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Our African Heroes

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

As Africans in America we, for the most part. don't know a lot about the heroes among our brothers and sisters in the pan-African diaspora. Make no mistake, in some respects it was planned that way. The white man will tell you all about himself. It is about ourselves he doesn't want us to know. Through our ignorance he has managed to, as one brotha put it, make his story history and my story mystery. He paints for us an image of Africa as a primitive land full of backwards savages who need his help and direction. Why would anyone want to go there. No phone, no light, no motor car. Not a single luxury. But you know something, the little piggy who stayed home is not the little piggy who had roast beef.

Below you will find just a few great Africans who represent a long line of intelligent, resourceful, courageous and beautiful people--the people you and I belong to. The heroes here are people just like you and me--men, women and children who met the challenges of a world not their own

African Heroes

Ancient and Medieval Heroes

Martyrs

Great Women

Great Men

Writers

Ancient and Medieval Heroes

Imhotep

2980 B.C.E. Chief archetect of the step pyramid at Saqqara which he designed for king Aoser (Djoser) during the Third Dynasty. . Imhotep was a Black man not an alien as Hollywood would have us believe. He unified Upper and Lower Egypt under his rule. From this poet and philosopher comes such phrases as "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die."

Mansa Musa

D. 1337 C.E. Ascended to the Mandinka throne in 1312. Musa built the Mandinka empire, also known as the Mali empire. Through lavish gifts to Egyptian and Arab rulers during his pilgrimage to Mecca he alerted the world to the attractiveness of trading with Mali. In a word, he put the Mandinka on the map.

General Tarik

711 C.E. Moorish general who conquered Spain and paved the way to bring African education and cultural values to Europe which before then languished in ignorance and pagan barbarianism.

Martyrs

Hector Peterson Hector Peterson

First martyr of the historic 1976 Soweto student uprising. Students protesting the open and brutal racism of the South African apartheid educational system were mercilessly gunned down, tear gassed and beaten. Death or exile were their only realistic expectation for the future. Eleven year old Hector was killed when police opened fire on 10,000 unarmed students marching in what started as a peaceful demonstration but ended in the deaths of over 500 people across the country.

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Great Women

Hatshepsut

reigned circa 1479-1457 B.C.E. One of the few woman pharaoh's of ancient Egypt (Kemet). She declared herself pharaoh after her husband Thutmose II died. She is known for the magnificent monuments she built. Hatshepsut had a close relationship with her father the pharaoh Thutmose I and she learned to rule from him. She understood the importance of establishing trade with her neighboring counries. She sent a successful expedition to Punt which returned with an abundance of gold, ebony, ivory, mrrh trees and other valuables they had traded for rather than captured by conquest. She even had the story of the expedition carved onto her mortuary temple whose construction she had overseen and named Djeser Djeseru.-.

Amina of Zaria

1533-1610 B.C.E. Warrior queen of the Hausaland (now northern Nigeria). She built the empire of Zaria in the sixteenth century.

Taytu of Ethiopia

1851-1918 B.C.E. Descedant of Menelik I, said to be the son of Israel's King Solomon and the queen of Sheba. After a life of hardship which included the arrest and execution of her first husband and being forced to serve the soldiers who arrested him Taytu later married Menelik II with whom she pulled Ethiopia out of its ancient fuedal system and forged what has come to be the modern Ethiopian Nation. Together they brought Ethiopia through and out of various challenges--rebelion and internal restlessness, famine and the incessant encrouchment of European imperialism. An educated woman, Taytu recognized how Italy was trying to gain control of Ethiopia by tricking her husband into signing a treaty in which they gave him a copy in his language that was different from the one they had written in Italian.They were unable to work out a treatry and went to war. Taytu accompanied her emperor husband to the battle field where with the help of over a hundred women servans she offered aide and support to the soldiers. The Ethiopeans beat the Italians and later negotiated a true treaty.

