A space for Africana creative expressions and explorations.
A Four-Part Series of Short Stories by Serie McDougal III
Everywhere Is War: Intelligence in the Fight
Late on a Saturday night, I lay in bed with my laptop, watching a boxing match. The last thing I could remember was hoping that one of my favorite fighters, Terence “Bud” Crawford, would fight Vasyl Lomachenko—a dream fight, in my eyes. Crawford is a favorite because he embodies what I consider to be an intelligent fighter in the tradition of Mayweather but also differs from him. I watched the fight with my eyes half-closed until I fell asleep.
I must have been dreaming, because I thought that once upon a time, all I hoped to be was intelligent. I could remember so many students asking me, “What did you want to be when you were in high school, Dr. McDougal?” I replied that I didn’t know what I wanted to be. But the truth is that I wanted to be smart. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I loved knowing, knowing more, and being able to figure things out. But that doesn’t pass for a career option for a high schooler. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for what happened next.
While I was dreaming, a short old man descended into my living room on a golden rope. It was Kaqece, again. He said, “Congratulations, nlom is feeling free?”
Feeling far more free because it was not my first experience with him in my dreams, I asked the old man what he meant.
He told me, “When you dream, your soul is free to roam about. It means your spirit feels the freedom to roam. Your spirit is with your body, but your soul is feeling more free because Obaba has chosen to council with you and many others like you. You are here because you have thought about something and the Obaba has a message for you.”
This time, I was excited to see them. “Well, where is the council, Kaqece?” I asked. I was standing in front of a short old Black man in the middle of my floor, with a bright golden rope stretching up to God knows where. But I was sure that we were going to travel to the Obaba somehow.
Kaqece handed me the end of his rope, and when I blinked my eyes, he was gone and I was sitting before the Obaba, but it was not the same group of men I was used to. I was nervous again. I was in front of several men, most of them seated before a wooden table surrounded by darkness.
Directly in front of me was a large man, and I knew that something about him was familiar. His style of dress was clearly Zulu, with plenty of red, green, blue, and yellow. He was a tall man with dark skin. He wore a crown made of leopard skin with long feathers sticking up from it. He wore a gold chest plate with leopard skin.
He introduced himself, “I am Shaka Zulu, son of Senzangakhona.” He continued, “Your soul was brought here to commune in counsel with myself and several others. Sitting on the floor on your left is Orunmila.”
I looked to my left and saw him.
Orunmila had a brown complexion. He sat with his legs folded on a wooden mat. He wore a round, brimless green hat; a green-and-yellow shirt; and yellow pants. There were various items laid out in front of where he sat on the mat—most notably, a short but wide, round pot. He appeared similar to so many healers and diviners I was familiar with on the African continent. But to see Orunmila in person was overwhelming.
At that time, Orunmila spoke, saying, “I am Orunmila. I am an Oluko-iwarere, or what you may know as a sage from your studies of African traditions.”
A chilling feeling came over me, from the thought of being in the presence of such divine energies.
Then, Shaka Zulu welcomed two familiar faces to his right: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Kobi Kambon. Both of them nodded their heads and smiled.
To their right was Baba Mzee Jedi Shemsu Jehewty, also know as Dr. Jacob Carruthers. I actually knew him from a hieroglyphics class that he taught in Chicago when he was alive. For years, he had run the Center for Inner City Studies in Chicago. He had written major books; one of them was called Intellectual Warfare.
Baba Jedi said, “You have grown up, young man.” He wore his signature glasses and dashiki. He had the same gray beard that I remembered and a kufi covering the top of his head.
He sat next to the great anti-apartheid activist and leader of the 1960s and ’70s South African Black consciousness movement, Stephen Bantu Biko. I only knew him from my own reading and from Denzel Washington’s portray of him in Cry Freedom. Biko wore his signature suit and tie and a short afro covering the top of his head.
To the far right sat the last of them. Before Shaka Zulu could introduce him, I knew the face already. As a student, I had seen him speak in Harlem, New York. It was Amos Wilson, who had authored Blueprint for Black Power.
Then, King Shaka’s voice became more commanding. He said, “You came here to talk about intelligence, did you not?”
“Yes,” I responded, anxious to speak with the ancestors. “I was thinking that it is all I ever wanted from such a long time ago, but I don’t know how important it really is in the grand scheme of things anymore.”
King Shaka replied, in a thunderous voice that matched his size and stature, “You were summoned here during a fight for a reason. We are in the middle of a fight as a people. In fact, it is a war, young professor.”
