Campus Activities Board Presents:
Are You African or American?
By Kristina Rowley
People of color can be found in many different locations and cultures all over the world as a result of slavery. In America the debate over what to call or classify slave descendants has lasted for many years and resulted in many different names such as colored, Negro, Black and currently African American. However does this classification define correctly? Does this classification serve to unite or connect people of color from their past ancestors and their present brothers and sisters?
The Campus Activities Board, along with the sophomore class and staff member Sharon Glaster, addressed this issue on Feb. 19 in a Hot Topic titled "Are You African or American?" The purpose of the hot topic was to get students in an interactive discussion about the question of roots and ancestry. BSU professors Dr. Woods and Dr. Moore, as well as Hazmat Saba, President of the African American Student Association at BSU, aided the discussion as panelists.
Dr. Moore started the discussion by stating that he was educated in history and Spanish at Howard University and then studied African American history in South America and England. Dr. Moore related that when the question is raised about being an African or American education plays a part in his answer. His answer being, he is an African in the Americas, he is a U.S citizen but he is an African person.
Dr. Moore studied for his doctorate in Columbia, which is the country with the third largest population of African people. In Columbia, Dr. Moore stated, there were Hispanics, Mestizos or Spanish and native descent, and Blacks. Everyone speaks Spanish but the Black people there still understand the concept of being African. Dr. Moore added that educating yourself in who you are as an African person will help you on your way to recovery.
Dr. Woods is an Egyptologist. Dr. Woods related that in America we associate people by how they look or where they come from. When Black people look in the mirror we see African, which means we are African, the location that we are born in does not make us that nationality. Dr. Woods advised that Black people need to be aware that we have our own identity to define who we are.
Hazmat Saba stated that he has to classify himself as an African because that is the culture he was raised in and that is what defines who you are. A member of the audience agreed stating that if you have no connection to Africa how could you call yourself an African? Dr. Woods answered that the concept of being African allows you to change your mindset and creates unity for the African Diaspora, or people of African descent separated from Africa due to slavery.
Saba stated that he doesn't agree with African being a unifying term because it only boxes people in. It is best to get to know people for who they are individually instead of categorizing.
Dr. Moore answered that it is important to categorize yourself because then you know where you belong in a world where people have been categorizing themselves and taking care of their own. If you do not know who you are then you cannot take care of your own.
Dr. Woods added that if you do not have knowledge of self you will relate the wrong way and make wrong decisions. Once you educate yourself on where you came from you can build unity, trust, and then power with those like you.
Another audience member brought out that Africans know who they are and what they can do but Black Americans do not know who they are and only do what they are told so how can they unify with Africans?
Dr. Moore answered that instead of pointing blame think of what part you can play in making the situation better. Dr. Woods added that everyone has to recognize that ignorance is across the board people have to stop dividing and then be open to learning.
As the end of the discussion approached it was evident that everyone could debate forever on this topic as people have for many years. However what the panelists wanted everyone to realize was that education is key in discovering identity and ultimately building unity among the African people, which includes all of it descendants. Dr. Woods stated that you can't change people but you can change yourself. Being positive, respectful, and educated makes you a positive example for others.