Friday, August 14, 2020

"What is an International Day?" by Johnny Coleman II

Photo Credit: International Slavery Museum Liverpool

The photo above is of a poster from the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England.  August 23rd is an international day and it is observed as the: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.


According to the United Nations (UN) an international day is defined: 

"...designates specific days, weeks, years and decades as occasions to mark particular events or topics in order to promote, through awareness and action, the objectives of the Organization. Usually, it is one or more Member States that propose these observances and the General Assembly establishes them with a resolution.

On occasion, these celebrations are declared by the specialized agencies of the United Nations, such as UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO, etc., when they concern issues that fall within the scope of their competencies. Some of them may be later adopted by the General Assembly."


"International days are occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

Each international day offers many actors the opportunity to organize activities related to the theme of the day. Organizations and offices of the United Nations system, and most importantly, governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools, universities and, more generally, citizens, make an international day a springboard for awareness-raising actions."

For a list of all UN International Days please look HERE.


The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which lasted 300 years created historic wealth for the European World with exports from Africa in both people and goods.  This trade also established the United States and the strength of this wealth is still  experienced today.  The discussion of slavery and segregation in the USA has become easier in 2020, however many people choose not to share this history with their children for fear it will ruin their minds.  I am obviously not one of those people.  It think it is important to share what has happened with the youth so it does not happen again.

In 2014, a United Nations resolution established the worldwide observation and this day was observed worldwide for the first time in 2016. Then in 2017 I organized a commemoration of August 23rd in Washington, DC at the African American Civil War Memorial.  The day pays tribute to the people who revolted against the system of slavery on August 23, 1791.  In 1791 the island was known as Santo Domingo until 1804, when it was renamed "Haiti" meaning mountains.  The Haitian Revolution was a dramatic symbol of liberty for African people in the Americas.  Now, when we teach abolition we are often taught dates and times when a government declared, or abolished, chattel slavery.  However, this international day is a date that commemorates self-emancipation (freeing the self) from bondage with dignity.  That is the major difference.  

I organized that event with the help of Mr. Marquett Milton of the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum in Washington, DC (seen in the photo below with the hat) and also Minister Chi Mauuso, also of Washington, DC (seen in seated in the photo below), she lead us in prayer and a moment of silence.  I am grateful to the Washington Informer newspaper for supporting the event; I am in the photo below on the right. 

The largest observance of this day is in Trafalgar Square in London, England.  In London they call this "Sankofa Day."  Sankofa (SAHN-koh-fah) translates to "Go back and get it" in the Twi language and is symbolized in the Adinkra as: 

(1) a stylized heart shape, or 

(2) by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth.  

These symbols capture the proverb that "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten."  In the two photos below you will see Shezal Laing, the Director and Founder of the organization Slavery Remembrance.  She is the organizer for the London gathering and her work has  educated the world on this chapter in history.

Photo Credit: AfrocCultureBlog

Photo Credit: The Voice-UK

Finally, when it comes to the commemoration of August 23rd there are annual activities in Liverpool, England starting at the International Slavery Museum (see photo below).  

Photo Credit: International Slavery Museum Liverpool

Liverpool is significant because in 1795 it controlled 80% of the British slave trade and another 40% of the entire European slave trade.

The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool opened in 2007 and is a leader in teaching the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its benefits to the European economy and also complex details such as the 'Triangle Trade,' and the 'Middle Passage' and has one of the best curriculum for teaching younger ages about the history of the Slave Trade their Understanding Slavery Initiative

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

World's Great Anthropologist: Jomo Kenyatta (by Johnny Coleman II)

"To Moigoi and Wamboi and all the dispossessed youth of Africa; for perpetuation of communion with ancestral spirits through the first for African Freedom, and in the firm faith that the dead, the living, and the unborn will unite to rebuild the destroyed shrines."
--Jomo Kenyatta
The Dedication to Facing Mt. Kenya 

Did you know that Jomo Kenyatta was one of the world's great anthropologists?  Anthropologists study people through archaeology, culture and also biology.  He is remembered as Kenya's first prime minister and first president after colonialism (1963-1978).  

Born Kamau son of Ngengi, in 1929 Jomo Kenyatta left Kenya for London.  His goal was to lobby for the human rights of the Kikuyu people.  To support himself he started work and classes at the University College London (UCL) and then the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and finally at the London School of Economics (LSE).  Facing Mt. Kenya was Kenyatta's master thesis.  The full title is Facing Mt. KenyaThe Tribal Life of the Gikuyu.  The Gikuyu are better known as the Kikuyu.  

His book gave a human image to African people by showing them to have their own established history, culture and traditions.  The book also dealt with sensitive topics such as female genital mutilation and applied anthropological functionalism', taught by his Dr. Bronislaw Malinowski.  Functionalism in anthropology is intended to describe the different institutions of an ethnic group.  Then to explain their social function and show their contribution to the overall society.

Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa. It is over 17 thousand feet tall.

Photo Credit: Mount Kenya (World Atlas)

"ANTHROPOLOGY begins at home"
--Bronislaw Malinowski
Introduction to Facing to Mt. Kenya

Photo Credit: Bronislaw Malinowski (LSE)

Malinowski made a career as a serious ethnographer and is called the 'Father of social anthropology.'  Cultural anthropology is called social anthropology in England.  An ethnographer is the old-school anthropologist living among traditional people and documenting their life.  

When he met Kenyatta they became friends and he welcomed him because he wanted to support the work of an indigenous student and is quoted to say: “one of the first really competent and instructive contributions to African ethnography by a scholar of pure African parentage.”  As an anthropologist who traveled and wrote about other people Malinowski was not part of the groups he wrote about like Kenyatta.  During that time Kenyatta's work was revolutionary.

Malinowski was a world famous anthropologist before World War II and was known to regard his students as part of a team to teach the world.  As a sensation and leader in the world of anthropology he taught leading thinkers in the field.   

Kenyatta's book challenged the Europeans, especially 'white' Kenyans who firmly believed that the indigenous Kenyans were "primitive savages" who needed whites in order to be civilized.  Once published, the book received positive reviewsWhen the book was sold the cover showed Kenyatta in his traditional clothing, a skin cloak, and carrying a spear.  This was also the first time he used the name Jomo Kenyatta.  Jomo means burning spear.  This was Kenyatta's way to show pride in his traditional culture, with no shame or need for explanation.  

Jomo Kenyatta is one of the world's great anthropologists!