Shaka Zulu’s awareness of the present state of affairs was remarkable and accurate, so I took the opportunity to ask, “King Shaka, what good is intelligence?”
He said to me, “Remember, I am a king and a warrior, and lack of intelligence will lead to ill-timed and ill-advised action in combat.”
Orunmila spoke from the floor while moving the small objects in front of him on his mat. In a soft but deep voice, he stated, “Quality character is important in a person engaged in battle because it is critical that they not engage in struggle in a state of uncontrolled passion. That person must have controlled thought. Like your boxer Crawford. You must guard against an uncontrolled temper and remember that patience is the father of character.”
I noticed that he had mentioned character rather than intelligence.
With his iconic southern drawl, Dr. King laughed softly, smiled, and said, “Yes, like the boxer Crawford. . . . I would add that a lot of people, especially in some of our spiritual communities, think that it is enough to have good intentions. But as King Shaka has mentioned, we are in a war of sorts. It is not enough to be good or to be kind. I believe that we actually have the moral responsibility to be intelligent or else suffer the consequences of well-intentioned misjudgments. Sincerity without knowledge is actually quite dangerous. What we must do is bring together both goodness and intelligence in the same body.”
I had not thought about intelligence as a moral responsibility. To the Obaba council, I stated, “I have to confess to thinking that intelligence was something that you get from school and from working hard, something that money could buy, but never as something that being a good person required.”
“I understand that, Dr. McDougal,” King replied. “When I say intelligence, I am referring to open-mindedness, sound judgment, and love for truth.”
Staring at me, looking over the top of the rims of his glasses, Dr. Kambon added, “Well, Dr. McDougal, fighting for freedom is moral and just, so intelligence is necessary because the problem with Black people’s resistance is that not enough of it has been carefully planned and strategic. We have not responded to our oppression in a sophisticated and intelligent manner. Our resistance has to be conscious and collective to be able to combat psychological oppression. What we need is to create and control our own institutions.”
“Exactly,” Orunmila replied, affirming Dr. Kambon’s input.
Dr. Carruthers added, “I also think it is important for you to understand that the role of the intellectual is critical today.”
“Baba Jake, I call it consciousness,” Amos Wilson interjected. “Black people need African consciousness and economic and political power.”
“Eytha!” Steve Biko shouted. He continued, “I also prefer to say consciousness instead of intelligence, Dr. Wilson. We need a Black consciousness, ukusho ukuthi we have collective Black pride and unity against oppression. And it is like you said, Baba Jake. Abantu need intellectuals to rewrite the history of Black people in order to form an authentic African reference for our humanity to create this consciousness. Otherwise, we are like a vehicle without an engine.”
I was slightly confused. They were mentioning various qualities from intelligence to character to consciousness. It seemed that each was necessary according to the ancestors.
“Are we at war or not?!” King Shaka demanded. The king appeared somewhat anxious about the abstract nature of the conversation, or so I assumed.
Dr. Wilson responded, “Yes, we are. But, Shaka, we are engaged in what Chancellor Williams called a silent war. We don’t know that it’s happening because the military isn’t involved and physical force is no longer the primary tool.”
King Shaka continued, “I know! Dr. McDougal, we worry that you who are living will not recognize it because the face of warfare is changing. I have taken a long look at your world from the ancestral world, and war is no longer defined by national identity. War is stateless. The concept of war itself has become blurred, as have its boundaries. There will be those among you who will argue that describing the current state of affairs as warfare is extremist and alarmist. Others may call such a declaration hyperaggressive, hypermasculine, perhaps even patriarchal.
“But people will always fail to identify war if they associate it with its means instead of its objective. The objective of your enemy is control. Warfare is everchanging. Never forget that, and you will always recognize an enemy in disguise. To make it simple, Dr. McDougal, something I realized in the nineteenth century is that every arena of human activity is a potential battlefield.
Dr. King smiled and directed his stare at King Shaka and said, “So the question was rhetorical?”
Everyone laughed briefly, including King Shaka, before returning to the conversation.
Dr. King continued, “War is not a lasting strategy. If we are to survive, we need a strategy other than war and destruction. Besides, we don’t want to do to Whites what they have done to us or the Native Americans, nor do we want to establish Black supremacy in place of White supremacy. However, if Black people continue to be exploited, I do believe that the price this country will have to pay is its own destruction. I say this because those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
“With that said, I believe in Black people banding together to wage a nonviolent war against racial discrimination. In the war I fought in Montgomery against segregated busing, for example, our weapon was the weapon of protest. We fought further to secure a new weapon, the vote, so that we could elect representatives and pass laws that protected us.”
