“Brief thought on the AAIHS’ 2019 Conference” (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
In the past two days (March 22 and 23, 2019), I had an opportunity to attend for the first time the African American Intellectual Society’s (#AAIHS2019) fourth annual conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The beautiful canpus of the University of Michigan was the chosen venue for the conference.
The theme of the conference was “Black Internationalism: Then and Now.” As an intellectual historian of the Caribbean (i.e. Haiti) and Black America (i.e. African American Intellectual History), I was both thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to engage with other scholars on the subject matter. Overall, my scholarship intersect intellectual musings on Haiti, African American Studies, and the global blackness or what I have called in my 2012 dissertation, “Black Transnational Consciousness.”
I attended several great panels that were both intellectually informative and stimulating, contributing to a greater knowledge and understanding of the nature and workings of Black Intellectualism and Pan-Africanism, ans history of Black thought/ideas. There were four major interventions that made my day:
1) The group panel/discussion on “The Common Wind,” a seminal and creative text by the African American historian Julius Scott on Black intellectual tradition in the Atlantic world. I was fortunate to hear Dr. Scott talk about his work and his response to the panelists.
2) The interview with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi on his intellectual works (i.e. “Stamped from the Beginning”) on racial ideas and and anti-racial ideas. He talked about his forthcoming book on how to be an anti-racist. Can’t wait to read that one!
3) The “Haiti: Then and Now” Panel with Drs. Geri ( moderator), Bertin Louis, Marlene Daut, Gregory Pierrot, and Celucien Joseph (me). Bert and I have been organising this panel for the past five years, in various professional guilds such as the National Council for Black Studies, Caribbean Studies Association, and now African American Intellectual History Society. Daut gave an impressive presentation on Haitian archives with a particular on the right representation of Haiti through literature and how Haitians represent themselves in public. She examines the nineteenth century La Gazette newspaper counters the false public representations of Haiti and the Haitian peoole.
Moreover, Pierrot examines various visual representations and images of Toussaint Louverture–in the past three hundred years. Louis explores the relationship between Haitian Protestantism in the Bahamas and the dilemma of Haitian Bahamians or Bahamians of Haitian descent pertaining to immigration, citizenship, human rights issues, social activism, etc. Finally, in my presentation, I discussed three pivotal historical moments (1956, 1959, and 1960) relating to Price-Mars’ Black Internationalism and Pan-Africanism.
4. Featured Authors’ Book Display
I was pleased to see two of my books on display at the Conference: “Vodou in the Haitian Experience: A Black Atlantic Perspective,” and “Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa.” Both texts were published in 2017 and 2018 by Lexington Books. Thanks to the wonderful AAIHS Board for acknowledging my scholarship.
Overall, I enjoyed the fellowship, intellectual exchange, and friendship of the AAIHS. It was both a delight and joy to participate in this wonderful and well-organized conference. I look forward to the next AAIHS conference that will be held at UT Austin (Austin, Texas).
“A Little Moment of Hiatus and for Self-Criticism”
Whenever I feel like something is trying to control me or master my life, I withdraw from it, engage in active self-criticism and meditation, and relentlessly pursue other venues that would stimulate me toward (more and better) self-care, mental freedom, and greater spiritual intimacy with God.
Therefore, I’m taking a little break from social media for a month. I will be back on April 24, 2019 to continue our conversations on matters relating to moral and ethical virtues such as human compassion and justice, mutual reciprocity and interdependence, love and sacrifice, race relations and social justice, unity and reconciliation, forgiveness and tolerance, peace and human flourishing, as well as those topics pertaining to the ultimate value and worth, cosmic and redemptive love, and glorious excellency and majesty of God through Jesus Christ.
1. If you want to contact me, send me an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org
2. If you are interested in joining our team for the Haiti Impact Trip (July 17-25, 2019), send us an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
or you may visit the website to learn more about it: https://hopefortodayoutreach.org
3. If you would like to make a donation toward the Haiti Impact Trip, just follow the same instructions in part 2.
See you in a month!
“Rethinking Early Christian History in Africa/ Early African Christianity and Early Christianity in the West”
A lot of black brothers and sisters are having a hard time embracing Christianity because of (1) the connection between Christianity and slavery in the Americas, and (2) the intimate rapport between christianity and colonization in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and other geographical places. (This is understandable, but not historically justified as the subject pertains to the early history of the Christian faith, and where it first emerged historically.)
