FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS

I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.
Maya Angelou

 

          It is always refreshing and warm to me when, no matter where I am and no matter what the population mix even if I am a most extreme minority, when I come across another black man there is an unspoken order of brotherhood cipher of interaction.  I am always offered a nod of the head as if to say “hey brother I feel you and I are one.”

          This unspoken and untaught observance not only proves there is hope for the community but also shows that We the People of Slavery, We the People of Civil Rights, We the People of Gangs are not people of servitude violence and criminality.  I say this because I can also walk down the street of the so called inner city, I could walk into a so called gang infested area and still the loyal order of proverbial brotherhood opens it arms as a fellow Black Man will give me a nod or speak to me. 

There has been a metamorphosis in my thinking over the past years.  I was, like many of my fellow Black professional folk, use to think that there was no hope for us as a people.  I was challenged with believing the constant debasement and agenda motivated press we have been getting.  Not just from the so called majority but from within the community.

•  Exodus 12:40->Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.  •  Exodus 12:41->And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

There is relevance in these two passages of Exodus that not only have gravity in the exactness of events but in the condition of mankind and mindsets.  Like the Pharaoh’s hart which was harden time and time again causing him to make poor and dangerous decisions, I like many of us find our hearts harden against ourselves and our own kind.  The menace in our hardening hearts is a division within the fabric of the soul of the community.

Moses is the one remembered for the freeing of the people of Israel form the bondage of slavery from Egypt.  The problem with that is, Moses did not!  Moses could not!  Forgotten in the remembrance of the story, even within the time of Moses, is that God is the one who facilitated the emancipation. Also forgotten in the remembrance of the story is that Moses could not do it without help.  Aaron, his brother was considered necessary.  To carry the thought further, one can’t help to understand that it took people helping each other as there were elderly and children to care for.  There were animals to care for.  Moses alone is not what the story is telling us.  A child could see that there was a community acting together as one to finally escape the bondage of slavery that God released them from. 

The story further tells of how the people turned against one another, how they questioned their freedom and even suggested to return to their bondage for there was some comfort in it.  The people of Israel turned for God, blamed Moses and glorified the Pharaoh and his gods.  This they did after finding their long awaited freedom.

The 15th Century Portuguese exploration of the African coast, commonly regarded as the harbinger of European colonialism, also marked the beginnings of the slave trade which was to become a major element of this colonialism until the end of the 18th Century.  Slavery in America began in 1607 and continued until 1865. From about the 1640s until 1865, people of African descent were legally and inhumanely enslaved within the boundaries of the present U. S. mostly by whites, but also by a comparatively tiny number of American Indians and free blacks. Approximately one southern family out of four held slaves prior to the civil war. According to the 1860 U.S. census, fewer than 385,000 individuals (i.e. 1.4% of White Americans in the country, or 4.8% of southern whites) owned one or more slaves. 

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued on September 22, 1862 by United States President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, which declared the freedom of all slaves in such territory of the Confederate States of America as did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863.  Slavery might have been declared over but freedom did not exists.  Pharaoh’s heart was still hardened and thus the lynching, KKK and Jim Crow laws kept the Black Community in bondage. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was landmark legislation in the United States that outlawed segregation in the US schools and public places. First conceived to help Blacks, the bill was amended prior to passage to protect women in courts, and explicitly included white people for the first time. It also started the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment, invalidating the Jim Crow laws in the southern US. It became illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring. Powers given to enforce the bill were initially weak, but were supplemented in later years.  Now the grip of the Pharaoh was physically released but the physiological grasp was and still is very strong on the Black community.

Just do the math and you will see that Four Hundred and Thirty Years is the time since the first African was stolen from his home and subjected to bondage and slavery until 1964 when the Pharaoh’s hand was finally lifted from the last holdout in America.  If you carry the numbers forward, 2004 is the forty years spent in the desert and today is the time of entering into the promise land.  Can we enter divided?  Can we enter fighting one another?  The time spent in the desert was to allow us to see the majesty of God and the dignity in each other.

 

This is where my metamorphous comes full circle.  I was one of those who criticized and complained about “My People.”  I hear all the time of how we don’t work together.  I find so many of us finding fault in us and succeeding from the community.  The continual and senseless debasing of Black Men, the self genocidal condemnation of the entire community, the self annihilation of our Black Ladies with the observance of matricidal conveyance is not leading us to the promise land.

