First in the web-docu series ‘Negro.’ Exploring race and race relations of people of the African Diaspora in Latin America.
Coming to PBS beginning April 19, 2011 – BLACK IN LATIN AMERICA
Finally! Thank you! The truth shall set you free! The Latino culture was borne from African slaves. Emancipate yourselves and WATCH!
I first read the word ‘Moor’ in Shakespeare’s Othello. I noticed it was said with disdain and it was used repeatedly to describe Othello, instead of his name. I also noticed there was a problem with Othello’s involvement with Ophelia. I deduced the problem with Othello was that he was a Black Moor. 2+2=4 Then it led me to do a bit more research on what exactly a ‘Moor’ was. Years later here’s more.
Many historians say the Moors were the group that brought the Western world out of the Dark Ages making a significant impact on the current day world. But who were they?
The Moors inhabited Europe from 711 AD, until Columbus set sail to the Indies in 1492. They were driven out by the Spaniards, along with the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, who ordered the burning of the accumulated literature. Hence a people, their history, culture and empire were lost and forgotten. But not in its entirety.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Moors, as early as the Middle Ages and as late as the seventeenth century were, “commonly supposed to be black or very swarthy, and the word often used for Negro.” James E. Brunson and Runoko Rashidi, authors of The Moors of Antiquity wrote, “There is considerable difficulty in determining the ethnicity of the early Moors through terminology alone.”
There are several terms that have been used to identify the Moors. Arabic texts, for example, rarely used the word Moor and instead applied the term Berber (a word thought by some to be pejorative) to the early non-Arab peoples of Northwest Africa.
What Scholars Say
Although scholars generally agree that the word Moor is derived from Mauri, there are profound disagreements among history authors on what the word originally meant and how it was applied. Philip K. Hitti, author of History of the Arabs, contends that the term Moor has a geographic designation meaning Western. He wrote.“The Romans called Western African Mauretania and its inhabitants, Mauri (presumably of Phoenician origin meaning ‘Western’) whence [the] Spanish Moro [and the] English Moor. The Berbers, therefore, were the Moors proper, but the term was conventionally applied to all Moslems of Spain and North-western Africa.”
Some historians described the Berbers as war-like, nomadic and a predatory population stretching from the borders of Egypt to Morocco, and often lived on the borders of the desert and at the foot of mountains.
Some Were Called Berbers
Further research reveals the Moors were not all of Arab and North African mixed blood as many historians report, many of them were black. According to Ivan Van Sertima, associate professor of African studies at Rutgers University, Black Moors were in every corner of Europe. “Most people do not know that the peoples called Berbers by the classical Greek and Roman historians were black and affiliated with the then contemporary peoples of the East African area.”
Although much of the literature about the Berbers was burned, their presence was recorded by the Vikings and many others. Anthropologist, Dana Reynolds traced the African roots of the original North African peoples through a dozen Greek and Byzantine (neo-Roman writers) from the first to the sixth century AD. They describe the Berber population of Northern Africa, as “black-skinned and woolly-haired.”
Black as a Moor
The “Moorish” people, as the blacks were described in the pre-Islamic era, were noted for their skin color by such descriptive phrases as “black as melted pitch” and “blacker than ink,” quoted by Van Sertima in his book Golden Age of the Moor. In certain well-known European epics and histories, the phrase “black as a Moor” was used from Roman times until the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, masqueraders used to blacken their faces, so they might better pass as Moors.
Westerners choose to concentrate on the most recent world of the Arab and Berber-speaking peoples as if it is a world that has always been. The story of when North Africa was Moorish and Arabia (land of Saracens) has yet to be told.
The Moors in Europe
It would not be inaccurate to say that the Moors helped reintroduce Europe to civilization. But just who were the Moors of antiquity anyway? As early as the Middle Ages, and as early as the seventeenth century, “The Moors were,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “commonly supposed to be mostly black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for negro.” Dr. Chancellor Williams stated that “The original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were Black Africans.”
At the beginning of the eighth century Moorish soldiers crossed over from Africa into Spain, Portugal, and France, where their swift victories became the substance of legends. To the Christians of early Europe there was no question regarding the ethnicity of the Moors, and numerous sources support the view that the Moors were a black-skinned people. Morien, for example, is the adventure of a heroic Moorish knight supposed to have lived during the days of King Arthur. Morien is described as “all black: his head, his body, and his hands were all black.” In the French epic known as the Song of Roland the Moors are described as “blacker than ink.”
