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In the last decade, I have seen Nigerian movies pay attention to style more ever than before. Female actors in particular rock the latest trends in fashion, adorned in name brand stilettos even for scenes that do not necessarily require them, in top-notch facial makeover and hair styled in long Brazilian weaves.
For critical viewers like me, it is not hard to conclude that the Nigerian movie industry is paying more attention to details. However, it is also disturbing to notice the prevalence of colourism and false standards of beauty in Nollywood.
In Nigeria in general, light-skinned women are aggrandized, paid more attention and given more privileges. This could be as a result of the narrow societal definition of beauty. It is not very far-fetched as the faces in marketing, media and modeling are usually the fair skinned and slim ladies.
As a matter of fact, there is a preference for fair ladies in recruitment for roles such as front desk officer, air hostess and hospitality management. The movie industry is not excluded as light-skinned actresses seem to be at an advantage compared to their dark complexioned counterparts.
Colourism according to Oxford Dictionary means “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.” A deep dive into the evolution of colourism in Africa shows a link with racism, an offshoot of colonialism.
Alice Walker, a novelist had once explored how colonial slave masters created a social stratum by showing preference for light-skinned slaves as they were allowed to work in the house while the dark-skinned slaves worked in fields. Unconsciously, our society has internalized this false notion of light-skinned persons being better than dark-skinned persons.
This thought is deeply amplified in Nollywood. For a fact, fair girls seem to get more casting roles than dark-skinned girls. The flipside to this is where both shades of skin tone are casted but dark skinned girls seem to get the less desirable or passive roles in movies. It is a known fact success in showbiz is not totally dependent on talent, the look must be complementary. As a result, a lot of actresses overtime see the need to tone their skin, improve their looks through cosmetic surgery to get more lead roles and also conform to the required image as they climb the ladder of success.
The impacts of colourism are rife. First, it is an act of discrimination fuelling the assumption that light-skinned people are better and as such deserve better opportunities particularly in the movie industry.
Second, it underestimates the place of talent and merit where people are considered merely because of their skin colour and not their ability or adaptability to the role in question.
Most importantly, it places undue pressure on aspiring dark-skinned actresses or sometimes crush their careers and prospects in the industry before time.
Mercy Johnson, a popular award winning Nollywood actress mentioned to Punch how difficult it was to get roles in her early days as an actress. In the same light, Keira Hewatch staring as Peace in the popular Nigerian series, ‘Lekki Housewives’ in an exclusive interview with Pulse Nigeria mentioned how she had lost movie roles on account of her dark complexion.
In addition, celebrities wield great influence in all ramification especially fashion and lifestyle. This level of impact is more pronounced for young people who shape their lives after the celebrities they adore. As a result, there is a remarkable tendency for young girls to validate their sense of beauty using metrics such as skin colour and general physical appearance.
Conclusively, it is not enough to start a viral campaign for dark and natural beauty using the popular #MelaninPopping without creating awareness for a fair and equitable system where casting considerations and any job at all are made solely on the basis of expertise.
For this to happen, we might need to start reviewing why ladies on popular adverts are predominantly tall, slim and light-skinned and not the everyday Nigerian girl because in truth, colourism thrives on the assumption that people prefer ladies with lighter skin.
By Mildred Taylor
Where does the anti-black racism that exists in the world come from ? If you are African or of African origin, this is a question you have had to ask yourself at least one day in your life. The Black man is badly seen by a large part of humanity. When he is in the Arab Muslim world, he is rejected. When he is in the Western world, despite all his signs of openness, westernization or integration, racism and hatred are never far away in order to call him a bambula, monkey, etc.
Everywhere where he goes he is always the victim of stereotypes which end up seriously harming him (rejections, racisms, hatreds, etc.) as history has shown it on several occasions.
But where does this attitude that other peoples have towards the Black man come from ? What is the historical origin of this rejection ? When did it begin in the history of mankind ?
This may shock some, but anti-black racism originally originated from religious sources, more precisely on the religious bases of the so-called revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).
What is the founding text of this racism ? Well it is the text that is better known as the curse of Ham. This text is in the biblical book of Genesis, more precisely in the story of Noah and his sons, sons representing the ancestors of the nations.
This is what the biblical book of Genesis says in chapter 9, verses 18-19: “The sons of Noah, who came out of the ark, were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah, and it is their posterity that peopled the whole Earth. “
The biblical text explains that they are the ancestors of the nations that populated the earth after the deluge. What are these nations ?
According to the biblical text there are 3 ancestors of the 3 nations that populated the earth after the deluge. These are the nations: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Here is the passage from the bible where the curse is mentioned.
(Genesis 9: 20-27):
” Noah, started to cultivate the soil, and proceeded to plant a vineyard. He drank some of its wine, he became drunk and laid uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body, while doing it, their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
When Noah awoke from his drunkenness and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! May he be the slave of the slaves of his brothers.” He also said, “Praised be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the their slave. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
At first glance, this text does not mention the skin color of the people here. At first glance, one can not say who symbolizes (between Sem, Cham or Japhet) Blacks (Africans), whites (Europeans), etc …
At first sight this text does not say that Ham is cursed, since in this text it is Canaan (son of Ham) who is cursed and struck with slavery and therefore not Ham himself. These are the kinds of arguments often used by the followers of the revealed religions to defend themselves when it comes to this subject.
But how do we know that Ham designates black people ?
Well, it is because in Hebrew (the language in which the book of genesis was written) the term “Ham” refers to the idea of heat, blackness, or burnt. In the Pharaonic language, the term “Kam” means black.
If then these Hebrew people have at some times of their history stayed in Egypt as the Bible says, it means that there were contacts between these Semitic people and African people (blacks). We can then understand where this term Ham (term to designate the physical appearance of Blacks) comes from, which is found in the Bible.
Ham is (by taking account of the contacts between the Semitic people and the African people in antiquity) a distortion of the term Kam or Kem (meaning black, blackened in Pharaonic language) by the editors of the Bible as Cheikh Anta Diop explains it in his founding book Nations Nègres et Culture. It is therefore normal for Ham to be designated in the Bible as the source of black (African) people.
Moreover, the traditions of the so-called revealed religions refer to Ham and his Biblical descendants as the symbolic names to designate the people originating from Africa.
If Ham is the ancestor of the first African (black) people, then his biblical sons Kush (Nubia/Sudan), Misraim (Egypt), Punt and Canaan (Palestine-Syria) were originally African people.
If then the curse concerns (according to the text), only Canaan (son of Cham), how did we pass from the curse of Canaan to the curse of Ham ?
Well, it is in the interpretation and teaching of the religious leaders of the so-called revealed religions (priests, popes, rabbis, caliphs, Imams, etc.)
Thus, according to the rabbinical commentaries (such as Midrash Rabba and Bereshit Rabba), this text is interpreted as the fact that through Noah’s ark during the flood, Cham committed a serious sin of sexual impurity against his Father (what it means to see the nudity of his father). And thus through Canaan, it was Cham who was cursed (turned into black) and his biblical descendants (Kush, Misraim, Punt and Canaan).
In the Midrash Rabba, page 293, Noah said to Cham: “You have made me incapable of doing things in the darkest moment of the night, so your offspring (that is, your descendants) will be naughty and have a Black skin “.
According to these texts, African physical characteristics (being black skinned, having frizzy hair, sometimes thick lips, etc.) all these characteristics are in fact the mark of the curse. According to these texts at the beginning of the creation the first men were not black. And if there are some blacks, it means that they are the children of the devil and the curse. Thus, seeing a black such as one can see in nature (frizzy hair, black complexion, etc…) is seeing someone cursed, it is seeing a demon, the devil himself !!! Even the idea that Blacks would have the most developed and biggest male organ in the world comes from these texts !!! Thus we see how caricatures and stereotypes about the physiognomy of the Black began in history.
Rabbi Maimonides in his book, considered by the Jews to be the greatest in Jewish religious philosophy (The Guide to the lost, Book III, Chapter 51) tells this about black people:
“Their nature is similar to that of mute animals, and in my opinion they do not reach the rank of human beings; among the existing things they are inferior to man but superior to the ape, for they possess in a greater measure than the ape the image and likeness of man.”
Christianity presenting itself as the heir of Judaism, these ideas of the Negro being cursed by God, then passed into Christianity and were used by the church as the justification for the enslavement of Africans, since through the text of the genesis it is written: “Let him be the slave of his brothers’ slaves!” As Guillaume Hervieux shows in his book entitled L’Ivresse de Noé (Noah’s Drunkenness) : The Story of a Curse.
These ideas of the Black being cursed by God then passed into Islam. This is why in the Quran, we find in the Surah Al Imran (the family of Imran) verses 106-107: “106. On the day when certain faces will be illuminated, and others will darken. To those whose faces will be darkened (it will be said): “Have you disbelieved after having faith? “Well, taste the punishment, for having denied the faith.
107. And as for those whose faces shall be enlightened, they shall be in the mercy of Allah, where they shall dwell forever ”
We see that the dark faces are the faces of infidels, pagans, etc … and will face punishment. On the other hand, the “light faces” will have the graces and mercy of God.
