Feb 152006
 
Authors: Caroline Welch

Some history never made the textbooks, and within that hidden history people find the roots of African-American struggles.

In his keynote address Wednesday for Black History Month, University of Colorado- Boulder assistant professor, Reiland Rabaka, combined a number of his class lectures in African-American history and hip-hop culture to speak about "African Americans and the Struggle for Higher Education."

Rabaka said, to truly understand African-American struggles, one has to go back to the beginning, before the Civil Rights Movement and uncover a "hidden history."

Speaking of unknown names in American history like Marcus Garvey, Aime Cesaire and Leopold Sengher, Rabaka described the importance of history, self-education and realization of shared struggles.

"America will never be the country it can be until hidden history is uncovered, not just for black people, but for all people," Rabaka said.

However, America should not work to get better, but to change, Rabaka said.

"Racism in the United States is as normal and natural as apple pie," Rabaka said. "We should be struggling to change the system, not make it better. We're trying to end (racism)."

Most of that change, Rabaka added, comes with education, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Frederick Douglas was self-educated and went on to lecture at prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale, setting an example for today's students.

"We struggle with a double duty," Rabaka said. "We need to learn both what is on the syllabus and what is not. We need to know some of the names people don't talk about."

Some of those people, Rabaka said, are the black philosophers who are counter to scholars like Plato and Socrates, and students need to know both.

Rabaka also described people who were part of a "Pan-African Movement," an effort to remember a culture and the presence it has today.

Marcus Garvey started a "Back to Africa Movement," encouraging both a literal and figurative move to go back culturally, socially, politically and religiously, Rabaka said, and Garvey is just one example of a movement that showed similar struggles occur thousands of miles away.

"African American struggles are linked to other struggles," Rabaka said. "There is no reason to feel like we don't have any roots."

Women were also highlighted as important contributors to African-American movements and the dual discrimination African-American women face.

"We can win racism, but we still have to battle sexism," Rabaka, who has a background in both ethnic studies and women's studies, said. "We still have to work on many different fronts at a time."

Women, too, were involved in all movements throughout African-American history into today, and the current hip-hop generation.

Using examples from Run DMC to Aretha Franklin to 2PAC, Rabaka highlighted music as "soundtracks to every revolution" and the importance of taking an active part in education and the history behind today's movement.

"We will never understand the Hip Hop Generation without the history of all movements," Rabaka said.

Education was a common thread throughout the lecture, and without it, there is no change.

"You have to change yourself to change the world, and the university is all about change," Rabaka said. "You have to link education to liberation and be an active agent in your own education."

Javon Baker, vice president of Black Definition Student Organization, said he gained a lot from the presentation.

"He mentioned lots of names we don't see in history books," Baker, a junior speech communications major said. "It was very educational for everyone who attended."

 

 

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