After almost 20 years, the 1997 Black History Month Message by BHM Founder Robert S. Pritchard still resonates today, and it is reprinted this February 2016 because Human dignity does still weep for an advocate.
FOR NATIONAL DISTRIBUTION TO:African-American Owned Print and Sound Media; Historically Black Colleges and Universities; “Inclusive” University Black Studies Departments; Civil Rights and Black Business and Professional Organizations; U.S. Corporations; U.S. Congressional Black Caucus and State Black Caucuses
32nd ANNUAL BLACK HISTORY MONTH FOUNDER’ S MESSAGE
“Evolution of a 104 Year Challenge to America’s
Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial”Issued on 1 February 1997 by Robert Starling Pritchard Concert Pianist-Composer Founder of the Black History Month Observance; Chairman: The Panamerican-Panafrican Association, Inc.; NATIONAL CHAIRMAN OF THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH (STATE AND REGIONAL) FOUNDER’S COMMISSIONS (“AMERICA’S VOICES OF RACIAL ACCORD”); Main NGO Representative of the Panamerican-Panafrican Association, Inc. to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations Series of Papers, Articles and Addresses on the Subjects of Multi-Ethnic Realities and the Transcultural Experience SECTIONAL TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Black History Month Observance in the USA and Canada
- The African-American History Month (State & Regional) Founder’s Commissions’ Cultural Affinity Programme
- Black History Month – Second Oldest Organized Challenge to U.S. “Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial”
- Afro-Euro Cultural Fusion: Catalytic Agents Defining New World Cultures
- Frederick Douglass: First lo Initiate an Organized Challenge to US “Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial” With 1893 “Coloured American Day Observance”
- 1895 Negro History Day Resolution Becomes Second Organized Challenge to U.S. “Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial”
- 1926 Negro History Week Observance Becomes Third and Most Effective and Lasting Institutionalized Challenge to the U.S. “Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial”
- Black History Month National/International Challenge to U.S. Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial from a Pan Africanist and Economic Perspective
- Black History Month Founded as a Fitting Tribute to the Negro History Week Legacy of Dr. Carter G. Woodson
- Black History Month Prompts National/International Kith and Kin Black Solidarity Movement
- An African-American History Month Observance Requiem Prayer for the Innominate Slave
- The New Global Economy: Black American Challenges
1 FEBRUARY 1997
32ND ANNIVERSARY BLACK HISTORY MONTH FOUNDER’ S MESSAGE
On the occasion of this 32nd Anniversary of the Founding of the Black History Month Observance, the Member-Chapters of our Foundation sponsored African-American History Month (State and Regional) Founder’s Commissions (AAHM [S&R] FC), proudly join with the citizens of the American Black Community, in extending to our fellow American citizens of all colors, creeds, cultures, national origins and socio-economic conditions, this invitation for their most welcome participation in the Month-of-February cultural events of the US’s Black Communities’ second oldest ethnic observance.
1. Black History Month Observance in the USA and Canada
The AAHM (S&R) FCs (more recently referred to as “America’s Voices of Racial Accord) also pay homage to and support the annual Black History Month (BHM) Observances of our neighbors to the North, which are annually recognized in an official proclamations issued by Canada’s Prime Minister.2. The AAHM (S&R) FC’s Cultural Affinity Programme The AAHM (S&R) FCs especially acknowledge the support of a growing number of Black States of the Americas and Africa, who relate to and acknowledge the relevance of the US and Canada’s Black History Month Observance, in the form of Black History Month Cultural Affinity Proclamations.
3. Black History Month – Second Oldest Organized Challenge to U.S. “Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial”
Of particular significance is the American Black Community’s Annual Black History Month of February celebration of the richness and vitality of its African derivative culture, in that (as the US’s second oldest African-American Community’s ethnic observance), it is of parallel importance to the annual “Juneteenth” celebration-of-Freedom from involuntary servitude of the African forefathers and foremothers of today’s generations and the Nation’s second organized challenge to the US’s “race-relations culture-in-denial.”
