Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Sub-Africanities in Africa and the Americas

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Sub-Africanities in Africa and the Americas

Article excerpt

Sub-Africanities in Africa and the Americas

Afrocentrists agree both on the existence of Africanity--here defined as the deep structural component of the cultures of all peoples of African descent--and the need to employ it in the worldwide struggle to end the oppression of black peoples. While Maquet (1972: 8) draws a careful distinction between Negritude and Pan-Africanism he concludes the two agree that all Africans had (and have) a common civilization and that they must stand united in the battle against racism and imperialism. Afrocentrists, according to Mazama (1994: 214) rightly acknowledge that the major challenge facing "African people world wide" is not so much economic or political, but rather the need to develop an Afrocentric consciousness.

This paper focuses on Sub-Africanities, which exist in the intermediate structures located between surface culture and the deep structure of Africanity. It examines relationships between these intermediate structures and Africanity itself in both Africa and the Americas. In Africa, Africanity is manifested only through Sub-Africanities, but in many parts of the Americas slavery eliminated these intermediate structures so that the slaves, in constructing a new way of life for themselves, were thrown back on Africanity. Working together, they reformulated Africanity and developed ways of relating it to Sub-Africanities transported to the New World as well as to non-African cultural elements. This paper explores some of the resultant patterns.

Africanity

A generation ago, when Black Studies had its organizational beginnings, the role of Africanity seemed clear enough. Ewart Guinier (1972) explained that the black struggle in the United States could not be properly understood unless it was placed in the context of the international movement of African peoples toward self-determination. A Pan-African perspective, confidently wrote Aida Takla O'Reilly (1978), could help resolve not just the problems of black peoples, but those of the entire world. The problems of blacks, according to W. Ofuatey Kodjoe (1977), were caused by powerful international forces and therefore needed to be confronted by a coherent international black response. Even the students of the era (SOBU, n.d.) argued that Africanity needed to be moved from its unconscious location in the deep structure of the cultures of black people and consciously employed in a worldwide battle against racist imperialism.

Indeed, Black Studies itself sought through education to not only uncover new knowledge about blacks, but to apply this knowledge to the problems of black folk (Williams, 1993). The motto of the National Council for Black Studies was therefore, "Academic Excellence, Social Responsibility." Education was the key. It had been used to enslave and exploit African peoples and could now be used to liberate them (Hoskins, 1991). For this reason the study of ancient Egypt was especially important, for the achievements of the ancient Egyptians were not only important in themselves but significant because they clearly demonstrated the accomplishments of which African peoples were capable (Lewis, 1994).

Both shape and content of Africanity seemed clear enough. This did not mean that Africanity was everywhere the same. It was dynamic, ever changing and in constant interaction with other aspects of the social structure (Harper, 1988; Akinyela. 1992; Mazama, 1994: 211; Okafor, 1996; Azibo, 1999). Nor did black folk themselves necessarily perceive the existence of Africanity. Anyanwu (1982) explains:

If the truth or falsehood of Kant's and Hume's philosophies for example, were based on the numbers of German and English peoples that understood or endorsed them the outcome would be obvious. Let us realize that no individual, not even in the same cultural system can share equally and fully in the diverse experiences of his culture. Therefore the fact that most African societies do not know the nature of the concepts and societies of their cultures does not mean that the African philosophy advocated here is false. …

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