Inhibiting nature of discourse probed

2018-10-03 06:01
Audience members listening to Veli Mbele giving a public lecture on “Marcus Garvey and the Afrikan Revolution in the 21st Century” at the Ivuma Arts Centre in Galeshewe.Photos: Supplied

Audience members listening to Veli Mbele giving a public lecture on “Marcus Garvey and the Afrikan Revolution in the 21st Century” at the Ivuma Arts Centre in Galeshewe.Photos: Supplied

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Marcus Mosiah Garvey is lauded as one of the most important figures of the Afrikan Revolution in the last 50 years.

Today, more than 70 years after his passing, many believe his mission of total and un­apologetic indepen­dence for the black race remains unfinished.

These were the thoughts reflected by Veli Mbele, who gave a public lecture on “Marcus Garvey and the Afrikan Revolution in the 21st Century” at the Ivuma Arts Centre in Galeshewe on 18 August.

Mbele reflected on critical moments in black radical resistance that had occurred during August and provided a biographical sketch of who Garvey was and what his contribution was to the upliftment of the black race.

He also focussed on what he referred to as the challenges Garvey had encountered, what his legacy is and what the implications of his work for the advancement of the Afrikan Revolution are today.

Mbele elaborated on the sacred names that black people invoke for a number of reasons.

“One, to remind us that, as black people, we have a unique, complex, profoundly traumatic and continuing history.

“This is not comparable to the histories of other races,” said Mbele.

“Two, to remind us not to forget about the gratuitous and unprovoked violence that continues to be unleashed on our black bodies (even by our own kind).

“And three, to never forget that we live in an era wherein there are some (both within and outside our race), who would prefer that we be docile, apologetic, acquiesce, that we equivocate and even be untruthful, in how we reflect on our history and the place we occupy in the world today, as black people.”

In what is regarded as mainstream public discourse, Mbele highlighted the general inclination of trying as much as possible to avoid topics or issues that directly affect black people.

“And if such discourses do happen, the dominant approach is to use language that is analytically superficial, obfuscates the actual peculiarities that come with having a black skin or tries as much as possible not to offend the architects and beneficiaries of black suffering.”

Mbele further singled out the recent usage of soporific formulations such as “historically-disadvantaged”, “people from working-class backgrounds” and “the poorest of the poor”, instead of talking about black people.

“Essentially, we tend to prefer language that numbs the consciousness of black people, instead of awakening it.

“But why do we, the black people of today, speak with such trepidation? There are a number of reasons for our nervousness.”

In explaining this form of self-censure, Mbele referred to Frank Wilderson’s observation that there is a way in which all black speech is always coerced speech.

“They are always in what Saidiya Hartman would call a context of slavery: anything that you say, you always have to think, ‘what are the consequences of me speaking my mind going to be?’ ”

Mbele further refered to Steve Bantu Biko’s observation that there is in South Africa an over-riding idea to move towards comfortable politics, through which leaders hold discussions among themselves.

“Comfortable politics in the sense that we must move at a pace that doesn’t rock the boat.

“In other words, people are shaped by the system even in their consideration of approaches against the system,” Biko was quoted.

Mbele went on by quoting: “Not shaped in the sense of working out meaningful strategies, but shaped in the sense of working out an approach that won’t lead them into any confrontation with the system.

“So they tend to accommodate the system, to censure themselves, in a much stronger way than the system would probably censure them.”

Wilderson’s and Biko’s observations buttressed the appropriateness of the decision to have Garvey as the centre of the discourse on the day.

This, according to Mbele, was because the totality of Garvey’s work positioned him as an antithesis to the kind of intellectual nervousness that has gripped black people.

Mbele commended the organisers of the event for their intellectual courage in choosing Garvey.

He said he regarded Garvey’s mission of total, unapologetic independence for the black race as globally remaining unfinished.

He thus emphasised the importance of reflection on Garvey’s contribution and urged that an examination of the implications of his work for the advancement of the Afrikan Revolution today be made.

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