A discussion of this magnitude cannot take place without giving a rooted historical perspective and foundation. We cannot enter this discussion timidly, but must step forward boldly and unapologetically. If the African and African Diaspora is to heal we must talk open and honestly with each other. We must own our cultural prejudices amongst ourselves and their root cause. Nor can we skirt around this important issue by protecting the sensibilities of the descendants of our oppressors at our expense. Healing and understanding cannot take place if there is no truth.
My concern is for the children of Africa and the African diaspora who live in a society which tells us daily we are of no worth. We must dismantle the self hatred amongst descendants of colonized and enslaved Africans, and its manifestations. Who does a denial of self benefit? Does it benefit the children of the African diaspora? Definitely not! Does it benefit those who colonized and enslaved our ancestors? Yes! Does this indoctrination of cultural and ethnic hate still prevail and manifest itself today? Yes!
I attended this event to support and because this is a major topic of interest to me. Having been raised in a household where I was taught early on to be proud of my African heritage. I welcomed and looked forward to being a part of the conversation. If needed I wanted to debunk Eurocentric mythology of superiority with historical/herstorical facts. I wanted to explain strategic systems of oppression and their resulting manifestations. I did not have to enter the conversation with all that I brought with me. Members of the panel were culturally and politically conscious and knowing. I could take a deep breath, relax, listen, learn and enjoy a very stimulating conversation.
What did I hear? I heard story after story and poem after poem about rejection. Individuals being denied the right to their full cultural heritage based on their skin hue and hair type. I heard the repeated words hair malo o bueno. Panelists spoke of trying to find a place of belonging, only to be rejected. Panelists spoke of taking on the ethnicity of others for acceptance. No, they were not taking on a Euro identity but identities of the diaspora. Feeling comfortable and a part yet not fully accepted. Of course, I was appalled by those doing the rejecting, even while understanding their ignorance and lack of cultural and political consciousness. This was a conversation I knew well. The black community has a history of division along the color line and it still exists today Identifying Identity, is a series of Sunday afternoon readings by dynamic creative writers and discussion sessions examining the often contradictory concepts of race, ethnicity, national origin and language and their influences on Caribbean culture and identity.
Clearly there is pain and much work to do among the children of the African diaspora. We must do this amongst ourselves, without the constant presence of Euros insisting on being a part of the conversation. You cannot be subjected to ongoing oppression and walk away unscathed. True insanity is going to the descendants of those responsible for your oppression for healing. We must create spaces and support venues providing opportunities for dialog.
The inaugural Black History Month program celebrates the multi layered realities of being African, Caribbean and Latino. Featured writers included Carmen Bardeguez-Brown (Puerto Rico), Raquel Penzo (Dominican Republic), Kevin Sabio (Honduras); Mesericordia Tullis de Bukhari(US/Honduras).Presented by Caribbean Research Center, Charles Evans Inniss Memorial Library and the Department of Liberal Studies and Education at Medgar Evers College. Produced by Poets & Passion – Caribbean Literary Lime with support from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
©Lorraine Currelley 2015. All Rights Reserved. Photo credit Lorraine Currelley