In Ghana: Why Barack Obama Belongs To All Africa
With his intellect, his mastery of strategy, his calmness and self-assured persona, Obama repudiates all the negative attributes that have historically been assigned to Africans. These augers well for an African Century.
[International: Pan-African Essay]
Why is President Barack Obama so universally celebrated by African peoples?
Why do African peoples, not only in Ghana, where he landed today, but throughout the continent, claim ownership of this American president?
What is it in the African past and experience that evokes so much pride in this man, whose father hailed from Kenya?
Why is it that Black women and Black men, and even the young, walk around today with chest puffed out, and head held up high, because of Barack Obama?
Celebration of Obama started more than two years ago, when he first declared,
“Yes, We Can.”
Obama went on to show the world what African people everywhere--in the United States, in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia, in Australia and on the African continent itself--have always known: that given the opportunity to excel, African people are second to nobody. When others claimed how dare he hope to win –he was after all a “mere” Black man—Obama ran a superb campaign and along the way brushed aside powerful forces that tried to knock him out.
He used his superior intellect and phenomenal communication skills—skills no doubt inherited from the great story tellers of his father’s native Luo heritage. The Acholi Luos of Uganda call this skill ododo. It's a heritage that today sustains Acholis even through a Pogrom.
But to understand why Obama has been so universally embraced one must recall the history of Africa’s engagement with the rest of the world—this story was written in bloodshed and humiliation: The capture of Africans into Slavery; the exploitation and genocide committed against Africans during the Middle Passage and the era of plantation Slavery; during European colonial conquest and rule; the tyranny and massacres during South Africa’s Apartheid regime; the terror and lynchings of African people during "Reconstruction” in the United States, after slaves were “freed” into the streets with nothing; and, the era of official segregation in the United States.
All these crimes resulted in debilitating and destructive damage on the African psyche globally.
Please see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb-tjIUu0i4
Africans know that to varying degrees they are regarded as second class citizens, no matter their level of education or individual achievements. They are regarded as inferior by many Europeans, many Asians, and many Latinos.
This is because, in conjunction with the exploitation and enslavement of African peoples, European media—dating to the books of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Century explorers; and in the modern era, through newspapers, magazines and cinema—created, disseminated and perpetuated a racist and stereotypical image of Africans that became pervasive all over the world.
So effective was the demonization that many Africans still despise their own heritage.
Please see http://www.theheartsofdarkness.com/
Historically, Africans were portrayed as “lazy”, even when they were imported to create the great surplus wealth that has today made the United States the premier global power.
Africans were portrayed as unintelligent, even when European archeological and paleoanthropological discoveries proved that Africans had the most ancient civilizations; and, Africans were portrayed as “sub humans,” or primates, even though archeological findings, and the works of Cheik Anta Diop, confirmed that all humanity—and the civilizations of Egypt, including the construction of the pyramids—sprung from the loins of Africa.
So, many Africans have lived with humiliation and inferiority complexes. They have been in need of mental liberation.
Africans such as Marcus Garvey, who hailed from Jamaica and Kwame Nkrumah, born in Ghana, are now both claimed by all African peoples.
They are revered because these men, throughout their lifetime, challenged the racist representations of African people, in their writings, pronouncements and Pan-African organizing. Both had a dream of a United States of Africa that would protect Africans everywhere and shield the continents immense natural wealth from foreign marauders.
Both men always invoked pride in Africa’s history and culture. They knew that often the racist depictions favored by Europeans had specific goals. It wasn’t so much that the powers of the day believed in the mischaracterizations of African peoples, rather, the stereotypical images had two principle purposes: to demonize and dehumanize Africans so that Europeans everywhere would be conditioned into accepting genocide perpetuated against Africans during slavery and colonial conquest, in pursuit of commercial profits; and, to create inferiority complexes against Africans by making them believe that, indeed, they are an inferior species, thereby diminishing their will and capacity to resist exploitation.
That’s why African people everywhere have always looked for positive affirmations from whatever sources that they could gravitate towards.
Muhammad Ali was regarded as more than a boxer by most Africans, as witnessed by the adulation when he knocked out George Foreman in what was then Zaire, in 1974. With every punch that Ali threw against his opponents, many Africans actually saw them as blows against the history of Slavery; against the history of colonization; against the history of U.S. segregation; against South African apartheid; and, against the continued exploitation of Africa in the global economy.
Even today, although weakened by illness, the sight of Muhammad Ali still reduces many Africans to tears of joy and pride.
Other icons that African peoples gravitated towards, and still do to varying degrees, include politicians such as Andrew Young and Rev. Jesse Jackson, both of whom were revered by Africans in the Diaspora and on the continent itself.
Likewise, athletes such as Michael Jordan, and entertainers like Michael Jackson, and in the recent era, great business executives such as Oprah Winfrey, and the tennis dynamic duo of Venus and Serena Williams, have been embraced as affirmations of Black positive attributes.
The psychological and physical calamity against Africans have by no means been caused exclusively by Europeans. Many African regimes, since the era of independence in the 1960s, destroyed countless African lives, ruined economies, imposed hunger and starvation, and presided over massacres here and there.
Idi Amin Dada in Uganda, Macias Nguema in Equatorial Guinea, Mengistu Haille Mariam in Ethiopia, Mobutu Sese Seku in the former Zaire; the destruction and bloodshed caused by these despots combined hold up well when compared to those of the European slavers and colonizers.
Mayhem and genocide continues: In Uganda, a U.S.-backed dictator, Yoweri Museveni, has confined a whole ethnic group, nearly 2 million Acholis, in squalid concentration camps where men, women and children die of hunger, thirst and diseases, some spread by targeted-rapes by known HIV-positive soldiers, because these Acholis have not supported him in the last few elections, nor have they submitted to his tyranny.
At the same time, they have been brutalized by the tyranny of a rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Estimates of civilians that have died in Museveni’s death camps in the last 20 years range from 500,000 to more than one million. Ironically, only an African leader can today preside over such genocide and get away with it; fulfilling the destiny some Europeans still want for Africans.
In the Sudan, people continue to die from the continued conflict in the Darfur region, while the Khartoum regime and the Southern Sudan government, everyone knows, are stockpiling arms, for the future battle to separate the country into South Sudan and North Sudan.
Somalia remains ungovernable, and the toll of victims there over the past 20 years have not yet been drawn up.
Kenya remains on a razor’s edge, since the disputed December 2007 election, which, according to most media reports, was stolen by the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki.
So then, who can blame African peoples everywhere for wanting relief from all these woes by seeking positive affirmations?
President Barack Obama, who has vowed to support and anchor responsible and accountable African governments such as Ghana's, embodies the best of Africa and its possibilities—to the extent that the Amins, the Nguemas, the Mobutus, the Mengistus, and the Musevenis represent the worst of Africa.
To many African peoples, here in the United States, in the Diaspora, and on the African continent, Obama is not merely President of the United States.
With his intellect, his mastery of strategy, his calmness and self-assured persona, he is seen as an affirmation of all the latent positive attributes and potential that still lays dormant in Africa.
Obama repudiates all the negative characteristics that have historically been assigned to Africans. These augers well for an eventual African Century.
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