As a result, those who have rejected Christianity on this basis claim that Christianity is the White Man’s Religion and the religion of slave masters . No, historically, “Historic Christianity” is not a religion invented by White Europeans or was it created by American and European slave masters. That has not been the case since in its inception! It is important to make a distinction between the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles and the use of Christianity as a civil religion and cultural religion in the United States, for example. These are the ideological uses and exploitations of biblical Christianity during the time of slavery, colonization, political programs and campaigns, imperial projects and expansion, etc.
American and European slave masters and colonizers have used Christianity to carry out their own political and economic agendas–even today we continue to observe the unfortunate role and misuse of biblical Christianity in American politics and in the American culture.
In fact, historic christianity is closer to ancient African cultural traditions and practices than those of Christianity in modern Western societies or Western civilization. Christianity is not a product of Western civilization nor does it demonstrate the genius of the White people, as many ideologues and racists have propagated. Christianity is not a Western program or project although it has been used and misued in this way.
For example, early Christian history is very African and African Christias have contributed substantially to the beginning, shape, and development of Christianity in modern Western societies. The oldest Christian church in the world is located in Ethiopia, which indicates the early footsprints of Christianity in African soil and the influence of Africa in early christian history. There are thousands of Christian documents (i.e. theological, liturgical, spiritual, ecclesiastical concerns and disputes) written in the Coptic (and arabic) language, which were written in the Middle Ages and have yet to be translated in modern Anglosaxon languages such as French, Spanish, English, German, Italian, etc.
Did you also know that Christianity flourished in African soil during its first 600 years? Coptic Christianity is the most ancient form of Christianity in the world. Did you also know that Martin Luther, the great theologian and leader of the Protestant Reformation and the Father of Modern Protestant Christianity was influenced by the Coptic theology and ecclesiology of Ethiopian Christianity?
Christianity started to flourish in modern Western societies, in what we call in history the “modern era” or “modernity.” African Christianity laid both the intellectual and spiritual foundations for Christianity in modern Western societies.
Here are some good resources/recommendations to further your studies on the subject matter:
Part 3: How Books Work in the Academia
Since I have already explained in leghth in the past two posts (Parts 1 and) how academics assess or evaluate books and the creation of textual knowledge, in Part 3 of the last post, I’m just going to include the remaining “book shots.”
Part 2: How Books Work in the Academia
To continue my conversation about how books work in the academic world and how scholars assess important texts within the scope and contour of their respective discipline, for example, I took shots of a variety of influential books in the disciplines of history, religion, Christian theology, literature, philosophy, etc. Do not be quick to say this method is subjective! Yes and/ or No!
Normally, when a good book is published within a field of study, it makes a big noise among the scholars of that discipline. How?
Well, the book is reviewed in multiple academic journals; in academic conferences, academics would refer to that book in their presentation or talk; scholars in that discipline recommend it to other academics and their school’s library; they include that book in the “required reading list” in their syllabus, doctoral comprehensive examinations, or recommend the book to be reviewed in journals; and at conferences, both national and international, academics would also hold panels to discuss the relevance and significance of that book.
In other words, there’s a scholarly consensus about the noted text in view.
In the photos below, you will find a few referenced texts or examples of the matter I’m discussing in this post; they also happen to be books I really like 🙂
Part 1: Just in case you missed it: On Books and Their Impact on the Human Soul and the Academic World
Here are all the seven supposedly favorite books that I have listed as part of the game in the past seven days. I normally don’t like to list my favorite books because I read prolifically, interdisciplinarily, or across the disciplines, and that it is possible that I leave one out.
In addition, most scholars do not assess books in this manner: “this one is my favorite book” or ” this one is not.” Rather, we list seminal and influential texts within their respective discipline and the arguments the authors of the noted books articulate that changed or altered a particular perspective within this discipline of study. We assess books according to their discipline and say whether this particular new text has provided new understanding of this discipline or we could simply ask the following questions: how does this book in particular help us to understand a particular debate or issue (it could be an old or mysterious debate in history, for example), for example, in the field of African American Religion or Christian Erhics? Does it contribute new information or knowledge we didn’t already know about and that which other authors have not covered already in previously-published texts or academic articles?
