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 When We Ruled

 

Kamilah Hare interviews Robin Walker, author of 'When we Ruled' to begin to understand the importance of Black History and the richness of our African story

 

 

I have had many conversations where people believe we need to not keep looking back into History, usually to the period of enslavement, and focus on moving forward what is your opinion?

I understand where these people are coming from if all you think your history is, is being someone else’s slave. Then all we think history is, is raking up old conflicts and old wars and old oppressions.

 

My job as the ‘black history man’ is to challenge that view of Black History. The reason I challenge this view is that we go back a lot, lot further than just being somebody else’s slave… if we look at our African heritage it’s a rich heritage of monuments, fine art, manuscripts and inscriptions so when it comes to documenting what our real heritage and achievements are they amount to rather more than just being somebody else’s slave!  

 

Other communities do look back at their history; if you travel England as I have you will see nearly all of the English Town Halls are replicas of ancient Greek and Roman temples… you can go through all the European capitals and all the major cities and see the same thing. So what you’ll find is everybody is using their history except Black people and everybody knows their history and how to use it except black people and the moment black people try and engage  with their history people tell them no you shouldn’t its not about the past it’s about the future.  

 

 

Why is it a problem for us as Black people when in your opinion other cultures engage with their history?

What it is, is because most people think Black people’s history is slavery, most people think Black history is about opposing wrong doing against

the Black community therefore they think it’s an exercise that will ultimately lead to Black people putting case forward against companies who were engaged in the slave trade. Only today I read a story on Facebook that the German Government is working out another payout that they are going to give to the children of Jewish people who were killed in the Auschwitz Concentration camps and essentially they don’t want Black people getting involved in anything like that, that’s one of the reasons why our history invites so many people to say forget that history, deal with the present, deal with the future.

 

Why is it a problem for us as Black people when in your opinion other cultures engage with their history?

 

What it is, is because most people think Black people’s history is slavery, most people think Black history is about opposing wrong doing against the community therefore they think it’s an exercise that will ultimately lead to Black people putting case forward against companies who were engaged in the slave trade. Only today I read a story on Facebook that the German Government is working out another payout that they are going to give to the children of Jewish people who were killed in the Auschwitz Concentration camps and essentially they don’t want Black people getting involved in anything like that, that’s one of the reasons why our history invites so many people to say forget that history, deal with the present, deal with the future.

 

As you say other people use their history, so how as Black people as African people should we use our history, how is it actually helpful now and in moving forward?

 

I’m currently in the process of editing a book I’ve written called African Mathematics and in the section on Ethiopian Mathematics I’ve analysed the methods by which 14th-19th Century Ethiopian manuscripts calculated things like Easter. In calculating Easter they were using a technique called Modulo Mathematics or Modulo Arithmetic, now that is something that could be profitably taught in schools and colleges right now, how do you do modulo arithmetic… … and this is just one example you could do the same with the Arts, the sciences generally, we could do the same thing with literature, with architecture and use the same ideas in the classroom.

 

Aside from the period of Enslavement what actual is black history?

 

This is what the problem is, getting the truth about Black history out there is an uphill struggle. I don’t really find people following up on the information with the eagerness… so what happens is the only African civilisation that Black people know anything about and can claim is Ancient Egypt and so the idea that in West Africa we had civilisations there too - most people aren’t really interested… So what I’m trying to do is popularise that history. But very simply let me lay out what the history is. One of the stereotypes that we were poor, uncivilised, savages living in mud huts let’s deal with that!  In October 2012 a host of British newspaper including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Daily Express a right-wing Newspaper carried articles on one of the West African Emperors from the 14th Century the Emperors name was Mansa Musa the 1st and he reigned between 1312-1337 and these newspaper are claiming he is the richest human being in all of human history!  

 


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