Monday, August 23, 2010

Abbey Left Us ...Much

Story of My Father

~Abbey Lincoln *

Do we kill ourselves on purpose?
Is destruction all our own?
Are we dying for a reason?
Is our misery all our own?
Are the people suicidal?
Did we come this far to die?
Of ourselves are we to perish?
For this useless, worthless lie?

My father had a kingdom
My father wore a crown
They said he was an awful man
He tried to live it down
My father built us houses
And he kept his folks inside
His images were stolen
And his beauty was denied.

My brothers are unhappy
And my sisters they are too
And my mother cries for glory
And my father stands accused.

My father, yes my father
Was a brave and skillful man
And he led and served his people
With the magic of his hand.

My father, yes my father
His soul was sorely tried
‘Cause his images were stolen
And his beauty was denied.

Sometimes the river’s calling
And sometimes the shadows fall
That’s when he’s like a mountain
That is in master over all.

This story of my father
Is the one I tell and give
It’s the power and the glory
Of the life I make and live

My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
And he lives within the people
And the lives he handed down
My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
And through the spirit of my mother, Lord
The crown was handed down.
(musical interlude)

Well sometimes the rivers callin’
And sometimes the shadows fall
That’s when he’s like a mountain
That’s a master over all.

My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
And he lives within the people
And the lives he handed down
My father has a kingdom
My father wears a crown
Through the spirit of my mother, Lord
The crown was handed down
Through the spirit of my mother
The crown was handed down
Through the spirit of my mother, Lord
The crown was handed down!

* Abbey Lincoln passed this Aug. 14, 2010.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What Race Was Moses?

Of course before even considering this question we have to ask ourselves, why does Moses’ race even matter? Well, then we can ask, does Barack Obama’s race matter? We know it doesn’t. But we also know it does. Now imagine if 200 years from now it was said that Obama was Jewish. Determining his race would really matter then, because he’s not Jewish; neither was Moses. (Left and below: Frescoes from Dura Europos, Syria - oldest known representations of Moses, 244C.E.)

Let’s start by sorting out some distinct terms that for years have been used interchangeably thereby adding to the confusion. These terms are Jew, Judaism, Hebrew, Israelite and Israeli. Jew is a term that was used during the period of the Roman occupation of Palestine. It referred to the majority of the people the Romans encountered living in Judea (Palestine) at that time. The word Jew doesn’t show up at all in any of the Five books of Moses. Moses didn’t refer to himself or any of his people as Jews. Judaism – the religion or cultural identity formed ca. 100B.C. – 70A.D distinct from the Hellenic culture prevalent in the Mediterranean region of the time.
Israelites- direct descendants of the twelve sons of Isaac’s son Jacob whose name was later changed to Israel. Hebrew (ibri)– first appears in Genesis 14:13 referring to Abram (Abraham) and means one who crossed over. In this case referring to the fact that Abram came from the other side of the Jordan river into Canaan. Abraham’s descendants were later referred to as Hebrews. And finally, an Israeli refers to a citizen or inhabitant of the modern state of Israel.

Last week Congressman Alan Grayson benignly made the following statement on CNN referring to Dr. Laura Schlesinger’s inference that a black woman should not have married a white man. “I married outside of my race. So by the way did Moses. Moses married an Ethiopian woman.”
Why does Moses’ race matter? It matters in the same sense history matters; because we would like to paint an accurate picture of the past. To say he was Jewish is inaccurate. It (we’ll leave motive out of it for now) leaves us with a misleading image that he resembled contemporary European Ashkenazi Jews who currently comprise close to 90% of the Jewish population. (See: We can assume for now that was the image Grayson had in his head.

Let’s look at what we do know. Abraham came out of the Ur of Chaldees region in ancient times. His relatives the Elamites from that area were depicted on the wall in Susa (above). Abraham’s descendants had a tradition of marrying from within their own tribe, beginning here at Genesis 24:3

“And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.”
This tradition is continued here at 28:1

“And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother."

We also know that when Jacob’s (or Israel’s) son Joseph was made governor of Egypt his brothers couldn’t distinguish him from the other Egyptians (who we know were brown).

Genesis 42:8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.
Years later, Moses, who was born and raised in Kemet (Modern day Africa), in the house of the Pharoah, was asked to perform a miracle that wasn’t included in Charlton Heston’s cinematic portrayal of Moses. Exodus 4: 6 – “And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
[7] And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.”

