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The Black, African Disconnect

Black

adj. of any human group having dark-colored skin, esp. of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry. noun. a member of a dark-skinned people, esp. one of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry.

African

adj. a person from Africa, esp. a black person. noun. of or relating to Africa or people of African descent.

Maafa- Swahili for “great disaster” this word is sometimes used to describe the Transatlantic Slave Trade

I enjoy history although  I am terrible with dates. Seeing the sequence of events that led to monumental, world-altering moments like World War II or 9/11 put contemporary life into perceptive. We are a collection of our past experiences, and we live how we do because of our past. Therefore, the past is as important as anything else. The history of black people is just as beautiful as it is tragic. We have countless accomplishments compared to our one, long, continuous defeat that remains today.  The event that has been made paramount in our existence is the Maafa. This phenomenon shifted the black experience drastically and we can see how crucial history is presently when we look at African people around the world. “Slavery” is an experience all African people share that is critical to understanding our present. The Transatlantic Slave Trade is not just an African-American affair. Slavery is not a crime only committed by the American South. In fact, the largest slave population was in Brazil. Obviously, there are parts of history we would rather leave in the closet, and every group has events they wish to forget. But I believe slavery is important to remember, not to harbor resentment or anger, but to understand why the black experience exists as it is.

The black “culture” on display in the United States is the result of west African tradition molded and modified by interaction with Europeans during & after slavery. Similarly, the cultures practiced in the Caribbean are west African but altered by the practices of colonial masters (French, Spanish etc.). Those Africans brought to America were the Africans left on ships leaving Trinidad, Hispaniola, and Brazil. Although the experience in each area differs there is the commonality in the origin of these people. Those Africans in the Caribbean are as much a part of the Maafa as Nat Turner or Fredrick Douglass. Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines fought the same slavery in Haiti those men fought in America. 

Some Africans living on the continent or a few generations removed see the Maafa as something separate from them. Africans see slavery as only affecting African-Americans, but they are decedents of Central and West Africans, and therefore linked to the continent. The battles waged to enslave one another affected the relations between various tribes. Conservative numbers are estimated at 10-12 million African kidnapped from Africa. Other numbers range from 30-50 million with a majority dying before stepping on a ship. Regardless of the exact number, men and women, young, old, skilled and unskilled were taken from their communities and forced to do work to benefit another group. This clearly has implications for those Africans who remained on the continent. I believe our current “underdevelopment” in Africa is partially due to the millions of people taken away from their homes. Their capabilities and potential were utilized elsewhere and thus never fully realized. Having all of these Africans taken away, and the new distrust developed between Africans kept us from progressing towards a modern African. By no means am I saying that Africa would be flourishing now if not for slavery, but our condition would be different and wholly our own.

For all those people around the world who identify as “black.” Slavery is a part of your history and our political, socioeconomic, cultural and psychological condition is linked to that experience. We can only move forward when we look at all aspects of our history and understand our connectedness because of it. “Black” has often been linked with “struggle” and “poverty” but they are not black. Black is that spirit we have that allowed us to make Hip-Hop out of poverty and Jazz out of struggle. Black is what allowed us to survive slavery and create black universities and business after it. Our destinies are linked despite what we may think, and we would all benefit greatly if we worked together to compete with other groups.