Being Black, Being Here and History
There's somethng going on and it has a lot to do with being black, but it isn't exactly as you might think, because it relates to things that may have happened tens of thousands, thousands or hundreds of years ago. I'm talking about the connection that we either choose to see or tend to disregard. The connection between ourselves and the long term past.
For some (let's call them the modernists), being who we are is very much a comtemporary matter. It's about you and yours, about what you have and own, your ability and prospects. Yes, YOU can make a difference; simply by choosing to conduct yourself in a particular manner, by being forceful, committed and determined, you can go out and make an impact on the comtemporary world.
For others (let's call them the ancestral), legacy plays a much bigger part, it is the uninvited visitor for whom a place has been reserved at the table, because though it is not present, it lives and breaths in our lives.
From this ancestral perspective, we are a composite of all that's gone before, and it does not stop at your grandparents and parents, it stretches back into history. An arrow shot through time and landing anywhere from the beginnings of mankind on earth, to the days of the triangle routes sailed by slave traders, to settlement in the Colonies. From this point of view, we are not only ourselves, but we are everything that our 'ancestors' have done and represent. And, in this respect, we are mightier for it. When people assert that we have no identify, place us purely in modern times or seek to draw a short line to illustate a brief past; we have a wealth of history to call upon to defend and legitimise our existence.
"You cannot tell American History without interweaving the Black experience. Art represents history. Our history began prior to the America with evidence in trading, architecture and cultural exchanges of shipping, exploration, agriculture." Ms Surefire, Oct 2004.
In this ancestral way we not only ensure that we see ourselves differently, we can be confident that others will see us differently.
"...the conscious actions of an individual can be traced to how that person sees themselves. eg african, from africa; related to a particular continent, experience etc." Breadfruit (Dec 2004). "...also how others identify that individual, can or will affect how that person interacts within a society. One common example; 'black, having no culture or history worth speaking about; ex slaves, should be grateful their living in the west and not in the third world', etc."
Others may seek to go further back in time, evoking Biblical or adversely scientific or archiological evidence to establish a firm foundation. Prophat, (Nov 2004), has written about the way in which the Nation of Tables (in the book of Genesis) shows the line of Africans from the sons of Noah. And, some believe that the oldest known human remains found are those of ancient Africans - the world's Eve, a black women.
Some may be sceptical about anyones ability to reliably trace lines of heredity, and even if this were possible, to see the significance of such lines to the present day. Ancestory is no guarantee of pure blood line. Even so, the knowledge of a long view may be desirable against accusations of non-existent his-stories, or worse still, a denial of identity.
For the modernists, by contrast, the ability to mark a date in history when the world of their ancestors began is far less important. Perhaps they lack a deep rooted spiritual sense to tie them to the great deeds, actions and characters of old.
"Most black people I have encountered in the USA consider themselves "Americans." Codebreaker (Dec 2004). [As opposed to African Americans], it is assumed.
For this (modernist) group, there is the here and now, the taking on of things as you find them. Not so much a denial of the past but a prioritisation of the century in which we live. Not so much a connectedness with all you stood and stand for, as energies invested in the future.
There is indeed something going on here, a tale of two contexts, the ancestral and the modernist. But, these differences by no means mark out battle lines, as there is one positive message. Either, that we can succeed in the world because of all we've contributed or that we can succeed because of all we have to contribute.