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From the Trinity River to the Nile: Journeying with Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers, Jr., Part Two

Updated: Feb 19

An Historical, Intellectual, and Spiritual Journey

by Ifé Carruthers

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

(Continued from Part 1)

In addition to working with the Inner City Studies Education (ICSE) faculty, Jake was intimately involved with other intellectual colleagues as they worked to develop an African-centered perspective. This group included, among others, Dr. Harold Pates, Ancestor Lorenzo Martin, Dr. Clifton Washington, Ancestors Dr. Bobby Wright, Leon Harris, and Dr. Anderson Thompson. They became known as the "Chicago Group". As early as 1973, this group conceptualized and began publishing “The Afrocentric World Review,“ whose editorial board included Jake’s former wife, Dr. Iva Carruthers. The “Review“ was a quarterly journal that addressed the African-centered concept. Jake stated that “While we did not invent the term ‘Afrocentric,’ we did use the term to express our insistence that African scholars must speak (and write) from an African worldview.”[24]


Jake referred to the two basic truths of the Afrocentric worldview. First, “there is a distinct and universal African worldview.” Secondly, “The African worldview… is the only viable foundation for African liberation.”[25] Jake identified the following as features of the African worldview:

"The African view of the universe is based on the truth that man, nature, the universe, and God are in harmony.There is no alienation. The basic mode of human action is cooperation, peace and building great projects."

[26]


The African worldview is diametrically opposed to the European worldview which is one of aggression, warfare, conquest and fundamental alienation. The ideas expressed in the African worldview can be found in the most ancient Nile Valley texts[27] and are expressed in the cultural unity of African people throughout the African continent and the African world from antiquity to contemporary times.


After meeting with Diop, and beginning his own Nile Valley studies, Jake read Diop's "Cultural Unity of Black Africa"and was especially struck by Diop's theory of the Northern and Southern cradles. Diop explained that the differences between African and European worldviews were due to environmental causes. Jake gave Diop's theory the name "The Two Cradle Theory," and wrote about it in Black Books Bulletin and elsewhere.[28]


It was Jake who brought to our attention that the Kemites had anticipated Diop by more than four thousand years. The Merikare Text (“9th dynasty”—circa 21st century BCE) states:


"Lo! The vile Aamu (western Asians); wretched is the place where he is from. Suffering from hidden waters with barren trees and many dangerous paths because of the mountains.


He is not from one place only.


His legs walk about circling. He has been fighting since the time of Horus (yet) he does not conquer, nor is he conquered


He does not announce the day of fighting like a robber who returns to the pack" (Jacob Carruthers’ translation).[29]


Jake’s ability to unravel Western thought helped to highlight the differences between the African intellectual tradition and the European tradition and reinforced the necessity for an African centered curriculum. Establishing that curriculum at the Center was a complex undertaking. However, the task was made easier because of the work that had already been done by our intellectual ancestors of the 18th and 19th centuries. Jake and his colleagues didn’t have to invent “Afrocentrism” or an African curriculum, they only had to build upon and continue the work begun by people like Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, Prince Hall, Paul Cuffe, David Walker, Maria Stewart, Henry Highland Garnett, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden and Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, who, in their struggle to help liberate African people, had built their foundation on Egypt and Ethiopia.


During the 18th and 19th centuries, our intellectual ancestors always adhered to an African worldview. They linked our history to Kemet, Kush and Ethiopia and they looked to the Nile Valley and the Haitian Revolution for inspiration and guidance.


In 1797, Prince Hall, challenging the masons of the African Lodge to fight against slavery, did so within the historical context of the Haitian Revolution and ancient Ethiopia. In 1928, David Walker based his "Appeal to the Colored citizens of the World to rise up for freedom” within the context of the great Nile Valley civilization and the Haitian Revolution.


Following the natural chain of command from ancestral wisdom, the "Chicago Group" consulted with and sought advice from the elder African centered historians: Ancestors Dr. Chancellor Williams, Dr. John G. Jackson, Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan. Writing about their importance to the project, Jake stated “These mentors not only inspired, encouraged and supported our project, they provided the historical framework which was necessary for its development.”[30] Taking us into the 21st century, Ancestors Dr. Asa Hilliard and Tony Martin, maa kherew, continued this tradition. Each of them left us a wealth of scholarly work to inform us and guide us as we continue our restoration project.


