Friday, January 29, 2010

Spotlight: The Boule

Guides or Gatekeepers?

Incorporated, founded May 15, 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Boule or Sigma Pi Phi is the 1st black fraternity in America and was before the 1st black "college" frat, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated which was founded December 4, 1906. The Boule's primary founder was Dr. Henry Hinton (along with Algernon B. Jackson, Robert J. Abele and Richard John Warrick) of Philadelphia. Collectively, all 5000+ members make up the wealthiest group of black men in the world.

Algernon B. Jackson (pictured left:)
Members of Sigma Pi Phi include co-founder of the NAACP, W. E. B. Du Bois, Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, former United Nations Ambassador Ralph Bunche, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, Bill Cosby, Earl Graves, John H. Johnson,American Express President Kenneth Chenault, Bobby Scott, Ken Blackwell, Ron Brown, Vernon Jordan, Jr., Arthur Ashe, Mel Watt, and Hank Aaron. Numerous other American leaders are among the men who have adopted the fraternity’s stated purpose of "creating a forum wherein they could pursue social and intellectual activities in the company of peers."

Founder Dr. Minton: "In the building of the organizations plan, reliance was placed upon Greek history and tradition.” The quote below is from the group’s official history:

The founders' devotion to equality and mutual respect stemmed in large measure from the devotion to democratic traditions that they traced to ancient Greece and to the traditions of leadership that existed there among free men. Central to this idea was the Boulé: the Council of Chiefs, or "the leading noblemen of the society.”

An Egyptianized Griffin (left:)
It is interesting to note that in ancient Greece, the boule (Greek: βουλή), were a council of nobles designated to advise a king. In essence it indicates being subordinated to something else. The Boule’s logo is a Grffin or a gargoyle which represents a guardian that protects something higher than itself. In this society, who was the king they would be advisors or subordinate to? This new “king” was the ruling oligarchy or the white power brokers/structure of the time, who the members served in return for honor and relative wealth.

Researchers have discovered that the Boule is a black greek secret society based on another secret society founded at Yale University called Skull & Bones. Inside the Boule' history book -- written by Charles H. Wesley, a Boule' member, (also wrote the history books for Alpha Phi Alpha, the Elks, and Prince Hall Masons) wrote on page 28, why one of it's founding member's, Minton, wanted to create such an organization:"Minton wanted to create an organization which would partake in the tenets of the Skull & Bones at Yale."
Robert J. Abele (left:)
The founding member of the New York City chapter, W.E.B DuBois, said the Boule' was created to "keep the black professional away from the ranks of Marcus Garvey.” (During this time period, Marcus Garvey's "self-determination” movement was extremely popular among masses of black people in U.S.)
What does this all say about legitimate efforts to reconnect black Americans with their own sense of purpose, identity and history with the same level of committment that other peoples of the world have?

The 1990, incoming Boule' president, Dr. Benjamin Major said he was aware of charges that the group is more interested in socializing and congratulating itself on its wealth and success, exclusively, rather than making a substantial contribution to the rest of black America. He said, "We don't want to appear as if we were remaining above the problems of most black people. We know we didn't get here solely by the dint of our own hard work. We owe a lot of people, AND we have to give back to our brothers and sisters."

Is this enough?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's In A Name? Pt. 2

What’s in a Name? Pt. Two.

I thought we were finished with this topic and ready to move on to something more “important”, but there has been a lot of going back and forth on this issue and really- what can be more important than understanding who we are - both as individuals and collectively? An article was brought to my attention yesterday that made me realize enough is enough. The New York Times in an article discussed comments made by John McWhorter in the New Republic. He stated “American-born blacks shouldn’t call themselves “African-American” because now there are many more people in the United States who were actually born in Africa.”

I’m not going to analyze or discuss the article because it would be a waste of time. If you’d like to read it, however, you can find it here. . What the appearance of this article does highlight though is that we can debate on what our correct name should be forever, and the media will delight in it. So let’s mark this as a new day with the intention of attaining some clarity.

