The color maroon – review of book on African history and culture – special report: health sciences

 I approach this book with unmitigated joy.

For the record, let me confess at the outset that I am Afrocentric in my view, as well as a colleague, friend and fan of the author of this magnificent collection of essays, The Maroon Within Us. Additionally, I have encouraged him, over the years, to commit his vast knowledge of early African information to print. I also participated in a study tour of Egypt under his tutelage and will be forever grateful. So, if my objectivity is to be questioned, at least my biases have been shared.

Given the structures often accorded the society in which we live and the careful segmentation of disciplines, there are some who question the ability of a trained psychologist to wax eloquently about history and its consequences. In fact, some ask how one can claim to be an Egyptologist without having paid the dues for the proper university credentials? My response to such a query is: Being self-taught does not negate learning and truth! Dr. Asa Hilliard is indeed learned in the area of Egyptology, and proper learning yields confidence and truth. There is an African proverb that states, “When the lions write the books, the hunters will not always win.”

Thus, The Maroon Within Us becomes an important contribution to the literature of Egyptology. This volume contains fifteen essays and they are unquestionably African-centered, requiring people of African descent to see; themselves as actors on a world stage. The more that is written from this particular–and natural–vantage point, the more there is to critique and debate. Broad exposure to this line of thought and reasoning continues to be sorely needed and not to be rejected out of hand.

This compilation of essays was developed by the author over a period of nineteen years. Those of us who have known him for two decades or more have watched his continued growth and commitment to truth–and new interpretations of “old truths.”

In the introduction to The Maroon Within Us, Hilliard provides a context within which the essays evolve and interact. He notes that the stereotyping of Africa as the “Dark Continent” causes a chain reaction that affects both the oppressors as well as those who have been and continue to be oppressed. He explains how the confusion that that many people have over the meaning of race, social class and culture leads to the negative emphasis which is too: often used by too many. He argues that color and social class certainly do not complete nor offer the best qualifications of a people. Culture, on the other hand, expresses creativities and straggles that have evolved over time and space and which is the, essence of a people.

Early in the book, Hilliard informs the reader that the primary audience for this volume is the African family and community. He is adamant in his belief that those who will most benefit from his work are knowledgeable about, and identify with, their cultural heritage–those who want to ensure that such is passed on to present and future generations. He believes that it is imperative that people of African descent have an independent and well-developed idea of the priorities and strategies for community socialization.

While the notion of an independent idea is intriguing, the power of this statement is in what he does not say. The differentiation which he makes between schooling, education, and socialization is very poignant. The most powerful of this listing is socialization because it represents the assumption of responsibilities for the group, which is essential for unity and group solidarity.

In the opening essay, the author uses style as a critical analytical tool for comparing religious practice and experience. He opines that the elements of an African belief system cannot be solely understood within the framework of a European belief system. Traditional African religion contains five elements: belief in God; belief in divinity; belief in spirits; belief in the ancestors; and, belief in the practice of magic and medicine.

In this regard, Hilliard suggests some kinship to the experience of intelligence testing in our society. Here, he clearly falls back on his training as a clinical psychologist, strongly suggesting that the problem with most intelligence tests is that the first question they ask is, “Do you know what I know?” Hilliard would prefer that the second question asked–“What do you know?”–be asked first.

In Africa, according to Hilliard, the expression of religious beliefs and practices were approximate, thematic, and popular. He believes that the values of standardization were derivatives of a European tradition. He also believes that there is no authorized version of a Negro spiritual. His point here is well made.

The Maroon Within Us is a vital part of the ongoing revolution characterized by Hilliard and a handful of other very fine scholars who, as young, budding intellectuals during the 1960s, accepted the challenge to clarify the role of Africa–and therefore, Africans–on the world stage. While the results are uncomfortable for some, the emerging research is solid.

By documenting the fact that “mankind began in Africa … and was dark-skinned…and that KMT (Egypt) is Africa’s oldest recorded civilization,” Hilliard dispels historical myths about Africa which have traditionally been imbedded in the research.

A further essential component to this book is the very carefully selected annotated bibliography on African scholarship. Without question, Maroon Within Us is an addled asset to all courses caught on Africa and to all people of African descent. The reader will leave these pages with a clearer focus of African history and culture.

Black Issues In Higher Education Top Ten Books Weeks Last On Campus On List Position 1. SISTERS AND LOVERS 6 6 Connie Briscoe - Ivy/One World, $8.99 2. FAITH IN THE VALLEY: LESSON 6 3 FOR WOMEN ON THE JOURNEY TO PEACE Iyanla VanZant - Fireside/ Simon & Schuster, $10 3. AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS 25 8 E. Lynn Harris - Doubleday, $23.95 4. SOUL VIBRATIONS 10 4 George Davis and Gilda Matthews - Quill, $10 5. BODY AND SOUL -- -- Linda Villarosa - Harper/ Perennial, $20 6. HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK -- -- Terry McMillan - Anchor/ Doubleday, $23.95 7. AIN'T GONNA BE THE SAME 8 6 FOOL TWICE April Sinclair - Hyperion, $19.95 8. WHEN DEATH COMES STEALING 36 5 Valerie Wilson Wesley - Putnam & Sons, $5.99 9. SOME LOVE, SOME PAIN, SOMETIME -- -- J. California Cooper - Doubleday, $10 10. BLACK SUN SIGNS: AFRICAN 8 7 AMERICAN GUIDE TO THE ZODIAC Thelma Balfour - Fireside/ Simon & Schuster, $11

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