In the volume 1 of Tabari’s Chronicle (Imam, Persian historian and exegete of the Koran), Tabari provides an explanation of Ham’s curse by saying: “Yet, may you know that all creatures have gone forth after Noah (may peace be upon him), Shem, Cham, and Japheth. The Arabs, the Persians, the white-faced men, the good people, the jurisconsults, the scholars, and the wise, are of the race of Shem, and this is why:
‘’ One day Noah was asleep; the wind lifted his clothes and uncovered his private parts without his notice. Japhet passed near Noah, whose private parts he saw; He began to laugh out loud, and to turn his father into ridicule, without covering him. Cham, Japheth’s brother, arrived; He looked at Noah, burst out laughing and joking, and passed by, leaving his father in the condition in which he found him. Sem came after his brothers, and seeing Noah in an indecent posture, he turned his eyes away and hid his father’s nakedness. Then Noah woke up and asked Shem what had happened; Having heard that Cham and Japheth had passed him by, and laughed, he cursed them, saying, ” may God change the seed of your kidneys. After that, all the men and the fruits of the land of Ham became black. The black grape is one of the latter. “
In another passage of this book we have: “… The three sons that Noah left were: the first, Shem, whose race the Arabs came from, the prophets and the good people; the second, Ham, it is from him that the Negroes and Ethiopians who gave birth infidel descendants originated. Now Ham’s children became black, because their father came to his wife in the ark, in spite of Noah’s prohibition, who cursed him; and the Most High God changed the seed (semen) of his kidneys (into black) “
Thus these religions, while expanding in the world, have spread everywhere the idea that the Black man is a pagan being, evil, cursed by God, villain, idolater, sorcerer, etc. Thus, since Black people were declared as cursed in these religions, all that Black people have done has been declared to be pejorative and evil. His culture, his spirituality and all his customs were demonized as the culture of the evil, the culture of the devil, etc.
The so-called revealed religions have been for so long (because of the writings and teachings of so-called “men of God” ie priests, popes, imams, etc.) the first torch-bearers of racist stereotypes and racism towards black people.
It is the idea of the Negro cursed by God that is at the origin of all the negative ideas (idolatry, ten plagues of Egypt, etc …) about Egypt and the pharaohs that are found in all the writings of the so-called revealed religions.
In the early days of the abolition of slavery, the idea of the black curse was one of the reasons why the KKK, Ku Klux, Klan members (some Christians) attacked Blacks (whom they were considering as cursed by God and demons) in order to lynch them, kill them and burn their houses and possessions, since the Church had used this idea of the accursed Negro at that time of slavery to justify slavery.
The idea of Black people cursed by God led the Church to draw pious images of beings she considers as good in white and images of the evil and the devil in dark or black color.
It is the idea of Black people cursed by God that the philosophers of the age called enlightenment (who predominantly presented themselves as Christians) elaborated so many racist theories about black people. Let us take, for example, the case of Montesquieu, who said in his book L’Esprit des lois (the spirit of the laws) XV, 5, that: ” We cannot imagine the idea that God, who is a very wise being, has put a soul, especially a good soul , In an all-black body, (…) “
Therefore according to the famous French author Montesquieu a black body does not possess a good soul, but necessarily bad. He goes on to recite later in the same work by saying that:
“It is impossible for us to suppose that these people (Africans)
So for Montesquieu, a good Christian is educated to think that Africans are sub-humans or sons of the devil.
It is the idea of Black people cursed by God that gave birth to a negative vocabulary about the Blacks. Thus we add the term black to all that is not good. Example: bad humor = black humor, black Thursday, black grinding, black dot, black list, having a black heart, etc.
It is the idea of the Black cursed in the Islamic philosophy that is responsible for this rejection of Blacks by the Arabs and all the injustice and hatred that Blacks suffer in the Arab world.
This idea of the cursed Black man was conveyed in the black world at the time of slavery and colonization by the missionaries.
Here is a song from a book of songs “Njembo nda nkundo” (Songs in lonkundo) intended for Congo school children under the Belgian occupation in Bamanya in 1911. The songs’ author is the Catholic Church nun, Arnoldine Falter of the Sisters of Precious Blood. The booklet contains 66 songs. The songs being in their original version in lonkundo, here is the translation in English:
ESISEZELO EA KAM (The punishment of Cham)
O Father Ham, what have you done?
We suffer a lot
By God we are punished
The punishment he had inflicted on you
Inherited by us all
You mocked, you, bad son
You had taunted your father
And Noah, as a punishment to you
And thus: “Ham works
always for his brothers “
And now your descendants
Slaves here on earth
What a pity for thy people! Because of your curse
All Blacks here
Regret your fault
As you mocked your father
Your descendants laugh at you
They refuse your name
If you want the blessing on earth
Honor your father and mother
For centuries these ideas have been conveyed throughout the world by the so-called revealed religions (Judaism Christianity, Islam) in their impulse of conquest and conversion, evangelism or Islamization. Thus all the followers of the revealed religions who live around the world have already heard, seen or thought or incorporated this negative image of Black people on their mind, which has led many people to reject and hate the Black .
Thus the African followers of the revealed religions have largely and consciously or unconsciously integrated this negative depiction of Black people (of themselves) in their mind.
Given that the Black man was declared cursed in these religions or their philosophies and that it was taught even to the Africans, they have incorporated into their minds the idea that all that the Black does is pejorative and bad. His culture, his spirituality and all his customs were demonized as the culture of evil, the culture of the devil, etc.
Thus many African followers of the revealed religions reject themselves, and everything which is African. They do not like their complexion so they lighten it, their hair so they perm it with products, they do not like their traditions, their culture, their spirituality and treat them as evil, etc.
For quite a long tome, it has been explained that the problems of Africa and the world come from the fact that Blacks have been cursed by God and that Africa and the black world will consequently always be the last of the class at all levels because “God willed it.”
The problems of racism, as well as most of the stereotypes experienced by Africans throughout the world, originated from religious beliefs, the curse of Ham and the picture of the cursed Black before spreading to other areas. So before the anti-black racism existed for other reasons, this racism began firstly on the foundations of the so-called revealed religions.
Before the invention of this fable of the cursed Black in the so-called revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), there was no text giving a negative image of Africa and Africans around the world.
By: Lisapo ya Kama ©
The French-speaking West African nation of Togo was pivotal during the transatlantic slave trade as Portuguese slave traders sought the human merchandise at the small fort of Porto Seguro, in the town currently known as Agbodrafo and lying between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Togo.
During the infamous Scramble for Africa in 1884, Germany took hold of Togo and the current Volta Region of Ghana as a protectorate collectively known as the German Togoland.
This was legalized after Gustav Nachtigal signed a treaty with the chief of Togoville, King Mlapa III in the same year.
This photograph shows soldiers of the Togo Polizeitruppe with their German commander
The protectorate became Germany’s only self-supporting colony as the locals were forced to work on cotton, cocoa and coffee plantations while paying high taxes. The Germans built the Lome port and a railway that established their rule inland.
Their occupation was short lived after the first world war defeat in 1914. The area was invaded by the British and French and in 1916, Togoland was divided into British and French zones. It was formalized in 1922 with the creation of British Togoland and French Togoland.
After the World War II, the territories went under the United Nations and the residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast prior to independence in 1957.
French Togoland became autonomous within the French Union in 1959 and in 1960, the Togolese Republic was proclaimed. The country held its first presidential election in 1961 making Sylvanus Olympio the first president after he garnered a 100% of the vote in elections boycotted by the opposition.
The Republic thereafter went through many transitions including two military coups: in 1963 and in 1967, both led by Sergeant Gnassingbe Eyadema. The second coup overthrew Nicolas Grunitzky, the elected president after the first coup.
Eyadema assumed the seat of president for 38 years until his death. His son, Faure Gnassingbe assumed power till date. The ruling dynasty has been mired by protests from the opposition.
By Ismail Akwei
We grow up in countries within the continent and almost everywhere we see women regularly beaten. Their word is devalued, their opinions are belittled. They are constantly judged, tirelessly defined – regardless of their success in society – by the fact to be married or not.
They do not receive inheritance and are most likely to live in material insecurity. They are generally absent from political and economic decision-making circles.
In the face of these numerous and repeated abuses, and given the strong masculinity of men, we end up thinking that it is in the very nature of Africa to make the majority female, a group of second-class citizens. We end up by concluding that, we have always been a patriarchal and sexist society.
And when one delves into history, as we did, one discovers with stunning amazement that not only did authentic Africa define equality between man and woman, but had actually made the latter – in agreement with men – the most valuable gender.
Let us return to the sources of matriarchy to discover that this cultural feature, the single most ingenious that came out of the thought of our ancestors, was shared, at one time or another, by the whole black continent. We will also briefly see how we have regressed to the current situation.
To grasp the whole of this article, the reader should first collect information about the African Spirituality, the African philosophy Ma’at, the African monogamic tradition and the true origins of male and female circumcision.
Back to the origins: Ankh (of life)
Our ancestors had theorized that at the beginning of everything was the Nun, the disordered primordial water full of germs, from which the creation would spring. One of these germs (Imana) became aware of His-Her existence and engendered creation, putting in order the potentials of life contained in the Nun, and overcoming with His-Her energy the initial disorder.
Imana (God) continued the creative work by making the born evolve to perfect creation. All these principles and events that led to the creation of life by Imana, were called by the Egyptian Ma’at.
The Sun also bears these principles of Ma’at. The Sun liquefies waters, orders and develops plant life, and is the maximum energy perceptible by Humans. The Sun (Râ) is therefore the Messenger of God. Our ancestors thus called the Creator Imana-Râ (Amen-Râ).
Since God created beings, then God is male and female, because only a couple can give birth and create life.
The whole universe is composed of contrary and complementary principles: sky-earth, water-air, woman-man etc…. The Creator was therefore unique before dividing into a male and a female principle. The woman and the man have therefore each inherited a part of the Creator.
The woman is more orderly, more faithful, more stable and it is in her womb containing also water that life evolves. When the child is born, it is still she who feeds him to continue his development. Man is physically stronger and is superior in terms of energy.
It stems from this that the man and the women received equal parts of the one Creator’s intelligence, but above all God put in the woman His-Her moral values and ability to generate and make life evolve, and put in man above all His-Her energy which serves to defend this life. Our ancestors therefore agreed that the woman is more a bearer of Ma’at than the man, that is why Ma’at is represented by a woman.