The next step, on the road to establishing an African centered curriculum at CICS, was to travel to Africa and connect to the “deep well” of African history and culture. In the early 1970’s, both Thompson and Carruthers began traveling to Africa. In 1975, Dr. Carruthers traveled to Senegal, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Uganda where he consulted with African scholars at the Universities of Nairobi, Makerere, Dar es Salaam, and Dakar.


It was during his visit to Senegal that he met Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, to whom he had been given a letter of introduction by Dr. John Henrik Clarke. He said of his initial meeting with Diop that he was completely overwhelmed. Of his initial meeting with Diop he said, “I had never met anyone who captivated me in the way that he did.”[31] Over the course of several conferences, Diop impressed upon Carruthers the importance of the study of ancient Egypt and more importantly the absolute necessity of basing that study on the command of the Egyptian language, mdw nTr (pronounced medew netcher), commonly called hieroglyphs. Diop’s major thesis was “The history of Black Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians dare to connect it with the history of Egypt.”[32] Jake embraced Diop’s thesis and his journey to the Nile River began.


Immediately after returning from Senegal in 1975, Jake began to teach himself mdw nTr and later took classes at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago to formally learn the language. He and his CICS colleagues began to incorporate Kemetic Studies into the curriculum and plan for extensive research and study tours to Africa.


In 1977, the first study tour, composed of CICS undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty and interested persons from the community, traveled to Senegal, Sudan, Kenya and Egypt. They met with Diop and other African scholars and toured historical and archaeological sites in these countries. This historic tour led indirectly to the founding of the Kemetic Institute, in 1978, and identified the need for an international organization of scholars to come together to carry out the restoration of African civilization.[33]


The Kemetic Institute promoted the study of the language, culture and history of ancient Egypt, presented lectures on Ancient Egypt, and produced a play, "The Expulsion of the Hyksos,” based on primary Kemetic texts. A natural outgrowth of this study of Kemetic history and culture was the founding of the Temple of the African Community of Chicago (TACC) in 1981.


On February 1, 1981, a forum on African spirituality was organized by [Ancestors] Jacob H. Carruthers Jr. and Dr. Conrad W. Worrill. They had long been thinking about the need to organize a spiritual component for our historical and cultural restoration project. During the fall of 1980, he held several discussions with Dr. Worrill, Dr. Anderson Thompson, Dr. Harold Pates, and others regarding an alternative spiritual system. According to Jake, he wanted to develop an alternative for Africans who have been joining the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and others. He further stated, “African religions have been so debased in the discourse of the world that Africans are embarrassed to admit that they ever had a traditional spiritual system.”[34] The liturgy and rituals in the temple are based on the primary texts of ancient Kemet that Jake called “African Deep Thought,” as distinct from European philosophy or theology. Jake took the moral and ethical principles, worked out by our ancestors thousands of years ago, and developed a framework that we could use today as an alternative to the religious systems of our oppressors. Furthermore, the liturgy, rituals, and celebrations in the The Temple of the African Community of Chicago were collectively developed by members of The Kemetic Institute and other committee members. The work of an early Kemetic Institute member, Rkhty Wimby Amen, Egyptologist and linguist, was extremely important in selecting and translating liturgy. Jake and Sister Rkhty Wimby became the founding priests of the Temple. Former priests of the Temple include [Ancestor] Roosevelt Roberts, maa kherew, and Dr. Josef Ben Levi. Today, Priests Yvonne Jones and Marlon McClinton continue the tradition in the TACC. As a result of the TACC and other organizations inspired by The Associaton for the Study of Classical African Civilizations research, Kemetic spirituality is among the many traditional African spiritual systems in use among African people today.


At the “Association of African Historians” conference in 1982, the Kemetic Institute presented a position paper called “The World History Project.” Scholars in the field of African antiquities were invited to consider the possibility of forming a national organization for the purpose of undertaking the project.


In 1982, Dr. Maulana Karenga, who was also working and studying in the area of Egyptian studies, became associated with Jake and offered to provide the financial resources to hold a conference. Other scholars and organizations working on the African Centered idea were invited to participate. Prominent among them were: Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan, Dr. Leonard Jefferies, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Bill and Kefa Jones, Dr. John G. Jackson, and Dr. Chancellor Williams.


The First Annual Ancient Egyptian Studies Conference held in Los Angeles, California, February 24–26, 1984 was a product of this association. The conference, co-chaired by Dr. Karenga and Dr. Carruthers, was attended by over five hundred scholars and students in the field of ancient African studies.


A significant outgrowth of the conference was the formation of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC). The following year, in 1985, The Kemetic Institute hosted the 2nd Annual Ancient Egyptian Studies Conference at the Center for Inner City Studies and Chicago State University. It was at the conference that the constitution and the framework of the organization were adopted, and the officers were elected. Dr Jacob Carruthers was elected as President of the organization. Dr. Maulana Karenga was elected as 1st Vice President, Dr. Asa Hilliard, 2nd Vice President, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Secretary, and Ancestor zdr. Nzinga Ratibisha, Treasurer.


In New York, at the 1986 national conference, the leadership and membership of ASCAC decided to hold the Fourth Annual Conference in Aswan Egypt in July 1987, completing what Jake called ASCAC’s “cycle of coming into being.” Under his leadership, 1,000 Africans from three continents returned to the Black land. The participants were intergenerational, representing every age group: children, young adults, middle-age, and elders. Our ancestors were there to complete the life cycle. The participants also represented every so-called economic and social class, professional and non-professional. Thus, this conference was truly historic and represented the best of what ASCAC is about. Jake was most proud of the fact that ASCAC was an organization that didn’t restrict its membership to established scholars; it is an organization made up of African people from all walks of life, with a role for everyone.


ASCAC’s four commissions—Research, Education, Creative Production and Spiritual Development—had been formally adopted at the 1986 conference. The master project, proposed for the Research Commission, was the "African World History Project.”


In Jake’s 1987 Presidential Address in Aswan, Egypt, he reviewed the importance of the four commissions and stressed the necessity of the "African World History Project" for the African world. He reiterated the need for a clear African historiographical framework from which to view the world and write its history. He also made a point of stating that every ASCAC member could participate in the project.


When Jake decided to step down from the Presidency of ASCAC, in 1990, he nominated as his successor, [Ancestor] Queen Nzinga Ratibisha Heru, who was enthusiastically confirmed by the membership. He chose her because of her tireless work for the organization and her leadership skills. He knew, because of her unfailing love for African people and her belief in the goals of ASCAC, that she would keep the organization strong and viable. She did so until the end of her life. Under her leadership, the first volume of the "African World History Project,” “The Preliminary Challenge,” was published in 1997. She made it her mission to work toward fulfilling the organization’s goal of publishing a complete African history of the world.


In 2007, Queen Nzinga took the organization back again to the Black Land. [Jake had joined the ancestors in 2004]. He would have been so happy to have seen so many ASCAC supporters go back to the Black Land[35] and to know that the work of ASCAC continues. Looking back over: the life of Jacob H. Carruthers, we see his journey, from the Trinity River Valley in Texas to the Nile, as one of intergenerational transmission of knowledge. He learned from the ancestors and the elders and he, in turn, passed his wisdom on to the next generations.


In putting Jake’s contributions into perspective, I think it can be accurately stated that, by learning to read mdw nTr- the language of the Kemites- and to interpret the texts, he was able to demonstrate that primary research could be done to prove and establish Kemetic history and culture as the foundation of African civilization. He made a great contribution in the direction of helping establish an African historiography and refining an African worldview.


His work on the speeches of our Nile Valley ancestors yielded ideas that can serve as the foundation for the restoration of African civilization. He gave us a language and vocabulary of concepts that could be used to analyze and critique world history from an African centered frame of reference, such as: Tri-continental antiquity, intellectual warfare, fundamental alienation, deep thought, good speech (medew nefer), divine speech (medew netcher), and repetition of the births (weheme mesu), foundationalists, vindicationists, and intergenerational transmission of wisdom. He also established and built Black institutions that could help us deal with the project of restoring African civilization. He insisted that Kemetic civilization and the Haitian Revolution were the two pillars of that restoration.


