Not just reparations as Merriam-Webster’s defines it: the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury; but Reparations as African folk define it: the Big Payback for wrongs and injury suffered by our ancestors and ourselves during the 400-plus year period of our forced service to the Global White Supremacy System (GWSS). Reparations as that subject, that religious credo which has captured the hearts and minds of afrocentric scholars – of both the nationalist and integrationist persuasion – and laypersons alike. The idea has captured my imagination also. But even more importantly, it has captured my body/self/ego defined as the complex of emotions, memories and intellectual constructs that comprise a small proportion of the greater entity I be. Because of my fervent desire for parity, because I want my people to continue to rise and express their natural genius unfettered by any boundaries I find myself at the Crossroads with Papa Legba, holding a bottle of whisky in one hand, a cigar in the other. We pass the bottle between us.
Is Reparations, the repayment of damages done, in the best interest of diasporic Africans? Reparations paid to living individuals for damages done to them and their revered Ancestors? I tip the bottle and let some whisky hit ground at mention of the Ancestors.
Reparations for Slavery? Reparations for the after-effects of Slavery? Reparations for continued economic and social marginalization, educational inequalities and the implementation of sociological structures designed to keep Africans and other melanated peoples from achieving their goals, en masse? These are just a few of the issues at hand. There are many more. African folk got a lot of real and justified anger simmering beneath their smiling, dancing, life-loving and loud-talking facades. Those are the masks that some of us choose to show the world and each other sometimes but we all know that there is much, much more that the current hegemonic incarnation of the GWSS can barely begin to imagine, let alone take responsibility for.
On a sub-verbal supra-conscious level we Africans believe that Europeans owe us for our contribution to their forms of music, dance and art, or more correctly stated, their theft of African music, dance and art. Our contributions to the scientific achievements of the modern and post-modern ages, too numerous to mention. Their theft of the mineralogical and biological resources of the mother continent and yes, that includes us. Their active and subliminal attempts to perform the act of genocide against our people in these days and past years and yes, that includes AIDS, Norplant and syphilis. Their continued implementation of Divide and Conquer tactics, which include making it easier for other ethnicities to build businesses in our communities than it is for us. Dividing us by social station and melanin-level, a tactic that we as a people knowingly and sometimes gleefully maintain. And finally, their conscious and sub-conscious refusal to take responsibility for the sins of their fathers and mothers, and, even more damning, to take responsibility for themselves, the world they live in and their responsibility for its current state. For the fact that the very prosperity of American Europeans, extrapolated unto Eurasia and the global European community, was [and is being] built upon the bodies and blood as well as the physical and intellectual labor of diasporic and continental Africans. Is there more? Indeed there is. Variations upon the themes described above, mostly. Contemplating these injustices is how I got to where I find myself now. At the Crossroads, looking North and South knowing that if I go in one of those directions, either the positive or negative aspect of a single, ideological narrative will be the result. If I choose East or West, aspects of the alternative choice will manifest. Papa Legba laughs at my mental stasis and tells me to pass the cigar. I drain the bottle, hit the cigar one last time and do as he commands. He is in control of my fate, after all.
Do not misread or misinterpret what I am saying. I know that diasporic and continental Africans deserve compensation for the untold horror of the Maafa and the resultant exploitation that our ancestors and we have experienced at the hands of Europeans. Africans have made this world what it is today. The African continent has provided the raw materials for the creation of a Technological Renaissance that has not yet reached its zenith although it may be closer than many think. With a little infrastructural investment and the suspension of predatory capitalistic practices, Economic Renewal Zones, Health System Reform and School Voucher Programs can fundamentally restructure African and other ethnic neighborhoods, creating islands of enlightened growth in what are now festering bastions of schizophrenic victimization and unhealthy lifestyles.
