This is the Adinkra symbol ‘woforo dua pa a’ signifying support, cooperation and encouragement from the expression "Woforo dua pa a, na yepia wo" meaning "when you climb a good tree, you are given a push". It means that when you work for a good cause, you will get support.

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"We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us." This was the declaration on the front page of Freedom’s Journal, the first African American owned newspaper, 1827

 

 

 

 

 

terminology

There are many words and phrases in the English language that are geared towards maintaining inequality. However, despite the immature claims of a minority of people who think that revising the way we verbally communicate is ‘political correctness gone mad’, it has become a necessary part of addressing the way in which we think. Language is a key medium for conveying ideas about a society and culture. If populist and relatively frivolous words such as ‘retrosexual’, ‘squeaky-bum time’ and ‘adultescent’ can be integrated into modern day English dictionaries and language, there is no reason why we can not address racially offensive terminology with a view to revising and implementing positive and accurate changes. .

enslaved african or "slave"?

Current eurocentric thinking argues that African people were legitimate ‘property’ according to British law and therefore the use of the derogatory phrase 'slave' is wholly appropriate despite its effective removal of any reference to the individuals cultural heritage, identity or humanity. African academics and activists refute this and maintain that the people they are referring to were (free) Africans before capture and became 'enslaved Africans' after. The use of the word ‘enslaved’ indicates that historically, African people have always offered resistance to enslavement and never capitulated to the role of being simply 'slaves'. This also explains why the term 'freed slave' is not only offensive but grammatically inaccurate.


maafa

The word '''Maafa''' translated into English language means ''The Enslavement of (Mama) Africa''. It is derived from a Kiswahili word meaning disaster, terrible occurrence, injustice or great tragedy.

The term was popularised in the Diaspora by the African American academic, Marimba Ani, who used it to also signify that the Maafa did not begin 500 years ago but covered a “1300-year-long period (652 CE – Present) of African conquest, enslavement, domination, oppression, exploitation and genocide at the hands of Europeans and Arabs”.

When capitalised The Maafa uniquely refers to the injustice of the subjugation, contamination and loss of indigenous African cultures, languages, spiritual beliefs primarily by invading arabs and europeans.

It also incorporates the historic and ongoing commercial exploitation of Africa through enslavement, colonisation and neo-colonialism. These foreign policies result in present day atrocities and human rights violations in African and throughout the African Diaspora that continue to occur as a result of foreign subjugation, intrusion and exploitation of African people, land, resources and culture. Its capitalised status is also a reflection of the duration of the process and the unprecedented scale of the inhuman treatment of African people.

The use of the words ''Mama Africa'' in the English translation has a special symbolic relevance as a direct reference to Africa being the birth place of humanity and the cradle of civilisation.


forced labour camps or "plantation"

The use of the phrase “plantation” to describe the place in which African people were forced to work is a transparent attempt by europeans to mask and ‘civilise’ what was the undeniably immoral and brutal practice of dehumanising people. The use of this word in the retelling of history is specifically used to undermine the atrocious nature of what should be referred to as ‘forced labour camps’. As has become commonplace, the phrase ‘plantation’ is often indicative of a eurocentric perspective whilst the reality for African people is that they were not working by consent nor were they treated in the dignified manner that you would expect as a ‘legitimate’ employee. Many women suffered miscarriages and stillbirths because of the excessive and oppressive nature of their work and violent and disfiguring beatings were common for African men and women. Thus, from a more accurate perspective, we refer to “forced labour camps”.


slaver or "plantation owner"/ "slave master"

Use of the term ‘plantation owner’ is a linguistic means of distancing British slavers from the repellent nature of their business which was the forced exploitation of African people. The title bestows the slavers with an air of respectability and legitimacy when describing their despicable profession.


slaving vessels or "slave ships"

The inappropriate term ‘slave ship’ asserts that the naval vessels used to transport kidnapped African people were merely humble cargo ships of ‘trade’. In reality, the British, amongst others, designed slaving ships to particular specifications which were designed to hold as many captive Africans in as confined a space as possible purely as a means of maximising what the slavers undoubtedly saw as potential profit. Ultimately, the conditions of these ships were grotesquely unhygienic and inhumane. Use of the term ‘slaving ship/vessel’ as opposed to ‘slave ship’ makes a clear distinction between a vessel being promoted as a passive means of transporting ‘product’, as implied by the latter term whilst the former description indicates a deliberate and aggressive process in which the African people who were kidnapped and trafficked were held in forced bondage.

Please Note: The term ‘slaver’ is sometimes confusingly used to refer to slaving vessels as well as people. We do not recommend this approach as it was initially part of a strategy to prevent participants engaged in the process of the enslavement of African people being personally and professionally implicated by their immoral actions. These people preferred the terms ‘slave master’ and ‘slave owner’ as means of asserting authority and status instead of the more accurate phrase ‘slaver’.


"Transatlantic slave trade"

'The Transatlantic Slave Trade' is a commonly used eurocentric definition which attempts to turn the enslavement of African people into one of commerce in an attempt to diminish and avoid addressing the barbarism and immorality of the Maafa. The word ‘trade’ implies a legitimate and consensual transaction and belittles the magnitude and reality of the atrocities committed against African people. Enslaved African people did not believe they were born to be enslaved nor were they bound by the pan-European laws that stated that it was legal to forcibly capture African people for the purpose of unpaid labour, rape and murder. Revisionist historians are now using the term ‘slave trade’ to assert the falsity that a number of 'uncivilised' African people were wholly responsible for the Maafa because they sold their own people into enslavement.

Whilst this may legally be considered a crime against humanity now, at the time it was not recognised as such by the exploiters of African people because whilst the perpetrators were acting inhumanly they were still human and following the collective will and immoral laws of their respective democratically formed governments and religious leaders. The enslavement of Africa has to be recognised as an unprovoked war, waged specifically and deliberately against Africa by nations welding inhumane practices, policies and a distorted sense of morality. It remains an open injustice against Africa that must be addressed. No person should ever use the terms 'slave trade' without qualifying them in this wider historical context.

The phrase Transatlantic Slave Trade is often erroneously used when attempting to translate the word Maafa into a european language. However many African people take offence at the way this eurocentric terminology portrays the Maafa as a commercial dilemma as opposed to a moral issue about the violation and subjugation of African human rights.



African or "black"

‘The first difference which strikes us is that of color… And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of color in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black which covers the emotions of the other race?”
Thomas Jefferson, ‘father’ of the American abolitionist movement

It is disrespectful and disempowering to label the cultural identity of any person by use of a single homogenous colour particularly if this label is historically connected with negative, social and cultural connotations. Whilst it has been accepted that it is offensive to call Chinese people ‘yellow’ or Amerindians ‘red’ it is still permitted to use ‘black’ to describe African people.

Upholding the colour coding system of ethnicity maintains a offensive hierarchical system of a perceived cultural supremacy and dominance. Because of its cultural, spiritual and social connotation ‘white’ overrules and commands ‘black’. ‘White’ = good, ‘black’ = evil. ‘White’ = correct, truth, ‘black’ = wrong, falsehood. These labels have become a normalised and integrated part of the world psyche and the so-called ‘whites’, or europeans as they are most appropriately known, who benefit most from this social organisation continue to resist the change needed to rectify this social and cultural injustice.

The seemingly innocuous phrase 'black person of African descent' has been used to convince African people that they are 'black' and were maybe African a long time ago. This is untrue. Almost all so called 'black' people are Africans. Some have Caribbean heritage, others South American but regardless of current nationality, all are African. The word ‘black’ is connected to the words negro, negre, nigra and the highly offensive n-word. All these derogatory terms have been used throughout history in official european documents justifying the enslavement and colonisation of African people. Critically, the term also disinherits African people from their culture and heritage.

The word 'African' specifically relates to the indigenous people of the African Continent and their descendants in the Diaspora (Caribbean, Americas, Pacific Islands etc). The ethnicity-nationality model such as that currently employed by African Americans, African Brazilian and African Caribbean communities more accurately describes our identities connected by a common and unifying link whilst fully articulating the diverse historical and geo-political reality of African people worldwide.

The miscellaneous use of the label ‘Black’ reflects its contemporary use as a means to denote a specific socio-cultural and political context. It is recognised as a colloquial term that was fashioned as a reactionary concept to derogatory racial epithets in the 1960’s. However, just as coloured and negro were acceptable terms of reference in their time, 'black' must also be recognised for the socially loaded term that it is. It is offensive when used as a racial classification code word to denote African people. Other such denigratory terminology that remains offensive when made in reference to African culture, heritage or identity are ‘Tribe’, ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’, ‘Negroid’ or ‘black Africa’.


Abolitionist

The term abolitionist in the context of enslavement referred to those who attempted to use parliamentary procedure to abolish a process sanctioned by their own governments. Yet whilst many abolitionists were often an unwilling part of the enslavement process the majority did not favour the immediate cessation of slavery and instead promoted the notion of gradual abolition in order to have time to protect their own financial interests.

As a consequence infamous abolitionists such as William Wilberforce campaigned for the trafficking in enslaved Africans to be abolished and not the entire dehumanising practice itself. These influential abolitionists were vehemously opposed to the African freedom fighters that fought for the total abolition of slavery. Wilberforce was one of many who supported military action to re-enslave the self determining Africans who as in Haiti, 1804 fought against enslavement and succeeded in establishing a revolution. It was another sixteen years after the passing of the 1807 Act to abolish the so called ‘slave trade’ that in 1823 the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery was formed. Unsurprisingly, it was not initiated by Wilberforce but Thomas Fowell Buxton. Wilberforce retired from the House of Commons in 1825 and, contrary to british mythology, did not play a significant part in persuading Parliament to bring an end to slavery.

Most abolitionists were devout Christians who were not motivated by the welfare of enslaved African people, but instead agonised about retribution from God and the wrath that would be revisited upon the souls of europeans responsible for subjugating African people. As such, following the 1833 Act for the abolishment of slavery, the abolitionists saw no contradiction or moral impropriety in paying reparations to themselves and then proceeding to colonise Africa using brutal force under the new banner of spreading christianity, civilisation and commerce.


enslavement or "slavery"

The word 'Enslavement' is used to make a definitive ideological distinction between 'slavery' by the oppressors and the 'enslavement' of African people. It remains immoral and inappropriate to commemorate 'slavery' which relates to the actions of the oppressor. British slavery is not the same as African enslavement. The only respectful commemorative process is that of a remembrance or memorial focused on reversing the injustices committed whilst restoring the history and legacy of the African people and culture lost through the process of enslavement. Slavery memorial is not the same as African remembrance.

 

 
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