The woman is morally superior and gives life. The man is energetically superior. In harmony, then, the woman and the man must unite and complement each other in order to recreate the oneness of God and realize His-Her goal, which is to continue life. The woman will ordain and give life. The man will defend this life.
This divine order was codified by the writing of the myth of Isis and Osiris. Isis by her moral values begins to restore the good. She gives birth to Horus whom she makes grow and who, once an adult, by his physical strength, consecrates the restoration of the good.Aisata (Isis) and her son Horo (Horus), or Royal Mother and her son the King. Isis carries on her head the Sun Messenger of God, embedded between her cow horns feeding mother. She is, on the left, covered with gold to mark her superior solar character (Antik Forever).
This is why we see many women with yellowish skin in the Egyptian tombs.
Matriarchy was reinforced by the end of nomadic life and the start of sedentary life. In the first villages and cities, men went to war, to hunt, it was women especially who took direct care of the community. They have therefore been defined as the pillar.
The child bears the name of his mother, belongs to her family and is placed under the male tutelage of her brother. The uncle defends the rights of his sister and ensures that his nephews and nieces remain attached to their mother’s family.
At the level of power it is the woman who holds the rights. She is the Royal Mother, the highest figure in the state. She has her son the King executes the power and hands over the rights to her daughter, who bears the title of Royal Sister. The King is head of politics and head of armies. At his death he is succeeded by his sister’s son. Thus power passes from mother to daughter and is exercised by their respective sons.
The Isis is the Royal Daughter when she is born, Royal Sister when her brother becomes King, Great Royal Wife if she marries him, and Royal Mother when her own son becomes King.
Some argued that if the king in Africa chosed his sister’s child to succeed him, it was because he was sure that the child was of his blood, when he could not swear it for his own child. If that certainty has played a role, it’s not the only reason. If this had been the case, the king’s sister would have been a powerless person, charged only with giving birth to the heir. Now it is attested that she was particularly powerful
Cheikh Anta Diop said so in 1959 in L’Unité Culturelle de l’Afrique noire, page 111 “In Egypt it is the woman who inherits political rights but (…) it is her husband who reigns”. 60 years later, respected novelist and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said about the Igbo people of Nigeria “Men were generally more powerful, but women had power” .
The divine order of matriarchy was thus applied throughout the whole Africa.
Matriarchy in Southern Africa
In the prestigious civilization of Zimbabwe, the Mwene Mutapa (the emperor) was crowned by his mother and married his sister. The Namwari (Royal Mother) was the highest figure in the state.
Among the Venda of South Africa, the king ascended to the throne assisted by the eldest of his sisters (Khadzi) and his brother (Ndumi). When he died, his own son became king, the Khadzi became Makhadzi (Royal Mother) and the Ndumi became Khotsimunene (Royal Father). The king thus reigned with his paternal aunt and uncle. When the three could not agree, the Makhadzi had the last word.
In the kingdom of eSwatini (former Swaziland) until today, the king reigns with his mother who bears the title of Ndlovukati. She takes up this position on the day of the coronation. When the King (Ngwenyema) is unable to exercise power, the Ndlovukati reigns.Royal Arms of eSwatini
The lion represents the King. The elephant represents the Royal Mother. The lion is the animal with the greatest energy. Elephants are led by females.
About baTswana, the majority ethnic group of Botswana, Radcliffe-Brown and D Forde say in 1953 “In particular, a related maternal uncle must be consulted in all cases involving the children of his sister; his opinion is so important that sometimes, at the moment when the marriage is arranged, his veto can be decisive”.
In the refined Kuba kingdom at the south of the DR Congo, it was the matriarch who appointed the king and could remove him from the throne. The King was succeeded by his sister’s son.
Matriarchy in East Africa
During the Swahili civilization in Kenya-Tanzania, the absolute height of the region’s history, the King (Mfalme) ascended to the throne by marrying a royal princess.
In the kingdom of Buganda, the king (Kabaka) succeeded his father or his paternal brother, but reigned with his mother (Namasole) and was under the protection of her family. It was probably so also in the kingdom of Rwanda, hence the intrigues between women to see their respective sons rise to the throne.
Sudan undoubtedly represents the absolute climax of the African matriarchy, with the Royal Mothers (Kandake/Candace) of the Pharaonic era, who will also hold the office of King 2000 years ago. This tradition will continue even during the Orthodox Christian era, where the king was succeeded by his sister’s son.
In Ethiopia, the black queens of Sheba in the south of the Arabian Peninsula also ruled the country.
In Somalia, where women are sometimes stoned to death under Islamic sharia law, the Reer-Cambaro and Reer-Mayran clans are named after their female ancestors. These are the remains of an almost extinct tradition.
Matriarchy in Central Africa
Around Lake Chad, the gigantic empire of Kanem-Bornu flourished. The King (Mai) reigned with his mother (Magira) – the highest figure in the state – and with his sister.
Among the Bamileke of Cameroon, the Royal Mother (Mafo) had precedence over her son the King. The foundation of the Bamun kingdom, for its part, begins with Queen Yen. Until the time of the famous King Njoya, his mother Nzabdunke was powerful.The Royal Mother Nzabndunke, mother of Njoya. Njoya’s father died when he was a child, she assumed the office of King.
Among the Fang of Cameroon-Gabon-Equatorial Guinea, the children were named after their mothers. Thus, large families in the city of Yaoundé (Mvog Atangana Mballa, Mvog Tsoungui Mballa, Mvog Fouda Mballa) are named after Mballa who was a woman.
In the Kongo Empire, the King venerated his mother and married his sister. In some Kongo clans to this day, men consider their sisters’ children more important than their own children.
Matriarchy in West Africa
Founded by the Soninke people in Mauritania-Mali, it was the Empire of Ghana, probably the richest State in the world in the 10th century, that inaugurated the Imperial era. The emperor (Tunkara) ruled with his mother and was succeeded by his sister’s son. If we do not know the extent of the powers of the Tunkara’s mother well, we can deduce them from the tradition of the Akan, who are of Soninke origin.
Among the Ashanti, an Akan people of today’s Ghana, the Asantehemaa (Royal Mother) appointed the King. Osei Tutu, venerable founder of the Ashanti Empire, was appointed by his grandmother. The King was succeeded by his sister’s son.
Among the Wolof of Senegal, it was a woman (Lingeer) who named the King (Brack), who was her husband, brother or son. The privileged relationship with the sister’s children was the rule.
In the empire of Mali which succeeded to ancient Ghana, the Arab traveller Ibn Battuta reported in the 14th century that the children were named after their maternal uncles. Mansa Kanku Musa, the illustrious emperor of Mali and the richest man in history, was named after his mother.
In the case of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso, when the sovereign (Mogho Naba) died, it was his eldest daughter who held the title of King during the funeral, the whole country came to bow down before her.
In the Kingdom of Danhomé in current Benin, the two prime ministers, Migan and Mehu, were under the tutelage of two Royal Mothers. In the magnificent kingdom of ancient Benin in Nigeria, the King (Oba) although succeeding his father, reigned with his mother, no major decision was made without her consent.
The Hausa, for their part, gave the matriarchy all his nobility. There are 17 reigning queens before Islam. The King ruled with his mother (Madaki-Magadjiya) and his sister. The Royal Sister Amina, the greatest of the Hausa queens, thus assumed the functions of King and Madaki at the death of her brother Karama.
Matriarchy also existed among the Fulani. It is still the rule within the non-muslim Wodaabe clan. It is the woman who chooses her lover or husband.
Matriarchy in North Africa
In Egypt Pharaoh reigns with his mother and marries his sister to legitimize his power. He is succeeded by his own son, who is therefore also his uterine nephew, that is, his sister’s son. In homes it is up to the woman to establish order and rules. She is in front of the law equal to the man. She inherits like him.
Finally, among the Berbers of Libya and the Maghreb, who were originally black, the leaders ruled with their mothers and sisters. The inheritance was given to the uterine nephew, a tradition that astonished Ibn Battuta.
Note on matriarchy in the rest of the world
As Africans have inhabited every continent, they have exported matriarchy everywhere. It was therefore found in South Asia, Southern Europe and Oceania. This is why people of Asian origin who today live in Africa (Madagascar) traditionally practice matriarchy.
Matriarchy among the Amerindians is due to the mixed origins of this people. They are – essentially – a mixture of Mongols from Asia, and original American blacks, themselves from Oceania and Asia. The continent was then civilized by the Egyptians.
Ancient America, culturally, religiously and when it comes to civilization, was an extension of the pharaonic African world.
When Blacks – in the early times – arrived in the north of Eurasia, the glacial and food-poor climate forced them to a nomadic life and a warrior culture to monopolize scarce resources.
In these regions where the Black will become white, the woman is a burden for these constant movements. She is also less able to wage war. The woman’s physical disadvantage will be retained only, her moral role will have no value here. That is how she was seen as inferior.
This misogyny was inscribed in the white and patriarchal religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
So it was Islam and the colonial laws of Christian Europe that destroyed matriarchy in Africa. Everywhere the colonists had women’s institutions banned.
The distinguished African-Caribbean historian Sylvia Serbin said „At the time when matriarchy was at its peak in black Africa, the woman had power. With Islam and Christianity, the political role was taken away“ .
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie adds, “The arrival of colonialism was accompanied by Victorian Christianity, which contained the terrible, white idea of women’s submission and the idea that the woman’s place was the kitchen and the bedroom”.
Since European women made their feminist revolution in the 20th century, we thus arrive at an incredible reversal of history, where women in the West are free and in Africa they suffer many discriminations.
It must be said that it has only been a century since the West saw women as human beings while Africa from the beginning considered them superior.