At that moment, Dr. Kambon directed a comment to King Shaka: “The fact of the matter is that Black people are not militarily strong, while Whites are. So, they have the military strength to enforce their institutions and norms.”
Steve Biko responded in support of Dr. King, adding, “I, too, am not interested in our people’s engaging in armed struggle. I do believe in speaking truth to power and negotiation. The Whites will eventually have to listen to the demands of Black people. That will happen when we close ranks and come together as a collective.”
I could not identify with Steve Biko’s optimism in negotiating. I thought about my experiences with organizing in White-led environments.
Almost as though he had been reading my thoughts, Baba Jake leaned forward to address Biko, “History gives us no indication that we can sit down and negotiate our freedom.”
Smiling at Dr. King, Dr. Kambon said, “What has happened is that our history has shown us that Europeans have typically tried to militarily control African people wherever they have come in contact. Then, Europeans have attempted to gain psychological control over them by forcing White cultural meaning and norms on Black people through society’s institutions. The reasoning is that because they see Black people as having some value, they don’t want to eliminate us. They have shifted their focus from physical control to psychological control.”
“Mhmm, that’s exactly right, Kobi,” Amos Wilson declared. “Europeans have discovered that force is no longer the most effective tool for oppressing Black people because it is costly and inspires resistance. The most powerful threat to Black people today is psychic violence, or our enemies’ ability to negatively affect how Black people think about themselves. The most powerful force in the world is the human mind.”
Steve Biko interrupted, “That’s the truth. I have always said that the most powerful weapon in the hands of the enemy is the minds of the oppressed.”
Amos Wilson and Steve Biko exchanged a nod, and Wilson continued Biko’s point, “This psychic violence occurs through the projection of stereotypes in the media, falsification of Black history and culture, miseducation, etc. Through these means, Black people are led to underestimate their ability to challenge their oppression. This psychic violence produces within Black people a self-defeating mindset that ensures the oppressor never has to deal with any resistance.”
“Brother Amos, this is why I say we are engaging in intellectual warfare,” Dr. Carruthers added. I didn’t understand why Baba Jake would focus so much on intellectualism alone, but clarification came when he continued, “As a historian, one pattern in deep thought about African history is that the abandonment of African people’s cultural order has always made them more vulnerable to conquest.
“We have to teach our people about this. The long-term effect has remained, and the biggest threat we face now is not military. It is intellectual. The intellectual warfare that we are faced with is a cultural tyranny being imposed on our lives and histories. It is a form of warfare that followed the physical domination of people of African descent. It is a protracted intellectual war. This warfare is perpetrated by European thinkers.”
Dr. Wilson responded, “But that is not to say that we don’t see the state-sanctioned violence against Black people today. Make no mistake, the use of force as oppression has not disappeared. It is simply used as a backup for other forms of power against modern Black people. Force was the initial tool of White domination, but now, White power is expressed in the form of influence, and Black people accept Whites in power as more competent and legitimate because they have a disproportionate share of resources and positions of status.”
It started to become clear to me that none of them truly rejected Shaka Zulu’s position about militarism.
Kambon replied, “Well, I will take it further. Here in the ancestral realm, I recently communed with my mentor Dr. Bobby E. Wright, a brilliant man, and he reminded me, ‘Kobi, you have to remember that there is no known cure for White racism and that Black people are at war with them. Therefore, violence is the only way, so we can’t fall into these traps of becoming paralyzed with inaction, waiting for divine intervention, or fantasizing that we have reached our destiny and don’t need to struggle. We have to look them in the eye and move against them.’ That is what he said to me.”
“Well,” Dr. Wilson sighed, “We need military tools if necessary. I think military is something Black people will need for defensive purposes.”
Then, Orunmila began to speak. I thought of him as a spiritualist who could not possibly endorse warfare like the others did. My heart nearly stopped at his words. Everyone turned to him out of respect for his divine wisdom, and he proclaimed, “Something important to keep in mind is that the Black people are your nation, and in the words of the ancient Kemetic philosopher Kagemni, ‘Sharp knives must stand ready for the unrighteous intruder.’ Do not provoke battle, but it is indeed your responsibility to be prepared for it when it comes to you. Prepare and stand ready to act for the good, and Ogun will support you on the day of battle.”
After about thirty seconds, as people digested Orunmila’s words, Shaka Zulu attempted to tie together everyone’s thoughts. He announced, “Clearly, we are engaged in warfare, but not necessarily on a traditional battlefield. I believe we all recognize that, as our brother Paul Robeson stated, ‘the battlefront is everywhere.’ Some believe it is a cultural war, an intellectual war, and a physically violent war. But I have to think in military terms because I am a king and a soldier and because I know that there are some things that intelligence and consciousness do not solve.