Whenever people are promoted before us in the media we no longer need to get pulled into pointless arguments with them or about them because now we should simply ask “who is this guy? Who pays him? Who backs him and what is their agenda? This can be called the post- Armstrong William approach.

This approach could be best illustrated by looking at the debate sparked a century ago by Booker T. Washington, who advocated “go slow” accommodationism. People still debate his ideas; yet if we look behind Washington we would see his backer and ideological instructor, Samuel J. Armstrong who felt black people were morally unfit to vote.
John McWhorter is a fellow of the Manhattan Institute a conservative, libertarian think tank founded by William J. Casey, the CIA director who oversaw the secret wars waged against the people of Central and South America in the 1980’s. I’ll stop here.

We don’t really need to be emotionally tied up in a racial classification. It's time to step away from being concerned with what other call us and focus on what we call ourselves - and who we want to be. After 400 years we should know that people are going to call us whatever they wish. And it shouldn't matter as long as we know who we are. For the sake of clarity we can make a distinction between who we are racially or ethnically and who we are culturally. Someone can be racially black (or negro) for the sake of the media or the census but to be culturally black is a different phenomena. A crip or a blood from South Central LA and an investment banker from Connecticut may be the same racially but do they have anything in common culturally? Our identity is - and should be more tied to our culture. This leads us to an important consideration. What would culturally black mean?

Throughout the country, Hebrew Schools exist. Classes are usually held on Wednesdays from 4:15 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. and Sunday morning from 9:00 a.m. - 12 p.m. They teach Jewish law, tradition, ethics, history, reading and language. Their purpose is to strengthen the children’s identity and give them a solid, common cultural, moral and religious foundation. Before one can fully become privileged to participate in all areas of Jewish community life, there is a threshold of learning that must be crossed. Can we establish be a threshold of learning, history and moral responsibility one must meet before being be considered culturally black?
Unlike our notions of race no one can be obligated belong to a culture. Culture is a matter of choice. Is it possible to make our culture economically, socially, spiritually, intellectually, and aesthetically appealing enough for all to benefit?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

As We Help Haiti...

Why Is Haiti Poor?

While we help Haiti and also listen to newscasters incessantly remind us that it is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, let’s look briefly at how it got that way.

Haiti was wealthy when it was a French colony. The country’s poverty originated in 1825, when Haiti was pressured into agreeing to pay France reparations for daring to infringe on French property by freeing the slaves. France demanded 150 million francs in gold (which is equal to $21 billion today) as reparations for lands lost by former slave owners. In addition to the 150 million franc payment, France decreed that French ships and commercial goods entering and leaving Haiti would be discounted at 50 percent, thereby further weakening Haiti’s ability to pay.

To add insult to injury, France forced Haiti to borrow 30 million francs from a French bank with interest that was so astronomically high that even after Haiti repaid the money, they were still 6 million francs short. Haiti took massive loans from American, German and French banks at exorbitant rates of interest to pay back France.
The repayments to Haiti's former colonial master trapped the Caribbean nation in a downward economic spiral that has helped make it the Western Hemisphere's most impoverished nation, according to Alex von Tunzelmann, a British historian who is writing a book about Haiti and its Caribbean neighbors.

Instead of welcoming Haiti as the Western Hemisphere’s second independent country, the U.S. government shunned it. President Thomas Jefferson, fearing that the Haitian slave revolt would spark an American slave rebellion, imposed a trade embargo on Haiti that lasted until 1862. By 1900, Haiti was spending 80% of its national budget on repayments. The need for hard currency forced Haitian farmers to favor financially or environmentally risky cash crops such as coffee and hardwood, rather than development of a diverse national economy. Over-farming and over-logging led, in turn, to catastrophic deforestation and soil erosion which put more pressure on the remaining arable land.