William Shakespeare used the word Moor as a synonym for African. Christopher Marlowe used African and Moor interchangeably. Arab writers further buttress the Black identity of the Moors. The powerful Moorish emperor Yusuf ben-Tachfin is described by an Arab chronicler as “a brown man with wooly hair.”
Continue Reading Black History Month: Africans in Europe…
“In 1570, enslaved Africans outnumbered Spaniards in Mexico three to one, but were reduced to only 10 percent of the population by 1810. On the Caribbean islands, Blacks outnumbered Whites by as many as 23 to 1.”
In this installment of the the Black History Month series, I explore Africa’s role in creating an ethnic group whose identity is normally confused, and sometimes hidden or entirely wiped out. Without Africans, the entire Latino ethnic group would not even exist today. Aside from the human aspect of it, the entire culture—food, music, customs would not exist. Latinos are a result of conquest, “exploration” and slavery. MOST Latinos are of or have African descent in their lineage. It is oftentimes rejected in favor of a more “whitewashed” image, but the truth remains that Latinos are a result of the African Diaspora. With Black Latinos in the media consistently and ferociously battling what they are, a la skin Sammy Sosa skin bleaching, it is no surprise the same conditioning and brainwashing and self hatred that has been shopped in the United States to Black Americans is mirrored in Latin America. But the reality is we are here, a lot of us are proud and we will be seen.
The first town of freed African slaves in the Americas is not exactly where you would expect to find it — and it isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find either. First, it’s not in the United States. Yanga, on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, is a sleepy pueblito founded by its namesake, Gaspar Yanga, an African slave who led a rebellion against his Spanish colonial masters in the late 16th century and fought off attempts to retake the settlement. The second thing that is immediately evident to vistors who reach the town’s rustic central plaza: there are virtually no blacks among the few hundred residents milling around the center of town.
If you have not heard of Mexico’s native blacks, you are not alone. The story that has been passed down through generations is that their ancestors arrived on a slave boat filled with Cubans and Haitians, which sank off Mexico’s Pacific coast. The survivors hid away in fishing villages on the shore. The story is a myth: Spanish colonialists trafficked African slaves into ports on the opposite Gulf coast, and slaves were distributed further inland. The persistence of this story explains the reluctance of many black Mexicans to embrace the label “Afro”, and why many Mexicans assume black nationals hail from the Caribbean. Colonial records show that around 200,000 African slaves were imported into Mexico in the 16th and 17th centuries to work in silver mines, sugar plantations and cattle ranches. But after Mexico won its independence from Spain, the needs of these black Mexicans were ignored. Some Afro-Mexican activists identify themselves as part of the African diaspora. Given their rejection from Mexican culture, this offers a more empowering cultural reference. But with no collective memory of slavery (it was officially abolished in Mexico in 1822), or of any time in Africa before then, Afro-Mexicans are considerably removed from their African roots.
Source: Mexico’s hidden Blacks
The 18th century brought about a turning point in Caribbean history when slavery was brought to the islands. European importers demanded high quantities of sugar, the product of sugarcane, which grew easily in the Caribbean’s temperate weather. As demand for sugar increased, so did the demand for plantation labor.
The indigenous Arawaks were the Europeans’ original slaves but they were quickly dying out. By this time slavery was a fixture in European and Arab countries. To continue the grievous trend in the Caribbean, then-friar Bartoleme de las Casas of Hispaniola suggested enslaving Africans. Hence, many new slaves came from Africa’s Guinea coast. They were taken from their homes by slave-raiding parties, which were often endorsed by the local government.
They were shipped to the West Indies via the notorious Middle Passage–a horrendous mode of transport in which slaves were packed into the ship’s hold so tightly that they could not move freely and sometimes suffocated to death. On average, 12 percent of slaves died on the trip; those who survived were fed, “oiled”, and paraded through the streets to the slave market where they were auctioned off and traded for liquor, guns, and other goods.
They were pawns in the infamous Triangular Trade: European ships set sail for the Caribbean colonies with bartering goods, arms, and liquor for African slave traders; slaves were captured and shipped from Africa to the islands; and in the final step, sugar and rum were exported from the Caribbean back to Europe.
The average life expectancy for an imported slave was only seven years, but history tells that many died within the first year after they arrived. The acclimation period, or “seasoning” as it was called, was a time of brutal adjustment for the new slaves. They were forced to adopt new cultural customs and language.
