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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Mathis


To be born in a free society and not be born free is to be born into a lie.

James Baldwin

Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is no limit to where you can go.

James Baldwin

Thought is more important than art . . . . . To revere art and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence, is finally not even to understand what art is.

Imamu Amiri Baraka

Before I arrived in Ghana, due to COVID-19. I had to produce a negative COVID test before I was allowed to board the plane. In addition, it was required that I also produce proof that I had been fully vaccinated as well as pay for and consent to take an additional COVID test upon arrival, and only then could I be released to travel and enjoy Ghana. However, if I tested positive then I would have to submit to quarantine in Ghana until I received a negative COVID test result. Upon my arrival, I was directed to a small room where the COVID test would be administered. Shortly thereafter enters a lab technician, a brother, who greets me, administers the test, and then instructs me that another COVID test would be required upon my departure from Ghana. He said to me, that he would come to my hotel to administer the test as well as secure for me the test results in sufficient time for my departure for a fee of $100, payable to him directly. I asked, this was not covered in the cost just assessed me as a part of my entry fees? He responded no and he would take care of everything for me, he then proceeded to give me his name and number to contact him directly prior to my departure from Ghana. Because I had read everything I could about the entry requirements for Ghana due to the pandemic, I was sure it was a con, nevertheless, I took his name and number and departed, never to see or talk to him again. This was my initial exposure to Ghana, thus, providing a lens through which my time of resting, rediscovering, and reimagining in the community began. The experience was disturbing, especially as my first impression of Ghana, a place I had desired to visit if you will, “return home to.” Nevertheless, I discovered that such a con was common for visitors to Ghana during the pandemic, including people “returning home,” who looked like and considered themselves as an extended community of Ghanaians. Not that I think it is appropriate to take advantage of anyone, however, I would have expected more from “family.” It immediately drove my thoughts to how we are comfortable in perpetrating, evil, wrong, negativity, and violence on one another without conviction and/or seeing one another as another; I am because you are and you are because I am - Ubuntu, although you are different than me, you are simply just another version of me. What a disappointment, I felt for my theory of community among people of African and the African Diaspora. However, what an opportunity before me to deconstruct, reconstruct, and construct how we got here and as a result create new paradigms which develop and nurture our Blackness, connecting us to one another in Ubuntu tradition.

Reversing our comfortability with us treating one another as our oppressors would treat us is critical to dismantling Anti-Blackness sentiments that are well and alive within our community. I would further suggest it is one of the principal reasons why we have neglected to create communal spaces in which the prime objective is to build, develop, and sustain Blackness, producing Ubuntu among us. Sir Walter Rodney wrote the book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, concluding that Europeans, I would argue the Eurocentric view of the world, intentionally underdeveloped Africa, not just its institutions and structures, but also highlighted and in some instances created divisions in order to support their imperialistic domination, crushing any sense of unity or community of Africans/Blackness that existed. I would argue that the Eurocentric (White) notions of survival, profit and race (a human concept developed to justify and support the other two) are intentionally intertwined in Eurocentric (White) culture, thus creating paradigms in which they can prioritize the me, myself, and I to legitimize their actions and thus impose them on others in order to dominate and drive narratives. Thus, underdeveloping African culture (as well as other cultures) from living in their full capacity by forcing an adoption to their way of living and thinking which is in direct opposition to traditional African communal values of we, ourselves, and us - Ubuntu. This anti-African concept of individuality within the community props up the mirage of "democratic" ideals of individual freedoms rooted in the me, myself, and I view of the world justifying the right of survival, profit and race as exceptions for the rights of the community. This Eurocentric concept of individual freedoms permitted the birthing of a "democratic' and "Christian" nation, a supposed leader of the free world, which justified the inhumanity of slavery, tolerated the dehumanization of the Jim Crow era, and supports the othering (dangerous, third world, my nig**, thug life, exotic, people of color, . . . ) of Black people, of Blackness, in which systems and structures that are Anti-Black are legitimized and become the modus operandi of engagement that transcends to the lived experiences of those who are oppressed as ideal in how to treat one another. This intentional underdevelopment maintains the status quo even when Europeans, White people are not in the room or space; the very underdevelopment of community - the we, ourselves, and us - Ubuntu.

