Black people and the intergenerational responsibility of liberating the African Spirit

The Whale Caller, top and above, is played by Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, and his lover Saluni, above and top, by Amrain Ismail-Essop.

Photo by: Amrain Ismail-Esssop

There are piercing truths about black people and the condition of blackness, ilif’ elimnyama, that leaves the heart necessarily vulnerable to the power and authority of the mind. This is a necessary condition in order for us, black people, to find our way out of the deplorable conditions of prolonged darkness.

These truths have been brought to us through the births and lives of courageous figures of immeasurable statures that have often graced us with great humanity and humility towards the African cause. At times I even find myself unqualified to write about them with the feeble mindedness that often attacks me in the contemporary world of feeblemindedness. But because I have duty and responsibility towards African people, my feeble mindedness has to be corrected by reading and writing more on their texts as my friend puts it, “the skill of doing comes in the doing”. 

As black people, we are all brought to this world for the purpose of advancing our ancestrally ordained wellbeing as a nation. It then becomes necessary to play our individual parts as revealed to us through our dreams, aspirations and desires. As spiritual beings, read Dr. Marimba Ani’s “To be Afrikan” and “Let the Circle Be Unbroken”, it is impossible for a black person to be born for a purpose that is exclusively oriented towards the self. We all have a spiritual mandate to contribute to the spiritual development of our people as a nation, first, in order for us to develop individually. 

Such has been the role played by liberation struggle icons that changed the history and trajectory of African people. The debts we claim today are benefits which were made possible by African people who came before us and made claims on the suffering of our ancestors. It was their persistent and enduring natures that made it possible for slavery and colonial crimes to be acknowledged in order for the system to be completely destroyed out of African people’s lives. 

It then becomes our generational duty to take the baton and continue with their work as they also inherited it from the generations that preceded them. Ours is a never ending duty for as long as we live in the flesh. We have a duty and responsibility to make sure that there exist no forms of injustices against our people, first, and others in the world. And most certainly, it is our duty and responsibility to make sure that the world does not make a claim that we are the cause of injustices in the world. 

The small opportunities that have been opened-up for us to participate in the colonial system, through education, politics, and economics, are not enough to end the suffering by African people. It then becomes our duty and responsibility to make sure we shift the gaze towards those who have not been given the opportunities to access the system when we are in the positions of authority whether that being in education, economics, politics or law. Without our active and intent engagements with the deplorable conditions of our people, we are equally guilty of maintaining the order that keeps them subjected to inhumane conditions of existence. 

For too long we have been equally complicit in their plight for improved living conditions. When we graduate from universities, we enjoy the statuses of our jobs and social elevation from our previous poor conditions. Caught up in social media bragging about our individual economically improved conditions, we forget that our audiences are our own people who are equally seeking opportunities to be uplifted out of their poor living conditions. When they begin to attack us for the material comfort we splash in their faces, we cry foul. Therefore, we must develop a love for our people first that surpasses the social media desire for individual recognition in our consumption patterns. We must use social media for a deliberate campaign to radically transform the lives of our people in all areas of life in order for them to economically consume as well. By doing this, we necessarily reduce the negative survival instincts that propels many young black men to commit crimes against us, their own people, all because we dangle our successes in their faces in opposition to their apparent failures. 

There can never be anything admirable about people who jump to social media just to show their frenemies or enemies “look what I got sucker”. As black people, our responsibility is first to our people no matter our previous disagreements or confrontations. This is what makes us better people. As much as I celebrate the successes of all black people as published on social media and other platforms, I truly do not hold dear the culture of bragging about one’s success instead of creating empowering opportunities that can elevate other black people to learn how to better themselves. We have to go the extra-mile and create the necessary conditions that will take our people out of the mass confusion and suffering they are systematically subjected to.  

In his time, even as he lay sick, Frantz Fanon, a great son of Africa, resolved to deliver his messages of liberation and liberating messages to African people for the purpose of liberating us from the yoke of colonial oppression. As a descendant of the “wretched of the earth”, Fanon chose to be a messenger for the liberation of African people over the material comfort accruing from his career post. Even with his ailing condition, he did not stop from delivering his last message to African people –the world over. This is because Fanon, like WEB Du Boise, Marcus Garvey, OR Tambo, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Malcom X, Steve Biko, Amos Wilson, Marimba Ani, Frances Cress-Welsing, used the power of their minds over his emotions and wrote us mentally empowering messages in order for us to understand that our condition is not by accident. It was deliberately designed to enslave and keep us in perpetual conditions of inhumanity. 

I can never forget Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing’s words when she says, “no one defends trash.” The trash she was talking about is the black masses languishing in filth and poverty. 

As a student of these African scholars, I am aware that they wanted to show us the way out of our collective misery. It is then our collective duty and responsibility to create our own program and calendar for a country wide cleaning up exercise –for the purpose of ushering in a new social consciousness in black people. As black people, we have to peacefully clean up the colonial mess without resolving to kill each other for non-existent power struggles. 

In one of his teachings, Dr. Amos Wilson warned Africans in America that if they do not change their behaviours, the 21st century will be the beginning of their extermination. Fast forward, 20 years after his death, African-Americans are marching on the streets of America shouting Black Lives Matter. But Dr. Amos Wilson gave them an instructional warning that it was their duty and responsibility to prepare the younger generations for the 21st century offense that awaited them. Now the Black Lives Matter movement is testimony that they never listened. South Africa is in a similar condition, only that we are economically exterminated (and 30million people at it). 

Our first task is the unity of the mind and vision as a people regardless of our ideological differences.

Lindiswa Jan is a Researcher & Masters Candidate at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town