“Black Is Beautiful”-The Original Black Panther Party
“Follow in the footsteps of your ancestors, for the mind is trained through knowledge. Behold, their words endure in books. Open and read them and follow their wise counsel. For one who is taught becomes skilled.”
-Selections From The Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt (Selected and Retranslated by Dr. Maulana Karenga page 50)
James Baldwin, the great Afrikan American writer once said, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” This statement is very true. If you are Black and conscious, White supremacy and the system of racism keeps your blackness in a constant state of rage. You become more and more angered with White domination and with Black oppression. Whiteness constantly and consistently challenges Afrikan people on their blackness through the neocolonialism in Afrika; Eurocentric education; police brutality (i.e. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, etc); Black to Black violence (i.e. Dariun Albert, Hadiya Penalton, Dawn Riddick, Nakeisha Allen, etc); the denial of reparations; the negation of a Black agenda by elected officials; White racial violence (i.e. James Byrd, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbey, etc); Europeanization; Arabism; the controlling and concoction of Black leadership; the validity of Black unity; the validity of Afrocentricity; the validity of the Black Libration Flag; the validity of Afrikan History; the validity of Afrikan culture; the validity of Afrikan spirituality; the validity of independent Black schools; the validity of Black liberation organizations (i.e. the Moorish Science Temples of America, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Us organization, the New Black Panther Party, the Original Black Panther Party, the Republic of New Afrika, the Black is Back Coalition, Black Lives Matter, etc); the validity of Black nationalism; the validity of Pan- Afrikanism; the validity of Black Power; the validity of Black revolutionary struggle; the importance of Black marriages to Black people; the emasculation of Black manhood; the high incarceration of rates of Black people; and Black self hatred. However, as you age with time you learn how to keep your rage in the spirit of Ma’at (Kemetic for balance). Kemet is the original Afrikan name for Egypt. Ma’at is an ancient Afrikan ethical and moral philosophy for truth, righteous, reciprocity, and balance originated in Kemetic (Egyptian) spirituality. It is very hard thing to do in a world controlled by white hegemony. White supremacists and racists will work to destroy your blackness. Some of your own people will attack you on your blackness. And even some of your own family members will attack you on your blackness. White supremacy and the system of racism are so interwoven into our world that many people embrace whiteness (light, bright, and anything and everything close to Europeans) over blacknes. For some Black people, being Black is too hard for us to live in this world. White hegemony dictates and defines Whiteness as the only thing that matters in the world. In response, some Black people develop issues of self-hatred. A huge part of Black liberation struggle is freeing ourselves from Black self-hatred with a love for our blackness.
Oppression regulates a people down to lowest realms of society. White supremacy and the system of racism have made Black people an oppressed group in America. Mixed between the march and movements against White supremacy, and the system of racism, is the struggle against Black self-hatred. This oppressive mentality of anti-blackness rears its ugly head in our community socially everyday (i.e. movies, reality shows, t.v talk shows, radio talk shows, social media, music videos, rap music, etc), and even amongst many family members.
Culturally, to rid ourselves from our blackness, some of us desperately try to find the one ounce of white blood in our veins. This, we believe, will help us justify us not being Black. We will say, “oh I am not Black, I am German.” Or we say, “oh I am not Black, I am French.” Or we say, “oh I am not Black, I am Spanish.” And some of us say, “I am not Black, I am bi-racial.” We try to be everything else except what God intended us to be-Black. If you are Black and proud, this really hurts our Afrikan centered Black conscious soul. However, this is the struggle for blackness. Unfortunately, without a national movement for Black liberation, White hegemony has beaten some us Black folk down in this new millennium. Some of us have given up on blackness. They, many White people and some Black people, do not want to accept the fact that Black self-hatred is a consequence of White supremacy and the system of racism.
Consequently, the purpose of White domination is to reduce Black people down into oppressive conditions in America, and in the world, to be exploited as group of people. Black self-hatred has been a tool used by our White oppressors to keep Black people from being Afrikan centered in their Blacknesss. If Black self-hatred is pervasive in the Afrikan American community, then Black people will never seize power for ourselves to be on equal footing with everyone’s culture in America and in this world.
However, there are many us that have not given up on blackness. I happened to be one of many Blackmen that have not given up on blackness. Afrika has been in my spirit, heart, and mind since 1990. That is the year I became conscious of my blackness. Prior to 1990, I knew nothing about the value and the importance of my blackness. I, like many Black youth growing up in the post Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the late 1970s, and the 1980s, were not taught on our blackness. Most leaders and organizations of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements had vanished, or became irrelevant, due to US government co-optation and repression. The schools in our neighborhoods, religious institutions, and many family circles did not teach us our Afrikan History, Afrikan culture, and Afrikan spirituality to help us develop an Afrikan centered Black conscious love for our blackness.
In this new millennium, young people call your awareness to blackness being “woke.” These type Black people are just conscious of their blackness. However, the “woke” Black person has not reach the level of consciousness to apply their blackness to Black liberation struggles.
Prior to the millennium, when you embraced your blackness, it was called Black consciousness. These type of Black people are conscious of their blackness. They work to help empower Black people in government, non-profits, community-based organizations, schools, colleges, universities, the business sector, and in religions institutions.
However, in Afrocentricity, there is deeper level of blackness. It is called-Afrikan centered Black consciousness. These type of Black people used Afrikan centered Black consciousness as a pathway for independent Afrikan centered education, nation-building, self-determination, independent politics, independent businesses, and Black liberation.
When I was a college student, my path to Afrikan centered Black consciousness started with Afrocentricity through the Nation of Islam. Both movements were very popular in my community of Newark and East Orange, NJ in the early 1990s. They both survived the onslaught of government co-optation and repression.
After the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad departed in 1975, his seventh son, Warith Deen Mohammad (former named Wallace Muhammad) took over the leadership of the mighty Nation of Islam. In three years, the Nation of Islam, the largest Islamic organization in America was dismantled. There was no more Nation of Islam. It was replaced by Sunni Al-Islam. All of the Nation of Islam’s Mosques were closed for public meetings that were at one timeused as a platform for organizing Muslims and Black people for liberation struggle. They were turned into a masjid (Arabic for mosque) now just used for salaat (Arabic for prayer). The Fruit of Islam (F.O.I) and Muslim Girls Training-General Civilization Class(MGT-GCC), the weekly military training of Muslims, Blackmen and Blackwomen,were abolished. Its’ Black liberation theology on Al-Islam was replaced by a moremoderate American, and some aspects Arabic centered theology. After three years,the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, who join the Nation of Islam under the most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, could not take the destruction of Nation of Islam moving forward. He left Imam Warth Deen Mohammad’s leadership. He saw how the fall of the Nation of Islam, help set the Black community back deeper under the yoke of oppressionin America. Therefore, he went on to rebuild the work of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam to fight against White domination and Black oppression. He reestablished the F.O.I and MGT-GCC for the training of Muslims, Blackmen, and Blackwomen to help empower Muslims, Blackmen, and Blackwomen.
I joined the local Nation of Islam Mosque called-Muhammad Mosque #25. I was a committed member of the Nation of Islam. But after given a knowledge of my Black self through the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, I became a exposed to Afrocentricity.
The movement of Afrocentricity is an Afrikan centered intellectual and cultural movement challenging White supremacist and racist notions about Black people, Afrika, Afrikan History, Afrikan culture, Afrikan spirituality, Black people, World History, Caribbean History, western religions, and American History.
I started studying the great master teachers of our culture to cultivate my Afrikan centered Black consciousness, such as Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. John Henrick Clarke, Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Professor Jacob Carruthers, Professor Ashra Kwesi, Tony Browder, Professor Dr. Runoko Rashidi, Professor James Smalls, Dr. Naim Akbar, Dr. Lenard Jeffries, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. Marimba Ani, Dr. Charshee McIntyre, Dr. Amos Wilson, Dr. Maulana Karenga, and Dr. Molefe Kete Asante.
I went from being born Carlos Cortez to being reborn as brother Carlos X. I went from not knowing who I was in this world culturally to knowing my Afrikan roots.
In turn, my Afrikan centered Black consciousness help me develop my love for my blackness. And I wanted a name that reflected my new blackness in me. I did not want to go to the egunguun (ancestors realm) with the name of a European conqueror. Names like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Jackson, O’Tool, Hudson, Marquette, La Salle, Cavelier, Albuquerque, Pizarro, Leon, Soto, Nunez, Vasquez, Velazquez, Lopez, and Cortez were given to Black people by our slave masters and European conquerors.
