AN AFRO-AMERICAN HISTORY: Paths for a Theological and Epistemological Afro Reflection

By Rodrigues da Silva, Marcos | Cross Currents, March 2017 | Go to article overview

AN AFRO-AMERICAN HISTORY: Paths for a Theological and Epistemological Afro Reflection


Rodrigues da Silva, Marcos, Cross Currents


Introduction

At the Round of Talks on Ethnic Territorialities and Intercultural Relations, a series of reflections was raised. This convocation was part of the Second Seminar on International Culture and Development (SICDES), which took place at Unochapeco, Santa Catarina (Brazil), in May 2014, and also as part of the Thematic Symposium on African, Afro-Latino, and Latin-American Issues and their Contemporary Challenges in the Second International Congress of EST Colleges on September 2014. These meetings were critical moments that opened a dialogue to share our reflections on a significant topic for the entire Afro-American community.

Drawing from these meetings, our task in this chapter is to present an inventory of the history of Afro-American thought worldwide, derived from the contributions of Black movements that emerged in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s of the 20th century. These meetings and the reflections that came about provide us with a database of significant elements that support theological production, and open up a path for reflection capable of signaling new scenarios for the first years of the 21st century.

The congresses on black culture in the Americas

The initiative to organize the Congress on Black Culture in the Americas arose from the need for a multidisciplinary examination of the social and cultural problematics of Afro-Americans by various professionals, such as historians, sociologists, anthropologists, artists, writers, theologians, and scientists of religion (ACTAS..., 1989). The program for these Congresses was inspired by thematic lines arising from the different contexts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The first Congress on Black Culture in the Americas occurred in Cali, Colombia, from August 24, 1977, to August 28, 1977. This congress was convened and supported by the Colombian Foundation of Folk Researchers (ACTAS..., 1989). Its goal was to promote a reflection by Afro-Americans on the political cultural, economic, and religious obstacles and barriers imposed by settlers, and still in force against Afro-Americans. Participants were divided into four working groups. The first group dealt with the political, religious, aesthetic, and moral issues. The second group focused on issues related to socioeconomic structures. The third group analyzed art and technology. Finally, the fourth group reflected ethnicity and miscegenation.

According to the participants, several countries seek to decrease the Black population, using strategies that include forced miscegenation as artifice. It is not our intention today to make a full report of the entire Congress, but it seems fundamental to bring up two recommendations approved at this event. First, to denounce that most History, Sociology, Economics, and Politics textbooks from American countries omit, cripple, and deform the authentic participation of Black people in the development of the countries that they are a fundamental part of. Second, the realization that the history of Black America cannot continue to be disseminated, written, and internalized on as a chronicle of slavery (ACTAS..., 1989). In addition to its substantial content, the first Congress on Black Culture was important in itself as a truly historic event.

With the theme "Cultural Identity of Black People in the Americas," the second Congress was held in Panama City from March 12-21, 1980. The event brought together over three hundred delegates from America, Africa, and Europe. Four subthemes concerning issues related to the Black community were debated: (1) social identification in the class structure; (2) cultural identity of Black people in their formal and informal education; (3) cultural pluralism and national unity; and (4) the prospects of Black people in the future of the Americas.

Among the topics discussed, the most relevant was the Cultural Issue of Afro-Americans, from which three points emerged: (1) the urgency of formulating an educational project in which the participation of the Black diaspora culture is as relevant to the construction of a Black identity as the dominant culture has been to the fragmentation and denial of social identity of Black people; (2) to redeem the underlying worldview of these cultural manifestations, taking into account the updated experiences of Black resistance; and (3) the articulation of political action with a cultural dimension as a starting point. …

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