Black Scholars in Crisis?
by Marvin X
The nation's Afrocentric scholars met in Oakland this past weekend to celebrate the work and birthday of professor Dr. Wade Nobles. I believe the late Dr. John Henry Clark once remarked, "What is an Afro?" But generally speaking, Afrocentricism is the African approach to reality as opposed to the European approach. The Afrocentrists look at the world through the lens of African colored glasses. Whatever problems I've had with my Afrocentric brothers and sisters ended on Saturday at Allen Temple Baptist Church, site of panel discussions on the subject.
I was doing all right in my generally held views to the left of almost everyone on the planet.
Alas, my daughter asked me the other night, "Dad, is there anyone you like?" I said no, including myself. I have mixed feelings about everything and everyone, but then a strange thing happened as I sat listening to a panel discussion: an African goddess glided past me so black and beautiful that my mind did astro-travel to Africa in that instant--my mind was completely taken by the beauty of the goddess walking past me; all my antipathy to Afrocentrism evaporated and I was thereafter able to enjoy the full message of the day, although I retained a small measure of critical analysis, but, clearly, the power of the African goddess had me under her control. How could I be so weak, or, perhaps, how could she exercise such power? Local poet Phavia has a poem that repeats the line: "If you think I'm just a physical thing, you don't know the spiritual power that I bring."
Had the conference organizers told the goddess to glide past Marvin X so we'll have him in our corner? Maybe so.
I had arrived late and was chided by conference organizer and daughter of Dr. Nobles. The panel on education was in session but I had missed panelist Dr. Asa Hilliard, although I would question him later during the press conference. Dr. Safiya Madhubuti reviewed the work of Third World Press, the Institute of Positive Education and the Betty Shabazz charter school founded by her and her husband Haki (aka Don L. Lee) in Chicago. Her comments echoed those of former superintendent of schools, Dr. Ruth Love, who said we cannot expect the public schools to save us. We must save ourselves. Dr. Love told of her trips to Africa and the eagerness African youth have to become educated under the direst poverty. She suggested African American youth need to visit Africa to gain an appreciation of education.
At the press conference attended by fellow journalists Wanda Sabir and Charles Aikens, I was able to question Dr. Wade Nobles, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Dr. J. Alfred Smith and priestess Iyana Vanzant. I asked Dr. Nobles about the state of black people. He said we’re going backward and forward simultaneously, perhaps like Michael Jackson dancing the moonwalk.
Recently, a brother asked me to sign one of my books by writing, “Up with spirituality, down with religion,” so I asked Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith his views on this. He said, “Well, Jesus was against religion. When we had this complex built, the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed me; they didn’t want this edifice built for the people in the hood.”
Journalist Wanda Sabir asked the scholars how should she relate to her just received tenure at a local college. Iyana Vanzant told her to be true to herself, to follow in the tradition. Indeed, Dr. Nobles said she must pick up the baton until victory is won. He added that even today was a victory, by the fact that we are having this conversation. Dr. Hilliard noted that this is indeed the mission of Afrocentric scholars, to have conversations with the people.
I was troubled by the answer to my question, “How can the work of black scholars get to the people in the hood in the way CDs and DVDs are being sold on the street?” Dr. Hilliard said, “It is being done. The youth are selling CDs and DVDs of Afrocentric scholars across the country.”
I take issue with this for I doubt one can go anywhere in Oakland to find youth selling the audio or video works of Dr. Hilliard, Dr. Nobles, or even Iyana Vanzant.
Dr. Asa Hilliard responds to Marvin X:
Hello Brother Marvin, thank you for being present at Wade Nobles'
celebration. I wanted to clarify my comment from the interview. I did not
mean to say that the young people were involved in widespread
distribution. I intended to refer to the bootlegging of audio and videotapes of
many speakers, and that their products are easily available on the
streets in New York, Atlanta etc. I also do not mean to approve that
practice, just to say that in the absense of financial support and
institutional vehicles for dissemination is a continuing problem for the
Thanks for covering our meeting. Asa
Asa G. Hilliard III-Nana Baffour Amankwatia II
May 24, 2007 8:19 AM