DR. ASA HILLIARD AND THE MAROON WITHIN US
By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (February 8, 2002)
The Center for Inner City Studies of Northeastern Illinois University is presenting a Black History Month lecture featuring one o f our great African in America scholars, researchers, lecturers, educators, and teachers, Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III. This program takes place at the Center on Thursday, February 28, 2002 beginning at 7:00 p.m. at 700 East Oakwood Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois.
As we continue to prepare for the Millions for Reparations March, Protest, and Demonstration on August 17, 2002 in Washington, D.C., we must arm ourselves by reading and rereading books. We must study materials that will heighten our African consciousness in pursuit of the Reparations Movement demands for reparations from the United States Government.
Our Reparations Movement reading list must include Dr. Hilliards book, The Maroon Within Us. Dr. Hilliards book reminds us of a major problem that we as African people in America are besieged by.
Dr. Hilliard described this problem as cultural surrender. In explaining the problem, Dr. Hilliard wrote, "African Americans remain one of the very few groups in the United States who do not honor their own cultural traditions, sometimes even when they are honored by others."
Continuing on this point, Dr. Hilliard states that, "If there is a major illness among African American people it is that we unceasingly honor and utilize our culture less. All great nations and people do the opposite."
As Dr. Hilliard further explains, "Cultural surrender is more than a matter of rejecting ones father and mother culture. It means that one accepts a new definition as a person. The culturally dependent person is a mere spectator, a receptacle for the creativities of others. To demand freedom from slavery only to use that freedom to commit ones self to a voluntary cultural servitude is to lose the chance to be human."
The erosion of many of our African cultural traditions and foundations are most evidenced in our family and community life. Far too many African people in America are getting away from the essence of family life. The cultural tradition of African family life is that of the extended family that centers itself on the rearing of children and caring for the elders.
Family life is the basis for which a people maintain their cultural traditions, traditions that are important to the survival of a people. The way we raise our children in the context of extended family life for African people was always connected to the overall development of the larger community.
Dr. Hilliard writes, "There have always been Africans or Black people in America who have been both physically and mentally free. We have also had far too many of those who have yielded their bodies and worse, their souls to people and systems whose purpose was to exploit to take all and give nothing."
It is in this context that Dr. Hilliard provides several reasons why this devastating trend of cultural surrender is taking place. He says, " we have tended to accept certain false dichotomies," such as the following:
The challenges that African people face in American, and throughout the world, as we enter twenty-first-century is to create programs, strategies, and institutions that will reclaim and preserve our rich culture.
One such program that has emerged as one approach to preserving our culture and traditions aimed at our youth is the growing Rites of Passage Movement. This Movement seeks to place African and African people at the center of independently working with our young people.
Children in Rites of Passage Programs are generally taught aspects of our history that included our literary accomplishments, our accomplishments in music, science and technology, and the spiritual concepts of African people that direct our moral and ethical behavior and treatment of others.
As we look out and observe the African World Community, we can see a common set of problems that all African people face, as a result of hundred of years of exploitation by Europeans and others against African people. This exploitation has developed into a worldwide system of white supremacy and white domination aimed at wiping out African culture. We must resist and refuse any efforts to wipe out our culture.
Finally, Dr. Hilliard writes, "Cultural surrender or cultural destruction leads inevitably to the loss of any possibility for a group to mobilize on its behalf. There can be no African/African American family in the absence of a cultural base."
Come out to this important lecture by Dr. Asa Hilliard, "The Importance and Purpose of Education," at the Center for Inner City Studies on Thursday, February 28th as we prepare for the Millions for Reparations March on August 17, 2002 in Washington, D.C.
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