4. Afro-Euro Cultural Fusion: Catalytic Agents Defining New World Cultures
However, what is also significant is, that the dynamic interaction of the Ancient African ethnocentric cultures with the New World’s Eurocentric cultures, produced throughout the Americas-in-particular, the historically unique and ever-evolving phenomena of New World cultures. Indeed, the catalytic impact of cultural contact between the peoples of Africa, the European and New World Lands of the African diaspora, so transformed the development of the European cultural implants in the New World, that the resultant cultures-of-the-Americas, eventually emerged as the distinct and unique New World ever-evolving cultures, which still remain (as we approach the 21st Century) one of. the dominant cultural forces within the international community.
Surely one is entitled to the belief, that no more defense can be made for the institution of European and Euro-American commerce-in-slavery in the New World from the 16th through the 19th Centuries, than could be made for the Jewish Holocaust of the World War II Era.
Indeed, from 1619-1865, circa 17 million of the enslaved African forefathers and foremothers of today’s generations of African American citizens, were brought to the American shores in chains. They endured 246 years in slavery without hope of freedom… were cast overboard the slave ships to their deaths during the Middle Passage, because of illness or because of their defiance against their treatment as chattel, and were during their post-manumission status as second class citizens, regarded as pre-destined for consignment to economic stasis as a permanent American underclass.
Indeed, very few of the international community’s ethnic, racial and religious populations in recorded history, did not experience a similar fate with “humankind’s inhumanity to humankind.” Amongst such crimes against humanity were the Southern European sieges of the Barbarian Tribes from the North; the Turkish genocidal rampages against the Armenians; the Moorish 11th Century campaigns against the Southern European States; the Soviet Union’s genocidal rampages against their European neighbors and indeed against their own peoples; the pre-European Slavery Era’s Arab trading in slaves and barely 50 years ago, the heinous Nazi Germany Holocaust against six million European Jews, also including today’s ethnic and tribal wars in Africa; the state sponsored stifling of the “marginales” and the indigenous peoples in Latin America and Australia and those of the Palestinian peoples in the Middle East; the Curds of Iraq and Turkey, to name but a few.
Well beyond the fact that the ancestors of our Jewish Brothers and Sisters suffered slavery for 400 years in ancient Egypt, and in our own modern world’s century, endured the indescribable horrors of the Nazi Holocaust as the world’s supreme expression of anti-Semitism … is the far more profound fact, that such horrific manifestations of humankind’s inhumanity to humankind, cannot and should not be evaluated on a scale of plus or minus severity, based solely on numbers, race and ethnicity, or which crime against humanity preceded the other.
Rather should American and European citizens of African descent, and Americans of Jewish descent-in-particular, join together in a commitment to remind world populations that “Just as we have been there, so can you be placed there… if you fail to heed the warnings implicit in the phrases ‘We shall Overcome!!’ and ‘Never Again!!”‘
It is noteworthy that the cultural bi-products of cultural miscegenation between the vast communities of enslaved Africans throughout the New World Lands of the African diaspora and their Euro-American slave-holding captors, derived the strength of their unique cultures-of the-Americas’ character, from what might be metaphorically referred to as the dominant cultural sperm of the ancient cultures of Africa.
It is from that historically unprecedented contact between the dominant African cultures of an enslaved people with the vital economic and weapons-of-destruction-and-conquest-power of the slavers, conquistadores and even the explorers, that the development of the rich and vibrant cultures of the Americas, were consistently corrupted by the race-relations cultures-in-denial in both North America and South America.
Indeed, each new generation’s response to the reality of the inexorable drive of the cultures-of-the-Americas towards the inevitable creation of uniquely American cultures, has in the United States, been opposed by certain racialist advocates of Euro-American culture, in the form of such right wing racialist organizations as the Militias, the Triple K, the John Birch Society, Skinheads, Neo-Nazi groups and a number of the religious right church communities and extreme right wing political groups. Moreover, even today, American political conservatives who publicly and passionately oppose the total “Americanization” of its cultural development process, attempt to do so, by attacking the very concept, not only of the inexorable drive of American culture to create a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural society, but a-VERITAS, they also oppose the very description of American society as “multi cultural” and “inclusive,” etc.
