Why Didn't They Tell You?


... about the Stable and Safe Pre-European African Societies.

Featured Image: Mansa Musa, Emperor of Mali (1312 – 1327 AD)

Before Black History Month is over, I felt compelled to share with you something that has been on my mind and my heart for a while. During the month of February, we look back at the history of Black People both in America and Africa for perhaps some guidance or inspiration that may help us address problems we are dealing with now. We have a problem in our black communities that is threatening to destroy us, namely, violence, and specifically a murder spree that is stuffing out the lives of our people, especially young males, at an alarming rate. We are killing each other and subjecting each other to other types of violence such as robbery and hijackings. Many of the large cities where so much of this killing is occurring have Black majors and/or Black police chiefs, cities such as New York, Chicago, Buffalo, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Denver, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Birmingham are just a few. I issue a challenge to Black mayors and police chiefs.

Here is the challenge: Make your cities oases of safety, order, and stability by looking to pre-European Black African societies, renowned for safety, stability and order, as inspiration.   

What am I talking about?

In the middle of the 1300’s (late Middle Ages), Moroccan traveling scholar Ibn Batuta “found complete and general safety in the land [West African Empire of Mali]. Its inhabitants, he considered, had ‘a greater abhorrence of injustice than any other people … Neither the man who travels nor he who stays at home has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence’.”1

This area of Senegambia where the Empire of Mali was centered was considered by the North Africans to be part of the Lands of the Blacks.

If we fast forward 500 years to the other side of the Continent in East and South Africa in the 1850’s, we hear a similar report. Basil Davidson wrote that “After his journeys through central Africa Livingstone repeatedly commented on the peace and security that reigned over great expanses of the interior, and Krapf in east Africa at about the same time would find the same thing … and there was perfect security for life and property2

This was a persistent theme over space and time. It was not accidental that these societies became paragons of safety, order, and stability. The underpinning of the system were a mature legal structure of law and a world view that viewed right order as “the right and the natural”.3

A precedent for a notion as outlined above is Maulana Karenga’s creating Kwanzaa, a celebration based on and inspired by African ideals. The names of the seven principles of Kwanzaa are all Swahili, a widely spoken language in East Africa.

If you as black leaders want to demonstrate your conviction that Black lives matter, your focus has to shift from the relatively small number of black killings by the police (less than 10% of the total) to the much, much larger number of Blacks killed by Blacks. I’m not suggesting that you neglect the wrongful killings committed by the police; all law breakers should be brought to justice. You can chew gum and walk at the same time.

Why not aspire to see a time when people will say, “If you visit a city with a Black mayor, you will be safe and secure”? Working together, you can do it and leave a wonderful legacy for future generations.

All italics are the author’s.

1. Basil Davidson, Lost Cities of Africa, p. 101. 2. Ibid, p. 318). 3. Basil Davidson, The African Genius.

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