A Continent for the Taking: A Review and Call for a more Balanced Analysis

By Adrian Taylor

A Continent for the Taking was an emotional marathon.  There were more lows than highs, Howard French's position had to be intentional�it was experiential.  After reviewing the text in its entirety, it�s easier to see why French tacitly critiqued the perceived gloriana of Afrocentrism, where it can be argued, according to French that "they" focus on the all good and negate the all bad-- or the modern picture.  In a similar vain, I wonder how French would interpret the efforts of Africana philosophers�those philosophers that focus on the philosophies of Africans on the Continent and the Diaspora.  French might say something to the affect that Africana philosophers are not doing anything but semantically adjusting Molefe Asante's axiologically committed Afrocentric thesis. This would be a reasonable critique so long as one stays cognizant of the different doctrinal ideals of both models: Afrocentrism�scholar-activism; Africana philosophy�academic critique and circumscription.�� Yet, Afrocentrism, Africana philosophy and a confrontation with the modern Africana world are all necessary parts of the Africana developmental equation.  If any one of the former models are appraised, alone, without context, a given analysis would be incomplete. As Langston Hughes painfully reminded us, �We are beautiful and ugly too�. 
��������� In short there is work to be done.  The irony behind the whole drama is the inherent paradoxicality in the Africana developmental equation.  Speaking generally, it appears that the more one focuses on the essence of this problem it becomes more and more apparent that Africa must stay underdeveloped and undemocratic if the Western world is to remain developed and rich.  Throughout French�s text we are given experiential examples of corruption at the highest levels of African governance. One can deduce that this problem is almost inherent. Must we forget about neocolonialism? French reminds us of the CIA generated murder of Patrice Lumumba, self-determination costs. Yet, any self-respecting African Head of State is going to want to change their condition, thus a change in Africa's relationship with the West-- instead of being paid off to continue Africa�s subordination.  In other words, development necessitates underdevelopment to the extent that the rich need the poor-- someone has to labor menially.  What a quandary? 

Similarly, Africa is inseparable from the global equation.  Any pragmatic plan laid out for Africa's "true" development-- control of her resources, democracy-- not too bad of an ideal insofar as wars are typically waged in debate and the polls, etc., will drastically shift the power dynamic in the world.  African Liberation entails justice�reparations, a more level playing field, not of existential equals but of self-determining beings who labor for the control of their individual, social, and economic autonomies, and gain it.
���������� The concluding chapters are riveting.  Beyond French�s interpersonal reflections we are reminded of a continent that has been taken, by foreign masters. Africans have been done a number: slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism, and gross poverty and nihilism no matter where we are on the planet, as a mass.  This is the tragedy.  Africa and her children are still suffering.  There is still tragedy, and hope though. French�s text lacked hope, a model for measurable development.�� He left us hanging.  He just told us about his "negative" experiences.  Likewise, if he were a European writer most readers would think he was patronizing, racist, and playing on old myths, if we scrutinize the stereotypical language that prevailed throughout the text.  Read his text, this perspective should prove informative. As scholar-activists, we�ve got to be more than negative. We need solutions, not just portrayals of the problem. Africans on the continent and the Diaspora are connected to one another, the oppressed around the world, and the global community at large. I am certain that any true developmental plan for Africa can be applied to African Americans and any other people that are "oppressed". Won�t we continue to labor with dialectic synchronization--balance?

Adrian Taylor is a Ph.D student at Howard University focusing on development/underdevelopment. In addition to his academic interests, he has also been involved in the liberation equation.  In the spring of 2000 he and some friends founded the first Kemetic based fraternity-sorority at Howard University, the Shemsu-Heru: the Companions of Heru-- www.shemsu-heru.com.  Within their website are their principles, objectives and other related matters.