Globalization, that European vehicle of domination tied directly to post-colonialism and imperialism in ideological thrust and practice, has proselytized the notion of a global family the world across. The spatial diffusion of higher standards of living, of computer and robotic technology and of luxury items such as clothing and vehicles – not to mention the social and political innovations transmitted by artistic forms of expression – have all conspired to create a climate of connectivity that binds us together in Almost-Real-Time (ART). Media has become the modern-day Griot, with CNN and MTV acting as the superimposed and digitized voices of the people. It is in these venues that visions of the present and future lie. It is in these venues that the arguments for and against reparations will be carried out by the incestuous American family, for the rest of the world to ingest and regurgitate, edited for cultural context and adult content. Misogyny is an American institution and the history of this country is x-rated and forbidden fodder for countries of a more theocratic bent. But Reality Programming is the order of the day and this internecine struggle for equity and compensation is the only show in heavy rotation that has never been truly or objectively publicized. Its day has finally come.
The bottle is empty, my cigar finished, its embers scattered by the wind. Papa Legba is gone and I stand alone at the Crossroads. Still uncertain, I examine my choices. The battle for economic and social Reparations lies along the meridian of North and South, its outcome shrouded by dark and brooding clouds. To the North, I see the inevitable triumph of Truth and Justice. African Lawyers, Social Advocates and Community Organizations engaged in battle with the forces of the GWSS, using the legal system against those who have used it against us. And winning. To the South, I see European Rage. I see renewed racial animus, murderous vindictiveness and death: the fundamental division of a family at odds with itself. I see a cycle that cannot end if both sides, yin and yang, continue to insist upon the Might of Right. Papa Legba’s laughter floats past on the wind.
Eastern and Western meridians stretch forth into the Plains of Infinity. To the East, Blackwards, the Clan once said. There I see our spiritual foundation, the Land of our Birth and Awakening. The Past, full of glory. Wondrous civilizations existed: the Nile, Sumer, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Also, I see pineally-challenged albino children feared, reviled, cast out and isolated from the hue-man family. Mass-migrations, cave-dwelling, devolution and great walls built for protection against abandoned barbarians. I see the seeds of retribution sown. I see Ancestors reviled, brothers, sisters and cousins sold into slavery, traditional spiritual practices forgotten or tossed aside for material gain. If the choice to live in the past is made, we must accept all of it. The Good with the Bad. Too many do not. I stand in the Present and, looking to the West, see Light. Spiritual Evolution. Truth and Justice untainted by vengeful motifs. Past actions and Karmic debts forgiven whether forgiveness is given in return or not. Life, lived in the moment with the knowledge that we cannot exact our own vengeance without calling Divine Justice down upon ourselves. Faith in something beyond the physical is required to walk this road.
In all directions, I see Karma in action. What has been sown shall be reaped. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. Every, single thing happens for a reason. Synchronicity. Science and theology meet in the crucible of a New Age. The European dichotomization of Cosmogony crumbles beneath the twenty-first century realization of a Quantum Reality. The knowledge that spiritual Truths are Omniversal Truths and that Love is the foundation that girds Creation itself. That God is, indeed, Love and that our immediate and distant ancestors had it right when they insisted upon prayer, meditation and the Perfection of the Self in the search for the god within.
The Reparations Movement is destined for success beyond the wildest dreams of the diasporic African world: spiritual transcendence – which cannot be truly conceived in its entirety – is guaranteed, provided we do not get caught up in the fatal lure of Babylon’s pride. Spiritual transcendence is what our Ancestors believed in and fought for, knowing that the battle against Evil was enjoined on different levels of Creation. The lengths that Europeans will go to in order to retain the material rewards that they have stolen at the expense of all other lifeforms on this planet is unknown to me. But what I do know is that everything has its reason and season. That the fight for Right is the fight for Life. That in living, and continuing to speak and seek the Truth in all its forms, we build relationships of Synthetic Correlation, connecting our struggle with that of those who came before us, the revered Ancestors. It is the same struggle, but must be fought in our hearts. Living with hate or self-perceived victimization or superiority issues is spiritually deadening, no matter what color you interpret life through. We are each responsible for ourselves and Eternity is our destiny. Papa Legba comes to mind. Drums sound in the distance and I smile, take a deep breath and my first step…into the Light.