Friday, June 19, 2020

BLACK INTERNATIONAL LIVES

WHY WE MATTER: A deep history of survival

© 2020 Michael Auld

"IF EVERY MAN [& WOMAN], BLACK, WHITE, YELLOW, AND RED, DO NOT MAKE SIGNIFICANT STEPS IN THEIR PERSONAL LIVES TOWARDS THE FREEDOM OF [HUMANKIND], THEN THEY SHALL SUFFER AT THE HANDS OF THEIR OWN RELUCTANCE." _ Rastafari Bretherin philosophy, Jamaica.(1960s)


* "Nyabingi" poster with the above quote from the Rastafari Bretherin.
Silkscreen print by AuldPowhatan (1972).

This poster was based on a photograph of two Rastafarians at a ceremonial Grounation Day gathering in Jamaica. They are attired in consciousness raising symbols that predated the Black Lives Matter movement. (See images below).


For the origin of the type of racism that we practice in the Americas, we must start at the beginning. American racism was introduced here by the 15th-century Spanish arrival into the Caribbean. Upon color-conscious Columbus' first landing in the Lucaya Bahamas in 1492, in his letter to his Spanish backers, King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella, he described the indigenous 
Taíno by their admirable build but also by their skin color. To him, they were the color of the North African mix off that continent's coast, the Guanaches of the Canary Islands. To him, the Taíno were un-flatteringly simple-minded, wrong colored savages. William Shakespeare did worse by imagining the Island Carib as a monstrous, uncivilized Caliban in his play The Tempest. The story-line depicts the Caribbean Encounter's clash between the superior and inferior races of mankind. This myth of racial superiority still plays out on the deadly streets of America.


"With just a few men, they can easily be made into servants [slaves]," Columbus wrote. The follow-through was the Amerindian Holocaust and near extinction. As an afterthought, the cruel enslavement of West Africans came next.


Columbus later found out differently. The 
Taíno were not docile, but mostly welcoming traders. The first protest in the Americas was in 1493 on Kiskaya/Ayti Bohio (renamed "Hispaniola", today's Dominican Republic and Haiti). Since one of his ships, the Santa Maria, sank off the coast, many of his men were left behind, as Columbus returned to Spain for replenishment. These avaricious guests were all killed by the local cacike (leader) Caonabo for their insatiable greed and for disrespecting Taíno women.

Soon after his departure, his men began to quarrel among themselves each taking as much Taíno  women and much gold as he could."

The 
Taíno's southern neighbors, the misidentified Island Carib (Kalinago) were coined **"Caribales," the source word for cannibal and Caliban. Although "Carib" comes from the Taíno "Strong Men," technically, the Caribbean came to mean "Sea of Cannibals." Father Bartolomé de Las Casas, appointed "Protector of the Indians," fought against their rapid demise through enslavement and murder. He was also responsible for recommending that Africans be used as slaves to remedy the demise of the Taíno populations. So, the local Spanish reclassified anyone who resisted them as Caribal, and fit for slaughter or enslavement. This is the foundation of American slavery and an undying disregard for non-European lives that do not matter.


From Expendable Red to Black Lives


The naming of a location near the White House and the painting of the slogan BLACK LIVES MATTER on 16th Street, NW downtown from our home in DC 
is not a new sentiment. It represents a continuum of protests that have occurred 
in Africa and the Americas for centuries. The slogan reflects a sentiment heralded in by early 20th Century European colonialism. However, even before that, Amerindians in my Caribbean homeland, then Africans brought to the Americas, voted with their feet to not be abused by labor and sexual exploitation. 


First were the 
Taíno and Kalinago (Island Carib) whose territories were invaded 
by the Italian Cristoforo Colombo (Latinized as "Columbus"). Some Taíno fled 
into the island mountains to be named by the Spanish ranchers, Cimarones, meaning "Wild Mountain people." It is from this word that we got other people of protest, the Americas' Maroons and Seminoles.


Truthfully, although we use the term "Black" to identify one race of people, in art 
the pigment black represents the presence of ALL colors. This term has included 
at one time or the other, all non-white people. For example, in England today, Chinese, Indians, West Indians, and Africans are, to the English, all Black. Even southern Italians have been so designated by those Europeans who consider themselves to be "pure" white. It is no wonder that this protest of Black Lives 
Matter has spread around the world.


