Freedom History Month
Black history month is a misnomer! The proper name should be "Freedom History Month". While Black history month rightly celebrates blacks, black history is also the history of freedom. It is the courageous and irreversible march of mankind towards freedom with blacks at the tip of the spear of freedom's armies.
While blacks have suffered more from the twin ravages slavery and colonialism than any other race, no race has fought harder and lifted the banner of freedom higher.
Slavery has gone on for millennia and indeed still goes on. It was practiced by the Arabs against the slavic races, southern Europeans and Africans, by some accounts, affecting 9 to 14 million Africans and lasting centuries. Then there was the Atlantic slave trade, affecting 12 to 20 million blacks and also lasting about 4 centuries not counting the native Americans.
The Atlantic trade made up in volume what it lacked in longevity- not that four centuries could ever be described as short. While we rightly focus our opprobrium on the Arabs with their Korans and the Europeans with their Bibles, we should never lose sight of the black collaborators who aided the enemy and helped them enslave us.
Historians mark the American and French revolutions-- with Marquis de Lafayette at the heart of both as epochal in the history of freedom. They were both flawed. The American revolution of 1776, despite its soaring rhetoric about inalienable rights, left slavery intact and counted blacks as 3/5 of persons while excluding women. It would take two centuries, a civil war, the civil war amendments, the civil rights movement and court victories, including Brown vs Board of education to right-- partially, America's birth defect. And this struggle was led by black soldiers who died at Gettysburg and Shiloh and other places and Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, the Black Panthers, MLK, and countless others - all the way to Obama.
The French revolution had a rallying cry of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity " and it inspired and freed slaves but within a few years, the forces of oppression, led by Napoleon Bonaparte were back and restoring slavery. That is when the heroes of freedom rose in Haiti in the revolution that led to Haitian independence in 1804 and struck a double blow for freedom and decolonization. The heroes were Louverture, Dessalines, their armies including slaves just off the boats and their mulatto allies who defeated Napoleon's armies and led to his fall.
Indeed, even India's independence in 1947 had an African connection-- Gandhi, who was radicalized in South Africa.
Ironically, while the Haitian uprising in 1801 was epochal in freedom's long march, it had a precedent to build on.
A millennium before then, in 869, the Zanj rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate, started in Basra, led by Bantu slaves happened. Even though it failed, it served notice that freedom was and is not negotiable.
That yearning for freedom has been joined by freedom fighters in all of history, including the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto, the Americans in 1776, the French of 1789 and all who yearn for freedom.
This month, let's not celebrate just blacks-- let's celebrate their/our contributions to freedom and pledge to fight on till all of mankind is free. God bless mankind's freedom fighters.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy (14th February 2019)
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