by Min. Paul Scott
“You could talk about Nigeria / people used to laugh at ya / Now I take a look / I see USA for Africa?” – “Stop the Violence,” Boogie Down Productions
Shanequa Jenkins never wanted nothin’ to do with Africa. When her roommates would demand that she turn off “Love and Hip Hop” so they could watch “Hidden Colors,” she would just storm out the room calling them “Hotep Hoes” under her breath.
So, it shocked her roomies when two hours before the “Black Panther” premier she was waiting at the front door in a brand new dashiki with matching Red Bottoms and Coach Bag yellin’, “Y’all ain’t ready to go, yet!?”
Not long ago, if you wore a dashiki or African medallion you had to wade through a sea of hecklers sayin’ stuff like, “Yo! You tryin’ to join X-Clan or somethin’? VAN-GLORIOUS!” Or any time you dared speak about something Afrocentric, cats would roll their eyes and mumble, “There he goes with that Black stuff again …”
But now, with the coming of the new Marvel movie, “The Black Panther,” even the worst Africa haters have caught a severe case of Jungle Fever.
Historically, many African Americans have had a problem with the Motherland. During the days of slavery, many free Black folk vehemently opposed the repatriation movement. While some did see it for what it was, a way to rid America of the riff raff, most felt that they did not want to leave a country they helped build.
During the early 20th century, although up to 10 million people supported The Honorable Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa Movement, many people opposed his efforts as they saw his movement as a threat to their vested interests in the American Dream.
Hollywood didn’t help matters much either during this period, as the image propagated of the continent was either taken straight outta a Tarzan movie or a Looney Tunes cartoon with a bunch of cannibals circling a big black pot chantin’, “Yum, yum, eat ‘em up.”
During the late ‘60s, there was a beef between members of the Black Panther Party who embraced a Marxist ideology and Dr. Maulana Karenga’s Us Organization who practiced cultural nationalism. This ideological disagreement was intensified by the efforts of J. Edgar Hoover and his COINTELPRO program, preventing any fusion of the two ideologies that could have hastened our journey towards freedom.
Even though some Hip Hop headz praise the “conscious” era of the late ‘80s for bringing African awareness to rap and championing the fight against South Africa’s Apartheid regime, truth is, the era barely lasted four years and by 1992 most Hip Hoppers had traded in their dashikis and sandals for West Coast khakis and Chuck Taylors.
The best dynamic of that period is perhaps captured in Spike Lee’s classic film “School Daze” during the scene when Julian, aka “Big Brother Almighty,” tells Dap, the pro-Black Brotha, that he wasn’t from Africa. He was “from Detroit.”
Sadly, that was pretty much the attitude of many African Americans until the last couple of years. Before the commercialized Black Lives Matter Era, in order to find a decent dashiki, you would have had to hit the road and head to a city with predominantly Black neighborhoods and hunt down an African clothing store in the middle of the ‘hood. But now even white and Asian owned shops have dashikis and African necklaces hanging in their windows.
What is unfortunate is despite all the master teachers who have gone on to the ancestors – Dr. Chancellor Williams, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan and a host of others who sacrificed their lives to try to teach us about our heritage – it took an old white dude who made his fortune courtesy of a white kid in a red and blue onesie swingin’ through NYC to finally make us embrace who we are.
Or perhaps it has something to do with the changing times. Maybe Black Panther Mania is not just a fad and will awaken the African genius that lies dormant deep inside of us.
Malcolm X once said that we left “our minds in Africa.” Maybe the hype over the Black Panther movie is an indication that we are finally getting our minds back?
Min. Paul Scott is founder of the Durham, N.C., based Black Messiah Movement. His website is NoWarningShotsFired.com, phone 919-972-8305, Twitter @NWSF.