On the plantations, owners demanded slaves sever every tie to their homeland and kept slaves of the same culture apart. Rebellion was common, and slave owners exercised harsh punishments for disobedience or acts of will; indeed, it was not illegal to kill an African man in the British colonies until the beginning of the 19th century.
In the 1770s, anti-slavery movements began to take shape in Europe. The Society for the Abolition of Slavery was established in 1787 to raise public awareness of the inhumane treatment of slaves. It wasn’t until 1807, however, that a law was passed banning the trade of slaves on British ships.
Soon after the law was passed, many other countries enacted similar laws; in 1831, a massive anti-slavery rebellion in Jamaica destroyed many sugar estates, motivating Parliament to sanction the Emancipation Act of 1834. After a four-year “apprenticeship” during which the slaves were still bound to plantation life, they were released unconditionally.
Cuba was still importing slaves until 1865, and did not officially abolish slavery until 1888. The French possessions did not free their slaves until 1848, followed by the Dutch in 1863 and Puerto Rico in 1873. Many freed slaves purchased parcels of land for subsistence farming. On some of the smaller Caribbean islands, however, there was little land left to buy, so they had to return to plantation work.
According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 90% of the contemporary Dominican population has West African ancestry to varying degrees. However, most Dominicans do not self-identify as black, in contrast to people of West African ancestry in other countries. Interesting.
Source: Wikipedia: Dominican Republic
Central and South America
A few African servants accompanying the early Spanish or Portuguese explorers were the first slaves to enter the continent. Larger-scale importation of slaves from Africa developed after the slave trade was established early in the 16th century, though reliable quantitative information is lacking. Estimates of the number of Africans brought to South America are four million for Brazil and three million for all of Spanish America, of which most went to areas of present-day Venezuela, Colombia, coastal Ecuador and Peru, and northwestern Argentina; a number also went to the large Spanish colonial cities as urban servants. In addition, many Africans were brought to the British and Dutch Guianas (present-day Guyana and Suriname, respectively). African slaves were considered to be more resistant than American Indians to tropical diseases, especially in plantation areas. Most of the slaves imported into South America came from Portuguese or Spanish trading posts along the west coast of Africa, including areas near present-day Angola. The slave trade ceased in the early 19th century as most of the new republics banned slavery.
Source: Encyclopedia Britanica
Music, culture, and customs derived from Africa
The tango dance of Argentina was developed from dual African ancestries. One source is undoubtedly the Spanish fandango, but the fandango is really Moorish. The other source is a Black dance called the candombe, the feature attraction of Afro-Argentine festivals during and after the period of slavery. Latin American music has always been deeply influenced by the vibrant rhythms and melodies that Blacks brought with them from their African homeland.
This is particularly true of Brazil; in fact, the first real music school in that country was founded by a Black priest. Brazilian music is thoroughly filled with African themes, and well-known composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos have long found inspiration in the Black musical heritage. Many Caribbean musical styles have become widely known, including the mambo from Cuba, salsa from Puerto Rico, reggae from Jamaica, and calypso from Trinidad.
Brazil is home to the world’s second largest population of African descent. Brazilians regularly eat foods and use words that originated in Africa, their history books talk almost exclusively about the deeds of white heroes, said Emanoel Araujo, a renowned black sculptor and the curator of the Afro Brasil Museum in Sao Paulo.
“We need to redo the history of this country,” Araujo said, “and work around the premise and the perspective of the African not only as a slave but as the one who changed Brazilian society, the one who constructed Brazilian society, who constructed the wealth of Brazil.”
That day of acknowledgment is still far off, and Brazil, a country with one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor in the world, is sharply divided between its whites and non-whites.
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This series examines the African Diaspora on different regions and continents even before the slave trade. Aside from humans evolving from the Motherland, there are groups on every continent whose ancestry is unequivocally from Africa. More or less invisible for whatever conspiracy theory you choose, they undoubtedly tell a larger story of world history. Sources for this entry are listed at the end of the post.
Although the great majority of the people of the Philippines are Tagalog, the country is not ethnically homogeneous. In spite of their small numbers the original inhabitants of the Philippines are the Agta (diminutive Africoids), who still live there in some numbers and are commonly and pejoratively called Pygmies, Negritos and Aeta, and a variety of other names based upon their specific locale. In regards to phenotype, broadly speaking, the Agta can be described as physically small and unusually short in stature, dark-skinned, spiral-haired and broad-nosed. They are an extremely ancient people and, I believe, close representatives of the world’s earliest modern humans.