I use to hate it when a Black Man called me brother for most of the time I was called brother by someone begging on the street.  I am from the sixties, where brother meant brotherhood.  Guess what, it still does!  I use to look down on gang bangers and single ladies being trailed by cabooses of different fathers.  I would state the obvious; “don’t they know better?”  Guess what, they don’t.  When money takes precedence over pride as music and lifestyles advocate violence and devaluing our ladies, one might say; “don’t they know better?”  Guess what, they don’t!  Every time I hear the word nigga used and defended as different as nigger, I use to ask; “don’t they know better?”  Guess what, they don’t!

The same is true for the pretentious so called middle class / wealthy of us who state; “I will never hire a Black person to work on my house for they always screw it up!”  So do white’s or asian’s but we accept their screw up better than our own.  I use to say “don’t they know better?”  Guess what, they don’t!  When these same folk state they won’t shop at a Black business because the prices are too high!  Understanding the Black business has a difficult time buying in bulk as the asian’s and whites do, thus their margins are reduced unless they compensate in pricing.  I know this and I would ask; “don’t they know that?”  Guess what, they don’t!

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

Albert Einstein:

To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.

Amos Bronson Alcott:

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  

            The reality is that both committers of these atrocities really understand but choose to abdicate their own responsibilities.  

 

In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.”

Bertrand Russell

 

That is why I am forming the Redwood Foundation.  The motto of the foundation is: “The immortal Redwood which rises to distinguished prominence, does not achieve its greatness by discarding any of its roots!”  With my metamorphosis towards no longer allowing myself to attack, debase, reticule or take for granted any one of my roots, and my realization that I am very much to blame as well we all are for the misunderstand, ignorance, and suicidal genocide that permeates the community, I will dedicate my energies and efforts to cultivate all my roots so the eminence of the entire community shall stand immortal.   

It is so easy to castigate others.  It is easy to assume that we are dumb, stupid, lazy, and the other adjectives I hear daily within the community.  Those who spend their time and efforts doing this are the same who do nothing.  I am prone to say it is easy to do the hard thing.  It is easy to blame, which does nothing but harm. 

“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

Matthew 15:14:

 It is much simpler to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  From Southern Africa which is thirty years behind the United States, to Haiti, the first and only Slave Revolt to succeed in history, to Jamaica, The Solomon Islands, New Ginny, and of course the Free world of Great Britain, France, and the United States, the Black Universal Community needs all of their roots fertilized and cultivate.  All of their roots!  For our nation to not fall the way of the American Indian or the Mayan and Aztec who by the Policy of Forced Assimilation or by conquering, cease to exist today or cease to maintain their history, we all must work at one in the cultivation.

          The incredible immortal tree

Unlike those of us reading this, redwoods do not change physiologically as they age. Their growth slows, but they do not deteriorate—and do not die of old age. Their natural enemies are few; some fungi and beetles can cause local damage, and no disease is known to kill them. Only the vagaries of climate change, intense forest fires, occasional harsh storms, and – on a more immediate scale – chain saws threaten the coast redwood.

”These trees of the California coast, the Sequoia sempervirens, are-with the Sequoia gigantea, the Big Tree of the interior-the last survivors of a race that once extended throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Redwoods once grew in Europe, in China, in the Arctic tundra, among the mountains of New Hampshire. Now they are native nowhere else on earth except along the north Pacific coast.

Scientists have calculated the weight of one huge redwood at 1,700 tons. To reach the upper twigs the sap requires a pressure of nearly 100 pounds to the square inch. Yet such a forest mammoth begins with a seed so small it takes nearly 5,000 of them to weigh one pound. The great trees that develop from such tiny beginnings have unique qualities that help them endure. No other cells known to botany have as high a ratio of length of life to growing period as the cells of the redwood. They live as long as 4,000 times the period required for them to reach their full growth. . . .

Insects are no menace to the redwoods and forest fires do little damage. The cinnamon-brown bark of the trees is fire-resistant, sheathing their trunks in a living firewall two feet thick. The wood itself is also slow to ignite. During the great San Francisco fire, the flames in almost every case were halted at streets where the houses were fronted with redwood.

In the presence of the redwood's eternity, we feel a sense of unavoidable awe, just as we feel a sense of pity at the quick rush of the may fly's life-for-a-day. Somewhere between, but nearer to the may fly, is man himself. His three-score-and-ten years seem but a fleeting segment of time when viewed against the background of the redwood's cycle of life.”

Edwin Way Teale

- Excerpts from a article appeared in the July, 1946 issue of Coronet magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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