“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance that the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.” (Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, “War” Speech, at the United Nations, 1963)
From the arguments and efforts of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, the intellect of Cornel West and Michael Dyson, the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes, the prophecy of Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan, the preaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Samuel Proctor, Gardner Taylor and Otis Moss to the enlightened rantings of Jeremiah Wright, and other proponents of the misunderstood Black Theology of Liberation, most discussions on race in America slam headlong into walls and centuries of abject denial, by many Euro-Americans- and some African-Americans, as well.
This happens even when the evidence of the ages suggest that black civilizations arose and flourished, long before the Eurocentric slanted narrative, within the bowels of the Mediterranean Basin and the Black Kingdoms of the Nile, long before the splendor of Egypt and the Black Pharohs of the Kush and long before Africa’s swarming waves of invaders from the Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Turks, Indians and Phoenicians. So, it’s not really all that surprising that America hasn’t fully embraced its black history professionals or educators like Ed Toppin, Chancellor Williams, Tim Kendall, Henry Louis Gates and John Hope Franklin. Surely, my novice observations or layman opinions won’t even come close to the impact of a concerned flea, beating off the dust from an East African elephant’s behind.
But, if one is willing to listen- rather than react- the current commotion in Egypt, and other parts of the Mediterranean, over the type of government or political system the masses yearn to be installed, might be a good time to reflect on how the Arab Republic of Egypt became what it is, today. It’s a microcosmic representation of its glorious and often disfigured past- like the Great Sphinx of Giza and the cockamamie explanations for its mangled or missing Negroid features. The current chaos in Cairo and anarchy Alexandria is unfortunate. But, the history of Middle Eastern culture and religion is chock-full of violent insurrections, religious wars and revolutions, along with an oscillating ebb-and-flow of various racial or religious groups taking turns at the helm. For me, war and revolution, in Africa, Arabia, Asia and Europe, is as Mediterranean as olive oil and garlic is to its seafood.
Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate and value the military and civilian life exposures I’ve had, to various foreign cultures of the world, especially those of the Mediterranean Basin and the associated geopolitical clash of African, Arabian, Asian and European developments. It gave new meaning to the portrait of “Black Jesus” which hung in our home, as well as the various “Black Madonna” statues I saw while overseas. The military supplied a macro-historical view which I did not appreciate until later coursework, classroom and independent study, long after my military service, long after several heartfelt encounters with various Middle Eastern families and long after many philosophical barroom discussions with foreign sailors and marines. What I learned, in the process, is that many black and white Americans simply haven’t scratched the surface of being prepared for real-time discussions on the delicate issue of race. For some, because of centuries of perverted, spoon-fed yore; for others, because of society’s time-released inoculations of racial superiority-vs-inferiority dynamics, overtime, which muffles the hope of intellectual excursions or exercises in reason.
I’ve also learned that the Kingdom of the Kush, within its murky history, arguably took turns ruling the northeast region of Africa, within the Nubian and Egyptian empires, between 3700 B.C. and 500 B.C. Yet, there’s no denial of the dynasty of the Black Pharohs by archaeological finds, in the Nubian Dessert of Northern Sudan. While historians vehemently disagree over many aspects of Egypt’s past, they generally agree that the Kingdom of the Kush (also, Cush) was an ancient African state where the Blue Nile River (from Lake Tana) and the White Nile River (from Lake Victoria) came together in ancient Northeast Africa, now the Republic of Sudan, before its journey to the Mediterranean. Kush was the Egyptian name for ancient Nubia, the site of a highly advanced, wealthy black African civilization, where black kings controlled the trade routes linking central Africa and ancient Egypt. In the Bible, the name, “Cush,” is referred to in the Old Testament (Genesis 10:6). It’s the name of one of the sons of Ham, who settled in Northeast Africa. Even the wife of Moses, Tzipporah, is described as a “Kushite” or an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1).
Around 1500 B.C., according to historian Timothy Kendall (“Black Kingdoms of the Nile…,” PBS, Wonders of the African World, Episodes, 2008), “the Egyptians, feeling threatened by the Nubian kings, invaded Kush and conquered it. For the next four centuries, the Egyptians exploited Kush as a colony. Egypt’s wealth in gold came from the desert mines of Kush. The Egyptian word for gold is nub, which is thought by some to be the origin of the name Nubia… Around 730 B.C., Kush’s warrior hordes turned the tables on a weakened Egypt and conquered it.” This established the black Pharaohs of Kush who ruled an Egyptian-Nubian empire that extended from the Mediterranean to the confluence of the Blue and White Niles for sixty years (Kendall).
According to another historian, Joseph E. Harris (“Africans & Their History,” New American Library, rev. ’87), the ancient Kingdom of the Kush was powerful and influential, during its heyday. Also, the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus (circa, 490 BC – 430 BC) was one of the first to mention Kush; others simply called it Ethiopia. After the Roman conquest of Egypt, in the first century A.D., Kush sent ambassadors to Rome. This occurred as the Emperor Nero was sending Roman emissaries to Kush while converging trade routes were being invaded by desert nomads and merchants from the ancient Kingdom of Ethiopia (Harris).
Many are aware that the popular Reggae song, “War,” was recorded and sung by Rastafarian Bob Marley (Bob Marley & the Wailer’s Island Records album, “Rastaman Vibration,” 1976). But, it’s not widely known that the lyrics came from the 1963 speech, before the U.N. General Assembly, by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I (see epigraph, above), who claimed to be a descendant of Menelik, said to be the founder of the ruling dynasty- “The Lion of Judah.” This became the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah, in the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament (Genesis 38: 1-30). According to Harris (“Africans &Their History”), Menelik was the son of Ethiopia’s legendary Queen of Sheba, who went from Ethiopia to King Solomon’s Jerusalem. According to various accounts, King Solomon and Queen of Sheba fell in love—and, begot Menelik, who became the first Jewish Emperor of Ethiopia, ruling around 950 B.C. He is also credited with bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia. This was the vessel which contained the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed (1 Kings 8:9).
I’ve also learned that theologians, historians and archaeologists aren’t the only sources of information concerning the Kingdom of the Kush, Ethiopia or Egypt. Linguistics has contributed much, as well. According to language research of the region, linguistic evidence reveals that various words, within the Afro-Asiatic language sub-group of the Kush, have survived within the Nilotic and Bantu dialects, more common in the region, today (“African History… From Earliest Times to Independence,” Curtin, Feierman, Thompson, Vansina et al, Longman Publishing, 1995).
These findings become important, in my opinion, because they are stark refutations of the racist myth that ancient African creativity and civilization somehow came from outside of Africa, the world’s second largest continent (after Asia), rather than within.
They are also important in order to give my grandchildren a better sense of themselves, as well as their horizons. For their grandpa, there’s a reassuring comfort within the unsophisticated wisdom of an African (Senegalese) proverb which simply acknowledges, “The future emerges from the past.”
“Backstreet Djeli” w.d.s.