have all felt the warm rains of Spring, and felt the crispness of the fallen leaves in Fall together. As the eldest son of an Alabama sharecropper family, I was constantly troubled by a collage of North American southern behaviors and notions in reference to the inhumanity of my people. There were questions that I did not know how to ask but could, in my young, unsophisticated way, articulate a series of answers. My daddy wanted me to be a farmer; feel the smoothness of Alabama clay and become one of the first blacks in my town to own land. But, I was worried about my history being caked with that southern clay and I subscribed to a different kind of teaching and learning in my bones and in my spirit.

I am a Nationalist and a Pan-Africanist, first and foremost. I was well grounded in history before ever taking a history course. I did not spend much formal time in school – I had to work. I caddied for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley long before they became Generals or President for that matter. Just between you and me, Bradley tipped better than Eisenhower did. When I was able to go to school in my early years, my third grade teacher, Ms. Harris, convinced me that one day I would be a writer. I heard her, but I knew that I had to leave Georgia, and unlike my friend Ray Charles, I did not go around with Georgia On My Mind. Instead, my best friend Roscoe Chester use to sit with me spellbound, as I detailed the history of Timbuktu. I soon took a slow moving train out of Georgia because I did not want to end up like Richard (Dick) Wright’s Black Boy. I came to New York, via Chicago and then I enlisted in the army and earned the rank of Master Sergeant.

Later, I selected Harlem as the laboratory where I would search for the true history of my people. I could not stomach the lies of world history, so I took some strategic steps in order to build a life of scholarship and activism in New York. I began to pave strong roads toward what I envisioned as a mighty walk where I would initiate, inspire and help found organizations to elevate my people. I am thinking specifically of The Harlem Writers Guild, Freedomways, Presence Africaine, African Heritage Studies Association, Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, National Council of Black Studies, Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. I became an energetic participant in circles like Harlem Writer’s Workshop, studied history and world literature at New York and Columbia Universities and at the League for Professional Writers. And, much like the Egyptians taught Plato and Socrates what they eventually knew, I was privileged to sit at the feet of great warriors like Arthur Schomburg, Willis Huggins, Charles Seiffert, William Leo Hansberry, John G. Jackson and Paul Robeson. Before I go any further, let me assure you that I always made attempts at structuring a holistic life. My three children are products of that reality. My oldest daughter who kind of grew up with me, became a warm and wonderful young woman. Unfortunately, she preceded me in her passage. Part of my life’s mission has been to deliver a message of renewal, redemption and re-dedication for young people all over the world and I hope the walk has afforded me that claim. So, now and in my traditionally fatherly way, I appeal to my two younger children, Sonni Kojo and Nzingha Marie to appreciate my commitment to them and the rest of the world. Sonni, in forming your identity, I called upon the spirit of Sonni Ali, the great Emperor of the Sudanic Empires to anoint you; and Nzingha, my second daughter, I reached back for the spirit of the warrior Queen Nzingha to lay her hands upon you. I have always felt blessed by the many nieces and nephews who have surrounded me: John H. Clarke, Charlie Mae Rowell, Walter L. Hobbs, Lillie Kate Hobbs, Wanda D. McCaulley, Angela M. Rowell, Maurice Hobbs, Vanessa Rowell, Calvin T. Rowell, Michael J. McCaulley, Madalynn McCaulley and a host of other extended family and friends. Lillie, I have always loved and needed the special touches of our relationship; without you this walk could not have been completed – I have not left you.