The behaviour of some African men in the face of Africa’s matriarchal past
While many black men are swollen with pride in the past, the evocation of the matriarchal tradition provokes angry reactions in others. They grew up in a society that glorifies them as all-powerful and gives them social and economic privileges.
The eternal and supposed inferiority of women is the moral foundation of the unequal system which benefits only them, and which they intend to maintain. If they are not at the root of the current unfair system, they are living it very comfortably.
Just as the white world has built and takes advantage of the supposed inferiority of Blacks to have economic and social privileges, these African men hold this physical inferiority of women to secure their advantages.
Just as so many white people know that the history of Blacks civilizers of the world is destroying the moral foundations of their privileges, these African men know that the glorious past of the black woman destroys the foundations of inequality that only benefit them. Everyone feels threatened by their unjustly acquired privileges.
Racism and sexism ultimately have the same goal: to drive away respectively the Blacks and women of the human species, to build an unequal system, and justify the natural and effortless obtaining of privileges.
The complementary system of matriarchy, derived from Ma’at, was regarded as the organization willed by God. Matriarchy was never imposed on African men, but accepted – in the reading of Creation – as Imana’s will and defended by men.
Once again Ma’at is everywhere, absolutely everywhere in ancient Africa, in every theory, every act. To have gone from the only laws of Creation to build everything is absolutely remarkable.
Africa therefore does not need feminism to solve women’s problems. We must return to our spirituality and philosophy. We are going like our ancestors, to solve these problems in harmony.Dowry in Africa
The bridegroom’s family brings gifts to the bride’s family. Since women are more valuable than men, it is a question of men giving more to upgrade themselves. In the Nordic countries, dowry was given to man.
The dowry is present everywhere in Africa, even if Africans no longer know why they practice it. The dowry shows no signs of weakening. It is the most universal remnant of the black world and the best preserved of the matriarchy.
By: Lisapo ya Kama ©
- L’unité culturelle de l’Afrique noire, Cheikh Anta Diop
- The role of Makhadzi in traditional leadership among the Venda, Pfarelo Eva Matshidze ; University of Zululand.
- D’hier à aujourdhui, la puissance du féminisme africain ; Angeles Jurado ; Courrier International.
-  D’hier à aujourdhui, la puissance du féminisme africain ; Angeles Jurado ; Courrier International.
-  L’unité culturelle de l’Afrique noire, Cheikh Anta Diop, page 68
-  Ces grandes dames qui ont fait l’Afrique, Natacha Appanah ; Jeune Afrique
‘The colonizers usually say that it was they who brought us into history. Today we will show that this is not so. They made us leave history, our history, to follow them in their train, right at the back, in the train of their history’ Amilcar Cabral (1924-1973), father of the independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.
February 10, 2005. Under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, a law is passed by the French Parliament and aims to include the acknowledgment of the “positive role” of colonization in school syllabuses. Faced by the turmoil it created, the law is repealed a year later. Opinion polls showed that 2/3 of French people thought that colonization had a positive role. In the United Kingdom, 44% of the British are proud of their colonial past against 21% who regret it according to YouGov in 2016.
In August 2016, former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon arrogantly said that colonization allowed France to “share its culture” with the colonized peoples. British Prime Minister Cameron will show his refusal to apologize for the imperialist past of his country.
In Africa, even without any study, one can say that colonization is seen as a good thing. The discourse on the emancipatory role of the European occupation is accepted, even if, nowadays, we reject the economic control. Africans tell themselves that given the backwardness in which they were before the arrival of white people, if there were some crimes during colonization, it was a necessary evil to exorcise the black man from his inferiority.
The European is presumed to have brought the black man down his creepers on which he has been swinging from time immemorial. Both Africans and Europeans think that Europe has taken Africa out of its natural savagery, saved her from barbarism, allowed her to enter history, modernity. Roughly, the “civilizing mission” of the West has been an entrenched historical view. Africans even argue over assessing the better colonization between the British’s and the French’s.Africans deeply think that without colonization, they would not have had all these big cities, these islets of modernity in the middle of a poor Africa.
Image: Nairobi, Kenya on the left; Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on the right
What is the relevance and the truth of the civilizing discourse that the West boasts of but in front of which Africans bow down? Can we talk about positive roles of colonization? How do we Africans have to perceive the colonial past? On this historical subject and its interpretation, we will try to tell you, with a complete historical perspective, what the reality was. This article is dedicated to our ancestors who experienced colonization.
The civilizing role of Africans in the world
Once we go back to history, real history, we realize that the Western assertion about colonization stumbles over a major obstacle: the fact that Europe – except Oceania – is the last continent to have experienced a major civilization. If there is one people who should be considered as the civilizers of humanity, it is the Blacks of Africa. Science sprouted and originated in southern Africa and the Great Lakes at the very dawn of humanity. That is why the black civilization of Egypt was the first monumental civilization in mankind history. Its great constructions began 7,000 to 17,000 years ago.
Blacks from Africa equally founded the first major Asian civilization, in India-Pakistan: the Indus Valley civilization whose apogee began 4200 years ago. Native Americans experienced their first monumental civilization about 4600 years ago. The very important role of Africans in the Olmec and civilizations in America leaves no room for doubt, in the light of archaeological discoveries.
Black Africans who settled in the Middle East, known as Canaanites or Phoenicians, are the ones who brought Europe into history by introducing the writing in Greece 3500 years ago. ALL famous Greek scholars (Pythagoras, Thales, Archimedes, Plato etc …) were educated in Africa where they learned the Egyptian philosophical theorems and concepts that are attributed to them today. Roman civilization was born thanks to the contribution of the Etruscans, a people who acquired their architectural knowledge in Egypt.The true civilizers of humanity: Africans
From left to right: Pharaoh Khufu, alleged builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza (Egyptian Museum of Cairo); A Phoenician in Spain (Museum of Cadiz); A Sudanese-Egyptian from the Olmec civilization, one of 11 colossal “Africoid” statues 2700 years old and found in Mexico.Africans, especially ancient Egyptians, have civilized the world and dominated it for 3000 years. Images: the Egyptian civilization, the Mayan civilization (which was at least partially black), the Carthaginian civilization of the Phoenicians, the black civilization of the Indus Valley
Therefore, Europe and the white man could not perform any civilizing mission for anything, since they were the last to experience civilization, and meanwhile, as Africans were building pyramids and going to America, they were banging on each other in caves with clubs. We ask the Europeans: Can one civilize the civilizers of humanity?
Africa before white people
From the reading of the above mentioned, it could be argued that Africa has probably declined after Egypt, has fallen into barbarism and that Europe has nevertheless pulled it out of this situation. Historical facts tell the opposite. In the 14th century, before the contact with Europe through slavery, Africa was probably the richest continent in the world.
It is a materially opulent and civilized Africa that Europeans came to find in the 15th century. Without having been absolutely perfect, Africa – before white people and out of Arab influence – was a society without a slave based economy, with complementarity and equality between the woman and the man, hardly experiencing famine, where everybody had a home, where peace reigned, where wars were less bloody, and where kings were governing for the good of their people.
But more importantly, the most important civilization in Europe at that time was the Moorish civilization in Spain and Portugal. Black Berbers of North Africa called Moors or Saracens – and Arabs – are the ones who built this civilization. Europe having fallen back into a semi-barbaric state and aggravated poverty after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the Africans who civilized it again. The Moorish civilization is at the origin of the famous European renaissance. Not only on the eve of the slave trade, Africa was immensely rich and Europe very poor, but this same Africa – with the Arabs – still civilized Europe.Kama (Africa) of the glorious Imperial Era: immensely rich and rooted in its culture. Mansa Kanku Musa, Emperor of Mali in the 14th century, is certified today by Celebrity Networth and Time Magazine as the richest man of all time. Even the Arabs, who dominated the world politically, made Africa the reference in terms of wealth. (Image: book cover from Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove, illustration by Leo and Diane Dillon)On the eve of the European slave trade, Africans still civilized poor and backward Europe of the Middle Ages, through the Blacks Berbers of the Maghreb called Moors or Saracens. Top: Moorish royal court of the 13th century in Spain (Jean Philippe Omotunde for Africamaat); Moorish dignitaries playing chess (The Golden Age of the Moor, Ivan Van Sertima, page 29)
Bottom: Moorish architecture in Spain
At this stage, one still wonders: what civilizing mission do Europeans speak of?
The European slave trade and the destruction of Africa
It can never be said enough, that it is the terrorism of the European slave trade that has put an end to the glorious history of Africa. Like the Islamic State, the European slavers, sent by the Vatican, destroyed every African civilization that they came across and massacred entire peoples in order to capture those who would be enslaved to produce the sugar and coffee that emerging Europe loved, in the name of Jesus Christ.Europeans destroyed the rich Kongo Empire, the brilliant Swahili civilization in Tanzania-Kenya, the gigantic Monomotapa Empire in southern Africa.
Africans resisted to death
Images: vestiges of the Swahili civilization on the left, Monomotapa civilization (Zimbabwe) on the right
Africa has declined because of the arrival of Europeans with their firearms, it is an irrefutable historical fact. These 350 years of terrorism associated with that of the Arab slavers are the cause of the decline of Africa. 400 to 600 million African lives were lost during that period, ie from 66 to 75% of the population. This is the biggest crime in the history of humanity.
If Europe destroyed Africa during the slave trade, how can it be said that Europe brought Africa something by colonizing it? This is why we must answer the following question:
What exactly was colonization?
The motivation of the colonialists was the same as that of the slavers, namely enrichment, combined here with the need for racial and cultural supremacy. After the apocalypse of the slave trade, it is an agonizing Africa that the Europeans came to conquer.African civilizations that survived the slave trade were completely destroyed by colonization. The resistance to colonial invasion was absolutely heroic. Our ancestors, knowing that they were going to die, were litterally throwing themselves on the gunnery to prevent the advance of Europeans, and were exploded into pieces. Entire villages were razed and only a few people survived in some cases.