We academics believe that human knowledge evolves, can be deconstructed and reconstructed, and reevaluated based on the time period (s) and connected historical events associating with it. We also believe that a text is written within a particular historical context and therefore the meaning of this text could be/is contextual, political, sociological, historical, and cultural. In other words, a particular body of knowledge embedded in a book has its own historical limitations and boundaries. Some textual knowledge could also die, fade away, or even become irrelevant in an academic field when a newly-discovered knowledge/information brings greater enlightenment, clarity, and precision. That does not mean we do not believe that some books have universal and transcultural values. Even if that is the case, (textual) knowledge is always and should be construed and analyzed within the boundary of reason and in its own time, milieu, or Sitz im Leben.
***Well, the most influential (collection of books) book in my life is the Bible. However, not every book in the Bible has marked my life the same way; some are more impactful (i.e. Deuteronomy, Psalm, Isaiah, Gospel of Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Ephesians, Romans) than others (i.e. Ruth, Obadiah, Ekekiel, 1 and 2 Kings, Jude).
“One More Word about the Gospel, Cultural Marxism, and Social Justice”
Recently, many influential Christian (Evangelical) thinkers and theologians have claimed that social justice is associated with Marxism and in fact, it is a form of cultural Marxism. Therefore, as they have argued unpersuasively, social justice is incomparable with the Gospel and biblical notion of justice. They have called upon other Christian thinkers not to integrate social justice in their theological vocabulary and hermeneutical reasoning. Other Christian (Evangelical) thinkers like myself, on the other side of the debate, maintain that social justice is a natural outcome of the Gospel, whose basic interconnected premise and logical reasoning entail a dual Christian commitment in public: (1) the proclamation of Jesus as cosmic Lord and Jesus as the salvific hope for all people, and (2) the deeds of the Gospel resulting in rigorous Christian social activism and Christian participation in society to eradicate its injustices, evils, and all forms of social ills and oppressive systems and structures that lead to more human suffering in society and defer human flourishing in the global community.
Nonetheless, this matter continues to divide the Evangelical community. I believe that faithful Christians should not be quick to separate the intricate and necessary relationship between divine justice and social justice. While God’s method of effecting justice in society may differ than the human action in obtaining justice, the God of the Bible is for justice and justice in its redemptive and transformative sense. The Gospel makes sense and relevant to people only if Christians believe in the intimate rapport between spiritual salvation and social salvation, and strive to accomplish both aims, equally and equitably.
There are five major problems leading to this “exclusive hermeneutics,” from the pen of those who reject the rapport between the Gospel and God’s clarion call to his people to practice and promote justice in society.
1. These thinkers are reading Scriptures from the perspective of the dominant class while ignoring the God of the Bible who sides himself always with the weak, the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the oppressed. (These are not cultural Marxist terms. Karl Marx did not invent those cultural concepts and linguistic terms; those terms and concepts are found in the original Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Bible. Moreover, when one considers the predicament of America’s enormous poor populations and the world’s (miserably) poor populations, one should inquire about the nature of established (human) systems, structures, organizations, and powers that hinder human flourishing in the world and generate the inhumane practices and living conditions of the global poor. It is important for genuine Christian thinkers to be good cultural exegetes and name the sin. Sin has a name!)
2. Christian thinkers, on the other side of the debate, are bad cultural exegetes and terrible interpreters of the God who despises injustice, abuse, and oppression of any manifestation or form. This is due to their negligence of being good students of American history and global history and the wide economic and educational gap that separates the rich and the poor, the privileged and the disenfranchised, the oppressed and the oppressor.
3. Christian thinkers, on the other side of the spectrum, have either not studied Marxism or if they have read him, they have interpreted him very poorly. (It is important to read Marx’s own works, not a few articles and commentaries about his own ideas. In the same way, read the Bible for yourself, not commentaries about it. Perhaps, enroll in a class in Critical Theory and Hermeneutics.)
