WRITTEN BY: LIVITY
The title exemplifies the negative view most African Americans have towards experiencing Africa. Psychological grooming by our oppressors has led to many African Americans having disdain towards their ancestry, though their inferiority complex would be remedied by embracing their heritage instead of denying it. While physical repatriation for most is unrealistic, a spiritual and psychological repatriation is feasible.
I am not in search of some utopian African society spoken of in stories, poems, or songs. I am aware of the social ills that plagued African societies and Africans’ role in the Atlantic slave trade. The oppressed who have been stripped of their ancestry love to romanticize their past. One of the failures of African historians is focusing on the royal lives of kings and queens, ignoring the lives of common citizens. Repatriation can begin by renouncing Western practices such as consumerism, self-centeredness, greed, and an unhealthy lifestyle while adopting virtuous practices from our ancestors like communality, frugality, honorability, and an active, healthy lifestyle.
Repatriation can also take place in the form of wearing African garments instead of European clothing. This was a very liberating experience for me when I began wearing African attire. The reasoning for this adoption is, I am an African in the diaspora. Much like the Irish man will wear a kilt at his cultural event or an Indian man will wear his Kurta. They wear these garments because they are proud of their heritage, unashamed of the dress or customs of their ancestors. We have been conditioned to hate everything equated with our ancestry, assimilating to the tastes of our colonizer. The liberating psychological repatriation instills pride by embracing the customs and taste of your ancestors with the same zeal as other cultures.
Another form of repatriation is the changing of one’s name. Stokley Carmichael, the freedom fighter who some claim is responsible for the term ‘Black Power,’ changed his name to Kwame Ture. In my youth I was always tickled by clips of Malcolm X denouncing his last name of ‘Little,’ though as I have matured I have come to understand how irrational it truly is to keep the name of your oppressor. The last names of Africans in the diaspora mostly derive from their ancestors’ owners. These names are badges of shame, for Scott, Lewis, or James are not African names, but European names. The names identifying my family lineage were lost during the Atlantic slave trade.
What is in a name? Identity, pride, history, and strength? The names of African Americans carry a history of enslavement, displacement, disenfranchisement, and ownership. A proud Italian man would never accept the last name of Chang, nor would a proud Jewish man accept the last name of Lumumba. These names do not match their identity nor do these names embrace their ancestry. When the Jews and Italians came to America, whether they were indentured servants or artisans, they did not arrive as slaves. These Europeans were allowed to keep their language, names, religion, and customs.
Africans on the continent, despite being victims of colonialism, have been able to hold on to their ancestors’ religions. African-Americans are without that strength, assimilating to their opperessors’ beliefs and practices, mainly Christianity and capitalism. As a former Christian, I can speak only of my own personal experience. Christianity did not fulfill the void within me; I believe that is the experience for a lot of African American Christians. Christianity has endured numerous schisms and assimilations so that it is now without a culture. The Christianity practiced in America reflects the capitalistic culture, viewing the attainment of wealth as the highest virtue. The only trait Christianity has consistently held throughout history is violence. Christianity has been used and is still used to justify history’s most violent and barbarous acts against non-Christians.
Please, if you are struggling to love and accept your African ancestry, start taking small steps by exposing yourself to African music, food, history, languages, dress, and geography to begin your road to repatriation. Africans are not superior to Europeans nor are we inferior. African history is rich, beautiful, inspiring, and empowering. I am speaking from experience, for I am aware of the thoughts of self-hate and disgust we are groomed to have about ourselves and our heritage. Knowledge of self can liberate you from that dungeon of inferiority, leading you through the gates of understanding and confidence. I challenge anyone reading this article step out your comfort zone and learn something about ‘MAMA AFRICA’.