We cannot fully comprehend the impact of imperialism/colonialism/racism and how it has and does affect who we are as a people until we readily admit our buy-in, our choosing the model of individuality over that of community, permitting the systems and structures without as well as within our community to function under that modality. This underdevelopment coupled with a sense of viability, to be successful per personal possession of tangible things, creates an emotional/mental traumatic experience that defines and/or justifies our freedom as a competition among us of being the most successful in order to be free, making it easier to neglect our traditional emphasis on community, Ubuntu. Therefore, the more money we have, the more important our profession, the higher our economic ranking and/or educational attainment, forces us to compare ourselves with one another, creating competition among us where there should not be in order to be free or better yet accepted by others. Thus, if the opportunity presents itself for me to climb higher, to be successful, to have more then I will do whatever it takes with no regard for or to you. I would suggest to you that this un-confronted ideal within our community has contributed to the deterioration of our traditional notions of community, Ubuntu. This deterioration, I believe, has deepened the divisions within our community (i.e., generational, academic versus grassroots, urban versus suburban, white-collar versus blue-collar, gay versus straight, etc.). By no means do I suggest it is the only reason for our divisions, however, I do believe that because we are not able to admit and/or candidly discuss it as a community, it superiptisciously grows to prevent "us" from thriving as "our" authentic "selves."

Survival in isolation from those around you and the environment in which you exist defies the nature of God’s creation, for we all were made for one another as a single fabric to the glory of God, and humanity being the crown of that glory. More specifically per my visit to the Slave Castles on the Cape Coast of Ghana, it defies the lived experiences of our ancestors who found strength, courage, endurance, and pride in one another and their remembrance of their motherland, despite and in spite of not being sure about where it was, how to get there, or even if they ever were to return. This sense of the place of their struggle, oppression, marginalization, and dehumanization being not their permanent place of existence but there was yet one to come, produced a resilience that fueled resistance to what was and is impossible situations. This for me is one of the compelling reasons why we should be intentionally creating spaces that nurture and develop our authenticity as communal people because as communal people who practice Ubuntu, we would not practice deception for individual success and/or survival and/or profit even though I may be of a different tribe, I am determined to find a way in our commonality, our Blackness to engage our conflicts, issues as one in which the we overcome, yielding our survival, our prosperity, our thriving. That is who we are at our core and living and returning to those values by deconstructing, reconstructing, and constructing new paradigms that cultivate Ubuntu is our lesson learned from the history of our ancestors and lived experiences, who through unity nurtured one another in being resilient that produced a resistance, freeing us from the reality of our experiences and transforming ourselves and our spaces to support and foster freedom which then leads to our emancipation, a surviving technique that was not focused on the I but instead on the we, enriching a legacy in which we all, even beyond our community profit, i.e., The Civil Rights Movement.

We have been in horrific situations throughout our history, including the slave trade and all that has come to us thereafter as a result of an evolving Eurocentric drive for domination often manifested in their focus on individual survival, profit and racial supremacy yet "we" have survived and prospered because of our reliance on one another to thrive. Our reliance on ourselves created a resilience among us that we were determined to confront and overcome - resist our obstacles together, if not for ourselves at least for our posterity. It is this history of lived experiences, undiluted by the need of others driving our narratives in which we can and should draw to ensure that we create, develop, and nurture new paradigms for community, Ubuntu today, dismantling the negative impact of individualism that will cause us to treat one another as the oppressors treat us and harvest a common resilience that produces a resistance, a movement that is driven by and for us causing our community to thrive. I believe it to be critical for the promotion of Blackness that we draw on the wells of our resilience among us together as fuel for our resistance to the norms of others and establish our authenticity as Black people, in our Blackness, rooted in a rich heritage and thriving future. Therefore, in our Blackness, we are empowered to openly embrace our differences and leverage those for our good to secure our freedom and our right and responsibility to drive our own narratives, contributing to the world and the body of lofty ideals from our valued and authentic selves. Ghana helped me to see through our history and our present realities an internal power that if we utilized it from a perspective of the we, we can transform and/or self-correct the intentional lies, inhumanity, and underdevelopment perpetrated on us by others to create spaces of resilience in which we build dependence and trust for one another, thus committing to do one another no harm, yielding resistance to all things Anti-Black and harvesting Ubuntu.

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