My Black History

by Ejiro Osilama

It’s February. That time of the year for the lectures on Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, civil rights, black achievements and Black star power. It is that time of the year when we re-learn all the wonderful things that African-Americans have contributed to America and the world, including peanut butter, jazz music and Beyon’ce.

As all of this is going on, I want to throw myself in to the running as well and celebrate black history from where I seat. I do not in anyway wish to diminish African-American black history, but I believe that somewhere in the whole mess of history, African history has somehow gotten lost. So seeing as we are also black, I call it only fair that we also receive a lecture on our black history, a brief lecture, of course.

First, is a personal hero – or heroine to be Politically Correct- Amina, Queen of Zariya. As Queen, she expanded her empire from the waters (Atlantic Ocean) to the sands (Sahara desert). She led her armies into battle after battle, succeeding in keeping out the portugesse who had come to steal land and slaves, the Arabs, who had come on an Islamic jihad campaign and other invading African armies. She built the seven walled cities of Hausaland and during her reign, she ensured their security and prosperity and the cities were enlarged by people fleeing into Amina’s territory to be under her protection. Even today, the people sing her praises: Amina ya bakwa. Ta sanrana. – Amina, daughter of Bakwa, more capable than a man.

It will be easy to claim the pyramids as a part of our history, but we’ll leave the Egyptians and the Americans to fight for that. What we did invent, was jewelry. Before there was bling-bling, there were cowrie shells, coral beads, gold and gold dust and they were first used for ornamentation and personal adornment. According to Sally McBearty of University of Connecticut in Storrs: “you find them (jewelry) all in Europe because tens of thousand of years ago, they were invented in Africa” –Anne Gosline 22 june

Then, there is the Art. The bronze carvings of the Bini’s, hand carved for perfection and fir blown for purity. They have been admired for centuries the world over. Sure Art is something that is native to the world but African art has been largely viewed as primitive attempts. However, the Bini bronzes. Yoruba masks, the stone paintings by the Bushmen of the Kalahari and Tie and Dye are art works that are highly admired and considered to be amongst the greatest works of art in the world.

My black history lecture would also have to include King Jaja of Opobo. He was captured as a child and sold into slavery in Igbo land. Through his own personal struggles, he rose into wealth and power, eventually acquiring his own properties and army. He won a small areas in the Niger Delta, which he named Opobo and declared himself king. When the British invaded, he led his army in battle against them, driving them off again and again before he was finally captured, tried for treason against the crown (of England) and exiled to the West Indies. Afrter four years, he broke free and captured a ship with which he sailed off the island on a return to Nigeria. Unfortunately, he died before he arrived back home. Jaja was dogged in his resistance to British invasion and colonialism. His fight made him one of Britain’s first victims in the fight for Africa.

There is also Samuel Ajayi Crowder, Queen Idia of Bini and the original Amazon women, the warrior women of Dahomey, but this is just a short lecture on my black history.

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African February 9, 2007 - 3:58 pm

it sounded to me like Ejiro was trying to promote Nigerian history among Nigerians. I do not see how he is asking Americans to celebrate nigerian history. He said Black americans celebrate their own black history, so nigerians should celebrate theirs as well. why the sensitivity on the topic anyways?.

Black American February 8, 2007 - 2:09 pm

Nigeria is a black nation. You are the majority population. It is your responsibility to promote your history in your country.

You can't expect Black Americans to provide a foreign history that doesn't speak to their experiences in North America. Nigerian history, except the slave trade, doesn't influence the history of the person of African ancestry in the US.

What is stopping you from promoting your history among your people?

Ejiro February 6, 2007 - 2:21 pm

I know the West Indies is a collection of islands and all of that other stuff. I put W.I, because the exact island is not known-as far as I was taught,anyways-. as for why America's black history should include Jaja, I see no reason why it should. If you read carefully, you will see that I make no attempts or claims to linking American black history to Nigeria's… as far as this piece was concerned.

Yoni February 6, 2007 - 10:49 am

If you are in favour of Black History then I should point out to you this error in your piece: The West Indies is not an island, but made up of several islands. The West Indies is not an annex of the USA, it is made up of mostly seperate, independent territories.

When writing of King Jaja it's all fine and good to correct history from the African perspective, but also remember that King Jaja is also celebrated in the island to which he was exiled. Why should America's Black History month reflect that?


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