So we know from this quote that Moses couldn’t have been white because it says his hand turned white or leprous as snow. Then it says his hand later turned again as his other flesh – which of course couldn’t have been white.

So if Moses wasn’t white, why would his sister Miriam be upset that he married an Ethiopian woman? What other race is there? At one time, we were told there were only three categories of races; Caucasian, Negroid and Mongolian. But progressive scholars, scientists and historians no longer think in those terms, which is more accurate because it is more in line with the way most of the world during ancient times thought - not in terms of race but in terms of tribe, family, language and region.

Numbers 12:1 “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.”

So why was Miriam upset with Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman? Not because she felt he married outside of his race but because he married outside of his tribe, those who shared his beliefs – as referred to in Gen. 24:3.

Now with regard to motive. We have to wonder why when we begin any inquiry into the race or heritage of our ancsetors the prophets, philosophical questions arise (often in our own minds) as to why race is important. Is it important that Einstein is Jewish? Of course not, when considering the importance of the theories of the relativity of time and space, energy and light. But would anyone think it were proper if we scoldingly asked Jews why it was important whether he was Jewish? Is there something wrong with their right to be proud of their own?

So why do things become philosophical when we bring up the race of a Jesus or a Moses, people who so profoundly shaped human history? If we are intimidated from investigating and popularizing the history and background of our own ancestors, we are left with the silent status quo of implied lies, deliberate distortions, privilege, and white supremacy, all of which, we know, are very dangerous.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Best of All Months"

Mark 2:18-20 - And they asked.."why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?"
And Jesus said unto them, "Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days..."

Quran 2:185 "The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, shall fast therein..."


"O People! The month of Allah has approached you with His mercy and blessings. This is the month that is the best of all months in the estimation of Allah. Its days are the best among the days; its nights are the best among the nights. Its hours are the best among the hours.

This is a month in which he has invited you. You have been, in this month, selected as the recipients of the honors of Allah, the Merciful. In this holy month, when you breathe, it has the thawab (heavenly reward) of 'tasbeeh' (devotion) , and your sleep has the thawab of worship.

Your good deeds are accepted in this month. So are your prayers. Therefore, you must invoke your Lord, in right earnest, with hearts that are free from sins and evils, that Allah may bless you, observe fast, in this month, and recite the Holy Quran.

Verily! The person who may not receive the mercy and benevolence of Allah in this month must be very unfortunate having an end as bad (in the hereafter). While fasting, remember the hunger and thirst of tomorrow in Qiyamat (judgment). Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respects to your elders.

Have pity on those younger than you and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are not worth seeing and your ears from such sounds that should not be heard by you.

Be kind to orphans so that when your children become orphans they also may be treated with kindness. Do invoke that Allah may forgive your sins. Do raise your hands at the time of Salat (worship), as it is the best time for asking His mercy. When we invoke at such times, we are answered by Him, when we call Him, He responds, and when we ask for anything, it is accepted by Him.

O People! You have made your conscience the slave of your desires; make it free by invoking Him for Istighfar (repentance/forgiveness). Your back is breaking under the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate before Him for long intervals and make it lighter.

Do understand fully well that Allah has promised in the name of His Majesty and Honor that He will not take to task such people who fast and offer Salat in this month and perform 'sajda' (prostration), and will guard their bodies against the Fire of Hell on the Day of Judgment.

Anybody who does not tease others in this month, Allah will keep him safe from His wrath in Qiyamat. Anybody, who respects and treats an orphan with kindness in this month, Allah shall look at him with dignity in Qiyamat. Anybody who treats well his kinsmen, in this month, Allah will bestow His mercy on him in Qiyamat, while anybody who maltreats his kinsmen in this month, Allah will keep him away from His mercy, in Qiyamat.

Whoever offers prayers in this month, Allah will give him a certificate of freedom from Hell. Whosoever offers one 'wajib' Salat in this month, for him the Angels will write the rewards of 70 such prayers, which were offered by him in any other months.

Whosoever recites in this month only one 'Ayat' (verse of the Holy Quran), he will be rewarded in a manner as if he had recited the full Holy Quran in the other months.

O People! The Gates of Paradise remain opened in this month. Do invoke that the gates may not be closed on you, while the Gates of Hell are closed. Do invoke that these gates may never be opened. During this month Shaytan is imprisoned so ask your Lord not to let him have power over you."

- Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (pbuh)

Matthew 6:16
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
[17] But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
[18] That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

- Jesus

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is Justice in the Interest of The Stronger?

What is justice? Over the years many have abandoned the idea of justice or have resigned to the fact that justice simply lies in the interest of the strongest. But has this always been the case?