Images : Ruins of the Ashanti civilization (Ghana) on the left, Danhome civilization (current Benin) on the right
Colonization was slavery
Slavery continued in Africa until the 1940s in most cases, through forced labor. Angolans probably experienced the worst form of slavery at that time, as the Portuguese master did not feed the slave, who would die of exhaustion and hunger after a few weeks. The master then ordered other blacks to replace him. Quite simple!
Millions of Africans, men, women and children, were subjected to forced labor during the colonial occupation, whipped, hungered, women and children taken hostage and starved, to force men to go to forced labor, where the death rate exceeded everything. When enslaved Africans rebelled, the villages were burnt down and the men beheaded.
Slavery was used for the extraction of mineral resources, agricultural production and the construction of infrastructure to transport all this wealth to the ports for Europe. The people were subject to extortion and forced to pay the colonial tax. In this way they gave the colonists their own agricultural products, their cattle, and saw their lands taken away and they were dying of hunger. Villages that refused to pay were burned down and their warriors massacred. The immune system of the Africans was weakened by the famine, epidemics of all kinds were therefore rampant, making hecatombs.Top left: Black people dressed in rags working by force under the supervision of French masters in Côte d’Ivoire.
Bottom left: women chained by the Germans to construct roads in Tanzania;
Bottom right: forced labor by sadism.
What is the difference from slavery?
The French historian and geographer Louise Marie Diop-Maes, who has done a titanic work on the effects of both slave trades and colonization in her book Afrique noire, sol, démographie et histoire, tells us about slavery in DR Congo: “After the harvest was ordered, the inhabitants had started refusing, fleeing or hiding in the surrounding bushes and in the caves where “they were removed with grenade”. To intensify the harvest, night work was imposed. Completely discouraged, exhausted, and stupefied, the villagers planted nothing: famine, diseases (including the edema of concentration camps), death settled down; Corpses were unearthed to be eaten. The less sick ended up finishing “those more affected to eat them”. 
Colonization was the theft of African wealth
The abundant natural wealth of Africa became Westerners’ property. Our oil, our diamonds, our bauxite, our uranium, our iron, our wood, our cocoa etc … then belonged to the western multinational companies and enriched Europe which had already got out of poverty thanks to the gigantic financial profits of the slave trade. Have Africans benefited from the exploitation of their resources at home? Of course not.
Colonization was racial segregation
From the indigenous peoples code in the French colonies, to places prohibited to Blacks in the British colonies or to the apartheid policy of the Dutch colonizers in South Africa, Africans were relegated in their own lands as sub-men, without the right to vote, with confiscation of land and property, excluded from the management of their countries unless they were zealous collaborators, evolved as it was said in the French colonies. The white man was a god in Africa during colonization.
Colonization was cultural and religious alienation
The demonization of African cultures and Religion, the belittling of our African languages to the status of dialect, the imposition of christianity with the white Jesus as divine figure, consequently the whitewashing of God’s image in the African’s subconscious and the legitimation of white supremacy, the forgery of the glorious African history. Even our ancestors, colonization stole them away from us. What is left to you when your parents are stolen?
Colonization has cleverly brainwashed Africans, making them believe that their cultural heritage is inferior and diabolical, and that therefore if they want to save themselves they must kill their identity to enter modernity.
The colonizers brought us English, French and Portuguese, they say. Languages presented as infinitely superior, the only ones allowing access to knowledge. They forget to say that it was in a language close to Wolof and Tshiluba that the Greeks received science and even religion in Egypt. The settlers taught us how to have good manners, having elegance etc … They forget to say that it was a black man from Iraq, Ziryab, who introduced the art of the table in Europe during the Moorish civilization.
They brought us writing, sciences … that we taught them with the Egyptian-Phoenician contact, and forget to say that there are systems of writing that have survived until today in Africa. They made us know God … whereas every time they finish praying, they pronounce the name of our black God by saying Amen …
Colonization was crimes
If many Africans think that colonization was a good thing, it is because they seriously underestimate, ignorant of the facts, the extent of the crimes that have been committed. Here are some non-exhaustive figures:
- The repression of the Kenyan independatists by the British, 1952-1960: 90,000 dead
- The Namibian genocide by the Germans, 1904-1907: 100,000 dead
- Famine in the very fertile Uganda under English occupation, 1918-1919: 100,000 dead 
- The repression of Cameroonian nationalists by France, 1955-1971: 60,000 to 120,000 dead
- The repression of the Malagasy nationalists by France, 1947-1949: 89,000 to 200,000 dead 
- The epidemic of sleeping sickness in Uganda under English occupation, 1906: 200,000 deaths 
- Repression of the Maji Maji uprising by the Germans in Tanzania, 1905-1907: 325,000 dead
- The colonial invasion of Madagascar by France, 1894-1904: 500,000 dead
- The policy of enslavement of the King of Belgium Leopold II in DR Congo, 1890-1911: 12 to 32 million dead 
Top left: the severed heads of Cameroonian nationalists by France
Top right: Hacked hands of Congolese under Belgian occupation
Bottom left: a concentration camp in Kenya where the British inflicted unspeakable torture to the nationalists: Rape, castration, drowning simulation, hanging, some were even roasted alive.
Bottom right: the severed heads of the Mozambican nationalists by the Portuguese
From the beginning of colonization around 1880 until 1930, sub-Saharan Africa experienced 73 million more human losses than those of slavery. By 1930, the African population was almost extinct. The two slave trades and colonization therefore reduced, directly and indirectly, the African population by 78 to 84%. This is extermination.
What about all the infrastructures built by the colonizers?
Here we touch the heart of the pride of colonial nations and their peoples. Look at all these roads, these railroads, these buildings that we left you, they tell us. Let’s recall that Africa was covered with incredibly organized cities before the European slave trade, and that the vestiges of our past architectural feats are there to answer the insulting allusions of those who are nostalgic of colonization.
Translation: these infrastructures were made with the blood of our ancestors, for the only exploitation of Africa by Europeans and not for the Africans’ sake.
It should be added that black people, especially African-Americans, participated in the advent of all the new technologies that are believed to be peculiar to the European. Lewis Latiwer co-invented the telephone and invented the long-span bulb, Frederick Patterson and George Washington Carver participated in the advent and improvement of the automobile, Granville Woods and William Burr the train, Frederick Jones was a pioneer in the field of refrigeration and air conditioning, Alexander Miles the elevator, Mark Dean the computer, Charles Drew invented the blood bank, Gerald Lawson invented the modern video game console, the Ghanaian George Mensah has revolutionized the optic fiber producing high-speed internet, the Guadeloupian Raoul Nicolo revolutionized television etc … We do not even talk about all black people who made the greatness of the NASA.
All these technologies had the support of Africans and could have appeared in Africa, with or without colonization. They are not “white things” as we like to say.Africans have participated in inventions in all fields since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the West. Just like the real African history, the history of these Africans is knowingly hidden by the West in order to reinforce its fictitious historical supremacy. (From left to right: Granville Woods, Lewis Latimer, and Raoul Nicolo).
One can only wonder what Africa would be today if it had not met the Europeans of slavery and colonization. Africa would probably be very advanced.
In short, if it is the Africans who civilized the world and civilized Europe twice, if Europe has no civilizing role, if Europe destroyed Africa during the slave trade and put an end to its glorious history, if it made it lose 73 million people during the colonization for its enrichment only, if colonization was the continuity of slavery with plunder, segregation and cultural mindlessness, if all these new technologies which one believes exclusively European might have emerged in Africa, what are the positive roles that colonial nations and their peoples are talking about?
It’s simple, colonization was death, slavery, misery, mindlessness on a continental scale. Colonization is nothing but crime, crime against humanity, one of the major crimes committed against all Africans with the European slave trade and the Arab slave trade. There was nothing good in colonization. And anyone who speaks in a positive way about colonization is making an apologia for crimes against humanity, insulting us and insulting our ancestors. If colonization were about sharing culture, as Mr Fillon said, then Hitler also went to share his culture.Hitler sharing his culture with the French in 1940
Today the problem of Africans, basically, is that they do not enjoy “the benefits of colonization”. Our problem is that we want to live rich and westernized and not poor and westernized. We do not fight to be African, we fight especially to live like white people in Africa, with their languages, their cultures, their religions, their materialistic and individualist philosophy, the slave names and colonized names they gave us. Even in the fight against economic and political neocolonialism, the positive character of colonization is admitted due to ignorance of the past.
It is not only the neocolonial economic and political systems that must be questioned. Colonial languages, colonial culture, colonial religions, colonial historiography, colonial philosophy, and colonial names must go away together with the neocolonial economy and political system. Africa must fight to become Africa again. This return to Africa in all areas of thought is called Afrocentricity. It is an Afrocentric approach that will truly liberate Africa.
We thank our ancestors who fought against the colonial invasion and struggled so that we do not experience slavery, so that we get the partial freedom we have today.
We end here with the Carribean poet and anticolonialist Aimé Césaire, who always knew how to find the words for history :
“Between colonizer and colonized there is room only for forced labor, intimidation, pressure, the police, taxation, theft, rape, compulsory crops, contempt, mistrust, arrogance, self-complacency, swinishness, brainless elites, degraded masses. No human contact, but relations of domination and submission which turn the colonizing man into a classroom monitor, an army sergeant, a prison guard, a slave driver, and the indigenous man into an instrument of production.
My turn to state an equation: colonization = “thingification.”
I hear the storm. They talk to me about progress, about “achievements;” diseases cured, improved standards of living. I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out.
