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Honor Thy Fathers: An African Perspective

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

By Dr. Gloria J. Latimore-Peace

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

"Every people should be the originators of their own designs, the progenitors of their own schemes, and creators of the events that lead to their destiny, the consummation of their desires."[1]

Whenever I begin to address matters of major significance, I am reminded of the people on that level who have already laid the groundwork. Among the many who come to mind are Ancestors Dr. Martin Robison Delany; Priest Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers; Dr. Elkin T. Sithole; Baba Hannibal Tirus Afrik and Queen Mothers : Dr. Margaret T.G.Burroughs; Dr. Barbara Sizemore; and Nana Dr. Akosua Akyaa Patricia A.Newton . By raising the fundamental question: "What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?...", Queen Mother Dr. Burroughs has commanded us to do likewise, i.e., to ask ourselves, what is the truth that our children need to know?

In answer to that question, Mzee Jedi Shemsu Jehewty Carruthers has provided us with a profound definition of truth. He asserts that:"Truth" is the knowledge we need." It is essential that we "drink deeply... from the fountain of [our] black culture... sit at the knee of and learn from Mother Africa,"Thus forearmed ourselves,we are prepared to "arm them with the truth"... that has been so often obscured and omitted"- weapons that will make -and keep- us free. [2]

To "honor our fathers", in truth, means that we must first clarify who our fathers are. This does not infer that we should consider signing up for any of those for-profit "Who's Your Daddy?"-talk shows and/or submit to paternity "tests" that are based on calculations of our DNA. For, when it comes to fatherhood as conceived by our African forebears,DNA stands for Does Not Apply. Superfluous measures such as these have no utility in an African context because we already know- without a doubt- who our fathers are.

Euro-American assessments of African terms of kinship- whether they be of "father", "mother"- or any other family member- are out of order. According to L.S.B. Leakey, human life originated on the African continent. Africans were the world's first people - and therefore- the world's first parents. Because Our people have been blessed with the time, the opportunity, and the experience to develop sustainable family institutions, the last thing African people need is the imposition of outside "authority(ies)".

In a previous H3O Art of Life Blog, "Know Thy Mothers:Know Thyself", it was the writer's privilege to recount lessons taught by Ancestor Dr. Elkin T. Sithole, my former Professor and ,later,colleague at Northeastern Illinois University's [Carruthers] Center for Inner City Studies. According to Ancestor Dr.Sithole, who is a member of the Zulu kinship group of South Africa, the Zulu family organization, is composed not only male fathers (baba(s) but, also of male mothers(malume(s) together with female mothers (Mama(s) and female fathers (babakazi(s) .

Each Baba serves as father- not only to his own biological children- but also to the children of his brothers. Each Babakazi also functions as father to her brothers' children.

In their capacity as fathers, Babas and Babakazi , their principal responsibility is, essentially, to discipline,i.e.,to teach their young- by being, living

, and doing- the way of life of the kinship group. As mothers- Mamas and Malumes- , their primary function is, complementary- to nurture.

By precept and example, their young are taught ( among other things:

  • The Source of their being;

  • The human ancestors from whence they descend;

  • Who they are in relationship to other members of the kinship group as well as to their neighbors in the community-at-large;

  • What their respective roles are in the life of the community;

  • The nature of their custodial relationship of their community as well as to their environment -their land and all of the components thereof, i.e., the animal, plant, and mineral life, etc…

Undergirding, interwoven, and inextricably bound to the Way of Life, i.e.,the CULTURE of the kinship group, are the values that inform the Way. This knowledge is vital to the well-being of the entire family/community which is composed of the Living, the Dead, and the Yet-Unborn. This "curriculum" is taught to all of the children by all of the adults, all of whom share the roles of mothers and fathers. There's no such thing as a"childless couple,"or " single parent". Pseudonyms such as:"step-" "foster-" or "absentee-" father or mother, have no place in an African-centered lexicon. They are as unthinkable as an " illegitimate" or "only"- or "outside" or "orphaned" or "step-"child. The African family is not a "nuclear family" i.e. a family composed of the father and mother and their biological children. Nor is it an "extended" or " immediate" family which may include the grandparents. All of the children belong to all of the family members. Thus, they are secure in the knowledge of who they are and whose they are, as well.

It is an Ancient African adage that:" Children are the reward of Life" They are the conduits through which succeeding generations come into being. Hence, every adult member of the kinship group has a stake in the nurture and discipline and, thereby, the preservation of the young.

The all- inclusive family model of the Zulus of South Africa is just one of the examples of "the way we were" before we were dispossessed of our land, stolen from our kinship group, and deprived of our language and way of life- our Culture. In fact, we have it on the impeccable authority of Ancestor Cheikh Anta Diop in "The Cultural Unity of Black Africa" that, although not every African kinship group practiced everything in precisely the same as the others, they all shared certain corporate values which could be observed throughout the continent. Also, those of us who lived in the southern, particularly the rural, areas of this country, had the first- hand experience of being cared for and disciplined by people in our communities who were not our biological "parents". This was, undoubtedly an historical memory carried over from our African family model.

Honoring our Fathers, from an African- centered perspective, requires that we include all of the family members to whom our gratitude should be expressed ,i.e. our "real" Fathers and Mothers. It means that we must recognize all of our fathers, including the father principle in our Babakazi(s). Our female fathers have sometimes had to serve as both mother and father to their birth children in those innumerable cases in which our Babas were denied access , or were otherwise rendered unavailable, to their families.

American-born Africans (African- Americans) have borne the brunt of a majority of the pathological, social, and psychological ills of this society,i.e., mass incarceration, serial homicides, addiction, etc.. However,mong the most lethal of these maladies is the unrecognized ethnocide- the deliberate and systematic destruction of our [African] culture. This 007 strategy has persisted for centuries because, unlike genocide, it is virtually impossible to detect even after the damage is done. Our inalienable right "to be''- to live in this world as a family of whole human beings- has long since been under assault.

More and more members of our African familial body are being amputated,especially our male fathers, many of whom are identified only as "unarmed black men" in the news accounts of their murders in "self- defense". The "destruction of the Black family for profit"[3], to which Ta-Nahesi Coates referred in a recent lecture, was part and parcel of the early American economic enterprise known as "slave- trading". The contemporary African American family was so decimated by this enterprise- and its succeeding business practices- that our families are devolving into what Ancestor Dr. Frances Cress Welsing termed "survival units".

Thus,"Honoring our Fathers" means that we must be grateful for all of our family fathers and mothers -Babas and Babakazis, Malumes and Mamas - including:

*our aunts and uncles who are the biological sisters and brothers of our biological fathers;

*our Godfathers and Godmothers;

* "Friends of the family" and

* All other "paternal figures "[4]who are and/or have voluntarily served in the capacity of Fathers .

In so doing, we acknowledge the innumerable fathers who have thwarted the efforts to " put asunder" the Family that "has been joined together" by our Ancestors.

Perhaps no greater tribute can be offered in honor of our Babas and Babakazis than to heed the call of Artist Debra Hand:

"to stop and reflect on those who came before us...and plan how we will carry the legacy of our culture forward." [5 ]

May we always remember the clarion call of our Revered Ancestor, The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey:

"Forward forever! Backwards never!" .[6]

A Luta Continua / The Struggle Continues.

Hotep, Alafia, Shalom, As-salaam alaikum,Peace.


[1]The Condition, Elevation Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States. Ancestor Dr. Martin Robison Delany

[2] ''What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black:..?" by Ancestor Dr.Margaret Taylor Goes Burroughs in " Life With Margaret: The Official Autobiography" by Dr. Margaret T.G. Burroughs

[3] The George E. Kent Lecture by Ta-Nahesi Coates (May 27,2021)

[4] New Life Presbyterian Church's celebration of Fathers and all other " Paternal figures( June 12, 2022)

[5]" In Celebration of Black Women Artists and Legacy: A Woman's Work" by Debra Hand in "Pigment" Fall/Winter 2020

[6 Ancestor, The Hon. Marcus Josiah Garvey

Link :"Family Matters: The Role of the Parents", Featuring: Dr. Authens Asantewaa Oppong Sadie and Wayne Sebamurti Gentry.

Recommended Viewing

Recommended Reading

The Condition, Elevation,

Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States" by Ancestor Dr. Martin Robison Delany

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nahesi Coates

"Essays in Ancient Egyptian Studies" by Ancestor Jacob H. Carruthers

"The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness" by Ancestor Amos N.Wilson

"Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery" by Na'im Akbar

"African Religions and Philosophy" by John S. Mbiti

"Pigment: Art* Innovation* Creation" Fall/Winter 2020.

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12 ago 2022

Hotep! I really enjoyed reading “Honor Thy Fathers: An African Perspective”. It validates everything I have studied about indigenous Afrikan family dynamics and systems (continent-wide). Verily, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Yet, it also takes children to raise a village, but that's a whole 'notha situation in and of itself... In The Healing Drum, Minianka musician and healer Yaya Diallo reveals to us many of the same truths which you have so lovingly laid out for us to internalize: “In the case of my family, it consists of my father and three uncles, or my ‘four fathers,’ […] The circle of women, also called the circle of mothers, in my family, is the wives of the four…

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