His-story or Our-story?

I wholeheartedly agree with Kevin Farmer, Deputy Director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. His recent call to return History as one of the core subjects in secondary schools is a timely and welcome suggestion.

Having spent the last week with visiting historian, researcher and author, Dr Abdullah Hakim Quick, understanding the historical events that shaped our world is important in appreciating who we are, where we have come from and where we can go.  Dr Quick made an important point during his lecture at the Cave Hill Campus last Thursday. He said we should understand “our-story” rather than “his-story”.

Dr Quick’s visit to Barbados, as I wrote in last week’s column, was to re-launch his book Deeper Roots. This book presents a strong case about the existence and presence of Africans and Muslims in our region before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The visit was scheduled to coincide with the 525th anniversary of Columbus’ first landing in the “Americas”. It is important, as he said, that we seek to deconstruct the years of what was taught and reconstruct the historical facts so we can present “our story” rather than someone else’s narrative.

The lecture, hosted by the Department of History and Philosophy in the Faculty of Humanities at the Cave Hill Campus, attracted a wide cross-section of Barbadians, students and visitors. This was refreshing as Dr Quick said he was not seeking to wipe away one nation’s contribution or part in the historical narrative. Rather, he felt that he needed through his research to paint the full picture and include all those nations and persons who played an integral part in the history and development of this region.

Unfortunately, what has been taught over the years was a Europeanized version of events that shaped this region.  Left out were the centuries of civilization that existed pre-Columbus in the “Americas” and in Africa. This is a tragedy if our generations now and those in the future are not aware of the greatness of these civilizations and the positive impact they had at their time.

Part of Dr Quick’s tour of Barbados was a visit to Codrington College, the oldest theological seminary in this part of the world. It was a welcome opportunity to interact with the principal, staff and students of that institution. Dr Quick reminded them of his journey to this point in life having grown up in the inner cities of the United States and his quest for understanding what was happening around him with regard to people of his race and ethnicity.

His questioning ultimately led him to the faith of Islam and ignited in him a passion for history so that he can research and present the whole story. That passion and research carried him to several parts of the world, including spending many years on the African sub-continent. He has written and produced documentaries on several topics related to African history, including Ethiopia.

Speaking to the students at the College, he reminded them to always go deeper in their research and studies.  He pointed out that Africa has a lot that we can learn from and their glorious civilizations before the arrival of the Europeans. He highlighted the famous African ruler Mansa Musa, the richest man to have lived on the earth, much richer than the billionaires we have around today. His predecessor, Abu Bakr, left the kingdom he ruled in present day Mali with 2 000 ships and sailed west towards this part of the world long before Columbus.

Historians have found evidence of the presence of Africans throughout South America, Central America, the Caribbean and North America predating Columbus’ arrival. But this aspect of our history is interestingly left out, swept aside or put in a footnote. Several noted historians have attempted to reconstruct this evidence. Dr Quick is urging history students to continue the process of reconstruction as it is a story that must be told with all the corroborating facts.

He noted that other acclaimed historians, with their own biases, do not accept easily the claims of the presence of Africans in the region pre-Columbus. Because of this, he posited that ensuring historical evidence is produced is even more critical. He highlighted the case of explorer Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer who became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, in which he sailed 8,000 km across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands.

The expedition was designed to demonstrate that ancient people could have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between separate cultures. Heyerdahl subsequently made other voyages designed to demonstrate the possibility of contact between widely separated ancient people, notably the Ra II expedition of 1970, when he sailed from the west coast of Africa to Barbados in a papyrus reed boat. This voyage proved that it was possible to sail from the coast of Africa into the Caribbean by using the currents and not having the need for huge, elaborate ships.

Having a proud history gives us identity. Stripping human beings of that proud ancestry strips them of their identity. This is a tool the slave masters successfully employed. They stripped the dignity and the identity of the enslaved. Today we suffer the consequences of not knowing, appreciating or understanding where we came from, who our true ancestors are and what they achieved.

Dr Quick has linked the understanding of one’s historical legacy with the present day quest to be a positive influence on society. He said we need to understand who our true heroes are and where their claim to hero status came from. Appreciating that we come from a tradition of greatness will help in building a better future for our people and society.

Dr Quick’s Barbadian heritage also drove him to visit the island and actively research his family tree. This, it seems, will take a lot more visits. And he recognizes that the Barbadian influence helped significantly in his life journey. So, for the call that has gone out to bring back ‘history’ into our classrooms, let us make sure that we bring back every facet of that historical narrative.

Let us not be consumed with only a certain sanitized version that seeks to promote only one interest. Let us look at all the scholarship available in the field that seeks to bring ‘our story’ to the fore rather than just one story.