In 1915 the United States invaded Haiti and occupied it until 1934. Woodrow Wilson was President during the invasion. US troops broke into Haiti’s treasury, stole all the gold and shipped it to the First National City Bank in New York. The US installed a puppet government, writing a new constitution for Haiti favorable to US investment & control and forcing the government to accept a treaty ratifying American control. The US employed a policy of forced labor against the population; Haitian peasants were forced at gunpoint to build railroads, buildings and other infrastructure for American companies and the neocolonial administration. Charlemagne Péralte and Benoit Batraville organized and led a guerilla army called the Cacos against the US occupation. The US brutally suppressed the “insurgency”. Haitians who resisted were forced into concentration camps and innocent civilians mercilessly slaughtered. There were several massacres committed by US troops; in 1929 US marines gunned down 264 protesting peasants in Les Cayes.

(The United States built up a brutal proxy army that was used to suppress resistance and maintain Haiti as an American satellite state after the occupation ended. The US supported several dictators after the end of the occupation, including Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Under their rule over 30,000 Haitians were killed and even more tortured by their death squads. They enriched themselves by exploiting the population and stealing foreign aid, including $16 million from a $22 million 1980 IMF loan.)

In 1947, Haiti finally paid off the original reparations, plus interest. Doing so, of course, left it destitute, corrupt, disastrously lacking in investment and politically volatile.

Jean Bertrand Aristide started to discuss French reparations for the 150 million extorted from Haiti in Dec. 2003. "France was getting off easy," it was reported, “if Haiti charged 7.5 percent interest on the money, France would owe $4 trillion today.” In an amazing coincidence, three months later US marines were rousting Aristide from his slumber as part of a US / French designed coup.

Some say Haiti is the only country in the world with a last name—“Haiti, poorest country in the western hemisphere”. Why does the media all carry the same descriptive sentence while providing so little background?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's In A Name?

The Return Of The Negro

As the government prepares to roll out the 2010 Census on March 15, one of the 10 questions on the form already has people concerned. Question 9 asks respondents to designate their race and gives them the option of choosing "Negro," a term many have considered derogatory and antiquated for years. Ironically, not more than two weeks ago Harry Reid apologized for describing Barack Obama as a "light skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one".

A U.S. Census Bureau spokesperson said that while the word "Negro" may be old-fashioned, there are still people who prefer to use it to identify themselves. She said the census questions were well-tested and that it was determined that using the word "outweighed the potential negatives." The Bureau reports more than 56,000 people wrote in 'Negro' in Census 2000.

What do we call ourselves?

"Negro" became an accepted term after a published appeal was made to the Associated Press by Lester A. Walton in 1913. Walton, a US diplomat to Liberia and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, asked that the term Negro be capitalized and used to refer us as a race of people instead a skin color, “because not all of us are African and black. He felt that Negro would cover mulattoes and those with dark skin.”

The word fell out of favor largely due to the influence of the Nation of Islam’s arguments. They resented and rejected the word and its implications as no more than “a label the white man placed on us to make his discrimination more convenient.” They preferred to be called black. Malcolm explained:

If you call yourself “white” why should I not call myself “black”? Because you have taught me that I am a “Negro”! Now then, if you ask a man his nationality and he says German that means he is from a nation called Germany or if he says his nationality is French, that means he came from France. The term used connects him with a nation, a language, a culture and a flag. Now if one says his nationality is “Negro” he has told you nothing – except possibly that he is not good enough to be “American”… Frenchman are of France and Germans are of Germany, where is “Negroland”? I’ll tell you: it’s in the mind of the white man!

Jesse Jackson spearheaded the trend that blacks be called African-Americans in the late 1980s. The label pretty much has stuck, although many still differ on what the proper term should be. How long is this cycle of confusion going to continue? Is it part of a larger underlying identity issue? What do you call yourself?

“I’m no African-American. You can call me Black. The thing about it is, Africa don’t like us. If you from Kenya, they call them Kenyans. I’m from the United States. I have to support the United States. I’m not trying to have 40 million acres, I’m trying to join life and take care of my kids.”
- Suge Knight

"Most of all, I dislike this idea nowadays that if you're a black person in America, then you must be called African-American. Listen, I've visited Africa, and I've got news for everyone: I'm not an African. The Africans know I'm not an African. I'm an American. This is my country. My people helped to build it and we've been here for centuries. Just call me black, if you want to call me anything.” –Whoopi Goldberg.