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Great Men

Tom Mboya

Political activist in the fight against European domination in Kenya in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. He fought for the liberation of his own hero, Jomo Kenyatta, who was falsely accused of inciting the Mau Mau rebellion with his inflammatory speeches. Mboya expressed his thoughts about the events surounding the rebellion in his own eloquent speech:

"For many, Kenya is identified with Mau Mau. Mau Mau was a reaction against all the social and economic wrongs of the Europeans against the Africans. While neither I nor any African leader has ever favored or condoned terrorism or violence as a political instrument, I want to make it clear that I protest equally the brutal repression and injustice employed in stamping it out: Literally thousands of blameless Africans who had nothing to do with Mau Mau were herded like cattle into camps, their lives and families disrupted or destroyed. Cold figures can but partly convey the horrors of Kenya's suffering at that time: as against a handful of Europeans who lost their lives, several thousand Africans were killed. I repeat that I do not support or condone violence, but in the final analyss it is the European settler community which is responsible for the circumstances which evokked such a frightening response.

Nelson Mandela

Mandela and other young activists such as Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu put teeth in the African National Congress (ANC) and sttengthened its efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. As a young lawyer he and Tambo had tried for years to secure the rights of Black South Africans through the law. But it was the white South Africans who made these laws so all Mandela achieved was to point out loop holes which the white government quickly closed.

Working as a leader in the ANC Youth League Mandela organized boycotts and other forms of civil disobedience. These demonstrations were met with the same brutal police suppression that Dr. Martin Luther King was facing at the same time in Amerikkka. Finally Mandela and the other leaders of the Youth League came to the conclusion that they could not realistically end apartheid through nonviolent means. He expressed the circumstances that brought the group to this conclusion:

"It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of polittical struggle and to form Umkhonio we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). The government had left us no other choice."

Eventually he was brought to trial. Originally he had been sentenced to life in prison for being the biggest threat to white supremacy in South Africa. Even at his trial Mandela used the courtroom as a platform to speak for his people.

"I am not bound to obey the laws of a white parliament in which I am not represented. A triel by a legal system controlled by whites cannot be a fair one. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live togeher in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.."

He did not see his ideal of an end to apartheid materialize until after he had spent twenty-six years in jail. He won a Nobel Peace prize and became President of South Africa where he once did not even have the power to vote. Read an excerpt from his 1994 Inaugural Address

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Ray Hagins

A hundred and forty years after the chains of slavery were removed from the bodies of Africans in Amerikkka Ray Hagins fights to remove them from our minds. After twenty years as the unwitting agent of white spiritual domination he now uses his preaching talents to instruct those who have ears to hear towards an Afro-centric spirituality. Once we discover all the errors and fabrications in the Christian Bible and decide that it just isn't true, where do we go from there? For whites the only alternative to Christianity is atheism or a New Age paganism in which no true God exists. With our rich African heritage we don't have to go that way. Hagins formed the Afrikan Village which has temples in many cities that provide instruction, knowledge and fellowship vital to spiritual growth.

Writers

Wole Soyinka

Founder of contemporary (1968) theatre in Nigeria. Soyinka had two theatrre groups: The 1960 Masks in Lagos and Orisun in Ibadan. Taught English literature at the University of Ife and African literature at the University of Lagos. Headed the School of Drama and did research in traditional African drama at the University of Ibadan.

Plays
The Swamp Dwellers The Lion and the Jewel The Invention The Strong Bread The Detainee The Trials of Brother Jero Gamwood on the Leaves Dance of the Forest The Road Kongi's Harvest

Ghinua Achebe

Born in Ogidi a village of the Ibo, Achebe's writing is informed by his knowledge and experience of three different eras in the history of Ibo: the pre-colonial, pre-missionary period of his grandfather's generation, the era of his parents marked by colonialism and mission shrouded imperialism and his own era when Africans were waking up but still not sure which way was up since the missions had separated them from so much of their heritage. Achebe was educated at the University of Ibadan and served as Director of External Broadcasting at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation..

Novels Things Fall Apart No Longer At Ease A Man of the People The Arrow of God

Gabriel Okara

During the Nigerian war of 1967 he supported relief efforts by doing poetry tours in the U.S. Okara later served as manager of the Ministry of Information in Nigeria.

Poetry Collection The Fisherman's Invocation Novel The Voices

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