Source: (Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: suleimanbulbulia@hotmail.com)

19 Responses to His-story or Our-story?

  1. Ras Small
    Ras Small October 18, 2017 at 11:46 am

    and Spiritually. Ase’

    Reply
  2. Earl Lashley
    Earl Lashley October 18, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    History will tell you that the Muslims of North Africa played a role in
    the enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans and in the east, they solely would have, and much longer than the Europeans (Christians) would have done in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Columbus ‘discovered’ the west for the Europeans. Before that, they did not know that these lands existed. and they would have interacted with these people who launched those two thousand ships.

    Reply
    • Muhammad Patel
      Muhammad Patel October 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Theres no doubt Muslims (and every1 else for that matter) were involved in selling Africans to Europeans. They were both victims and oppressors during the trans atlantic slave trade.

      Reply
    • Earl Lashley
      Earl Lashley October 18, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Even the African chiefs. The truth must be told.

      Reply
    • Adrian October 18, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      The slavery practiced by the European was unlike any slavery before it. This slavery was the only one to take away the identity and tried to dehumanize a race of people. Yes the “Arab” enslaved the African before the European but one must research and see who was being referred to as “Arab” at that time. There has been a very long and extended attempt to hide, destroy, rewrite the history of the “African’.

      Reply
    • Adhim Muhammad
      Adhim Muhammad October 18, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      People always get confused with pre islamic Arab society and lable islam for the actions of the Arabs. Not withstanding that the Arabs not only enslaved blacks but also their own. However the kind of slavery practice at yhat time is nothing to compare with the trans Atlantic slave trade imposed on humanity by the European. I know that many of the slaves sold to and captured by the Europeans and brought to the west were Muslims, however i am not aware that muslims sold anyone into slavery. I am not saying they didn’t, i am saying i know of none.

      Reply
    • Suleiman Bulbulia
      Suleiman Bulbulia October 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Cheikh Anta Diop was one of the premier and most respected and knowledgeable Afrocentric scholars, he was also a physicist and director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory in Dakar, Senegal, and a noted Egyptologist. His most famous work is, The African Origin of Civilization and his view differs totally from those promulgated by minority Afrocentric scholars:
      The primary reason for the success of Islam in Black Africa, with one exception, consequently stems from the fact that it was promulgated peacefully, at first by solitary Arab-Berber Travelers to certain Black kings and notables, who then spread it about them to those under their jurisdiction… What is to be emphasized here is the peaceful nature of this conversion, regardless of the legend surrounding it. (Precolonial Black Africa, page 163.)
      Cheik Anta Diop, an African himself, cannot be accused of making a racist or anti-African statement. He was giving his opinion as an African man and as a scholar of high repute. In further dispelling the charge that Islam was forced on African peoples, Cheikh Anta Diop said the following: During the period of our study, from the third to the seventeenth centuries, not one conquest was ever launched by way of the Nile…Nor was there ever an Arab conquest of Mozambique or any other East African country. (Ibid, page 101)
      But wasn’t Islam forced onto them by the conquering and sword-wielding Arabs? Cheikh Anta Diop said: The Arab conquests dear to sociologists are necessary to their theories but did not exist in reality. To this day no reliable historical documents substantiate such theories. (Ibid, page 102)

      Reply
    • Suleiman Bulbulia
      Suleiman Bulbulia October 18, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      Dr. Walter Rodney was an Afro-American Guyanese Marxist, scholar and activist, killed in the summer of 1980 during political friction in Guyana. He graduated from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica and also from London University where he received a Ph.D. in history. It is reasonable to say that Marxists are generally considered to be hard-nosed political, social, and economic analysts who generally have no concern whatsoever for any kind of religion. In view of this, Dr. Rodney’s testimony is extremely valuable in assessing the role of Islam amongst African people, because his assessment is devoid of any religious sentiment one way or the other. His view is based on the analysis of cold, hard facts. Listen to what he said about the impact and value of Islam amongst African peoples:
      As in other parts of the world, literacy in Africa was connected with religion, so that in Islamic countries it was a Koranic education…Moslem education was particularly extensive at the primary level, and it was also available at the secondary and university levels. In Egypt there was the Al-Azhar University, in Morocco the university of Fez, and in Mall the University of Timbuktu — all testimony to the standard of education achieved in Africa before the colonial intrusion. (How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, page 240)

      Reply
  3. Othneal October 18, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    It always intrigues me when I hear of African-Americans and African-Caribbeans embracing the Islamic Faith. It is indicative of woeful ignorance of our history, since it is highly likely that their forefathers and mothers were herded across the Sahara by Arabs and either enslaved by Arabs or sold into slavery.
    It is a well documented fact that the Arabs are responsible for the enslavement of more Sub-Saharan Africans than the Europeans ever did. They are still enslaving Africans today in the Darfur region.
    Yes, Africa sold her children into slavery and compounds that heinous distinction by harbouring a disparaging attitude towards their progeny.
    It is a noble ambition to tell our “story”, but there is a risk of editing the facts like the Europeans did, ending up with “Blackwash”

    Reply
    • Jennifer October 18, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      That would also go for this people also embracing the christian faith too. Same evil and terror.