Rasta Beliefs: Dreadlocks & Blackness





Nyabingi poster details and the Lion of Judah as Rastafarian icons. 
(Enlarge to see details).



"WHEN WILL IT ALL END?"
(Bob Marley's lyrics from Natural Mystic)

...And will anything now change?

Another African American man was murdered by the police at this writing. 
Now in Atlanta, Georgia. This action was expected. That is if you believe that it was prophetically stated in Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry song. In his song, 
the victim "was shot down in the street and died."

Protests against racism have been international. And no other internationally 
claimed musician popularized protest against racism than Rastafarian singer/songwriter Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley. Bob was converted to the Rastafarian faith and followed fellow Jamaican racial rebel, Marcus Mosiah 
Garvey. The Rastafarian religion was based on both Garvey's protests against British Imperialism and a belief in a Black savior, Emperor Haile Selassie I 
(Ras Tafari Makonnen), King of kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the 
Tribe of Judah (1930-1974).


Just Three Worldwide "Black Lives Matter" Influences



Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) flag.
Adopted as the Pan-African and the Black Power flags. During the time of
British Colonialism, Garvey originally said that the color Red was for the
Amerindian people; Black was for the Black (African) people; while the color Green
was for the (downtrodden) Irish people.


One belief in the value of Black lives was born out of the European scramble 
for Africa and the resultant colonialism. Attempts to dehumanize people of color were always met with resistance. For example, Ethiopia, the only African country 
to retain its freedom in two wars, was able to twice defeat the Italians. Italy 
wanted to emulate Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, and Holland in the stealing of the natural resources of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. 

One can follow the thread of resistance from the Ethiopian accomplishments against the Italian invasion of Abyssinia to today's Black pride movement.


Coronation photo of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie 1 (ቀዳማዊ ኃይለ ሥላሴ), born Lij Tafari Makonnen, and called Ras (title) Tafari, 23 July 1892 – 27 August 1975.


R
astafarians
considered him to be a reincarnated Jesus (pronounced Jes-us) 
the Christ and believe that he did not die in the Ethiopian Socialist coup. They, therefore, refer to him as Jah (short for Jehovah), Rastafari, King of Kings, Lord 
of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. His symbol is the Lion of Judah. 
He is referred to as "Ever Living, Ever Loving."




Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaican Black leader and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He had traveled to Costa Rica, Panama and England where he saw that People of Color were at the lowest rank of 
society. In 1916 he moved to Harlem, New York and established the UNIA 
branch there. In his two years there, he was fearfully successful. He emphasized 
the unity between the peoples of the African Diaspora. 

Since he saw no hope in integrating the races, Garvey was committed to the
Back-to-Africa movement and believed in Black financial independence and
racial separation. He helped to facilitate the African American migration to 
Liberia. Garvey was feared and targeted by the FBI, convicted for mail fraud, 
and imprisoned in Atlanta in 1923 for nearly two years. Deported to Jamaica, 
he continued his activism. Today, he is Jamaica's first National Hero, where 
there is a monument to him.


BLACK IDENTITY & DREADLOCKS

Revolutionary reggae singer, songwriter Bob Marley, made dreadlocks popular worldwide. His meaningful lyrics moved people of all nations. And the audience-packed performances were not unlike the makeup of today's Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Next to "No Woman No Cry", one of his most popular songs was "War," the Haile Selassie 1936 appeal to the League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations).


Early in his career, Bob had converted to his island's Rastafarian faith. His wife, Rita, a member of the I-Threes backup singers, had converted after seeing Ras Tafari, (Haile Selassie) Emperor of Ethiopia, during his motorcade in Kingston. 
She was one of the thousands of roadside observers while Selassie was on his 
way to King's House (the Governor General's residence on Hope Road, St. 
Andrew, just north of their future home after Bob became famous.) Rita said 
that on Thursday 21, 1966, as the Emperor's car went by, she saw a stigmata 
on his Selassie's waving hand.


Iconic member of Rastafari, Bob Marley who popularized 
Dreadlocks worldwide.


