Marimba Ani once said that culture is a people’s immune system. In the very simplest of terms culture then is a means of protection. It ensures and sustains the physical and mental health of a people which prevents sickness from invading and harming the collective body of a people. When we consider oppressed people we think of a people without and/or devoid of a historical and cultural group cohesion (often intentionally severed by those who are oppressing them) and consequently are susceptible to the various cultural and psychological diseases emanating from the invading, colonizing, or enslaving nations leaving those oppressed groups suspended in a state of confusion and extreme sickness.
In order for oppressed groups to withstand this cultural and psychological bombardment they must be prepared to carry out very clear and effective strategies that will serve to reproduce and reinforce their own group history and identity. They must create a revolutionary culture. Meaning they must first locate the cause of their sickness (Western civilization), oppose and uproot it and adhere to their own cultural values and principles which empowers them rather than enslaves them (African civilization).
Culture as it is currently being applied in modernity, however, by many Black/African people has unfortunately been relegated solely to a matter of ascetics. That is to say, the type of clothing we wear; how we style our hair, what cultural pieces we adorn, or how we greet or speak to one another.
And although these things in and of themselves are beneficial and encouraging there has to be a deeper, higher, more pronounced sense of connecting ourselves to a culture predicated upon the social and political survival and advancement of our people (revolution). We cannot continue to support or advocate forms of neoliberal, bourgeois ideological phrases devoid of historical, political and social reality.
Shouting from the rafters:
“Black Excellence! Black Excellence! We’re so Excellent!”
While simultaneously being politically engulfed and socially submerged underneath a cacophony of racialized, gender, and class brutality. We can no longer content ourselves with the usage of surface-level terms without political and social power and liberation. We “Woke” but comatose. We “Conscious” but oblivious. We “Black Excellence” but in application it becomes merely the blind celebration of bourgeois negroes assimilating into the death pit of white acceptance. Culture must advance us beyond cute terms and phrases and ascetics and move us more closely, completely, and concretely to a change in the redistribution of power. Otherwise, it is obsolete. Cheikh Anta Diop stated properly that:
“I consider culture as a rampart which protects a people, a collectivity. Culture must, above all, play a protective role: it must ensure the cohesion of the group…Once this is attained, it will become difficult to “divide and rule” and oppose African communities one against the other.”