Monday, January 25, 2010

People Can Change

The Cadaver Synod People can change. In the long record of human history, we learn that there are no generalities or absolutes to describe human behavior. Human beings have shown a tremendous capacity to improve their behavior and progress over time. A great example of this is the history of the seat of the Papacy and by analogy Europe itself. For the past several centuries the papacy has enjoyed enormous respect in every quarter of the globe, partly because most 19th and 20th century popes have stood for and publicly defended basic principles of liberty, justice and humanity in a tumultuous world. But there were growing pains; the Cadaver Synod illustrates just how far the institution has come. In 897, a criminal trial took place in Italy, a trial so macabre, so gruesome, so frightful that it easily qualifies as the strangest and most terrible trial in human history. At this trial, called the Cadaver Synod, a dead pope wrenched from the grave was brought into a Roman courtroom, tried in the presence of a successor pope, found guilty, and then, in the words of Horace K. Mann's The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages (1925), "subjected to the most barbarous violence." During this age of the papacy, pope succeeded pope with bewildering rapidity. In the 94 years from 872 through 965 there were 24 popes; and during the nine years between 896 and 904 there were no less than nine popes. In period, according to Matthew Bunson's The Pope Encyclopedia (1995), of those 24 popes who held office from 872 to 965, seven--nearly one-third--died violently or under suspicious circumstances. Five popes were assassinated in office, or deposed and then murdered. John VIII, the first pope to be assassinated, was poisoned by his relatives; when the poison did not act quickly enough, his skull was crushed by blows from a hammer. Both Stephen VII and Leo V were deposed, imprisoned, and strangled. John X was deposed, imprisoned, and suffocated by being smothered with a pillow. Stephen IX was imprisoned, horribly mutilated by having his eyes, nose, lips, tongue and hands removed, and died of his injuries. Two other popes died in circumstances strongly indicative of foul play: Hadrian III was rumored to have been poisoned, and John XII, the sources tell us, either died of a stroke suffered while in bed with a married woman or was beaten to death by the woman's outraged husband. (Pope John XII reigning from 955 to 964, was a violent man known to have blinded and castrated his opponents. He was so lustful that he was said to have turned the Lateran Palace into a brothel and fathered children by his father’s concubine. All, clerics as well as laymen, declared that he had toasted to the devil with wine. They said when gambling, he invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons.) The Cadaver Synod occurred sometime in January 897 in the Church of St. John Lateran, the pope's official church in his capacity as Bishop of Rome. The defendant on trial was Formosus, an elderly pope who after a reign of five years had died April 4, 896 and been buried in St. Peter's Basilica. The trial of Formosus was ordered by the reigning pontiff, Stephen VII, who had been prodded into issuing the order by a powerful Roman family dynasty." Although Formosus had been, according to McBrien, "a man of exceptional intelligence, ability, and even sanctity, he [had] made some bitter political enemies ... including one of his successors, Stephen VII." No trial transcript of the Cadaver Synod exists. Nonetheless, it is reasonably clear what happened. Sitting on a throne, Stephen VII personally presided over the proceeding. Also present as co-judges were a number of Roman clergy who were there under compulsion and out of fear. The trial began when the disinterred corpse of Formosus was carried into the courtroom. On Stephen VII's orders the putrescent corpse, which had been lying in its tomb for seven months, had been dressed in full pontifical vestments. The dead body was then propped up in a chair behind which stood a teenage deacon, quaking with fear, whose unenviable responsibility was to defend Formosus by speaking in his behalf. The presiding judge, Stephen VII, then read the three charges. Formosus was accused of (1) perjury, (2) coveting the papacy, and (3) violating church canons when he was elected pope. The trial was completely dominated by Stephen VII, who overawed the assemblage with his frenzied tirades. While the frightened clergy silently watched in horror, Stephen VII screamed and raved, hurling insults at and mocking the rotting corpse. Occasionally, when the furious torrent of execrations and maledictions would die down momentarily, the deacon would stammer out a few words weakly denying the charges. When the grotesque farce concluded, Formosus was convicted on all counts by the court. The sentence imposed by Stephen VII was that all Formosus's acts and ordinations as pope be invalidated, that the three fingers of Formosus's right hand used to give papal blessings be hacked off, and that the body be stripped of its papal vestments, clad in the cheap garments of a lay person, and buried in a common grave. Further trials of this nature against deceased persons were banned, but Pope Sergius IllI (904–911) reapproved the decisions against Formosus. Sergius reportedly had the much-abused corpse of Formosus exhumed once more, tried, found guilty again, and beheaded, thus in effect conducting a second Cadaver Synod. Some may say if this were done by another people their acts would have been condemned for eternity and their behavior would have negatively branded their whole people perpetually. However, the ability to reform from within surely played a large role in reviving the reputation of this institution and it’s people and there is no doubt that any people must go through trials and tribulations as they grow. Yes, the institution went on from there to engage in genocide (against the Cathars of Southern France), “witch”-burnings and instituted the even more gruesome Inquisition but those days are long gone and now the Papacy enjoys a solid reputation as the seat of Saint Peter. Pope John XXIII, for example, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, is one of the most beloved men of all time, and John Paul II, whose pontificate began in 1978, was not only one of the most admired men in the world, but also one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Spotlight: OneUnited Bank