Very similar groups of Black people in Asia reside in relative small numbers in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand in Southeast Asia. In Thailand they are commonly called Sakai. In Malaysia they have been called Orang Asli (Original Man). Pejoratively they are known as Semang, with the connotation of savage. It is very unfortunate that the contributions of these small Black people to monumental high-cultures characterized by urbanization, metallurgy, agricultural science and scripts remain essentially unexamined.
The presence of diminutive Africoids (whom Chinese historians called “Black Dwarfs”) in early southern China during the period of the Three Kingdoms (ca. 250 C.E.) is recorded in the book of the Official of the Liang Dynasty (502-556 C.E.). In Taiwan there are recollections of a group of people now said to be extinct called “Little Black Man.”
“They were described as short, dark-skinned people with short curly hair….These people, presumably Negritos, disappeared about 100 years ago. Their existence was mentioned in many Chinese documents of the Ching Dynasty concerning Taiwan.”
Similar groups of Black people have been identified in Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, and it seems almost certain that at one time a belt of Black populations of this type covered much of Asia.
Source: The Global African Community
Some historians think millions of Africans crossed the ocean. The African-Indians are called Sidis. Compared to the fate of Africans taken as slaves to the New World, the history of Africans in India is still largely unknown.
One of the strongest remaining links they have to their roots is the damaal or drum. Otherwise Sidi culture is not significantly different to that of other poor, rural Indians.
“The damaal comes from Africa,” explains Yunus, a blind man who is the chief drummer of Jambur. “The skill of playing has been passed down from father to son. It is a gift from God,” he says.
“A little like an image embedded in a hologram, the African presence in the history and politics of India remains generally obscured from view. It is only when the parchment that is the past is taken in the hand and lightly moved, in the manner of a ‘beam of coherent light’ needed to train upon a hologram, that this presence reveals itself. Then names begin to emerge, some historical developments start to make sense, and the role of a number of emphatic figures can be seen in true perspective”….N. Goswamy,Tribune newspaper
Original inhabitants of India
The Tamils are an important branch of the Dravidians. So who are the Dravidians? The Dravidians are among the earliest, perhaps the first, people to inhabit India. The early Greeks and Romans referred to them as Eastern Ethiopians. The term “Ethiopian” is a Greek work and means “people with faces burnt by the sun.” There were Eastern Ethiopians and Western Ethiopians. The Eastern Ethiopians were in Asia and the Western Ethiopians were in Africa. They were both Black people with the only real distinction being the texture of the hair. The Eastern Ethiopians had straight to wavy hair and the Western Ethiopians had tightly curled or kinky hair. The Eastern Ethiopians lived in ancient Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and probably other parts of South Asia.
Many anthropologists believe that the people of Madagascar descended from Africans and Indonesians who mixed before their arrival on the island. There is obviously a fusion of Bantu and Asian culture on Madagascar.
Source: The African-Asian Connection
Why do you think we don’t learn about this history in the classroom? Would you be interested in learning more about how the people of the ancient world traveled and what became of their descendants?
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I had a provocative discussion with my friends @lovemecca and @chewchronicles about the amazing book “The Book of Night Women.” We discussed our love for the book and the plot and storyline along with issues brought up in the book. The conversation turned to colonization, culture and finally race relations as it pertained to the two aforementioned topics. The book was about slaves in Jamaica and the history of the island’s colonization. My Ghanaian girlfriend, read the book and said the book was probably a biography of her family. It talked about the Ashanti tribe and there was even a town in Jamaica that was similar to her last name. She recently went to Jamaica with the book and was telling a waiter about it and he tuned out and walked away when she spoke about the slave history. In another incident she said a Jamaican lady she knows says “Jamaica is such a backwards country, I am British.”
I told Steven and Mecca some West Indians (not all) would be more apt to claim they are the nationality of their colonizers than admit they are descendants of African slaves, some even go as far as to not even acknowledge they are Black, I said it’s because they resent being grouped in with Black Americans. Steven said, The Black American experience is NOT the (only) Black Experience. I agreed. I have seen this shocking phenomena time and time again. I have never heard a Black American refer to themselves as English or British. The insanity needs to stop. Blacks in their respective colonized countries did not spring from the mountains, they were brought there some way or another. I simply cringe and die inside (sometimes my Haitian girlfriend and I laugh and point) whenever I hear a Haitian refer to themselves as French or a Jamaican say they’re British. Legitimately, there ARE Haitians and Jamaicans born in those respective countries but that fact does not apply to those who do this.
