Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Emmanuel Jal: Cush

A couple of years ago, I learned of a man named Emmanuel Jal. He had just published a bestselling book about his experiences as a Sudanese child soldier who had wound up going to school and, ultimately, became an ambassador for peace through his rap music. I mentioned him in a post at the time because I had read his book (which I highly recommend), Sudan was in the news at the time, and I have a long-standing attachment to that country.

A few days ago, I received an email tipping me to Jal's newest album, entitled See Me Mama. One of the cuts from the album is featured above, reminding us that the human race in general and, most particularly, our darker brothers and sisters, share a rich history dating back to the kingdom of Cush.

Jal is obviously very talented. That he has faced down many nightmares in his life to reach where he is now is very inspiring indeed. That he could be beaten and robbed by policeman in his own country last fall and not respond with bitterness borders on saintliness. To ignore the importance of his message in this song would be to turn one's back on reality.

We're preparing to enter February, the month when the United States pretends "Black history" is worth a head nod. We ought to be including all history as an important part of our general education lifelong and year round in this country, of course. But we don't. And worse, even when we include the experiences of People of Color, it's always from the White man's perspective.

We call Native Americans "savages," forgetting to mention that we were committing genocide in horrible ways to steal their homeland when they rose up against us. We talk about slavery like it was a favor we did poverty-stricken Africans rather than a way to work humans to death to make our nation rich. And we totally skip the fact that history (Black or otherwise) didn't start with the slave trade a few hundred years ago.

I'm in the market for a new cell phone. It'll be my first smart phone and I've been told it's about damned time. It occurs to me that we're in dire need of an upgrade to our historical education software, as well. We rush to be on top of the latest technology, but we're stuck on stupid when it comes to  knowing where we come from. We can do better.

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