Black-owned Bank Continues Community-minded Success

OneUnited Bank CEO Kevin Cohee has transformed his employer into the first black-owned national bank with about $650 million in assets
OneUnited moves toward the future with an eye on the past
As chairman and chief executive of OneUnited, the nation’s largest black-owned bank, Kevin Cohee is well aware of the current economic downturn. But he also knows the value of having a historical perspective.
Since the end of slavery, blacks have sought ways to garner economic strength and spending power to accumulate individual and collective financial independence. But due to a variety of reasons, building a sustainable, black-owned bank has been an extremely tough road, starting with the opening of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company in 1865 – and its subsequent closing nine years later as a result of mismanagement, fraud, abuse and the Panic of 1873.
The Freedman’s bank was not a complete failure. Before closing, the bank had raised nearly $3 million from 61,131 depositors. One depositor was none other than Frederick Douglas, who put up $10,000 in an effort to save the floundering bank.
Though times have changed, the mission remains the same – at least according to Cohee. “Black people have been trying for over 100 years to garner our economic spending power and put it back into the community,” Cohee once told an interviewer. “They all talked about this concept, but we never had the ability to do it.”
With an aggressive style and no-nonsense attitude, Cohee has been able to do more than just talk.
Through mergers and acquisitions of struggling community banks in Miami and Los Angeles, Cohee has taken the old Boston Bank of Commerce and transformed it into the first, black-owned national bank with about $650 million in assets.
In addition, OneUnited received the Bank Enterprise Award, the U.S. Treasury Department's highest award for community service, in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Cohee doesn’t take his mission lightly. After obtaining an MBA from the University of Wisconsin and a law degree from Harvard, Cohee went straight to Wall Street and became a successful investment banker at Salomon Smith Barney. He and his wife, Teri Williams, one of the youngest vice presidents at American Express, pooled their resources together and made millions after selling a credit card company aimed at military personnel. They retired for a while, but soon became bored. In 1995, they put up a million dollars to purchase a controlling interest in the Boston Bank of Commerce.
Cohee is well aware of the bank’s place in history and his role in preserving the legacy of countless other blacks who had the vision, but lacked the wherewithal, to deliver a viable financial institution that served the needs of communities traditionally unable to access capital. Or save. Or re-invest their money back into predominantly black and poor neighborhoods.
“Our goal is to be black America’s bank,” Cohee said emphatically. “We didn’t start OneUnited just to make money. We are honest brokers, a trusted financial institution.”