“You see, war can bring about intense anxiety, even as you engage in the nonmilitary aspects of nation-building. An intelligent person is not good enough. You need people with the strength of mind to remain calm under such circumstances. An intelligent person without courage is vulnerable to misjudgment in combat due to intense fear, whereas the courageous soldier remains sound of mind. These are lessons learned on the battlefield. The intelligent soldier without courage is vulnerable to becoming lost or frozen in speculation and avoidance. Intelligence must be combined with practice.
“Additionally, history is filled with intelligent people who lacked courage and were thus blindly obedient to authority, no matter how unethical. How many people do you think knew that the holocaust of slavery was wrong but continued to use their intelligence to build the ships, make the whips, and kill our people?”
Steve Biko replied, “Nkosi, there is no doubt about that. Sometimes this fear can lead Black people to engage in forms of resistance that simply fit within the system in both means and goals, to avoid punishment. This is retrogressive thinking among intelligent people.”
I recalled students on our campus being told to march at certain places, at certain times, at very specific levels of volume, making sure to avoid sending certain messages. Could it even be called protest anymore?
“In your age,” King Shaka continued, “You will have a hard time identifying this cowardice. At least in my time, it was easy to identify cowardice. In my army, cowardice was not tolerated. Do you know why? Let me tell you all a brief story. As a boy, I was walking some cattle back home after they had strayed too far. It started me thinking about the battles my father fought in. I had heard about how enemies were sometimes rarely killed in battle and then returned home to regroup and attack us again. At that moment, as I was standing behind the cattle, driving them forward, there was a group of people standing together ahead in the middle of the path. Maybe twenty people. But from my view behind the cattle, all of the people far ahead seemed to fit between one steer’s head and horns. From my distance, the people appeared encircled by the horns.
“When I became chief, I used this technique as a military strategy. To prevent escape, I instructed my soldiers to form a line to drive forward and attack the enemy. To me, they were like the steer’s head. Then, I had two other groups fan out on the left and the right sides of the enemy, like the steer’s horns. The enemy would be encircled and couldn’t escape. Many would be trapped in the middle, unable to attack. This meant that my soldiers needed to be mentally prepared for close-quarters combat. My soldiers had long shields and short stabbing spears to stab and kill the enemy. We didn’t just throw long-range weapons and hope to scare the enemy away. This meant that victory for my armies required a great deal of bravery, and cowardice was easily identified among my ranks.
“There was no ambiguity in my time. Yet ambiguity of war now defines your time. War is about danger, Dr. McDougal. Therefore courage is essential. It is essential now. Are your students prepared to assume their duty, their responsibility, in the face of danger? Let me ask you another question, Dr. McDougal. Let me make this real. Do you know what we called that short stabbing instrument that the Zulu army used?”
“No,” I replied.
“It was called an iklwa. It was given that name because the word itself mimics the sound a man makes and the sound the blade makes when you drive it into his abdomen and pull it back out. Iklwa.”
I was shocked.
“Ah, that is what I was looking for,” Shaka Zulu continued. “You cannot see that ghostly look that has just come across your face. I have seen it many times. It is not natural to kill or bludgeon, Dr. McDougal. Your reaction is quite normal. It is fear. I know how to move beyond that, but it takes practice like everything else does. There were many men in my armies who encircled the enemy as instructed but were unable to kill the enemy in that moment of truth, just like you face the enemy of Black studies as a professor. This is normal. Soldiers must be conditioned to fight.
“In fact, you must realize that when it comes to the moment of battle, the most important quality is less about intelligence, as may have been vital in the planning phase, and more about courage. Then, after the war, intelligence reemerges as primary. You can’t just read about it in books and expect Black people to fight successfully against White supremacy without fear. The fear will come no matter what form of combat you engage in. Education, politics, economics, whatever. If you fight to liberate Black people, the enemy will retaliate. Can you say that in Africana studies, you have students practice the behavior of nation-building?”
I did not know how to reply. His remarks were simply chilling.
Shaka Zulu continued, “When people in my time wanted to eat meat, they had to at least participate in the slaughtering of cattle. You are now insulated from the necessity of killing for food. Even your mousetraps have special little covers or houses that protect you from having to witness the killed rodents in your homes. Yet at the same time, Black people experience state-sanctioned violence, aggression, and death on a daily basis. And you look at it. You replay it. It is on your phones and on your laptops.