They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks. I am talking about thousands of men sacrificed to the Congo-Ocean. I am talking about those who, as I write this, are digging the harbor of Abidjan by hand. I am talking about millions of men torn from their gods, their land, their habits, their life—from life, from the dance, from wisdom. I am talking about millions of men in whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to have an inferiority complex, to tremble, kneel, despair, and behave like flunkeys.” Discours sur le colonialisme, pages 23 and 24.
-  Afrique noire, sol, démographie et histoire, Louise Marie Diop-Maes, page 241
-  Idem, page 251
-  40 ans d’histoire de Madagascar, Louis Molet, page 92
-  Afrique noire, sol, démographie et histoire, Louise Marie Diop-Maes, page 253
- By : Lisapo ya Kama © .
“It starts when children are young. The moment a child is born, relatives start comparing siblings’ skin color. It starts in your own family. But people don’t want to talk about it openly.”
Kavitha Emmanuel is the founder of Women of Worth, an Indian NGO that is standing up to an ingrained bias toward lighter skin. The Dark is Beautiful campaign, launched in 2009, is not “anti-white,” she explains, but about inclusivity—beauty beyond color. It carries celebrity endorsement, most notably the Bollywood actor Nandita Das. A blog provides a forum for people to share their personal stories of skin colour bias. And the campaign runs media literacy workshops and advocacy programs in schools to convey messages of self-esteem and self-worth to young children. This is to counteract what Emmanuel says she has seen even in school textbooks, where a picture of a fair-skinned girl is labeled “beautiful” and a darker one “ugly.”
“Some children are really shocked that this is something that has affected them so intensely. Some are in tears,” Emmanuel says.
The perfect life from perfect skin, a life that’s only bestowed upon those of the right shade – that’s the message, the attitude, the mindset that’s being passed down. It’s spawned a multibillion-dollar industry encompassing not just cosmetic creams but invasive procedures such as skin bleaching, chemical peels, laser treatments, steroid cocktails, “whitening” pills and intravenous injections – all with varying effectiveness and health risks. It’s more than a bias, it’s a cultural obsession, and one that’s becoming dangerous.
The business of racism
Multinational cosmetics brands have found a lucrative market: global spending on skin lightening is projected to triple to US $31.2 billion by 2024, according to a report released in June 2017 by the research firm Global Industry Analysts.
The driving force, they say, is “the still rampant darker skin stigma and rigid cultural perception that correlates lighter skin tone with beauty and personal success.”
“This is not bias. This is racism,” says Sunil Bhatia, a professor of human development at Connecticut College. Bhatia has recently written in US News & World Report about “deep-rooted internalized racism and social hierarchies based on skin color.”
In India, these were codified in the caste system, the ancient Hindu classification in which birth determined occupation and social stratum. At the top, Brahmins were priests and intellectuals. At the bottom, outcastes were confined to the least-desired jobs, such as latrine cleaners. Bhatia says caste may have been to do with more than occupation: the darker you looked, the lower your place in the social hierarchy.“All around the world, it was a fact that the rich could stay indoors versus the poor who worked outside and were dark-skinned.”
This preference for fair skin was perpetuated and strongly reinforced by colonialism, not just in India but in dozens of countries where a European power established its dominance. It’s the idea that the ruler is fair-skinned, says Emmanuel. “All around the world, it was a fact that the rich could stay indoors versus the poor who worked outside and were dark-skinned.”
The final wave of influence is modern-day globalization. “There is an interesting whiteness traveling from the US to malls [in other countries] featuring white models,” Bhatia tells me. “You can trace a line from colonialism, post-colonialism and globalization.” Western beauty ideals, including fair skin, predominate worldwide. And with these ideals come products to service them.
In Nigeria, 77% of the country’s women use skin-lightening agents, compared with 59% in Togo and 27% in Senegal. But the largest and fastest-growing markets are in the Asia-Pacific region.
In India, a typical supermarket will have a wall of personal care products featuring “whitening” moisturizer or “lightening” body creams from recognizable brands.
Pooja Kannan, a 27-year-old from Mumbai, spent years buying cosmetics that promised to lighten her complexion. For a while she put her faith in a cream, face wash and soap for treating “skin fairness problems.” She used the products sparingly, since buying new ones still cost her 200–300 rupees every two months – equivalent to a week’s worth of travel to her college campus. Over four years of use, she tells me, her skin did lighten up a little, though she wonders whether that was due to the cream or her taking more care when going out in the sun.
Kannan’s natural skin tone looks a healthy light brown to me, but when she was growing up, her elder aunts would shake their heads in disappointment over her complexion. A tan would lead some relatives and classmates to admonish her. “You’ve turned black,” they said. And in India, where skin tone often defines a person’s success in society and their ability to find work or a spouse, that sort of thing matters. Kannan says she brushed off her relatives’ criticism as being from a different generation, but her classmates’ comments made her feel insecure.
“It didn’t affect me right then but when I was getting dressed up to go out, I would remember what they said and put on more make-up,” she says. “Especially when I was in 11th and 12th grades, there were two or three girls who would say these things a lot. They were trying to be helpful but to me it sounded condescending. And it was hypocritical too because it wasn’t like they were fair or beautiful or perfect themselves.”
Society reminded Kannan of it too. She is a professional dancer, and says, “The prettier, skinnier and fairer girls are positioned at the front of the stage. That gets to you.”“The prettier, skinnier and fairer girls are positioned at the front of the stage. That gets to you.”
This preference for fair skin is reinforced in movies, television programs and especially advertising. In 2016, actor Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) had to issue a statement saying she would no longer endorse products which “do not always reflect the diverse beauty of all women” after criticisms of her earlier appearance in ads in Asia for Lancôme’s Blanc Expert line, used for skin lightening. (In a statement, Lancôme emphazised the product’s ‘evening’ rather than lightening properties, saying that it “helps brighten, evens skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion. This kind of product, proposed by every brand, is an essential part of Asian women’s beauty routines.”)
The Advertising Standards Council of India has attempted to address skin-based discrimination in 2014 by banning ads depicting people with darker skin as inferior, but the products are still marketed. Ads for skin-lightening creams still appear in newspapers, on television and on billboards, featuring Bollywood celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. In multiple Facebook posts in April 2017, actor Abhay Deol called out several of his colleagues for endorsing fairness creams, following it up with an opinion piece in the Hindustan Times in which he wrote that “advertising preaches that we would get a better job, a happier marriage, and more beautiful children if we were fair. We are conditioned to believe that life would have been easier had we been born fairer.”
The price of skin lightening
Skin lightening is not the sole preserve of the modern cosmetics industry.
India’s traditional Ayurveda medical system teaches that pregnant women can improve their fetus’s complexion by drinking saffron-laced milk and eating oranges, fennel seeds and coconut pieces. In early 2017, an Ayurvedic practitioner in Kolkata led a session for expectant couples, promising that even dark-skinned, short parents could have tall and fair children.
And a 2012 study by a women’s health charity in India found that childless couples often insisted on and paid more for surrogates who were beautiful and fair, though the woman contributed no genetic material to the baby.
Arguably, nowhere is the fair skin preference as ingrained as in classified ads placed in newspapers seeking a marriage partner. Along with requirements for the prospective bride’s or groom’s caste, religion, profession and education, physical characteristics are listed too. Someone described as “dusky” may be skipped in favor of one who is of a “fair” complexion.
In April 2017, the Times of India media group placed its own notice exhorting parents to emphasize a daughter’s profession and educational qualifications ahead of whether she was “fair.”
“Potential brides spend a lot of money, it’s really unlimited, in the months before the wedding,” says Ema Trinidad, a Filipina beautician who runs a spa in Bengaluru. “I was so surprised when I came here that your chances of getting married depend on your skin color. We don’t have that in the Philippines.”
The mindset is so normalized that people accept treatments as a part of wedding preparations – men as well as women. When Karthik Panchapakesan got married in 2001, he was intrigued by ads for a “complete makeover” and decided to try it out before his wedding reception, along with his brother-in-law.
“I had never gone to a salon before,” says Panchapakesan, a 50-year-old media specialist working in community radio. They went to an unnamed salon in Hyderabad where, he told me, “The massage felt really good. Then they put this fruity and flowery white paste all over my forehead, cheeks, nose and chin. They promised it would even out my skin.”
Panchapakesan says his eyes started burning after about five minutes and he got an irritation around his nose because the sweet smell turned to acrid fumes. He suspected it was based on ammonia.
“It was more chemical than horseradish,” he says. “I didn’t know what it is because they were pumping it out of toothpaste-like tubes. I say, ‘I’m not liking this.’ They say it will rejuvenate the skin and kept it on for 20 minutes.”
When it was all done, the two men’s faces looked as if they had been dusted with talcum powder. When they arrived at Panchapakesan’s wedding reception, his wife asked him, “Why are you both looking so strange and funny? What have you done to yourselves?” He says, “It was not a transformation, it was a deformation.”
To cool the burning sensation and moisturize his dry skin, he applied coconut oil as a healing balm for three days. He has sworn off beauty parlors ever since.
Bleaching is a common treatment that lightens not the skin itself but the fine hairs on the face. Most skin-lightening treatments target the skin’s ability to produce pigment, or melanin, which gives your skin, hair and eyes their color. Everyone has about the same number of cells to make melanin but how much you actually produce is down to your genes. Darker-skinned people produce more. When exposed to the sun, the body produces more melanin to absorb harmful UV rays and protect skin cells. And having more natural melanin also means that darker-skinned people tend to develop fewer wrinkles and are less at risk of skin cancer.