“The Bank’s mission has historically been only the promise of African-American banks; no African-American institution truly has been able to take full advantage of this market to promote both a mission of assistance to African-American communities and its own success. OneUnited has succeeded in this endeavor principally by fulfilling its community development mission through sound banking practices, state-of-the-art technology, strong financial performance and marketing campaigns to establish and develop its brand. OneUnited Bank’s success both inspires and motivates the African-American community nationwide, as well as other successful individuals and institutions that support community development. OneUnited encourages these individuals and institutions to associate themselves with OneUnited to help ensure the continued financial success of the Bank and the inner city communities it serves.” NYT

- Howard Manly

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh Freedom!

Growing up in America, we notice that the words ‘African Americans’ and ‘Freedom’ often show up together. We had the Freedomways Magazine, there were Freedom Schools, Freedom songs, Freedom marches etc. Later in the 1970’s the word “liberation” was the trend- and seeing freedom and liberation used in tandem with ‘black people’ has never faded. This society seems to condone or endorse this practice. But now, one wonders what does freedom mean? For slaves it would seem clear – freedom from shackles, but was that all? After the shackles were removed, their children also sought freedom - from Jim Crow? Now after Jim Crow we still hear the word freedom used as a goal. However, what does this freedom mean? Does it mean the freedom to do something? Does it mean Freedom from something or someone? Do we want freedom to act just like everyone else we see? Do we want freedom from responsibility? Or is it true that freedom is responsibility? Should we seek personal freedom, economic freedom? Is it the same as when we hear that America is leader of the free world? (Does freedom have leaders?) Should we even be associated with this word? Is it too vague- or can it be defined?

What is meant by black freedom?

“Oh freedom, oh freedom,
oh freedom over me
And before I'd be a slave
I'll be buried in a my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free…”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blackness v. Truth?

The general black community has a limited knowledge and appreciation for Islamic civilizations, because much of the tone of black history is influenced by Afrocentrists who have traditionally been biased against Islam. For example, Chancellor Williams, the author of The Destruction of Black Civilization, has referred to the spread of Islam into Africa as the invasion of “Arab hordes.” Williams imagined African civilization, before its contact with other areas, as a single black government reflecting “race pride”, “black unity” and “black power.” [1] In his mind, the only true Blacks were on the African continent and therefore, he naturally viewed any outside influence as a threat to this fragile concept of an all black civilization. Williams was raised in the deep South during the early 20th century, the most race conscious period in U.S. history. Therefore, it was not difficult for him to imagine a sharp color line surrounding the African continent.

He tried to segregate any Asian influence out of Africa ’s history in order to maintain his image of unified Black civilization. This however is like trying to separate Christianity from the history of Western Civilization because it came out of Palestine , or like trying to separate Philosophy from Greek history because it originally came from Egypt and Persia.

This view also made it difficult to appreciate the fact that Black people inhabited and influenced civilizations in Arabia , Yemen , Asia and Palestine . Williams does acknowledge that, since ancient times, Black people did live in Asia, Arabia and Palestine . Yet, he states that “a more accurate study of that history is a task for future scholars.” He then completely ignores that evidence and maintains his theme, which views any and all outsiders as intruders. To Williams, the term African is synonymous with Black. He refers to us as the “African race”, and according to this logic any one from beyond the geographical boundaries of Africa could not be Black. He even asserted as absolute fact that Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Muhammad were all “white Semitic people”; (although he offers no sources or support of any kind for his statement). [2]

It is actually too difficult to attempt to draw a bright line separating people in terms of color in North Africa, the Near East, and Arabia. Since the earliest of times, Cushites (or Ethiopians) inhabited Arabia . Many scholars have referred to them as the original Arabs.[3] In fact, the ancient Greeks made no distinction between the Mother land and the Peninsula of Arabia , calling them both ‘ Ethiopia’. W.E.B. Dubois noted that many Arabs are “darkskinned, sometimes practically black, often having Negroid features and hair that may be Negro in quality. Dubois reasoned that “the Arabs were too nearly akin to Negroes to draw an absolute color line.”[4]