      Reply
      • Jennifer October 18, 2017 at 6:24 pm

        And that white Caesar Borgia image from ROME. When Pontious Pilate , Agrippa, Herod etc was from a different NATION AND RACE of people.

        Reply
        • Jennifer October 18, 2017 at 7:10 pm

          The above names were a different race/nation to Christ and the Israelites. no one crucifies their own race of people. THINK!!!!!!!!

          Reply
    • Purejoy October 18, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Cheikh Anta Diop was one of the premier and most respected and knowledgeable Afrocentric scholars, he was also a physicist and director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory in Dakar, Senegal, and a noted Egyptologist. His most famous work is, The African Origin of Civilization and his view differs totally from those promulgated by minority Afrocentric scholars:
      The primary reason for the success of Islam in Black Africa, with one exception, consequently stems from the fact that it was promulgated peacefully, at first by solitary Arab-Berber Travelers to certain Black kings and notables, who then spread it about them to those under their jurisdiction… What is to be emphasized here is the peaceful nature of this conversion, regardless of the legend surrounding it. (Precolonial Black Africa, page 163.)
      Cheik Anta Diop, an African himself, cannot be accused of making a racist or anti-African statement. He was giving his opinion as an African man and as a scholar of high repute. In further dispelling the charge that Islam was forced on African peoples, Cheikh Anta Diop said the following: During the period of our study, from the third to the seventeenth centuries, not one conquest was ever launched by way of the Nile…Nor was there ever an Arab conquest of Mozambique or any other East African country. (Ibid, page 101)
      But wasn’t Islam forced onto them by the conquering and sword-wielding Arabs? Cheikh Anta Diop said: The Arab conquests dear to sociologists are necessary to their theories but did not exist in reality. To this day no reliable historical documents substantiate such theories. (Ibid, page 102)

      Reply
  4. bobo October 18, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you OTHNEAL–Couple days ago i was talking to a friend in Nigeria-the question I ask- does Nigerians and the whole of Africa have a clue of their past history– because i cannot understand why Africans – Caribbeans -Americans embrace the Muslim faith, which is a control of the mind- their beleifs has nothing to do with my God the creator–freedom of choices–love and forgiveness.
    Long befor the Portugese King arrived in Cuera the present Arabs forefathers were dealing in slavery and gold-hence- they become Europeans callobrators of slavery -its time the black civilization wake up and learn their true history.

    Reply
  5. Vance Taylor
    Vance Taylor October 18, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Well is he or is that an African head gear !?

    Reply
  6. Vance Taylor
    Vance Taylor October 18, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    You think its a JOKE DEM ISLAM ! Jihad ! Now dem gt 2 or 3 MOSKS in little CHRISTIAN BIM Mosque means FORT , and BIM is a FORT ST Bernard

    Reply
  7. Jennifer October 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Until we as a people can get TRUTH and understand that all the so called black people of Africa is not from the same nation, then and only then will we understand what happened in Africa. Is all black Indian from the same race/nation of people. That is the biggest DECEPTION for centuries. Do you think that the blacks in Africa with the ring in their nose or streach lip is of your people???????? LOOOOOOOOKKKKKK. Come on guys we are dealing with fork tongue fibbers. This is why other books also need to be included.

    Reply
  8. Jennifer October 18, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Indentured servants were NOT SLAVES so stop that Indian slavery crap u lost NOTHING. This people lost their heritage, names, family, culture, nationality, Lands, identity etc at the hands of all races including the Chinese.

    Reply
  9. Jennifer October 18, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    For all the educated history idiots ask yourself which race of hamite (AFRICAN) did you come from. This is a definition from a white man on the NEGROES – Zondervan’s Compact Bible Dictionary:

    HAM – The youngest son of Noah, born probably about 96 years before the Flood; and one of eight persons to live through the Flood. He became the progenitor of the dark races; NOT the Negroes, but the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Libyans and Canaanites.

    now go and research.

    Reply

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