Skin-lightening creams often aim to interrupt the production of melanin or just improve the general health of the skin. They can contain a natural ingredient such as soy, liquorice or arbutin, sometimes combined with the medical lightening agent hydroquinone (though not all creams contain this – hydroquinone is a potentially carcinogenic ingredient and products containing it are banned or restricted in Ghana, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Japan, Australia and the European Union, though they are still used illegally). Vitamin B3 is another common ingredient, but another previously found in lightening creams and soaps is mercury, the World Health Organization has warned. Mercury suppresses the production of melanin but it can also damage the kidneys and brain if it is absorbed by the skin and accumulates in the body.
Other lightening methods include a chemical peel, which removes the top layer of your skin. This leaves fresher skin exposed to harmful solar radiation and environmental pollutants. Laser treatments offer an even more aggressive approach by breaking up a skin’s pigmentation, sometimes with skin-damaging results.
The fairness obsession
Dr. Mukta Sachdev, a clinical and aesthetic dermatologist in Bengaluru, recalls two cases of Indian men who came to her after undergoing laser treatments while working in South Korea. They were each in their late 20s and getting ready for marriages. One man developed redness on his face and the other had little white dots – “confetti-like” depigmentation. Sachdev suspects the technicians in South Korea weren’t used to working with darker skin. “You need to use less aggressive settings when doing laser. It’s very hard when losing pigmentation,” she says. She was able to treat the redness, but the white patches remained despite her efforts to stimulate the pigment to return.
Many prospective patients come to her seeking skin lightening, but before offering them any treatment she counsels them to think less about light and dark and more about evenly toned, healthy skin. “I’m trying to get away from this fairness obsession,” she explains. “Being hung up on dark skin can lead to low self-esteem and lower on the quality of life index.”
“There’s a pressure on Indian men and women, among themselves,” says Dr Sujata Chandrappa, a Bengaluru-based dermatologist. “They have some role model in their head and they want to get there no matter what. That’s the wrong concept.” Chandrappa says clients often come in wanting the skin tone of a favorite Bollywood celebrity.
“If your obsession is just with color, then I would outright tell them that I’m more worried that you’re unnecessarily seeking something you don’t need,” she tells me. “If I encourage them too much, I get the sense that I’m promoting racism.”
Shannah Mendiola spends 3,200 rupees (US$50) a month on skin-lightening supplements – a lot by local standards, but Mendiola has a well-paying job with a multinational company. Originally from the Philippines, but now working in Bengaluru, Mendiola says she has been taking the pills for the last five years, not just for lighter skin but for their antioxidant properties.
“I like going to the beach and I feel really dark after a holiday,” she tells me by email. “I would always prefer to buy and use skincare products that contain skin-whitening ingredients – like my body lotion, face wash and moisturizer. In the Philippines, it’s always a plus if you are fair.”
Mendiola describes herself as morena – not too fair and not too dark – and says that her skin returns to its natural colour faster when she uses the pills. “Having an even skin tone that’s healthy and glowing gives me more self-confidence when I meet people for work. Why not? Don’t we all want to look good?”
The pills she takes are glutathione, an antioxidant naturally produced by the liver that can protect the skin from UV rays and free radicals, which contribute to skin damage and pigmentation.
A more direct form of treatment is glutathione injections. These are commonly used to counteract the side-effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, hair loss or difficulty breathing, but their growing popularity for skin lightening has led to official concern.
In 2011 the Philippine Food and Drug Administration issued a public warning about an “alarming increase in the unapproved use of glutathione administered intravenously,” reporting on adverse effects which included skin rashes, thyroid and kidney dysfunction, and even potentially fatal Stevens–Johnson syndrome, in which the skin peels from the body as if burned.
And in 2015 the US Food and Drug Administration warned of the potentially significant safety risk to consumers: “You’re essentially injecting an unknown substance into your body – you don’t know what it contains or how it was made.”
Nevertheless, there is growing consumer demand. Mendiola has taken two treatments of injectable glutathione but mostly relies on pills.
Dr Mukta Sachdev refuses to administer the injections despite repeated requests from her patients – “I practise on evidence-based dermatology and there’s not enough literature supporting the use of injectable glutathione.” Worryingly, there are YouTube videos showing how to self-inject glutathione.
Dr Sujata Chandrappa does administer glutathione injections. She says she has seen no side effects so far, but is nonetheless wary, always starting with the lowest possible dose. I ask if it really works. She tells me of a woman who dreaded injections but whose yearning for lighter skin overrode her fear. Three months after the injections, her entire body was about two shades lighter and any dark spots had lessened. It lasted for a year. Chandrappa says the woman is considering repeating the procedure.
“From a medical perspective, it is not possible to lighten skin permanently, but you can even it out,” Sachdev tells me. In fact, many of Sachdev’s and Chandrappa’s patients are actually people seeking treatment for problems with other skin-lightening procedures – primarily the use of topical steroid creams.
India’s pharmaceutical regulator has approved at least 18 different corticosteroids for topical skin use, ranging from mild to super-potent. These usually cost less than US$2 a tube and most pharmacies across the country will dispense them, even without a prescription.
People apply them indiscriminately to treat pimples or for fairer skin, but steroid creams take off the protective outer layer of the skin so it is more exposed to UV rays and environmental pollutants such as smog and cigarette smoke. But more worrying is that they can be addictive, says Dr Shyamanta Barua, a dermatologist and honorary secretary general of the Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists.
“The moment the patient stops using the cream, the skin reacts, gets irritated, develops rashes,” he says. “So the patient starts the cream again and it’s a vicious cycle. They become psychologically addicted.” He thinks users should be counselled as if they were addicted to recreational drugs or alcohol.
The dermatologists’ association is lobbying for topical steroid skin medications to be added to the Schedule H list, which would restrict their availability in pharmacies by requiring a doctor’s prescription. They met with the Drug Controller General of India in March 2017, though Dr Shyam B Verma, the dermatologist who heads these efforts, seems pessimistic as to whether any action would be forthcoming. “These products are just a minuscule part of the overall drug industry so it’s not a priority,” he tells me.
“[Pharmacies] dispense them like boxes of cookies. The drug companies know this is a drug and it’s not supposed to be used to lighten constitutive skin. But they label them with suggestive names like Skin Bright, Skin Light, Skin Shine, Look Bright.”
Furthermore, only around 35 per cent of pharmacies have a legitimate pharmacist on staff, so there is often no one to counsel the buyer on appropriate dosage and use of the cream.
Even worse, there are signs that improper steroid prescriptions – often in cocktails containing a mix of steroids, antibiotics and antifungals – may be fuelling a surge in bugs resistant to normal treatments. An editorial in the dermatologists’ association’s online journal last year says, “Today, we are facing an onslaught of chronic and recurrent dermatophytosis [fungal infections] in volumes never encountered previously. Over the last 3–4 years, the frequency of such cases has increased alarmingly.”
Dr Rajetha Damisetty, a cosmetic dermatologist based in the southern city of Hyderabad, tells me of one combination containing clobetasol – the most potent steroid known to man, which is used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like eczema – mixed with two antibiotics and two antifungals. “Only India has this crazy combination,” Damisetty says, and the result is a “nightmare”.
Normally, she says, “around 70–90 per cent of those affected by fungal infections would have used topical steroids for treatment and they would respond within two weeks. Now we have to give four times the dosage for eight to 12 weeks. It’s an epidemic across the entire country.”
The dermatologists’ association is trying to educate physicians, especially general practitioners who indiscriminately prescribe steroid creams, about proper prescriptions. They are also engaging with pharmaceutical companies, which has borne some fruit – in April 2017, one company distributed flyers to 50,000 pharmacies warning: “Steroids are potentially harmful. Do not use without a prescription.”
Turning the tides
But they’re fighting more than just bad medical practice or even consumer habits. They’re fighting millennia-old preferences for lighter skin. Erasing those will require a change of mindset. This is perhaps easier to do in the young – after all, social signals about the value of fair skin begin as soon as they are born.
Kavitha Emmanuel believes that people are more aware of the issue than ever before and hopes that the next generation will see things differently – not just in India but across the world. In 2016, three students at the University of Texas, Austin, started an Instagram campaign called Unfair & Lovely – a play on India’s most popular fairness cream, Fair & Lovely. The #unfairandlovely hashtag invited darker-skinned people to share their photos. And in 2013, a young woman in Pakistan, Fatima Lodhi, launched the country’s first anti-colourism movement, called Dark is Divine. Lodhi has written about the prejudice she faced as a child: “I never got a chance to become a fairy in my school plays because fairies are supposed to be fair-skinned!” Now, she leads sessions at schools to make students more aware about skin colour discrimination.
Attitudes are already starting to change, some say, especially among girls, who are gaining confidence with education, employment and financial independence outside the home. Emmanuel tells me of one Dark is Beautiful session at an all-girls middle school in the southern Indian city of Chennai last January. A dark-skinned teen – “stunningly beautiful but with deep self-esteem issues” – came up front. She was weeping because just that morning her brother had taunted her about her skin tone. But Emmanuel was more surprised when another, lighter-skinned, girl stood up. She said she’d believed dark was ugly until that moment, but apologised to her classmates with a promise to treat them better. “They all started clapping,” Emmanuel says. “That’s a big move for a teenager. She really had the bigness of heart to say something like that.”
But activists fear the market for skin-lightening treatments will endure as long as they are available. Beautician Ema Trinidad recalls one woman who came to her spa. Her fiancé had lighter skin and her future in-laws wanted her to be lighter before their wedding. “I felt sorry for her. She wasn’t really dark, she just had very dry skin, so I gave her a moisturising treatment,” Trinidad says. She advises clients about which products and treatments are effective and safe, but adds, “I cannot judge that it’s bad that you want to be white. My job… is to give you what you want.”
By Mary-Rose Abraham
Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop
Senegalese-born Cheikh Anta Diop (1923–1986) received his doctorate degree from the University of Paris and was a brilliant historian, anthropologist, physicist and politician and one of the most prominent and proficient Black scholars in the history of African civilization.