In fact, the historical racialist wellsprings of America’s race-relations debate, has maintained its claim on the American psyche from 1619 (when the African “indentured servants” were delivered as “chattel” to the Port of Jamestown), to 1997, when the race-relations issue cannot be legitimately separated from the issues of justice in the workplace, justice in the justice place; justice in the learning place; and even justice in the worship place, much less justice in the racialist print and sound media news place.
It is in that context, that it was inevitable that the freedom-loving enslaved Africans throughout the Americas, would create (during the era of their consignment to economic and cultural stasis as a permanent slave underclass-of-the-Americas and eventually during the post-slavery era in consignment to stasis as a free-born American underclass-of color), organizations to challenge the American deeply embedded “race-relations culture-in-denial.”5. Frederick Douglass: First to Initiate an Organized Challenge to U.S. Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial, With 1893 “Colored American Day Observance”*
For it was to that noble purpose (fueled by his profound belief in the American philosophy of freedom as expressed in the US Constitution), that Frederick Douglass (b. 1817 – d. 1895), the esteemed abolitionist, publisher, diplomat and ex-slave, prevailed over his White racialist adversaries in the post-Reconstruction Era’s US Congress (also including not a few of his “Doubting Thomas”‘ racial kith and kin adversaries), in his brilliantly conceived 1893 “COLOURED AMERICAN DAY” programme to counteract the White American and European negative views of the manumitted American citizens of African descent.
Indeed, it was via the international stage of the Chicago World’s Fair’s Haiti Government Pavilion, that Frederick Douglass (former 19th Century US Minister to Haiti [the designation as Ambassador having been withheld from him because of the US Government’s “race relations culture-in-denial”) introduced history’s first organized tribute to Americans of African descent, who had contributed to the United States as a developing 19th Century economic super power.
It was from that programme, that Frederick Douglass’ 1893 “COLOURED AMERICAN DAY OBSERVANCE, initiated the evolutionary process of an organized Black American challenge to the traditional American race-relations culture-in-denial, which is today similarly expressed in the annual Black History Month Observance celebrations of the contributions of Americans of African descent to American culture. For featured on that Chicago World’s Fair Gala Programme, were the virtuoso concert violinist performance by Joseph Douglass, the grandson of Frederick Douglass, as the assisting artist for history’s first Black American concert violinist Will Marion Cook; the declamations of the esteemed Black American poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar and the performance of Harry T. Burleigh, who sang in his rich baritone voice, encore after encore (and including what was even then regarded as the renown oratory skills of Frederick Douglass himself).
As a result of the overwhelming success of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair “COLOURED AMERICAN DAY OBSERVANCE, the late 19th Century Black American Awareness movement, was also fueled by both the racialist oriented “colour line” debates within the White American official and private sector communities and not unsurprisingly, also within the deeply divided American Black Community (which barely had 28 years of experience in freedom as American history’s most selectively politically, economically, culturally and educationally impoverished community). However, as it was inevitable that the spirit of the American Constitution (with its call for the “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness,” without a single word’s reference to any colour qualification whatsoever for a citizen’s right-to-equity-of-access-to what was then as is now, a uniquely “American-way-of-life”), would energize the spirit of the formerly enslaved African in the USA. Indeed, the wave of freedom aspirations in the American Black Community’s post-Slavery Era, was to inevitably find an expression in the Black American Club Women’s Movement (which was in that day, a parallel expression [albeit within a segregated context], of the political freedom aspirations of the White American Club Women’s Rights Movement).
6. 1895 Negro History Day Resolution Becomes Second Organized Challenge to U.S. ”Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial”
Thus it was, that the 1895 Convention of the National Association of Coloured Women’s Clubs (the forbearer of today’s National Association of Negro Women … although the NACWC also remains extant in 38 States), entertained a Resolution submitted to it by the Washington, D.C. Black socialite Mrs. Josephine Bruce. Mrs. Bruce was the wife of the Black US Senator from the State of Mississippi, the Honourable Blanche K. Bruce). Mrs. Bruce’s Resolution called for an annual NEGRO HISTORY DAY OBSERVANCE. However, it was the atmosphere of lynchings, the omnipresence of the Triple K, the stagnant condition of Black Community poverty, the oppressive effect of institutional racialism, enforced by the separate and supposedly equal Jim Crow Laws governing relations between Black citizens and White citizens in all phases of life… and the general fear of the dominant State and local White Community, which became the determinant factors for the defeat of Mrs. Josephine Bruce’s Resolution’s call for an annual Negro History Day Observance.
However, Mrs. Bruce’s contribution to the evolutionary process towards the establishment of today’s Black History Month Observance, remains historically significant, in that the Negro History Day dialogue which she had prompted, became a direct influence on a brilliant Black intellectual (Dr. Carter G. Woodson). For in 1895 (at the young age of 20) Dr. Woodson was to subsequently become the veritable “Black Deus Ex Machina” of the 20th Century’s Black Awareness Movement to establish a permanent annually occurring celebration of the achievements and contributions of citizens of African descent to American society.
7. 1926 Negro History Week Observance Becomes Third and Most Effective e and Lasting Institutionalized Challenge to the U.S. “Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial”
It was not until 20 years later, that in 1915, Dr. Carter Goodwin Woodson (b.1875 – d.1950), established the Washington, D.C. Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (today referred to as the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) and subsequently in 1926 established the NEGRO HISTORY WEEK OBSERVANCE (which annually occurred through 1976).
Indeed, the poverty of language is inadequate to appropriately describe the pivotal and dominant importance of Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s institutional, academic research, educational and philosophic challenge to the seemingly visceral American moribund preoccupation with racialism …a-veritas, within the context of America’s “race relations culture-in-denial.”
Although the Black American generation which had not come into existence during the 50 year period of the 1926-1976 NEGRO HISTORY WEEK ERA, may not have been aware of Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s historic contributions to the establishment of Black Studies as an Academic Discipline, it was in response to that reality and as a simple matter of respect, admiration and honour, that in 1965, Yours Truly had the honour to establish the inaugural BLACK HISTORY MONTH OBSERVANCE as a fitting tribute principally to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and also to Frederick Douglass and Mrs. Josephine Bruce.
8. Black History Month National/ Interactional Challenge to U.S. Race-Relations Culture-in-Denial from a Panafricanist and Economic Perspective
Many have generally supposed that the BLACK HISTORY MONTH OBSERVANCE was simply an expansion of the former Negro History Week Observance. However, the fact is, that the philosophic underpinnings of the Black History Month Observance from the Panafricanist philosophy were only tangentially related to Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s non-“inclusive” Afro-educational construct of the Black Community celebration of the Negro History Week Observance.
In fact, the Panafricanist philosophy which was articulated by the Senegalese Poet-President, Leopold Sedar Senghor as “La Negritude,” was redefined by Yours Truly, in a manner which accommodated both the African source of the culture of Americans of African descent and the Euro-American inescapable condiments of African-American culture.
Moreover, it was on the occasion of the Port Au Prince celebration of the 90th birthday of Jean Price Mars (Haiti’s Ambassador to the UN in 1955), that Yours Truly had the privilege to be the honoured guest participant in a “passing the mantle of one generation to the other,” of the responsibility to “spread throughout the Americas, the philosophic gospel” of the Panafricanist philosophy of “La Negritude” in the form that Yours Truly had redefined it. In fact, that redefinition accommodated the Afro-centric ties between citizens of African descent in the Americas and citizens of the Motherland/Fatherland Africa, i.e., “La Negritude de l’Amerique.”
Succinctly put, Leopold Sedar Senghor and his French philosopher champion, Jean Paul Sartre, had defined the intellectual contributions of Euro-centric cultures as those which had primarily issued from the dynamics of “didactic reasoning,” in contrast to the contributions of Afro-centric cultures, as those which had issued from the dynamics of “intuitive reasoning.” However, Yours Truly had the honour to successfully set-forth the premise that the New World’s culture of the “Hombre Nuevo” (as defined by the Brazilian sociologist-historian Paulo Freire), could only have occurred as an issue of that New World mentality, which had issued from the cultural miscegenated factors of both the dynamics of “didactic” and “intuitive” reasoning.
A-veritas, it was from that philosophic perspective, that the Panafricanist philosophic orientation of the first Black History Month Observance, offered a common cultural bridge between peoples of African descent throughout the New World Lands of the African Diaspora, and their racial-ethnic kith and kin in the Motherland/Fatherland Africa. It was via that bridge of common cultural values, that the 1965 Black History Month Observance was born.
The opportunity to manifest the unique American vitality of the mélange of cultural influences of both the manifold African derivative cultures of the Americas within the dynamic of the Euro-American cultures-of-the-Americas as a whole, took the form of a commission that Yours Truly had the honour to be granted, by the 17 Member Council of Ministers of the Federation du Mali. That was during the 1959-1960 dawn of the imminent acquisition of sovereignty by the former French colonial states of Mali and Senegal. The commission from the Federation du Mali, called for my authorship of a conceptual and budgetary proposal for the Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Negres (which was in the Summer of 1966, launched by the Senegalese Government and its President, Dr. Leopold Sedar Senghor).
A subsequent commission from the organizing committee for the World Festival (The Paris-Dakar “Presence-Africanize”), provided the additional opportunity for Yours Truly to organize an American precursor to the World Festival of Negro Arts in the form of the “American Festival of Negro Arts” (AFNA).
9. Black History Month Founded as a Fitting Tribute to the Negro History Week Legacy of Dr. Carter G. Woodson
It was in being mindful of the responsibility to build upon the historic contributions of one’s forbearers, that Yours Truly and my Black and White American Festival of Negro Arts performing and creative artists, intellectuals, business, science and technology associates, felt honour-bound to preserve the legacy of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, by choosing the month-of-February 1965, as the dates of the AFNA (which we organized as the first annual Black History Month Observance). In fact, during the course of the very first February 1965 Black History Month Observance calendar event at the New York Academy of Sciences, I felt honoured to pay tribute to Dr. Carter Woodson’s legacy, by publicly declaring that the AFNA was dedicated to expanding the Negro History Week Observance into a Black History Monthlong observance. That observance was officially proclaimed in New York City by Mayor Robert Wagner and in the State of New Jersey by Governor Richard Hughes.
For 32 consecutive seasons, the Panamerican-Panafrican Association, Inc., guided the development of the Black History Month Observance, not only upon its Panafricanist orientation, but also as an Observance to which Americans of African descent welcomed the participation of their fellow Americans of all colours, creeds, cultures, national origins and socio-economic conditions.
Noteworthy amongst those organizations who contributed to the popularization of the Black History Month Observance, was the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, which in 1976 discontinued its former Negro History Week Observance in favour of joining in the stewardship of the Black History Month Observance. They did so, by extending their former one-week Observance of Negro History Week, to a one-month Observance of AfroAmerican History Month, whilst remaining faithful guardians of the developing Black Studies addition to K-12 and University curriculums which Dr. Carter G. Woodson had initiated.
It was during the same period, that the Panamerican-Panafrican Association, Inc. contributed the “multi-cultural” philosophic basis to the Ethnic Heritage Studies Act (title IX of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1972), by redefining the “melting-pot” definition of American culture, as a “cultural mosaic” as a more accurate description of the “E-Pluribus-Unum” society that is America.
10. Black History Month Prompts National/International Kith and Kin Black Solidarity Movement
It should be needless to say, that our Foundation’s stewardship of the “inclusive” mission of the AAHM (S&R) Founder’s Commissions, was one which accommodated both the integrity of its Panafricanist purpose to create a “hands across the seas and continents cultural kith and kin connection” between the peoples of African descent in the New World Lands of the African diaspora… the vast European citizens of African descent… with the peoples of the Motherland/Fatherland Africa… whilst also recognizing and respecting the various. national identities of citizens of African descent in the United States, the Caribbean Island States, Black Communities of South America, Europe, etc.
Indeed, we feel justifiably proud to have participated in the 104-year evolution of the development of annual observances of the achievements and contributions of citizens of African descent to cultures of the United States, its sister States within the New World and European Lands of the African diaspora, as we also annually pay homage to our ancestors in the ancient Motherland /Fatherland Africa and to our African enslaved forefathers and foremothers. For it is the memory of our enslaved ancestors (whose suffering, degradation, humiliation and eventual transfiguration into citizens who both expect and demand the right to Equity of Access to Equality of economic opportunity … to “colour blind” justice … to fair and impartial local/mass media reportorial & editorial coverage … to educational and job upward mobility for the “mutuality of benefit” of citizens of all colours, creeds and cultures) … that we especially commemorate, through both the publicly and privately scheduled events of the Black History Month Observance.
Widely regarded as one of the most moving of such commemorative expressions has been the choral declamations of the following Prayer to the Innominate Slave:
11. AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH OBSERVANCE
REQUIEM PRAYER FOR THE INNOMINATE SLAVE“May this National Day of Remembrance and Mourning And the Monument to the innominate Slave serve as fitting Memorials, ...to all those of our African forefathers and foremothers who lie restless, buried beneath the high seas of the Middle Passage, with only the crests of its waves as their tombstones... ...to the African victims of the slave-trade holocaust, yet unavenged by God and man, who lie restless beneath the soil of this state, this community, throughout the states of our country the Americas and Europe, in graves marked only by the unredeemed agony of their toil and the sanctified dust of their bones… ...and to those of our ancestral kith and kin who tasted freedom naught in their lifetimes and who still await the day when, Through some appropriately humble act of national contrition they may at long last Rest in Peace. May our Observance of this National Day of Remembrance and Mourning remain such a day… To redeem our Nation’ s sins of commission and omission against our enslaved African Forefathers and Foremothers and their progeny through the centuries.” Robert Starling Pritchard June 1992
It has become both understandably and moribundly fashionable for passionately concerned Black Community Leaders and our White American Community supporters, to harass, threaten, denounce and even defame both the official and private sector racialist architects, advocates and even implementors of economic, educational, cultural and right-winged political and religious leaders, as the enemies of American citizens of African descent. Whilst the African-American History Month (State and Regional) Founder’s Commissions support the whole range of American Black leaders, whose cries for justice for American citizens of African descent are no less passionate and legitimate then are our own, we also remain steadfastly committed to invest our time, treasure and commitment to support healing between the races. In fact, the AAHM (S&R) Founder’s Commissions are committed to creating educational, cultural and economic exchange community, national and international forums, wherein both citizens of African descent and citizens of European, etc. descent, may experience those positive forms of human interaction which can issue from the rational and spiritual meaning inherent in the Jewish maxim, “Come, let us reason together.”
For if we are all truly committed to eventually eliminating the horrors of humankind’s inhumanity to humankind, and indeed if we are to usher in the forthcoming 21st Century, with a resolve that “Human dignity may no longer weep for an advocate,” then we might also the better heed the maxim of the great protestant theologian, Martin Niemoeller:
“In the 30’s, in Germany, when they came for the Communists, I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Trade-Unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Trade-Unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic. I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time, there was no one left to speak up.”
12. The New Global Economy: Black American Challenges
Indeed, as America and the international community struggles to access the advantages of the newly emerging global economic community and of the unprecedented intellectual and economic benefits of the burgeoning information age, it particularly behooves American citizens of African descent, to accommodate the business, science and technology-education requirements for the attainment of that sine-qua-non competitive edge-key to “equity of access to equality of economic opportunity.”
The re-shaping and expansion of the education-philosophy of the African-American educator-establishment from the dynamics of the “put down your hoe where you are” philosophy of Booker T. Washington… and the elitists “talented tenth” education philosophy of Dr. W.E.B Du Bois (co-founder of the NAACP) must now be reassessed for their potential for inclusion in a broader and more in-depth education-for-African-American students facing the challenges of the emerging New Global Economy.
If US citizens of African descent are to successfully compete in the America of the emerging new global economy, a renewal of the fervor for-Black Community advancement (which characterized the successful career aspirations of the last 3 generations of Black American students who claimed places of excellence as educators, physicians, jurists, athletes, the performing and creative arts, etc.), must now be re invigorated to include Black American high-level entrepreneurship and excellence in scientific research and technology, as the defining prerequisite of success in international trade (particularly between the USA and Africa and other foreign states of people-of-colour).
However, in attaining major positions of economic leadership in both the national and international communities in the 21st Century, African-Americans must (with the ever-present memory of “from whence and from what we came”) steadfastly keep faith with the meaning inherent in the old African maxim, i.e., “Know one, teach one.” For in so doing, our communities will become more economically secure and family-values-stronger … more viable and more respected, as a direct consequence of our avoidance of those forms of intra-group divisions, which have for generations been a pernicious and defining raison d’etre for our considerably less than successful intra-race solidarity movements.
In fact, the Black Community’s intra-group dynamic of elitism, has also been the American Black Community’s “Achilles Heel”-target, which is today advantaged by those local, State and Federal right-wing politicos; the Religious Right-Advance Guard; the corporate bigots; the “massah’s” of the judiciary, DA and law enforcement establishments (and indeed their supportive Black Community’s Uncle Toms and Aunt Thomasinas); the patronizing local and community social service leadership; and the list is endless, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
As we approach the 21st Century and the New Global Economic Order, the challenge for Black Americans is clear, very clear indeed: For only if we as a national and international community commit ourselves to “self-help” (whilst our kith and kin political and economic leaders protect us with their advocacy of our upward mobility trek towards the very same “first class American citizenship” which Euro Americans have traditionally assumed as their due), can Americans of African descent hope to attain full Equity of Access to equality of economic opportunity … to “colour blind” justice … to fair and impartial local/mass media reportorial & editorial coverage … to educational and to job upward mobility.
Thus, if Americans of African descent are to successfully resist the contemporary forces set to consign us to economic stasis as a permanent American underclass and if America itself is not to experience a New World manifestation of the fall of the Roman Empire, we can avoid such a cataclysm for American citizens of all colours, creeds, cultures and socio-economic conditions, by seriously reflecting upon the following metaphor:
“Should illness constrict the free and equitable flow of blood to all human body parts, limbs and extremities, the unnourished areas will sooner than later atrophy. Eventually, corruption and disease will claim the entire body, and the body will die. Just as blood is to the human body, and its equitable distribution necessary to the health of the entire body, so is the equitable distribution of the wealth of a nation necessary to the health and quality of life of its people.
“Accordingly, should the economically disenfranchised African-American sectors of our Nation, remain without hope of becoming equitably nourished by the benefits of its production on and imports of goods and services, history indicates that the resultant economic instability will trigger a domino effect, eventually engulfing the entire nation. Such disparate conditions will inevitably require the moral and pragmatic attention of the national community at cost levels that may be well beyond the re sources of even an affluent nation to support.
Extracted from Black History Month Founder’s 1993 Testimony on the NAFTA before the Committee on Ways and Means of the US House of Representatives.
Finally, it is with this Black History Month Founder’s Message greeting to the Black American Community on this 32nd Anniversary of the Black History Month Observance (to which. Americans of all colours, creeds, cultures and national origins, are welcome to participate in the same manner of their annual participation in other such ethnically oriented official and unofficial holidays and observances as St. Patrick’s Day, Columbus Day, the Oktoberfest, the Chinese New Year, etc.), that we look forward to the fulfillment of the inexorable American drive towards the creation of a truly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi religious society, in which we may all as Americans eventually joyously strut to the melody of the Old Negro Spiritual “Ah-ah-ah-amen.” For only then, shall we as Americans of different colours, creeds, cultures, national origins and socio-economic conditions, have finally created an American Promised Land, where at last “We Shall Have Overcome” and thus fulfilled the “Dream” of Martin Luther King.
Robert Starling Pritchard
1 February 1997 (Revised and re-issued on 3 February 1997 at the US Military Academy at West Point’s Thayer Hotel)
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