In reality, to try to separate Islam from Africa would be like trying to separate wheat from a loaf of bread, or sweetness from sugar. The world of Islam squarely falls within the scope of our civilization. Roughly half of Africa is Muslim. Modern scholars are now beginning to accurately relate the tremendous influence and impact Islam has had in Africa . As noted by Josef Stamer:

Islam was brought to Sub-Saharan Africa in the first place via the trade routes from the Arab countries and North Africa . The African Muslims have always maintained quite close links with the Arab world, from which a number of its reformers came. But Islamisation was essentially carried out by Africans themselves, who shared the same life, spoke the same language, and lived in the same cultural world entirely. There is no doubt that, for African Muslims, “Africanicity” and Islam are in no way opposed. For them Islam is not an imported religion. For many, abandoning the Muslim religion is equivalent to the rejection of all their family and tribal traditions, so intermingled are the two socio-religious universes.[5]

Islam represents the state of peace achieved upon allowing oneself to submit to the divine will of the Creator. It is the “religion” of the prophets. Those who strive to reach this state of peace are called Muslims (ones of peace). At its essence, Islam represents the faith and uprightness of character displayed by Abraham.

While in Ethiopia, Jaf’ar, a disciple and cousin of the prophet Muhammad described to Ethiopia ’s King the spirit of Islam and its impact on his people. He explained:

“Oh King, we were a people in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshipping idols and eating the flesh of dead animals, committing all sorts of abomination and shameful deeds; breaking the ties of kinship, treating guests badly and the strong among us exploited the weak. We remained in this state until Allah sent us a Prophet, one of our own people whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness and integrity is well known to us. He called us to Allah, to believe in his unity, to worship him alone and to abandon the stones and the idols which we and our ancestors used to worship in his stead. He commanded us to speak the truth, to honor our promises, to be kind to our relations, to be helpful to our neighbors abstain from bloodshed, to avoid obscenities and false witness, not to appropriate an orphan’s property nor slander chaste women...He ordered us to worship Allah alone and not to associate anything with him, to keep up worship, to give Alms, and fast. We believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah and we follow him in what he has asked us to do and we keep away from what he forbade us from doing.” [6]

Islam contains many dimensions. It is at once a philosophy, a legal system, an inspiration for literacy and learning, a guide for health and hygiene, a community endeavor and a guide for personal growth. It possesses a scientific dimension, a mystical/spiritual dimension and a social dimension. It can be said that Islam actually came back to Africa from Arabia . The Qur’an itself states that Adam was created and formed from “black mud.”[7] This coincides with the findings of anthropologists who point to considerable evidence that the original man must have been a black man from Africa . In the teachings of Islam, Adam was the first and father of the prophets. Moses was born in Africa; also, Eastern tradition holds that Ishmael (Muhammad's’ ancestor) was the son of Hajar, the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh, and Isa ibn Maryum (Jesus) escaped to Africa as a child and was said to have studied in Egypt at the Great Pyramid. Therefore, by the time the teachings of Islam re-entered Africa by way of Muhammad’s followers, they were not foreign at all.

photos by Vít Hassan

[1] Williams, Chancellor, The Destruction of Black Civilization, p.21, Third World Press, Chicago , Illinois (1987).
[2] Williams, Chancellor, The Destruction of Black Civilization, p.337, Third World Press, Chicago , Illinois (1987).
[3] Ivan Van Sertima, African Presence in Early Asia, p.55, New Brunswick , N.J. : Transaction Books, (1985).
[4] W.E.B Dubios, The World And Africa, p. 111, International Puslishers , New York , (1972).
[5] Excerpt from Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa , Estella, 1995, pp. 121-125.
[6] J. Spencer Trimmingham, Islam in Ethiopia, p. 45, Oxford University Press, London, New York, (1952).
Holy Qur’an 15:28.