4. Christians, on the other camp of the debate, have not studied American History from below, that is from the lens of the Native Americans, whose European-inflicted suffering or pain is immeasurable and land was stolen from them; the enslaved Africans, who were brought to the United States and the Americas involuntarily and whose (agricultural and domestic) labor was freely exploited and gained; and from the viewpoint of America’s contemporary economically-disadvantaged populations, whose collective story and shared experiences are often disenfranchised and silenced in America’s (theological) metanarrative and Sunday morning sermons. (To read U.S. History from above, that is, from the lens of those in the seat of power and influence, is detrimental to Christian witness in the public sphere, and it is certainly not compatible with the God of the Exodus and Liberator of the Hebrew/Israelite Slaves. This conscious act is reinforcing the problem of telling a single and monolithic American story/history (and Christian story/history in America and in the world) that defines the whole of the American experience, while intentionally erasing the complex experiences and lives of those in the margins and silencing the voice of America’s minority populations.)
5. Christian thinkers, on the opposition side, spend a lot of time reading theology books, written from the worldview and vantage point of White American and European Male thinkers/Biblical scholars and Theologians. (They’re not the Guardian of truth and the divine revelation! No one has the monopoly on Biblical interpretation or theological hermeneutics. The White Male American-European theological experience does not define the global and intricate experiences of other Christians in the world; nor is it the telos of Biblical hermeneutics in the singular. The White Male American-European theological world does not name the end of all things exegetically biblical, theological, ethical, moral, and philosophical. The practice of such a form of “theological-hermeneutical exclusion” has made these Christian thinkers insensitive (to the plot of the world’s poor, among them lives a large population of Christian poor and oppressed group) face their fear by moving from their terrain of theological comfort and luxury to explore the writings and ideas of brown and black theologians and biblical scholars who might disturb their theological linearity, and whose experience they do not share and whose voice they refuse to hear.
Finally, I must also say that this current debate among Evangelical thinkers of the two opposite camps on the subject of the meaning of the Gospel and Social justice has deep roots in theological education and ethical instructions at the seminary level. The curriculum of America’s theological seminaries and divinity schools, especially those of the Evangelical Tradition, is very “white,” “European,” “male,” and “intellectually exclusive.” Unfortunately, these phenomena are also representative in the faculty-student body and the individuals these theological institutions attract or welcome in their midst. The issue of theological and human representation in theological education has tremendous implications on race relations in Christian churches, the effectiveness of the Gospel in culture, and social justice conversations among Christian thinkers and leaders. This intervention is a very conscious and calculated structure and system. In other words, theological segregation is by design as intellectual exclusion in contemporary American Evangelicalism is also willed by those in the seat of power and influence.
How long, O Lord?
Living gently and revolutionarily in a hostile society and degraded-human life world
One thing that is certain in the American society and contemporary global community: the life of a person is not worth a penny. We have invented different grades and scales to assess human dignity and life depending on one’s economic status, privilege, race, gender, religious affiliation, and equally on one’s geography on the world’s map. The dignity of human life has become a social construction, not a natural gift from God himself.
Various global news channels and media just reported the horrible massacre of Muslim worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand, resulting in the annihilation of 49 individuals and the physical injury of 20 individuals. The incident occurred in two different mosques, and the victims were praying in the mosque. As it is reported, “The chief suspect, a 28-year-old Australian-born man, allegedly published a racist “manifesto” on social media before the attack, featuring conspiracy theories about Europeans being displaced, and details of two years of preparation and radicalization leading up to the shootings” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47578798 )
I suppose that in addition to the inhumane nature and workings of economic capitalism and globalization—these two human structures lead to all sorts of problems in the world: global poverty, hunger, disease, death, underdevelopment, health hazards, lack of running water, etc.)—arguably, the two comparable threats to global peace and human flourishing in the twenty-first century global world are “violent religious extremists” and “catastrophic white supremacist ideologies.” Notice that I did not say “religious people” or “White people” are the world’s problems. In addition, I did not state that all religious people are violent extremists nor did I affirm that all white people are catastrophic and white supremacists. I am referring to two particular “worldviews” that have become some of the most pressing needs and dangerous ideologies in contemporary Western civilization and in the world today. Ideologies know no race, ethnicity, gender, identity, or geographical boundary. Both of these phenomena are structural, demonic, systemic, transcultural, and interreligious. These two deadly sins against humanity and human flourishing must die in order for cosmic peace and redemption to reign supreme.