According to Jake, what was most important of all he had done, was the intergenerational transmission of knowledge so that his work and the work of all the elders and leaders in ASCAC would continue. He was confident that the younger generations in ASCAC would continue the work of their elders and build an even greater body of work upon their foundation. Today, there is a new generation of young African centered scholars dedicated to rescuing and restoring African civilization. They can be found around the world. Some are Jake’s students and others are students of Jake’s students. In addition to ASCAC, organizations like the Kemetic Institute and the Paris group, who publish ANKH, continue the production of knowledge and the instruction of the youth. Jake’s works, as well as that of his colleagues, students, and their students, continue to promote his ideas for the “restoration of African civilization.”


The following is from Jake’s “good speech, “which was given at an ASCAC conference. It captures his vision and mission for African people:


Let us open the way and


Retake the “African mind”


Let us open our hearts to medew netcher


And our ears to medew nefer


Let us imbibe water from the deep well of African cultural knowledge


Let us ingest that Good Old African Spirit


Let us “march on till victory is won”


Until we restore African Civilization


Rebuild the African Temple and


Reopen the African University


And until we again raise Maat to her throne


So that truth will rule forever


Throughout the African universe."



BlogNotes


[24] Kemetic Voice, Vol.2. Number.4 March, 1994


[25] Carruthers. Intellectual Warfare, 21.


[26] Ibid. 260,261.


[27] Examples: texts known as the Book of the Voice is True, Ptahhotep, Merikare, Khun Inpu, Dua Khety, the Tale of the Excellent Follower, the Shabaka Text... See Carruthers, Mdw Ntr.


[28] Jacob Carruthers, “Reflections on the History of the Afrocentric Worldview,” Black Books Bulletin, vol. 7, no.1, 1980.


[29]Carruthers, Mdw Ntr, 137.


[30] Ibid.


[31] History Makers Interview; Jacob Carruthers, “Diop’s Instruction,” unpublished paper


[32] Diop, Cheikh Anta, The African Origin of Civilization (Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1974), xiv.


[33] See “The History of the Kemetic Institute” in The Best of the Kemetic Voice (Chicago: Kemetic Institute, 2007), 11-13.


[34] The History Makers Interview


[35] Jake so often quoted from King Senwosret’s invitation to Sinuhe to come back to the Black Land …kiss the ground…and mingle with friends.



Recommended Viewing

"Wisdom for Life,” an H3O Art of Life Show, Featuring Ancestor Queen Nzhinga Heru, Dr. Josef Ben Levi, and Dr. Mario Beatty.


"African-Centered Education,” an H3O Art of Life Show, Featuring: Dr. Josef Ben Levi and Prof. Kaba Hiawatha Kamene


Recommended Reading


Cheikh Anta Diop. The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Matriarchy and Patriarchy in Classical Antiquity (Karnak History). Karnak House Publishers.


About the Author


Ifé Carruthers has been a member of the Kemetic Institute (KI) since 1984. She is coordinator of the "Issues in Contemporary Africa Film and Forum" series, member of the Editorial and Publishing Committee, the Council of Historians, and the Education Committee, which she chaired for more than twenty years. A frequent contributor to the "Kemetic Voice", she was also published in "Kemet and the African Worldview" and is one of the authors of the KI’s Language Arts Curriculum. Her BA is from Tennessee State University, and her MA from Northeastern Illinois University’s (now) Carruthers Center for Inner Studies. She is a retired Chicago Public Schools history teacher. A member of the Temple of the African Community of Chicago, she is also a charter member of ASCAC, where she serves as a member of the Executive Committee. Ifé Carruthers has lectured at Temple meetings, at ASCAC International and Midwest conferences, including in 2007 in Egypt, and at various community venues in Chicago, Seattle, and Kenya. As the widow of Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers, she regularly speaks and accepts awards in his honor.

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