Steven and Mecca said it is similar to the Black American phenomena of claiming Indian (Native-American) in their blood. They went on to both say that the true story is a lot of slaves were raped, thus Black Americans do tend to be mixed with European blood, and it may be less painful to illustrate that a grandparent took up with a Native American (which did happen, although not as much as people may describe) versus saying their great grandmother was raped by a slave-master. Expounding on this, I added that the question “are you fully black” makes absolutely no sense because the Black race is such an inherently mixed race, given colonization, the slave trade and the diaspora, that the concept doesn’t even exist anymore, and hasn’t existed for a very long time. I said really, Black Americans should start taking more ownership of their culture. There is an established Black American culture and it should be celebrated, not diminished.
Continue Reading Black Americans DO have a culture…
Because I am sure there are people from every group on the planet that embodies a stereotype, however these people are not the representative of their group. There are others. There are alternatives. That is the problem. There’s no balance. No population of any people is a monolith and it is mind-boggling to think that in a a world with so many choices, so many colors, flavors, creeds, walks of life, and “alternative” way of life that people still hold on to the belief that stereotypes should still pervade our media mainframes. There were some who had a problem with Antoine Dodson’s initial news appearance. In the station’s follow-up, they addressed the outcry about “questioning the decision to let people like him share their story, because it reflects poorly on the community” and the reporter countered saying “censoring people like Antoine is far worse.” Antoine admitted he was just being himself, not trying to portray a stereotype. He is who he is and no one should fault him for it. He’s not the problem. The stereotype isn’t either. It is the lack of non-stereotypes that I cringe at.
More than anything, these depictions are just frigin boring. Seriously. It is lackluster, dusty, uncreative and unimaginative. You have no capacity to learn, to grow to educate yourself that you simply lean on archaic ideas to describe, millions of people on this planet? Does that even make any sense? I have said it before and I will say it again, there is a trend of crying “racism” every time a group of people finds something unfavorable. Not everything is racist, or meant to be racist. There are many factors to consider before playing the “racist” card. Intent and ignorance. If the intent wasn’t malicious (and that is very easy to gauge) then I can’t legitimately call it racism. If the person is ignorant or had little to no exposure to people of color then I can’t call you a racist. I can freely call your point of view offensive and say you’re uneducated, unrefined, uncultured and brutish. Perhaps even a heathen. But not a racist. Logically, you have to pick and choose these battles because the battle for squashing stereotypes is a losing one and pretty pointless. You can only combat it by showing something different.
I remember my sister was watching a commercial for a children’s movie and when it was done, she turned to me visibly upset and said “why does the Black woman always have to be screaming and have a nasty attitude?” I didn’t have an answer for her. She was 15 and noticed and wasn’t happy about it. I just had to remind her that we are so much more than these minority archetypes. We are major. There is so much more to a Hispanic woman, to a Black man, to an Asian, Arab, Native American than meets anyone’s eyes. Unfortunately it won’t be shown but it’s up to the individual to diversify their life experiences with these different types of people. But if they don’t, well surely the individual will believe every tall guy plays basketball whilst slapping bitches in their Range Rover after making it rain with a stolen purse. Why not? They know no better.
Continue Reading The problem with stereotypes is not the stereotype at all…
What I saw last night, ‘Venus Noire.’ A film about Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, aka Hottentot Venus. She was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions, exploited, abused and dehumanized, for her physical appearance, notably her large buttocks (steatopygia) and the elongated labia, in 19th century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus. She entertaining people by gyrating her nude buttocks and showing to Europeans what were thought of as highly unusual bodily features.
“Hottentot” as the then-current name for the Khoi people, now considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love. I had dreams/nightmares about the movie. It is just that poignant. I am speechless. This rarely happens. Post to soon follow once the raging machinations of my mind simmers a bit.
The African Diaspora Film Festival ends December 14th and grabs diverse far reaching film art from all ends of the globe as the African Diaspora itself was. Full film schedule here. Watch the ‘Black Venus’ trailer: