When it comes to music, I go off on numerous tangents regarding the type of music I listen to. Truthfully, I am not a big music fan. In the car, it’s normally talk radio or silence for me. But for some reason, I’ve lately been on a Bob Marley song listening addiction. I was checking out one particular piece of his music, “Redemption Song,” and just like the power of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” song and album of the same name, Marley’s collection of music is still relevant nearly 40 years after his death.
One line in the Redemption Song really got my attention.
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds,” the line goes. I love that line because Bob Marley’s lyrics show that he had an emancipated mind. Especially when one acknowledges that he came from Jamaica, a small island south of Cuba and about the same size as the United States’ second smallest state of Delaware.
His words demonstrate the interconnectivity of the institution of slavery and just how powerful it was. Even enslaved Africans from a tiny Caribbean island nation experienced similar conditions equal to or worse than those in the larger landmass of the United States.
How did Marley become so aware? Based on his lyrics in that song and several others, it is obvious that Marley was a student of history. The importance of self-education in the understanding of our condition can help to remedy a lot of the violence, ignorance, self-hatred and loathing that percolates just below the surface, and even on the surface, in the black community.
It is the mental slavery that a lot of black people choose to purposely remain in that keeps them and the entire black community in the same revolving cycle.
Yes, a majority of black people in America are the descendants of enslaved Africans. Slavery was psychological warfare and systemic brutality. Yet it produced the revolt of a Nat Turner, the subterfuge of a Harriet Tubman, and the brilliance of an orator in Frederick Douglass. What can we do as a people to get more of our folks thinking and comprehending like a Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or a Malcolm X in 2020?
I have seen many calling on the public schools which were already mandated to teach black history to do so. The subject of slavery is a complex one that far too often gets reduced to the simplistic without dwelling into all the tentacles that emulated from it. I know that black history is supposed to be taught in public schools. I wonder but many of those teachers who are asked to teach it are truly equipped and prepared to really address the subject? Personally, I feel that those that do teach the subject need to be fully vetted in their knowledge of it.
How do we go about creating an understanding and knowledge of the many nuances of the effects of slavery? The question that also needs to be asked and answered is this: Who teaches the subject and are we as a people really open to learning about the subject?
In last week’s column I lamented about how Black History Month is slowly being eradicated. I am but one voice, but I am sounding a warning bell as loud as I can. Black history is American history. It is a subject that never gets old and one that we as descendants of those enslaved Africans need to embrace. It is not to be reduced to a line in a movie that allows that suffering to be denigrated. We, as a people need to know and understand the suffering our ancestors went through as well as their triumphs.