The H3O/Art of Life Blog
Black History Time: Coming into the Knowledge
By Dr. Asantewaa Oppong Wadie
Presented by Omni-University
It was electrifying for me when I learned, in 2009, that the United Nations had designated the year 2011, as the International Year of People of African Descent." Committees were formed in the city of Chicago to make sure that the year would be used in a memorable way. At the time, I was teaching in the African American Studies Department at Chicago State University. Desirous of making a meaningful contribution, I came up with the idea that we could create an edited volume that allowed scholars, community activists, and artists to reflect on their truths.
The first person I approached about this idea, was Dr. Bart McSwine (Kweku Bediako), a dignified, compassionate, and adept scholar of Black Studies. With his help, we designed a "call-for-papers" and disseminated it within our networks. As co-editors, Dr. McSwine and I were delighted when submissions started coming in. Given his many years in the field, Dr. McSwine easily got scholars from the Caribbean and Africa to participate. We were also greatly helped in this effort by the Chicago Council on Black Studies (CCBS). It was soon clear that we had something magnificent.
It was not until we sat down with the publisher that Dr. McSwine outlined his vision for the title of the book: “We cannot be confined to the time limits of the "International Year of People of African Descent”, he argued. “We are a people whose ancestors emphasized cyclical time, durative time and sacred time. Hence, the year 2011 is our year but, so were all the years before that date and so will be all the years that follow that date.” McSwine challenged us to let go of the eurocentric vision of strict linear time and embrace the Kemetic concept of Sep Tepy (the blessed and sacred moment of the first creation), using it as a tool to regenerate, renew and restart time as often as needed.
His pristine thoughts on this subject are captured in the first essay of the book. Here is an excerpt from Dr. McSwine's "Healing the Rhetoric of Deception":
"Although the ancient Egyptians (Kamites) recognized what we would call linear time (past, present, future), they also recognized a higher form of time called durative time or sacred time that united all time and contained all that ever happened. “Every sunrise revealed the story of creation.Each dawn and dusk reenacted the battle of Horus and Seth. Every day a man lived and breathed, his life and his death recurred (in the form of waking and sleeping). This was the everyday consciousness of durative time that the ancient Egyptians (Kamites) endeavored to maintain.
Gardiner says that the ancient Egyptians (Kamites) had only two verb tenses --- “the present” and “the eternal present.” The difference between these two forms of time amounted to a differential perception of events either occurring in man’s (profane, secular) time or God’s durative, sacred time. This dual notion of time permeated all of ancient Egyptian (Kamitian) life.
Architectural structures and even the make-up of the human being reflected this dual notion of time. For example, while structures like the pyramids were built to last throughout eternity, reflecting their belief in durative time, the houses of ordinary people were built to last only as long as the passage of cyclic time (secular time) allowed. Another example would be the human body. It was composed of an outer physical casing as well as inner soul. The outer physical body lasted only until the person grew old and died. However, the inner soul lasted forever in durative time (sacred time).
I believe that Ancient Egyptian (Kemetic) society lasted for so many thousands of years because of their focus on durative time. This was one of the functions of massive festivals which were held almost every day of the year. They were used as a constant vehicle for drawing down durative time into the everyday lives of ordinary citizens, for there was a recognition that the power of Sep Tepy could be used as a mechanism of constant
Mercea Eliade says that “The cosmogony is the supreme divine manifestation, the paradigmatic act of strength, superabundance, and creativity”. . . that “the festival is not merely the commemoration of a mythical . . . event; it reactualises that event: ("Ma’at and the Contextualization of Education"). After much thought and historical re-alignment, we birthed the title, The Eternal Year of African People.
In 2014, Dr. McSwine quietly transitioned into eternal time. Beyond the feeling of intense loss, is the star of his shining scholarship, the best of which, I believe, are present in this volume. I persevered with this project through obstacles too numerous to mention here because I am convinced that this volume has a special offering for the African world. We did not filter the voices of our contributors, nor did we restrict them only to academic expressions.
Included in the book are a CD of music and poetry, and a film on the Ifa Community in the United States. There are also essays on education, political science, language, culture, spirituality and art. Readers will enjoy the works of well-known contributors such as: Hunter Havlin Adams III; Dr. Josef Ben Levi; Nikki Giovanni; Keropetse Kostisile; S. Pearl Sharp, Kamau Rashid; Corey Harris; and many, many more.
If I were to say only one thing about this volume, it would be that I hope it blesses each reader in a tremendous way. May you find something in it that resonates- something that makes the purpose of Black life a little clearer.
I would like to deeply thank the team at Frontline Books, particularly Ras Sekou Tafari for seeing this book across the finish line. Also, I owe special love and gratitude to my sister and advisor, Dr. Chenzira D. Kahina
Dr. Asantewaa Oppong Wadie
"The Eternal Year of African People" can be purchased at AfriWare Books linked here.
A link to the podcast where Dr. Asantewaa Oppong Wadie discusses the book can also be accessed at the above link.
[Editor's Note: Emphases throughout this H3O Art of Life Blog are used to highlight unfamiliar and/or significant concepts.]
You are invited to view, "Ancient KMT: Light of the World", Featuring: Prof. Hunter Havlin Adams III; Author, Charles Grantham; and, Dr. Josef Ben Levi. "Each one, Reach Others "is our hope. Please share this and other H3O Art of Life Blogs. Your support is deeply appreciated.