... that Kamara was right? Africa use to be great.
Alvin Kamara and Making Africa Great Again
Some readers may recall Saints Running Back Alvin Kamara (#41) wearing a headband saying “Make Africa Great Again”, during the 2018-2019 football season. Indeed by 1200 AD (by the Middle Ages), before the time of European incursions into the Continent via the Atlantic, many societies of Sub-Sahara Africa had achieved greatness. The reports of Islamic Arab travelers and the first Europeans explorers to West Africa attest to the greatness of West Africa. They found the area teaming with people, before the Islamic and European incursions. They had to have had large populations in order to supply the millions and millions of people who were brought to the New World and taken across the Sahara.
They were agriculturists, farmers, for the most part. They were able to sustain the large populations because they produced lots of food, enough food to sustain the dense populations and still have some left over. The Europeans went there to trade in goods, and they did that, but eventually the trade turned into trading in people more than in goods.
The West Africans were prolific traders with trade routes crisscrossing the region. This trade was with North Africa, Egypt, the Sudan, East Africa, within the Western Sudan, and other parts of the Continent. It was one of the keys to their to their being able to accumulate wealth of the magnitude of that achieved by the Kingdom of Mali in the 1300’s that allowed kankan Mansa Musa to make a lavish pilgrimage to Mecca, spreading so gold along the way that economies of the Middle East were disrupted with an inflation that lasted for years. This was about a decade after the former Emperor, his brother Abubakari the Second, had outfitted two massive fleets of ships to explore lands, which they believed existed, to the west across the Atlantic. Abubakari himself headed up the second expedition across the seas. They di not return to Mali but there is ample evidence that they made it to the Americas and greatly impacted Medieval American culture, especially in Mexico.
These Africans knew how to do things. They excelled in different types of artisanry. For example, they knew how to produce the iron (almost all African people knew iron smelting by the beginning of the Christian era) which was used to produce the implements, such as hoes and shovels, needed to cultivate the many crops they produced. Many of these crops, such as rice, they had domesticated themselves.
The area where Kamara’s family comes from, Liberia, was part of what was called, by early Europeans, the Rice Coast or the Grain Coast, from Senegal to Liberia. Before America established Monrovia in Liberia, the Liberians had been producing rice for perhaps several thousand, but certainly many hundreds of, years, using very sophisticated systems of irrigation and flood control. Along this Rice Coast, the people produced enough rice and grains to supply the slave ships with provisions for their return voyages, with their shameful cargoes! Historians Judith A. Carney (Black Rice) and Peter Wood (Black Majority) convincingly established the fact that Africans brought rice, which they had domesticated, with them and showed the white South Carolinians, and others, how to grow it, how to harvest it, and how to cook it. (Carney and Wood are not black nor afro-centric scholars, for those who might think that the authors are black folk tooting the horns of black folk). The slaves taught the masters.
Isn’t it ironic that there are projects established to teach Africans how to feed themselves? And yet 500 years ago, Africans not only fed themselves, but a great deal of the rest of the world too. I wonder if Alvin Kamara’s reflecting on his greatness led him to wonder why Africa could not be great again. There is no question about the greatness of Kamara as an athlete. And it is not just brawn that makes him great; he has to have brains also to do what he does. To me, he is poetry in motion on the football field! Africa can be great again. However, that has to be the subject of a much longer treatise than this blog post.
The featured image at the top of this post is attributable to Canal Street Chronicles and was accessed at https://www.google.com/search?q=alvin%20kamara&tbm=isch&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS894US894&hl=en-US&sa=X&ved=0CAEQv7IFahcKEwjAxLyp1Lr6AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQBw&biw=1888&bih=830&dpr=1#imgrc=C6jQ3IZLyNqU5M