After a few years pondering over an Afrikan name, I chose Bashir Muhammad Akinyele in 1995. Bashir Muhammad Akinyele has been my legal name since 1996. That was the same year I left the Nation of Islam.
However, it was Islam as taught by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad that help me develop my Afrikan centered Black consciousness love for blackness. Therefore, I accepted the name Muhammad. It is Arabic. It means one worthy of praise or who praises much in english. My middle name is Muhammad. The name Muhammad is Islamic in origin. And if you qualify yourself as a good Muslim, Muhammad is the name the Nation of Islam member earns. With my sojourn in the Nation of Islam, I had earned the name Muhammad.
The name Bashir, my first name, means one who brings good news. It is also Islamic in origin. However, I choose my first name after the name of an Original Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army political prisoner named Bashir Hammed. I came to know brother Bashir Hammed after being inspired to write letters and visits to community activists in prison through political prisoner community activists Baba Zayid Muhammad, Tayari Onege, and T.J. Witicker. Original Black Panther Bashir and I became good friends. He became my primary source history teacher on the revolutionary struggles of oppressed people in the world. Bashir Hameed was framed by the US government’s racist counter intelligence program called, COINTELPRO, to neutralized the Black liberation Movements in the Afrikan American community. In the 1950’s, 1960s, and early 1970s, the US began a secret campaign to destroy all Black leaders, Black Power organizations, and discredit all Black nationalist ideologies in the Afrikan American community that threatened White domination. Original Black Panther Party member Bashir Hameed became one of its many victims. Unfortunately, Bashir Hameed went to the egunguun (Yoruba for ancestor’s realm). He died on August 30, 2008 at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY. As a Muslim, Bashir Hameed had his Janazah rights at Masjid Dar Salaam in Elizabeth, NJ.
The name Akinyele is Afrikan. It is my last name. Akinyele comes from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It means a strong one befits the house, or one of valor is in the house. Although my first and middle names are Islamic, I specifically chose Akinyele to connect me culturally to mother Afrika.
Eventually, community activist Baba Zayid Muhammad had organized an Afrikan community naming ceremony for me in Newark, NJ at the W.S.O.M.M.M (the Women In Support of the Million Man March) community center. It was there that my name, Bashir Muhammad Akinyele became official in the Afrikan centered conscious community.
During American slavery (the Maafa), the slave masters legally and violently forced Black people to accept bondage. The politicians and White slaver masters in America made it illegal for us to bear our Afrikan names. But the slave masters did not stop at just taking away our Afrikan names. They made it illegal for Black people to speak our own Afrikan languages, practice our own Afrikan religions, follow our own versions of western religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Al-Islam), to know our own Afrikan History, and to practice our own Afrikan cultural traditions (i.e Yoruba, Kemetic spirituality, etc). But most importantly, the American slave system (the Maafa) made sure that Afrikan people hated blackness.
Ultimately, US slave masters did this to disconnect us culturally from everything Afrikan to turn us into an negro people. The concept of negro is an European concept that disconnects a people to their history, culture, or a language.
We had to bear the names and cultures of our White slave masters. To this day, this is why many Afrikan Americans do not have Afrikan names and cannot speak our own Afrikan mother tongue.
American slavery (the Maafa) lasted for 250 years in America. It accumulated billions of dollars in wealth for America and White people for generations. American slavery made the United States the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. When American slavery ended in 1865, Black people never received an apology, nor a penny in reparations to repair the psychological, cultural, social, and economic damages done in the Afrikan American community for hundreds of years.
But the European Slave-Trade (Maafa) lasted for 400 years. It was international. White slave masters from all over Europe were importing Afrikan people from Afrika to many parts of their colonialized new world in the Western Hemisphere, such as Canada, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, the Bahamas, and Granada. To this day, this is why there are millions of Black people in the North and South America. The Maafa, or the European Slave -Trade, uprooted and displaced Black people to the new world. However, Black people transported our Afrikan cultural traditions, such as cornrows, soul music, and the drum. The word Maafa is Kiswahili for great disaster, which forced Black people from Afrika to the world. Kiswahili is an Pan Afrikan language spoken in many parts of Afrika. It is the language of the Afrikan / Afrikan American holiday called-Kwanzaa.
