Africana Thought-Action: An Authenticating Paradigm for Africana Studies

Article excerpt

Introduction

As we approach the last hour leading up to the next millennium, I can not stress enough the critical need today for Africana scholars throughout the world to create our own paradigms and theoretical frameworks for assessing our works. We need our own Africana theorists, not scholars who duplicate or use theories created by others in analyzing Africana texts (Hudson-Weems, "Critical Need," 79)

From Black Aestheticism to Afrocentricity to Africana Womanism is far more than a mere paradigm shift. It represents the reigning authentic (culturally connected or conscious) paradigms for Africana Studies, spanning the last forty years. Since the searing sixties, the field of Africana Studies has been engaging in an on-going struggle for its rightful place in the Academy. The 1960s marked the beginning of the Black cultural revolution, during which time, Blacks for the first time, demanded to be included in the curriculum at national predominately white colleges and universities. While there was an interest in African Studies at predominantly Black colleges and universities, like Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Straight College (Now Dillard University since 1931) in New Orleans, LA, spearheaded by William Leo Hansberry beginning in 1920, as documented by Kwame Alford in "William Leo Hansberry and Black Studies Beginnings," no such demands, until now, were placed on white institutions. (Alford in Contemporary Africana Theory, 2006). Institutions in the forefront of accepting Africana Studies as a legitimate area of study include San Francisco State University, the home of the nation's first Black Studies Program, under the directorship of Nathan Hare; Cornell University, under the directorship of James Turner, which has to this day one of the most pronounced Centers for Africana Studies and Research; Brandeis University, under the directorship of Ronald W. Walters; and Harvard University, under the directorship of Ewart Guinere, to name a few. This was, indeed, a fervent period for Black intellectual and political activities. As stated in an edited volume by Arvarh E. Strickland and Robert E. Weems, Jr., The African American Experience: An Historiographical and Bibliographical 'Guide, "Descriptively called the era of Black Nationalism, Black Aesthetics, and the Black Arts Movement, it was an era of definition and affirmation, a period when Blacks created their own paradigms and their own criteria for their own distinct art." (Hudson-Weems, "Literary Tradition, 131) This was particularly illuminating in the positions taken by key figures during that time, like Malcolm X, Addison Gayle and Amiri Baraka, among many other scholars and activists. Continuing to establish authentic paradigms, as dictated by the demands of conscious Africana people, is highly critical today if we truly hope to move forward in the direction of positive survival and existence.

In engaging in authentic theorizing in Africana Studies, "the primary area of focus for the curricula are social/behavioral, historical and cultural studies" (Aldridge and Young, 7). And one of the most defining areas listed here for assessing the trends and movements of every day occurrences is literature, since literature itself is charged with the responsibility, though not always met, of reflecting life. For the sixties, we have at the forefront of the Black Arts Movement, its prime mover, Amira Baraka, who, like his predecessor of the turn of the century, W.E.B. DuBois, commanded that art and politics are inseparable. In a powerful charge in opposition to the reigning theory of l'art pour l'art (art for art's sake), DuBois proclaimed,

   Thus, all Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite
   the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter
   shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for
   writing has been used always for propaganda for
   gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I
   do not care a damn for any art that is not used for
   propaganda. …