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Lecturer to reveal truths about African people

The history of African people in the world, does not begin with the start of the African slave trade in the 1700s. This is the message from Dr Runoko Rashidi, historian and anthropologist, who will be giving a lecture about African history tomorrow for Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB).

His lecture will be entitled ‘The African Diaspora: The Global African Presence, Ancient and Modern Lecture Presentation and Discussion'. Dr Rashidi is the author of ‘Introduction to the Study of African Classical Civilizations'. He edited, along with Dr Ivan Van Sertima, ‘The African Presence in Early Asia'. He also wrote ‘The Global African Community: The African Presence in Asia, Australia and the South Pacific'. In December 2005, Dr Rashidi released his first text in French, ‘A Thousand Year History of the African Presence in Asia'. He has lectured extensively around the world, and also organises education tours of African countries. He is based in Los Angeles, California and Paris, France.

“There is only one race, the human race,” said Dr Rashidi. “Humanity began in Africa and spread to various parts of the world from there. In my talk I will be looking at the spread of African people and the African diaspora in a non-traditional light.”

Dr Rashidi told

The Royal Gazette his talk will be non-traditional, because he will look at African history before European slavery began, as well as after. The Eurocentric perspective tends to portray slavery as the beginning of African history and civilisation, as though nothing came before that point.

“It is important to talk about that, particularly in a place like Bermuda,” said Dr Rashidi. “It is the general assumption that black people left Africa only as the result of enslavement. I refuse to see the African diaspora confined with the limitations of enslavement. My presentation will be very visual. We will look at black people and descendants of Africa in all major geographic regions in the world.”

He said in the United States the February black history month tends to start with a focus on slavery in America, and looks at great African American individuals such as lawyer Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, and civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King.

“That is just a small part of the history of African Americans,” Dr Rashidi said.

He wanted to change the Eurocentric model of African history which looks at the continent of Africa as a primitive place with savage or undeveloped people.

“A more Afrocentric model might look at it as a place where the first people came from, a place where people first wore clothes and where people first used mathematics. It is a place where people first engaged in mining, and first charted the stars in the heavens. All of these things give people of African descent a greater sense of pride. It causes them to respect themselves a little bit more. If you respect yourself you will demand that other people respect you.”

Dr Rashidi thought that if African Americans understood more about their history, there would be less black on black violence in urban environments.

“I would argue that it is important that black people know a different side of their history,” he said. “Not only do we come from servants and slaves, but we also come from kings and queens. Many of us are descended from royalty. Maybe if more people knew that, they would act like royalty.”

He said the idea that black history begins with slavery and servitude is crippling for many people of African descent. He said it also gives Europeans and people of European descent an inflated sense of superiority.

“That leads to an uneven playing field,” he said. “We want to look at history in a different light, a truthful light. We are not going to make up history or distort it, but we are definitely going to present the facts of history from an African perspective, unapologetically and we are going to look at the great things that African people have done, for the most part. We are not going to look at African people as mere victims.”

He promised that the talk on Tuesday would be exciting with lots of visuals. Dr Rashidi also said he welcomed everyone to his talk regardless of age, race, gender or educational background.

“Even if you are not listening to a word I saw will enjoy the photographs and slides,” he said. “I am not a dull academic. The lecture is not just for people with doctorate degree. I love what I do and I am very passionate about my work.”

He started learning about African history at 14-years-old. He is now 56-years-old and has never stopped learning about it.

“You are never too old to learn,” he said. “I went to university, but most of what I have learned, I learned after I left the academy. I have been fortunate to interact with many of the great scholars of our time.”

Dr Rashidi said his focus is how Africans and people of African descent can use more accurate and extensive information about African history to elevate themselves.

“It doesn't mean you have to hate anyone but you have to have a greater love to yourself,” he said. “You can blame others for your victimisation but your liberation that is your responsibility.”

The lecture will be at 7.30pm at the Cathedral Hall at the Anglican Cathedral on Church Street. The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information go to his website at www.travelwithrunoko.com

Dr Runoko Rashidi

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Published March 14, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated March 14, 2011 at 9:52 am)

Lecturer to reveal truths about African people

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