If we go back to 4,000 years ago the concept of justice was well established – in the form of Ma’at. Ma'at was more of a concept than an actual “goddess”. Her name, literally, meant 'truth' in Egyptian. She was truth, order, balance and justice personified. She was harmony, she was what was right, she was what things should be. It was thought that if Ma'at didn't exist, the universe would become chaos, once again. The universe was, above everything else, an ordered and rational place. It functioned with predictability and regularity; the cycles of the universe always remained constant; in the moral sphere, purity was rewarded and sin was punished. Both morally and physically, the universe was in perfect balance.

At death a person's heart was placed on a scale, balanced by Ma'at herself, or by the Feather of Ma'at (her symbol that she wore on her head was an ostrich feather). Thoth (god of writing and scribes) weighed the heart... if the deceased had been found to not have followed the concept of ma'at during his life (if he had lied or cheated or killed or done anything against ma'at) his heart was devoured and he died the final death. If the heart weighed the same as Ma'at, the deceased was allowed to go on to the afterlife. Maat or Justice was not an abstract concept removed from the behavior of each individual. Among the negative confessions we begin to get a picture of what was considered the opposite of justice (injustice) - “I have not committed robbery with violence. I have not stolen. I have not slain men or women. I have not stolen food. I have not stolen anyone’s land. I have not behaved with violence. I have not caused disruption of peace. I have not terrorized anyone. I have not overstepped my boundaries of concern.”

Now the concept drifts through history and arrives in the West where we find a confused interpretation of the concept of Ma’at in “Lady Justice.” Since the Renaissance, Justitia has frequently been depicted as a matron carrying a sword and scales, and wearing a blindfold. Her modern iconography, which frequently adorns courthouses and courtrooms, conflates the attributes of several goddesses who embodied “Right Rule” for Greeks and Romans, blending Roman blindfolded Fortuna (luck) with Hellenistic Greek Tyche (fate), and sword-carrying Nemesis (vengeance). (Nemesis was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods).
The first known representation of blind Justice is Hans Gieng’s 1543 statue on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunne (Fountain of Justice) in Berne, Switzerland.

The blindfold, of course, raised some common questions:

“Do you want to blindfold someone with a sword?....And how is she supposed to read the scales if she is blind?” This troubled early representers of Justice; some thus gave her two faces like Janus, with the side bearing the sword prudently left unblindfolded. (Miller, William. Eye for an Eye, page 1 (Cambridge University Press, 2006)).

Not only did the symbolic representation go through some changes, but unfortunately the very meaning of justice was somehow turned on it’s head. This can be attributed to Plato and his classic work “ The Republic.” Plato was highly dissatisfied with the prevailing degenerating conditions in Athens. Plato saw in justice the only remedy of saving Athens from decay and ruin, for nothing agitated him in contemporary affairs more than amateurishness, needlesomeness and political selfishness which was rampant in Athens of his day in particular and in the entire Greek world in general.
However, he proposed to do this in the rhetorical practice of his time – Socratic dialogue. In one imagined discourse he presents between Thrasymachus and Socrates - he articulates through Thrasymachus an idea that would take hold and still reign through this day. Thrasymachus who represented the new and critical view, propounded the radical theory of justice. He defines justice as "the interest of the stronger". In the other words, might is right. For while every man acts for himself and tries to get what he can, the strongest is sure to get what he wants and as in a state the Government is the strongest, it will try to get and it will get, whatever it wants for itself.
“Justice is in the interest of the stronger.” This statement still reverberates in the political spheres of power to this day and has become the accepted definition of justice. What has been lost is the fact that Thrasymachus was really defining the opposite of justice – injustice. He states: An unjust one is superior to a just one in character and intelligence. "Injustice is a source of strength. Injustice brings happiness.
In the end, Plato, who had been taught by teachers who had studied in Egypt (Kemet), asserted that justice was at once a “part of human virtue and the bond which joins man together in society”. He also concluded that justice is not mere strength, but it is a harmonious strength. But the damage had already been done. The theoretical smoke had already been loosed from the bottle and what we are left with in the echoes of the Western mind are the misguided words of Thrasymachus that “justice is in the interest of the stronger.” However, after over 500 years of rule under this misunderstanding we can safely conclude that “injustice is in the interest of the stronger,” and that true justice may be as simple as “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

"Justice is guaranteeing that no person is allowed to be mistreated and the person who needs the most help gets the most help."  Neely Fuller.