In certain parts of the Western Hemisphere, new people of Afrikan descent emerged, such as Jamaican Haitians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Latinos, and Afrikan Americans.
Struggling to liberate one self from the vestiges of American slavery (the Maafa) to embrace blackness is dangerous. Many of us know White supremacy and the system of racism will work to discredit and attack Afrikan centered Black consciousness. But we also know that some of our own Black people, our co-workers, and family members will work to discredit and attack our Afrikan centered Black consciousness as well in America and in the world. In our world, blackness is viewed as a threat to White domination. Personally, I have been attacked by some White people, some Black people, some education colleagues, and some family members because of my strong embrace of my blackness in this world. Dr. John Henrick Clark, the great Pan-Afrikanist and historian, taught us that one of the most powerful thing the European (Whites) did to Afrikan people (Blacks) was colonialize our minds.” Unfortunately, some people have developed a disrespect for blackness.
However, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught the Blackman and Black woman to be proud of being Black. He, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, said that the original man and woman of the planet earth are Black people. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, said this in his Lessons to the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in North America, “we are the maker, the owner, the cream of the planet earth, and God of the universe. If that is too ‘religious’ for you to accept as actual facts, then study the humanities and science of the secular world. Many histories and sciences reflect the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad by showing us that we as Black people fathered and mothered all people (humanity) on the planet earth (i.e. Afrikans, White people, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, etc), created civilizations, inspired the world’s religions, and established standards of beauty.
If you read Dr. Ivan Van Sertima’s book, They Came Before Columbus, it documents Black people from Afrika traveling to foreign lands to help build civilizations in places that the Whiteman calls North and South America, such as the United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Chile’, Honduras, Bolivia, and Peru.
If you read Charles Darwin book, The Origin of Species, he discusses that Afrika most likely is the birth place of humanity. Darwin said these things back in the 1800s!!! With the discoveries of the oldest recorded human bones in world history in Afrika by anthropology Drs Louis S.B. Leaky in 1959, and Donald C. Johannson in 1974, science now says conclusively that humanity’s birth place is in Afrika.
If you read Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan’s book, Africa: The Mother of Western Civilization, he documents Afrika’s Kemet (Egypt), and many other Nile Valley civilizations, contributed to the development of western civilization and western religions. This is why when Egyptologist Count C.F. Volney went to Kemet (Egypt) with Napoleon Bonaparte’s team of European scholarly professionals in 1798, he jumped at the opportunity. At this this time Napoleon was the Emperor of France, but he had an interest in the ancient world. They discovered that Kemet was a great Black civilization in Afrika, and that she influenced the world. Volney writes in his book, Voyages on Syrie Et En Egypt on pages 74-77, “Just think that the race of Black men, today our slaves and the object of our scorn, is the very race to which we owe our arts, sciences, and even the use of speech. Just imagine, finally, that it is in the midst of peoples who call themselves the greatest friends [White people] of liberty and humanity that one has approved the most barbarous slavery and questions whether Blackmen have the same kind of intelligence as Whites!”
If you read Dr. Runoko Rashidi book, African Presence In Early Asia, he documents Black people leaving Afrika to spark civilization on the continent of Asia.
Afrika’s presence is all over this planet. We can try to run way from our blackness, but as the respected Black nationalist freedom fighter Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad once said, “you can’t run from your Black self Blackman and Blackwoman.”
In summation, blackness has made me an effective Afrikan centered history teacher (I graduated from Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ in 1993 with Bachelor of Arts degree in History), a committed community activist, a better human being, and a proud Blackman. However, when you stand on your blackness Black people prepare for battle. Blackness is a threat in America and in the world.
Asante sana (Kiswahili for thank you very much) for reading my commentary.
O Dabo (Yoruba for go with God until we meet again)!!!
-Bashir Muhammad Akinyele is a History Teacher, Black Studies Teacher, Community Activist, Chairperson of Weequahic High School’s Black History Month Committee in Newark, NJ, commentary writer, and Co-Producer and Co-Host of the All Politics Are Local, the number #1 political Hip Hip radio show in America.
Note: Spelling Afrika with a k is not a typo. Using the k in Afrika is the Kiswahili way of writing Africa. Kiswahili is a Pan -Afrikan language. It is spoken in many countries in Afrika. Kiswahili is the language used in Kwanzaa. The holiday of Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January