Contrary to the long-standing European myth of a Caucasian Egypt, Diop’s studies into origins of the human race and precolonial African culture established that ancient Egypt was founded, populated, and ruled by Black Africans; the Egyptian language and culture still exists in modern African languages (including his own Wolof language); and that Black Egypt was responsible for the rise of civilization throughout Africa and the Mediterranean, including Greece and Rome.
Diop also pioneered techniques of scientific research, such as carbon dating as a means of dating artifacts and remains, and the melanin dosage test he used to verify the melanin content of Egyptian mummies. Forensic investigators later adopted this technique to determine the “racial identity” of badly burned accident victims. Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, is named after him.
Dr. John Henrik Clarke
Dr. John Henrik Clarke (1915–1998) was a Pan-Africanist writer, historian, professor, and a pioneer in the establishment of Africana studies in professional institutions in academia starting in the late 1960s. He was a professor of African world history, and in 1969 he became the founding chairman of the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He also was the Carter G. Woodson Distinguished Visiting Professor of African History at Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center.
He challenged the mostly white academic historians and attributed their reluctance to acknowledge the historical contributions of Black people as part of the systematic and racist suppression and distortion of African history.
Clarke asserted: “Nothing in Africa had any European influence before 332 B.C. If you have 10,000 years behind you before you even saw a European, then who gave you the idea that he moved from the ice-age, came all the way into Africa and built a great civilization and disappeared, when he had not built a shoe for himself or a house with a window?”
Dr. Marimba Ani
Dr. Marimba Ani is an anthropologist and African studies scholar best known for her book “Yurugu,” a comprehensive critique of European thought and culture. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Chicago, and holds masters and doctorate degrees in anthropology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School University.
In her ground-breaking work, “Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior,” Ani uses an African perspective through the myths of the Dogon people and the language of Swahili to examine the impact of European cultural influence on Black people and the world. She developed a framework that methodically debunked the belief that Western civilization was the best, most constructive society ever built, and instead she pointed out its inherent destructive tendencies.
Dr. Amos Wilson
Dr. Amos N. Wilson(1941–1995) was a social caseworker, psychological counselor, supervising probation officer and training administrator in the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice. He was also an assistant professor of psychology at the City University of New York.
In his book “Black-on-Black Violence: The Psychodynamic of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination,” Wilson discredited the pervasive myth that Blacks are inherently criminal.
Not only did he chronicle the vast history of violence that was pervasive in American culture, but he also demonstrated how Black-on-Black violence and Black male criminality in the United States was a politically and economically engineered process designed to maintain the subservience and relative powerlessness of Black people and Black communities worldwide.
However, Wilson contended that bringing an end to Black-on-Black violence and criminality is the sole responsibility of all Black people. In his book he lays out practical and theoretical ways of eradicating it.
Ivan van Sertima
Dr. Ivan Gladstone Van Sertima(1935–2009) was a Guyanese-born associate professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He was best known for his work “They Came before Columbus,” which provided a pyramid of evidence to support the idea that ancient Africans were master shipbuilders who sailed from Africa to the Americas thousands of years before Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, and that the Africans traded with the indigenous people, leaving lasting influences on their cultures. In one example, Van Sertima presents evidence that Emperor Abubakari of Mali used these “almadias” or longboats to make a trip to the Americas during the 1300s.
Van Sertima methodically demonstrates that these Blacks were not slaves, but traders and priests who were honored and venerated by the Native Americans who built statues — Olmec heads — in their honor. In the closing of the book, he decried the notion of “discovery” by Columbus.
In 1987, Van Sertima testified before a United States congressional committee to oppose recognition of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas. He said, “You cannot really conceive of how insulting it is to Native Americans … to be told they were discovered.”
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing (1935–2016) was an African-American psychiatrist practicing in Washington, D.C. She was noted for her books the “Cress Theory of Color Confrontation” and “The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors,” which explore and define the global system of white supremacy.
In “The Isis Papers,” Welsing contradicts the notion that white supremacy was rooted in an idea of genetic superiority. Instead, she presents a psychogenetic theory suggesting whites fear genetic annihilation because their genes are recessive to the majority of the world’s population, which consists of people of color — the most threatening being black. Therefore they established white supremacy to prevent people of color from diluting their genes and subsequently rendering them extinct.
Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan
Dr. Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan, also known as Dr. Ben, (1918–2015) was an Ethiopian-Puerto Rican writer, historian and Egyptologist. Ben-Jochannan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering at the University of Puerto Rico in 1938, and earned his master’s degree in architectural engineering from the University of Havana, Cuba in 1938. He received his doctoral degrees in cultural anthropology and Moorish history from the University of Havana and the University of Barcelona, Spain, respectively.
Ben-Jochannan was the author of 49 books, primarily on ancient Nile Valley civilizations and their impact on Western cultures. One of Dr. Ben’s most thought-provoking works, “African Origins of the Major ‘Western Religions’” (1970), highlights how the roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam originated in Black Africa. He also argues that the original Jews were from Ethiopia and were Black Africans, while the European Jews later adopted the Jewish faith and its customs.
Dr. Anthony Martin
Dr. Anthony Martin (1942–2013) was a Trinidadian-born professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. He was a lecturer and prolific author of scholarly articles about Black history and was considered the world’s foremost authority on Jamaican Black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Martin authored, compiled or edited 14 books, his earliest work being “Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association” (1976).
In his works on Garvey, Martin used his scholarship to counteract attempts by the mainstream to mischaracterize and deny Garvey’s true legacy as one of the greatest Black leaders of all time.
When Martin detailed the role European Jews played in the transatlantic slave trade in his book, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” the professor found himself the subject of a character assassination campaign.
Dr. Chancellor Williams
Dr. Chancellor Williams (1893–1992) was an African-American sociologist, historian and writer. His best known work is “The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.,” for which he was awarded honors by the Black Academy of Arts and Letters.
In “Destruction of Black Civilization,” Williams chronicles how high civilization began in Black Africa, contrary to what mainstream historians have espoused to the world. He meticulously lays out the history of Africa in great detail and demonstrates that the continent’s current underdevelopment came after thousands of years of consistent onslaught by Eurasians, and not because Africans made no significant contributions to the world.
Dr. George G.M. James
Dr. George Granville Monah James (unknown–1954) was a well-regarded historian and author from Georgetown, Guyana. He’s best known for his 1954 book “Stolen Legacy,” in which he presented evidence that Greek philosophy originated in ancient Egypt. He gained his doctorate degree at Columbia University in New York, became a professor of logic and Greek at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C., for two years, and then taught at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
In “Stolen Legacy,” James painstakingly documents the African origins of Greco-Roman philosophical thought. He asserted that “Greek philosophy” was not created by the Greeks at all, instead it was borrowed without acknowledgement from the ancient Egyptians.
James even challenged the foundations of Judaism and Judeo-Christianity and argued that the statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis with her child Horus in her arms is the origin of the Virgin Mary and child.
He mysteriously died shortly after publishing Stolen Legacy.
In case you’ve never noticed, black people are vulnerable. Much of this vulnerability is linked to our financial condition. Many of us work for people we hate, do things we don’t want to do, and feel stuck because we are not where we want to be economically.
I’ve been a finance professor for the last 23 years and it saddens me that many of us are constrained by issues and situations that could be easily avoided. In fact, our very need for survival is predicated on us embracing financial intelligence as one of our codes of conduct. So, here are a few rules of economic self-defense that you may want to implement to keep your family secure:
1)Never get all of your income from one source: When you get all of your money from one person, one corpo
ration or one job, you’re vulnerable to the person who is paying your bills. This often leaves black people crippled and begging.
2) Always save your money so your money can save you: Having a little money saved can mean the difference between being free to do what you want vs. having to bow down to a bigot on the job because you’ve chosen to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Sometimes, we are forced into poverty, but other times, we spend our money on nonsense. You can’t tell me that you’re poor and own a pair of Air Jordans at the same time, that just doesn’t make any sense.
3) Train yourself and your children on the basics of financial literacy and wealth-building: American economics is a game, like basketball. Yes, we are behind in the game, but you’ll never catch up in a basketball game if you never learn how to play the sport. So, ask yourself: Are your kids trained on how money works in America? If the answer is “no,” then this is a serious problem.
4) Every black family should have a family business: The black family business must come back into style. We can’t all fight against white racist oppression, yet still beg white people for jobs. We must learn to create our own jobs in either this generation or the next.
5) Never become addicted to a financially extravagant lifestyle: Wasteful consumption is pushed on black people on a regular basis. It usually leaves us financially weak and addicted. There is no relationship between an addict and a pusher in which the addict has the most power.
6) Avoid going too deep in debt, and be especially careful with student loans: The quest to be educated has left many millenials with so much debt that they will die in the middle of it. Debt does create a form of slavery that has too many of us struggling along on jobs that we can’t stand, dealing with horrific situations. Be cautious with debt,it can become economic poison.
7) Learn how to invest and own things: Investing is the ability to sacrifice the present in order to control the future. Investing must become a part of our culture so that our kids own the land on which they stand. Stop judging your success based on the size of your paycheck, you must evaluate black success by how much we own.
8) Buy black, even if it hurts: Buying black and keeping money in our community is one of the most essential financial choices we can make as a community. When you give away your money, you’re giving away your power. This doesn’t make any sense.
By taking some basics steps and implementing these ideas into our culture, we’ll soon find that our community is stronger and on better footing than we were in the past. But the key is that we must shift our thinking and make the right decisions, because our economic intelligence is directly connected to our survival.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and founder of The Black Wealth Bootcamp and The Black Business School.
To learn more, please visit TheBlackWealthBootcamp.com.
Dr Boyce Watkins