Emancipation celebrations this year, I suppose, will have added significance for those of the African diaspora who consider that their spiritual navel strings are buried on the continent of Africa, especially as the World Cup venture was a spectacular international success. Incidentally, the football extravaganza was conceivably Mandela's parting gift to Africa as well as Africa's final tribute to him.
One expects that they would be holding up their calabashes toasting their hereditary links, especially those who are aware of the old African folklore tale that, "humanity first set foot on the African continent" or, as suggested by anthropologists, "homo Sapiens" (that's us) first appeared on African soil.
Be that as it may, We've been told that "They–Africans–came to the so-called New World before Columbus." However, the bulk of African souls arrived in less auspicious circumstances and, as far as I know, were not welcome to their "new homes" or, more precisely, "holding bays" with enthusiastic cheers and the blare of trumpets.
To borrow a Churchillian expression, "Much blood, sweat and tears" have flowed under the bridge that constituted the hiatus that started with enslavement and was formally terminated, supposedly by manumission or the much longer drawn-out process of emancipation. It's therefore not surprising that, among the African diaspora, there's something of an urge to make that sentimental journey down memory lane in order to experience a psychological repatriation," so to speak. That identification with one's ancestral home, "in search of one's root," is not peculiar to people of "African stock," although the fact that there were calculated efforts at dehumanisation and "deculturalisation, "perhaps provide an added incentive to "catch up" on past "cultural amnesia" in an attempt to achieve that elusive sense of "selfhood", self-worth and, if I may say so, "a larger ethnic identity."
Broaching the topic of "ethnicity," the noted American journalist Walter Lippmann surmised, "What is called pride of race is the sense that our origins are worthy of respect." Now Emancipation is a significant benchmark for the African diaspora, as it seeks to reclaim its "cultural heritage" in order to proclaim and define an "African identity". There's also what the psychologists call "catharsis." It should not, however, go unheeded that we are as much children as prisoners of our past.
A black US senator, having made it to the top of the heap, said that: "We (descendants of slaves) do not wish to be reminded that, at one time, we were chattel, property to be bought and sold." Having regard to the fact that the African slaves were brought to the "New World" without even luggage tags for the purpose of identification, it's not surprising that even today there are sections of the African diaspora still wrestling with an identity crisis.
Besides this there's the tendency for some blacks to continue to see themselves as "victims", no matter what they have achieved.
There is, I suppose, a political market for recycled pain, and distress and synthetic indignation. There is also the expedient of using the common memory of oppression as a bond. Admittedly, it's been the proverbial "long and winding road" for the African who had been brought, unwillingly, in shackles and under the most inhumane conditions to the New World. In 1757, the black man was legally deemed 3/5 of a man. In 1857 (100 years later) the US Supreme Court ruled that a black man had no rights that a white man has to respect. The Africans were not only denied their human rights but were stripped of their languages, their names and their identities. As a noted black American poet Maya Angelou said, "The wrenching pain of the African slavery experience cannot be unlived."
However, someone else claimed that black Americans were robbed of their history, and now they were reclaiming it for future generations. There are, possibly, cynics who would dismiss this as misplaced effort. However, in the United States, the response, to what some African-Americans see as being relegated to the periphery of American history, is to celebrate their own "Black history month." In our own calypso/lament sang by Machel Montano and penned by composer "Joker" Devine, there appears to be, for seeking to have "blacks" as the subjects rather than the objects of history. As Montano sang it, "I'm a victim of disillusion (a composite of the African slave and his descendant)/a soul without a resting place/a lonely pilgrim without a vision/a wanderer in time and space/going from country to country–searching for my identity." He continues, "Take me back, Africa... I've seen the faces of racialism, experienced the agony of wounded pride and known the shame of colonialism/I've been a slave and a soldier–a fugitive on the run." While empathising with the implicit nostalgia, it's apparent that "his Africa" is an idealised, romanticised, imaginative embodiment of Africa's glorious past and rich historical heritage.