I’m about to take you on a journey. There are a lot of moving parts on this journey, so bear with me. This journey represents how much knowledge we lack with regards to our identity, history, current condition and prospects for the future, especially as Diasporic people.
So the way we decide on topics for the day, is to do an extensive search of events that took place during a specific month, to investigate the birth and death of Diasporic people, to investigate holidays, traditions, rituals etc. Our goal is to center the diaspora in everything we do. We endeavor to engage ourselves and our readers in the discovery of ourselves and our people, so that we may train up our children with a strong sense of self and history.
As we were populating this months calendar, I discovered an Ashanti King named Osei Tutu Kwamina and on January 21st, 1824 Kwamina was listed as defeating the British army at Assamak in the Ashanti territory.
Ok, so I’m like who is this King Kwamina? How did he defeat the British and how long did it take him to defeat the British? But the biggest question was why didn’t I know about him? In trying to find the answers to the earlier questions, I understood why I didn’t know about Kwamina.
There is no easy place to start. This discovery is not a linear one and as I got looped into this story of Osei Tutu Kwamina, I realized a few things; the first being, that I would have to decolonize my mind of this idea of a linear story to understand Africa, its history, its wealth and to gain more knowledge of self. There is not a straight line of Africa’s history and in this case the Ashanti’s history, especially with only an American or Western understanding of Africa.
I had to discover so much before I could fully understand how and why King Kwamina defeated the British in 1824. Questions like this needed to be discovered:
- Who were the Ashanti people? How did they come to be? The Ashanti is an ethnic group of the Akan. So now, one must investigate the Akan.
- Where were they located on the continent? (We must understand that the peopling of Africa was by tribe and not by random lines across land. That’s a very Western ideology) The Ashanti live in the rain forest of Central Ghana. But understand “Ghana” is only about 50 years old. Prior to being called Ghana the area was known as the Gold Coast in the region of West Africa. The word Ghana translates to “Warrior King” which is very much connected to the history of the Ashanti people of being warriors.
- What was the connection between the Ashanti and the land they did occupy? They had tons of Gold! Which means Europeans had a great desire to conquer this area and the Ashanti had a great desire to resist.
So, listen, as a World History teacher, OF COURSE I taught about the Gold Coast; Mali, Songhai, and Ghana. I talked about the resources of the land, why and how gold and salt were traded but when I look back at it now, I taught it from a purely European, capitalist perspective. It was about the movement of these resources. Of course I thought I was being culturally relevant and responsive because I made sure my students knew that Africans were rich in resources especially gold, but that was it. There was no talk of tribe, of language, of traditions, of rituals. Just the mere fact that I used the term “Ghana” which is only 50 years old meant I ignored a long history before the gold and salt trade.
Luckily for me and us, WEB Dubois studied Africa and Africans, and in his book, “Black folk then and Now” we find the story of King Kwamina and how he defeated the British. In this text we learn of the Ashanti people and their customs, why they have the moniker of warrior and we get to travel back in time to get a greater understanding of our people. And I say our people because a vast majority of us were stolen from the Gold Coast and brought to the Americas. There are also contemporary academics who are contributing to our understanding of leadership past and present in Africa. And the Afro-Caribbean community, “Grassroots Governance” by Donald I. Ray , who is a professor in the department of political science at the University of Calgary, also offers us insight to the Ashanti and King Kwamina.
Using the Poor Man’s Research Library (Google) I found out about the enslaved Africans who were shipped to Barbados and Jamaica, and their connection to the Ashanti people:
“During the Slave Trade, a lot of the people taken to the Americas and Caribbean were Akan people. In those periods these Akan people were referred to as “Coromantee” – a name which comes from a Ghanaian fort, a name or rather reference term usually given to Akan people in Jamaica. Due to the previous tribal disputes of the Ashanti people against the British and the Fante, now intensified due to the Fante siding with the British, where the Slaves were dispatched to various places. The Ashanti were placed in Jamaica and Barbados whilst the Fante who opposed the Ashanti and Dutch were sent to Guianas. These Slaves were famed for their rebellious nature, despite their hard working ethic they were fierce, resilient to the idea of being Captive in this New World.”
I was able to find 10 things about the Ashanti Kingdom that I didn’t know. #4: They strongly resisted the British. As I read that sentence, I was reminded of my first year teaching, when one of my Black male students, at the thought of learning about “slavery” said, “I don’t want to learn this shit, we were slaves, we aint shit, we never fought back and this is stupid.” I didn’t have a response for him. I just felt ashamed, because like him, I didn’t know we chose freedom and the history of slave rebellion in this country, much less the long history of resistance to colonization on the Continent.
This is the Ashanti flag and as you see in the middle, is a golden stool. For the Ashanti, the golden stool represents the royal and divine throne of the Akan (Ashanti) people. The stool legitimatized the rule of its possessor. That stool is our stool, CREAD’s stool. When we were thinking about an image to represent us, we came up with this stool. We knew it was African and we knew it represented sturdiness and strength. I did not know it represented the Ashanti people and their divinity to rule. So when I saw this stool on the Ashanti flag, everything came full circle.
Man, we’re so African, and we don’t even know it.
Finally, in learning about King Kwamina, I was reminded that the United Nations has designated the time from 2015-2024, the international decade of the the people of the African Descent. With the goals of the decade being to:
- Promote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people of African Descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- Promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies;
- Adopt and strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks according to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to ensure their full and effective implementation.
So it looks like CREAD came on the scene just at the right time because we commit to being a force in supporting educators, parents and students in the recognition of our ancestry, the development of our knowledge and in seeking justice for all Diasporic people.
I told yall this post was going to be all over the place. But here are my asks of you:
- Buy WEB Dubois book, Black folk now and Then.
- Teach your students SOMETHING about the Ashanti tribe this year; Anything. Something. Use the Poor Man’s Research Library (Google) or University (Youtube).
- Take 15 minutes to surf through the UN’s site on the decade of the people of African Descent.
- Test your DNA; use your mom or dad, grand dad or grand ma. Test your DNA and trace your lineage. I did it and it rocked my world.
- Finally, in honor of King Osei Tutu Kwamina’s defeat of the British on January 21st, 1824, use his win as an example of ways we must all resist the enemy. Kwamina, though he was going up against the mighty British empire, did not back down, did not surrender, did not run. He stood up with his troops and charged forward. Honor him and his legacy the day after the US installs a dictator, a dumb one at that. In the powerful words of Jamaican artist and descendant of the Coromantee, Terror Fabulous, “No Retreat No Surrender.“
Whewwwww, that was a lot.
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