The Lion of Judah encompasses the iconic attributes of a Rastaman.
Pride in the beliefs of the lion's strength, in African Blackness, identity
and spirituality.


DREAD-LOCKS


Dreadlocks, to the Rastafari, is a major source of Black pride. Under British Colonialism, European obsession with straight hair and white skin was rejected 
by the Rastafarian movement. Pride in uncut woolen hair washed and naturally matted was associated with both the Biblical Samson (hair strength) and Christ. Jesus is referred to as the (black) "Lamb of God." 

Hair interpretation: Lambs have woolen hair as Africans do, so Jesus was also Black. (See black lamb image in the above Nyabingi poster). Consider my 1967 conversation with my brother.

"There are only two animals who have woolen hair. The sheep and the Black man." My late Rastafarian brother, Bobby, said to me. "No scissors or comb must touch I hair. That is where I power is. I & I locks down with dreads, to put dread in the hearts of the non-believers." (Rastafarians also believe in the power of the spoken word, So, I & I is first person masculine, used instead of the diminutive "we" in Rasta speech.) -- Bull Bay, Jamaica, 1967
 

When Bob Marley turned Rasta, and his reggae music became a worldwide phenomenon, dreadlocks took the world by storm. Dreadlocks hairstyle abroad turned into a fashion statement of Black pride. So earlier was Marcus Garvey's UNIA red, black and green flag that became a Black Power symbol in the United States. African red, green, and gold became the colors of the Rastafarian flag. While, although matted locks are found from Ancient Egypt, Hindu, African, and Native American holy-men, it was the Rastafarian named dreadlocks hairstyle 
that became a contemporary prideful symbol of Blackness around the world.




NOTES:

* Nyabingi/Nyabinghi: 

  1. The legendary 18th-century East African woman (Rwandan/Ugandan/Tanzanian) whose name means "the one who possesses many things." Becoming a deity, she was worshiped as a powerful force of everyday life. The worship of Nyabingi as a spirit, who could possess ordinary people, originated around 1800 in Rwanda. Her spirit was said to have possessed Muhumusa, a feared Rwandan/Ugandan woman leader who fought against German and British colonizers. Imprisoned by the Germans in 1905 and escaping in 1911, Muhumusa rallied supporters and were the first armed resistance against colonization.
  2. The Rastafarian Nyabingi is the oldest of the Mansions [Biblical Houses of Rastafari. "In my father's house, there are many mansions." John 14:2]. Also the oldest umbrella term for various groups of the Rastafari movement. -- Wikipedia


** Caribales: (also Caraib, Cariba, Caniba, Caliban, cannibal, cannibalize) The root 1493 Spanish word from the Taíno, "Cara-ib" (meaning "Strong Men"). 

  1. A Taíno (Good or Noble People) name that they used for the Kalinago or Island Carib, an Eastern Caribbean warrior group of Amerindians who originated in northeastern South America. They had traveled up into the Eastern Caribbean, island by island, taking over territories of the earlier Indigenous populations and intermarrying with the local women, whose ancestors had arrived earlier in waves into the Pristine Caribbean Islands. 
  2. The Story: Arriving into the Eastern Caribbean on his shorter return trip from Europe, Columbus and his 17-19 ship of European colonizers, arrived off the coast of Ay-Ay (St, Croix). Many of the island's Kalinhago temporarily fled away from their homes at the sight of the Spanish "armada." Some captive women and children who remained behind, ran down to the Spanish longboat, saying, "Taíno, Taíno!" Meaning, "we are the Good People!" Upon entering the abandoned Kalinago men's homes, the Spanish seamen, saw Kalinago burial baskets hanging in an honored place in the owner's homes. The seamen misunderstood the Kalinago for indulging in anthropophagy, a practice by Neanderthals and in the spiritual Christian communion, the taking of wine (Blood of Christ), and eating bread (the Body of Christ) in their holiest of ceremonies.    

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mike, this is on-going and here you've given us a chapter. We need more! Some of us carry so much baggage that we need your help to understand oursel.

Howard said...

Cuz Mike. Your insight into our current plight is well taken. Our peoples are in need of much education. We have been poisoned by colonialism and lost in the sea of confusion.

Mike Auld said...

Thanks Howie. Please pass it on. One Love!

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