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The H3O/Art of Life Blog

  • Writer's pictureThe H3O/Art of Life Blog

"THE 4 R's: Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic, and Racism"

By Dr. Josef Ben Levi Presented by Omni-U

"When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions." "The Mis- Education of the Negro" by Carter G. Woodson  The educational process in the United States is, essentially, a system of learning which places European and American values, history, philosophy, language, and culture at the base of its curriculua. This  system has caused major psychological and emotional issues among the masses of African-Americans.1 (Levi, 1991) By contrast, an African Centered educational system of learning emphasizes the same elements  but, from an Africentric frame of reference. It is founded upon the work of our African and African American ancestors and based upon our story rather than his-story.

In order to develop a  community that is mentally and physically healthy, African American parents and educators must evaluate the concepts and ideas that our children are internalizing as they are being "educated". It is imperative that we realize that Euro-centric education is among the myriad of processes that seek to marginalize people of African descent and, in so doing,  plays a major role in undermining the self-concepts, i e., consciousness of African American youth. We must also recognize that this educational "processing" is  complicit in initiating and maintaining  social, political, economic and other problems that continue to affect African American communities within the nation as well as throughout the Diaspora. Once, we  become aware of the deleterious impact of the present "inferiorization" paradigm, we can begin to address the factors that are prerequisite  to  initiating an  alternative , authentic, knowledge base.

An African-Centered philosophy of education, which is  grounded in a concept known as Sebayeet, can serve to resolve these as well as another overriding issue,i.e.,"making a living' rather than just "getting a job", as identified by Dr. Carter G.Woodson, Historian, Author, and Founder of The Association for the Study of African American Life and History. To the ancient people of the Nile Valley Kemet, i.e., Egypt, Sebayeet meant "instruction, wise teaching, deep thought, and philosophy".  It is  derived from the ancient Egyptian word Sba, meaning star, light, and enlightenment. It is also sometimes used as a synonym for the word "teacher", one who "gives light" to the mind. Through the African -centered educational process, students are given "instruction for life“. Conversely,  the Eurocentric educational process is designed to train students to serve as  as workers and consumers- for life. 

The idea that there is a connection between African Americans and ancient Kemet, is not new. In fact, some of the greatest  African- American thinkers  in the nineteenth century are noted for having made this case.  African American scholars and thinkers have long since recognized the value of connecting with Nile Valley Africa as a way of debunking the notion that Black people are  "intellectually inferior", "wild", and "savage" as Hegel, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Montesquieu, Nietzsche and others presumed. An African-Centered curriculum model, based on Black cultural experience and values, is essential to debunking this  "Black inferiority" propaganda.

The African-Centered  approach to education is often "misunderstood" by mainstream academia and curriculum "specialists" - even characterized as separatist. To the contrary,    the main objectives of the African- Centered curriculum are the inclusion and reclamation  of traditional African and African- American cultural values with an emphasis on ancient Kemet, i.e. , or the Black Community, as a reference point. Afrocentrists argue that not only did Europeans colonize the world, they also colonized knowledge.2 (Clarke, 1991; Merry, 2008). In addition, as African-Centered educators have long-since pointed out,  both the American public schools and  the Euro-American based curricula it promulgates have failed African American students by either minimizing  or excluding  their cultural heritage. 

The aims of an African-Centered Curriculum are:

  • To teach all basic courses from a perspective that uses the societal contributions of African and African- Americans as their reference points.

  • To provide a counter narrative to the Euro-American model of instruction, one based solely on the perspective of the White male master narrative and master scripting.

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study concepts, history, philosophy, science, and the world from an African-centered perspective rather than centering education solely on the perspectives and experiences of White Europeans, who rely on Ancient Greece and Rome as the focal point of civilization.

African centeredness means viewing the European/Euro-American perspective as just one among many ways to view the world.  African-centered scholars posit Ancient Kemetic or Egyptian civilization as the point of reference for the study of world civilizations which means acquiring an “epistemological center” that restores the consciousness of Black people. 

Recommended Reading:

"Education for Liberation" by Julius Nyere"Mwalimu" Nyere "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire ] Recommended Readings 

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