When the European emerged in the world in the 15th and 16th centuries, for the second time, they not only colonized most of the world, they colonized information about the world, and they also colonized images, including the image of God, thereby putting us into a trap, for we are the only people who worship a God whose image we did not choose! I had to respond to this behavior. I could not live with this nonsense and contradictions and I challenged these insidious concepts and theories. While I have not finished my work and I remain worried about who will replace Dr. Ben and me, I am not displeased of my progress of 83 years. As we all would agree, the struggle is continuous. I have utilized several avenues: I wrote songs and while most of you are familiar with the Boy Who Painted Christ Black, I wrote some two hundred short stories. I question the political judgment of those who would have the nerve to paint Christ white with his obvious African nose, lips and woolly hair. My publications in the form of edited books, major essays and book introductions are indeed important documents and number more than thirty. Africa, Lost and Found with Richard Moore and Keith Baird, and African People at the Crossroads are among the major publications used in History and African American Studies disciplines on college and university campuses. I am also honored to have edited books on Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. Through the United Nations, I published monographs on Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois; and, to clarify the historical record, I was compelled to publish a monograph on Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust. One of my latest works, Who Betrayed the African Revolution?, was a very painful project indeed. And, when I think of William Styron’s error with Nat Turner and our response to it, I feel convinced that Nat was able to return to his rest in peace. Among the paths of my journey, I have had a chance to engage in dialogue at the major centers of higher education throughout North and South America, Africa and Europe. I am humbled by these opportunities and, I have been blessed as the recipient of a number of honorary degrees. My professorships at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University (where my portrait hangs at the artistic genius of Don Miller) was very important for the young men and women I taught there, and the worked that I did with African and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College between 1965 and 1985 was highly significant. I have walked majestically with kings and queens and presidents and other heads of states. My special destiny with Africa, early on this walk, afforded me the opportunity to mentor Kwame Nkrumah when he arrived in the United States as a student. The reciprocity of our relationship was manifested in my sojourn to post independence Ghana as a young journalist. Without question, my walk has been sweeter because I have shared the path with Kwame Nkrumah, Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X, Zora Neale Hurston, Jimmy Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Wright, Julian Mayfield, John G. Jackson, Cheikh Anta Diop, John O. Killens, Hoyt Fuller, Chancellor Williams, Drusilla Dungee Houston.

Well, what do you know, I am transitioning with all of these giants now and the process is much easier because all of you are here with me. This walk has been anointed by God and the list of walkers is endless, and all of you have touched me deeply. I humbly acknowledge Dorothy Calder, Diane James, Doris Lee, Adalaide Sanford, Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis, Barbara Adams, Judy Miller, Gil Noble, James Turner, Howard Dodson, Mari Evans, Haki Madhubuti, Selma White, William and Camille Cosby, Irving Burgess, Pat Williams and others too numerous to mention. As all of you must know, I made an early commitment to transfer my library to Black institutions in an effort to demonstrate my unlimited trust and respect to the black community. So it is to the Atlanta University Center and to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture where I have donated the majority of my books and documents. I entrusted this task to members of the Institute for African Research, the Foundation which will perpetuate those objectives for which I dedicated my life. This has really been a long marathon and there have been caregivers at my dehydration stations that kept vigil and in the spirit of love and devotion, I thank you for your deeds. Ann Swanson and Barbara True, your work with me has been unconditional and I ask you now to accept my gratitude and know that my spirit will always be your protective shield. Chiri Fitzpatrick and Derrick Grubb, you are very familiar with the parameters of this run and with me; you are of long-distance caliber. Jim Dyer, Andy Thompson, Les Edmond, and Debbie Swire, I thank you for walking in step with me and bracing me with your strength. In you I observed the ingredients of African kings and queens. Iva Elaine Carruthers and Bettye Parker Smith, I know that I have raised you the right way and you must now move with winds of my spirit wings. You know my literary agenda and you are obligated to manage that knowledge. The ancestors have stretched out their arms and I see them beckoning now at a distance. And, like Langston Hughes has known rivers, I have known love and bliss. Sybil Williams, Clarke, whom I have known for over fifty years and now my wife of ten months and my companion and friend eleven years, has made this journey with me and made my life complete. But, Sybil, your loving touch notwithstanding, your arms were not long enough to box with the eminent moment. But, while I must make this physical departure, spiritually, I will not leave you and God will take care of you. When you feel a cool breeze blow across your face every now and then, just know that it comes from the deep reservoir of love that I hold for you.

Oh, by the way, Christ is Black; I see him walking at distance with Nkrumah. I think they are coming over to greet me.

“DETERMINATION”
John Henrik Clarke July 16, 1998

My feet have felt the sands
Of many nations,
I have drunk the water
Of many springs.
I am old,
Older than the pyramids,
I am older than the race
That oppresses me.
I will live …
I will out-live oppression.
I will outlive oppressors.

SOURCE

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: