Black Consciousness: beyond violence and MLK’s Mountaintop

Fragments from a 2017/18 Notebook:

Our Lives are not just the antithesis of humanity. Humanity should refer to all peoples on the face of the earth, but experience has taught us to be wary of definitions which practically alienate others. for too long the Black has been treated like an other. We have come a long way from vulgar public lynchings and open enslavement. The system has become more sophisticated and the lynchings now take on various other forms, from mass incarceration, media biases to work-space inequity. Although there are many reasons to believe the old myths regarding Biblical curses and Islamic interpretations of who are servants, followers or leaders, prophets and pacemakers, We as the people known as Black, are on a journey of Self Discovery. Our journey leads through a Death Valley strewn with so many Bones. These Bones Must Rise Again ….Their destination is beyond Martin Luther Kings’ Mountain Top …

What compelled the West to violence against Black Bodies? Thinking  of Abram Ramothibi Onkgopotse Tiro, Malik El Haji Shabbaz aka Brother Malcolm X, Bantubonke Steve Biko, Mangiliso Robert Sobukwe, Isidore Thomas Sankara, the many unsung and vaguely remembered Sister and Brothers that have become martyred although their aim was not martyrdom but Freedom.

Black Consciousness puts into crisis the universal application of Marxism …

BC is not a rejection but an expansion and elucidation of the idea that Black lives do matter. Even though they do not matter to the System that perpetuates their/our negation and actively promotes our death, Our Lives do Matter, But to Whom?

The constituent elements of civil society are, antiblack.” – Before we can find out how Our Lives are valuable to Ourselves and to those with whom we share this finite world, we need to take a few steps back and look at ourselves and our experience with this world.

“Gramscian wisdom cannot imagine the emergence, elaboration and stunting of a subject by way, not of the contingency of violence resulting in a ‘crisis of authority’, but by way of direct relations of force.’ This is remarkable, and unfortunate, given the fact that the emergence of the slave, the subject effect of an ensemble of direct relations of force marks the emergence of capitalism itself.’

Let us put a finer point on it: violence towards the black body is the pre-condition for the existence of Gramsci’s single entity, “the modern bourgeois – state”, with its divided apparatus, political society and civil society.”


NB. I have forgotten whom I was quoting, I usually acknowledge my sources. But it is someone close, from the Black Radical Tradition. It is either Dr Frank Wilderson, Andile Mngxitama or Jackie Shandu.

Black Unconsciousness

Black Love, Black Joy, Black Pain, Black Straining  Forth Against The Typhoon of Structured race-isms. Black Excellence scaling up a White Wall of slippery conditions: ignorance, hype, Uncle Toms and race Blindness, Judicial lore, Jesuit erections and White Savior Mythologies.

Miracles Over God. God Over Knowledge. Men of God over Wisdom of Self, Ancestry and the bloody Paths we have traveled. Their God died begging to be spared yet they still hang on to the Promise in spite of Reality’s rabid bite and bite and bite and the din of the World Banks cash register – Truth Does not seem to Register – Because apparently, JOY Comes In The Morning

Despite that We have seen many Dawns when the Sun refused to Shine – Hopey Changey Faith is a Trap built on Good Intentions – better known as the Road to purgatory

Another Fiction to Save Us From Another Version of Fiction – King of Heaven versus The Queen of Heaven. We are caught up in the Domestic Disputes of Real and Imagined Extra-Terrestrials  –

The Will Come Is Here, finally the Jazzed out and Bluesed in Prophets who Crooned and Blew that The Creator Has A Master-plan, finally they are vindicated.

Nina Simone, Pharaoh Sanders, Leon Thomas and Andy Bey, Amiri Baraka, Mafika Gwala, Sipho Sepalma, Eartha Kitt, Fela and Audre Lorde are not Somewhere Yonder Upon the Breast of the Good Lord sharing the bosom of Abraham – Fiction is Not part of their Diction – They Are raising Hell Among The Blue Black Ancestors Calling For Nu Black Realities – Neo-Black Soul Shifts and Kwame Toure is reasoning with Robert Nesta, Peter Tosh and Joseph Hill, saying Zion has Fallen – The Holy Hill is Within – She is now Called Black Purpose – The Unity of Purpose They All Died Calling For.

Slaying Sacred Cows For Trans-formative Feasts

Ubuntu and Jazz have been misappropriated and misused, how do we rescue them from the hands of unscrupulous opportunists?

This morning, at about 3.30 am after changing baby’s nappies, I just could not sleep, so I put on my earphones to listen to some music I’d downloaded from You Tube. Since I am learning to play the trumpet, I selected a recording by the The Blue Notes, a song called Schoolboy, recorded live at Rondebosch Town Hall, Cape Town, circa June 1964. A band of South Africa’s heavyweights of the genre known as jazz was in full-swing. Dudu Pukwana ( the composer of the tune) on alto-saxophone, Chris McGregor on the piano; Nick Moyake on the tenor saxophone; Louis Moholo on the drums and Johnny Dyani on bass; but being a trumpet student, it was Mongezi Feza’s long solo that really mesmerised me. I fell asleep later to Sun Ra and his Arkestra’s organ heavy I Pharaoh.

The reason I begin with a personal story of music is because among the languages that connect the world, music reigns supreme. While the words, messages and voices are equally important to understand, it is that intuitive appreciation of the sound that truly cuts through the barriers and creates bridges, even patterns of thought and intercultural relatability. Yet we are still not utilizing our music, Black music to gain the power we require to triumph collectively as a people. Much of the cultural productions of Afrikans and Black folks globally still benefits White owned record companies while also enriching the cultural pool that we all drink from. There is disproportionate sharing of power due to the pervasive scourge of structural racism.

When I woke up, I began thinking about Afrikan scholarship, cultural productions and their global reach, Afrocentricity and its pros and cons.  There have been so many activists who have either subtly and militantly advocated for the renaissance of Afrika centred scholarship, the  reevaluation and  valuing of Afrikan cultural production and institutions – some are still at it as we speak. There are scholars, teachers, researchers, artists, astrophysicists, cosmologists, engineers, architects and mathematicians, nutritionists and virtually people in every imaginable field of endeavor who keep insisting that Afrika and Black folk globally have all that it takes to attain the power necessary to achieve our individual, communal and civilizational visions. Some of these visions are articulated clearly in the Afrikology, Afrocentric and Black radical schools of thought, but they are not as popular due to the scattered nature of our institutions, run by individuals and groups whose ultimate agenda’s differ. While we are are not a homogeneous bunch of robots, there are certain aspects of our being that define us as Abantu. These aspects or attributes which are intrinsic, meaning they are not just part of the social constructs that emanate from environmental determination, can be harnessed to hoist us from the social death that is a symptom of the worlds anti-blackness.

As should be expected, there are various other voices, other opinions which insist that humanity is essentially the same, and that we would be falling into the trap of eugenicists and racists if we define ourselves as unique or outside of the accepted scope of humanism. My intuition says that we must define ourselves anew, while we share various other norms, needs and identities with other peoples, it is our diversity that will allow us to thrive within our parallel economies.

Let us face it, Nina Simone and Dolly Parton may both be Americans, beloved by both Black and White folks, but it is not hard to tell who has had more impact on the world of music. This is not to put down the great Dolly, but Nina’s impact is based on the reach of her Soul, while Dolly’s is also based on the reach of her White privilege.  Study that for yourself and use other examples if you have the time. Th point we are making here is that Ubuntu Bethu Asikabi Nawo Amandla Aphelele Okubusebenzisa Ukuze Sizuze Amandla Njengohlanga Lwendlu Entsundu.

An alternative view is expressed by a Black scholar named Nyasha Mboti, and I am taking the liberty to share an excerpt from his paper “May The Real Ubuntu Please Stand Up”, published in 2015 by ( Journal of Media Ethics, 30:125–147, 2015
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 2373-6992 print/2373-700X online DOI: 10.1080/23736992.2015.1020380), here:

Gade (2011) has studied the evolution of the notion of ubuntu over a period of 165 years. He demonstrates that the term “ubuntu” has appeared in writing since at least 1846. Importantly, Gade analyses the definitional changes that the term has undergone in written sources between 1846 and 2011. Particularly telling is Gade’s observation that the aphorism umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu was used for the first time to describe ubuntu in the period between 1993 and 1995. That is, this use is actually quite recent. Subsequently, a preferential consensus of sorts grew and accreted around the application of the aphorism. As Gade notes, “most authors today refer to the proverb when describing ubuntu, irrespective of whether they consider ubuntu to be a human quality, African humanism, a philosophy, an ethic, or a worldview” (p. 303).
I aver that the preferred reading of umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu since 1993 is, in fact,
hegemonic. I am obviously drawing narrowly on the definition of hegemony popularized by Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci in the Prison Notebooks (1971). Gramsci (1971) regarded hegemony as a kind of “prestigious” moral and intellectual leadership predicated on “educative pressure” and majoritarian consent (p. 242). On the one hand, my reading of Gramsci tempts me to regard umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu—in the custodial hands of ubuntu scholars and theorists writing since the 1990s—as a particular kind of “superstructure.” This is obviously a reference to how umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu gradually became an institutionalized idea or prestigious way of seeing spread through “educative” and other pressures. Shutte’s preoccupation with an ethic for the “new” South Africa suggests that one source of pressure was political.On the other hand, the scholars and theorists of ubuntu—due to their narrow adherence to, and influence over, a specific reading of ubuntu as umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu—constitute what Gramsci referred to as a “fundamental group” or “civil society.” It is this “civil society” of ubuntu scholars that is behind the “prestigious” adoption and spread of the particular “superstructural” translation, interpretation and definition of ubuntu as “a person is a person through other persons.” The hegemonic use of umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu as a catch-all distillation of ubuntu has resulted in a more or less widespread uniformity of definition. Such uniformity reflects, on the one hand, the prestige and confidence in which extant definitions are held and, on the other hand, a general state of inadequate rigour in attempts to define ubuntu.” 

While I agree and disagree with some of what is stated in this paper, I do think that Mboti makes some strong points. I think that there are some problems related to the sort of ideological spectacles he is using to dissect this topic. The quoting of European or non-Afrikan researchers/scholars who have probably never been to Afrika is rather problematic to say the least. I would assume that the best folks to learn about Ubuntu from would be Abantu themselves and we are not only situated in Southern Africa. He appears to be weighing the hegemonic ontological perspective of Europeans and others against the lived experience and scholarship of  what he perceives as an Afrocentric hegemony, perhaps that is not the best way to begin. But further reading may reveal something more, so I am sharing the link to his entire paper here:

In my upcoming book, The House of Plenty, we shall speak about how Mongezi Feza’s trumpet playing and personality was transmuted into Afrikan-American trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith’s music, noting hoe that itself is another example of Ubuntu. We shall further show that the idiom Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu is highly valid and relevant even as a recent invention, but we shall also show how it had been misused and appropriated just as the word jazz has.



Unlearning Obsolete Rituals

I found this article from the New African journal quite well balanced and it shines a light on a subject that is perennial. My personal take is that we cannot Afrikanise these festivals, we need to simply rediscover what is our own heritage and work on our own Afrika-centered identities.  This is the age of decolonization and rebuilding.

Ancestral Solutions to Present, Future Challenges

In a spiritual tradition that believes the ancestors live on, watching over the living, the belief in vadzimu holds that ancestral spirits can choose to return, in times of family or national crisis, through living mediums. Nehanda, a royal ancestral spirit, is one who has come back again and again, answering the needs of the children of the soil, the descendants she watches over.” – Panashe Chigumadzi, These Bones Will Rise Again

As a person who is currently residing in Zimbabwe, the land of the Mbira, the land of great beauty as well as seemingly unceasing turmoil, I am sensitive to both the living conditions of its peoples, while at the same time keeping an ear to the ground for the murmur, whisper or cries of their ancestors. My country Azania/South Africa and my great grandfather land the Kingdom of Eswatini are also lands of deep conflicts both hidden and visible, yet without neglecting them, I have become acutely drawn into the cultural heritage of this land wherein I dwell with my wife and children.

My deepest concern is with the spiritual health and socio-economic well-being of the youth of this land. What are they losing while these politically motivated conflicts rage on to the detriment of the economy? While I am attempting to answer such questions in my upcoming book The House of Plenty, there is a sense of urgency that pushes me to share some of my thoughts here, while I also reference the works of other like-minded cultural workers, writers and activists …

In this article we will speak about ancestral spirit mediums, diviners, healers, blacksmiths, artists and other cultural workers in order to glean some wisdom that we require to create a well balanced and progressive New Afrikan society.