I am not anti-white humanity or anti-religion; certainly, I am against all forms of structural ideologies and epistemologies supported by a particular racialist-based ideology or lens to interpret human dynamics in the world and global history. Correspondingly, I am against all categories of religious ideology and doctrine that exclude certain human beings—because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or geographical location in the world—from God’s abundant grace and global love for humanity. God’s gracious love knows no boundary. Divine love transcends all spheres of life, human cultures or societies, the highest form of human knowledge and achievement, and all potential human capabilities and limitations.
However, religious ideologies predicated upon the mental process or practice of extremism and fanaticism, and racist worldviews grounded on the doctrines of the supremacy of a particular race and the inferiority of other races are products of the devil, the depravity of the human heart, the crisis of human reason, and the structural organization of contemporary societies and world-systems. Yet we must remember that these twin ideologies have a past, a history, and they continue to haunt and degrade our lives and make us suffer.
(White supremacy is a form of spiritual warfare that must be fought with the armor of God and the best Christ-inspired human tactics and weapons. Changing oppressive systems and evil structures is instrinsic to the idea of Christian justice and upholding human dignity in the world. Unjust and oppressive systems and ideologies such as racism, xenophobia, and Islamphobia challenge the dignity and image of God in humanity. They’re sinful, demonic, anti-Christ, and anti-human flourishing. Isn’t it a Christian duty to denounce what’s ungodly and dishorable to God? Those in the seat of power and influence have always interpreted the Bible to carry out their personal and collective agendas, and silence the voice of the oppressed and the poor. They portray themselves as the Guardian of truth and the divine revelation. Sir, We have RECEIPTS!)
I discussed these critical human concerns and pressing needs in a little but important book called “Radical Humanism and Generous Tolerance: Soyinka on Religion and Human Solidarity” (UPA, 2017; 103 pages). How shall we then move forward? In other words, how shall we now live peacefully and in mutual understanding in this world of uncertainty? Below, I suggest ten possible ways toward this end.
Ten Basic Steps to move yourself and the world Forward toward Communal Peace, Global Shalom, and Human Flourishing:
1. The task begins with the self-examination of our conscience and personal actions to discern if we are complicit in the suffering and mistreatment of other people.
2. Be a peacemaker and an advocate of transformative justice in your family, work, community, city, church, and country—or among your friends.
3. Be a servant to people in need and serve them without reproach or grudging.
4. Always find creative ways to inspire and empower people to attain their dreams and for them to become useful and democratically-minded national and global citizens.
5. Defend the rights of the vulnerable and the poor to exist and contribute to their ability to explore their full potential in society.
6. Be an active ally to the (socially and economically) marginalized and racially-minority groups in our society or your community.
7. Do not endorse politicians and legislations that are detrimental to another group, class, or race in our society or in your state.
8. Do not endorse politicians and their foreign policies that are not human flourishing-oriented, peace and unity-based, nor those that do not lead to the improvement of nation-state diplomatic relationships and global safety, prosperity, and unity.
9. Help someone to realize the greatness of God’s love and mercy for himself or herself and for all peoples in the world.
10. Embody and promote the revolutionary ideas and liberative call of Jesus to love all people: “One command I tell you is to love one another, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I believe the revolutionary life must entail the pursuit, practice, and doing of all these transformative interventions named above. The revolutionary life is a gentle life that redirects one’s attention from the self toward the service and well-being of the other individual and the collective. Living gently and revolutionary is not only a matter of changing one’s attitude toward wholeness. It is in fact an existential commitment that resists self-interest in order to pursue the happiness and joy of other people—, which could and must lead to radical deracination of human evils and oppression and radical transformation of societal structures and organizations, as well as modes of human interaction and rapport. With God’s active assistance and providence, we will together create another humanism, another country, another world, another society for ourselves, for our children, the next generation, and the global community. We must create a world that is based strictly on love and mutual love; that is the only hope for the survival of the human race!
I’m pleased to announce that the Journal of Religion and Theology has accepted my new article for publication:
“The Meaning of James H. Cone and the Significance of Black Theology: Some Reflections on His Legacy.”
“The Coneian Turn in Christian Theology in Black” : My next project/article on Cone will explore his politico-theological ideas within the logic of Africana Critical Tradition (that is, in parallel to and connection with the intellectual activism of Du Bois, Fanon, Cesaire, Senghor, Price-Mars, Cabral, etc.) and within the grammar of what I phrase “Black Transnational Consciousness,” a concept I coined in my doctoral dissertation.