“Ironically, far from defense, you are now trained to assume a posture of submission in the face of a threat. You are trained by your enemy to make yourself even more vulnerable to attack, a posture you strangely hope will prevent further attack. ‘Hands up, don’t shoot,’ you say. I don’t understand it at all. I think we have become too much divorced from aggression. What am I missing?”
“I think they are engaging in peaceful protest, but as I have always said,” Biko added, “For success in the Black liberation struggle, our people must engage in the irrational act of overcoming their fear of death.”
“True, but this is a fear that we have been conditioned to respond with,” commented Amos Wilson. “Media alone in the U.S. have convinced many Black people that White power is supreme and even divinely ordained. Therefore, they experience anxiety at the mere idea of attempting to wrest power from their oppressors.
“I would not say that all of them are truly afraid of engaging in Black nation-building. Some of them simply aren’t trying to do that, and they have accepted inequality as a permanent reality. Some Black people voluntarily embrace White reality and racist society because they have been indoctrinated to accept it as normal.”
“Well, obviously,” Dr. King interrupted, “We cannot be enticed by normalcy. Normalcy is what has led to the murder of countless Black motorists. It is normalcy that has led to the killing of Trayvon Martin and many waves of abuse of Black people in police custody. Normalcy has led to the continued economic discrimination against Black people. The only normalcy we want is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity of all of God’s children.”
Steve Biko replied, “I don’t know that so many Black people have necessarily accepted an inferior position in this world. I believe it is possible to adapt to something without accepting it. Just because we adapt to living in Eurocentric culture and society doesn’t mean that we forget who we are.
“I am also not comfortable with the notion that it is Black people who are the only ones in this circumstance who are overcome with fear. Actually, Whites are ruled by fear as well and not by their immense power. It is their fear that makes them so force oriented and violent against us. Because they cannot make our people respect them, the only hope they think they have left is to make us fear them.”
Dr. King added, “Fear is one of the major causes of war. It is the reason behind the U.S. killing of innocents abroad, and it is also at the root of violence toward Black people in the U.S. It is fear that leads to hate, which then leads to war. In that order.”
They seemed to be saying that some people are afraid to challenge the established order and that some of our people have simply been conditioned to accept inequality as unchangeable and normal.
I felt the need to ask, “Then how do we go about eliminating this fear?”
Dr. King responded, “You don’t. Son, that’s not how you handle fear. Dr. McDougal, there are two different types of fear: abnormal and normal. Abnormal fear can destroy you psychologically. Abnormal fear paralyzes a man, while normal fear protects us and motivates us.
“I remember being in the midst of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott to end the racism in Montgomery busing. Due to humiliation and intimidation, the paralysis of crippling fear had afflicted many Negroes. Fear isn’t to be avoided. It is to be harnessed. We harness our fear by acquiring courage. Courage is what carries us from our intellect to our goals.”
His words meant a lot to me. I personally recalled many moments dealing with racism and other forms of discrmination on university campuses when other Black people knew the truth and knew what was right and wrong but didn’t speak up out of fear of reprisal or fear that they wouldn’t get a promotion.
Dr. King continued, “Remind yourself that there is seldom a man who does not, at some point, experience the depression of crippling fear and its energy-draining effects. I urge you: do not spin your wheels attempting to do the impossible by trying to eliminate fear. It is necessary. It is your alarm system. And most importantly, it is a powerfully creative force. Eliminate abnormal fear, and harness normal fear.”
Again, Orunmila spoke. He declared, “To truly eliminate cowardice, you must know its origin. Cowardice, King Shaka, is the result of bad character traits. One who is a coward must cultivate their character or else it will chase them around forever. In fact, they will always be defeated before the battle has begun. They must build character by studying and speaking the truth and doing justice so that they can go forth in dignity and not run in fear on the day of battle. Because in the end, it is the courageous who lay claim to the world.”
“Yes, Orunmila,” King Shaka responded. “You build this character through practice. Don’t think it impossible, Dr. McDougal. You do it in other ways. You have threat-response simulations. You have fire drills and earthquake drills so that in the event of an emergency, people do the right thing. The same is true in combat. You have to practice courage on behalf of the people.”
“For courage, I suggest faith,” Dr. King added. “It is faith that is capable of giving you the courage needed to face the difficulties and uncertainties of the future. I remember once praying for courage one night in a state of exhaustion from organizing and disappointment. I said to God, ‘I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership. And if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’ Remember, God always gives us the internal equipment and hardware necessary to face the storms of this life. Pray, young professor.”
“But listen,” Orunmila interrupted. “You have come full circle because courage alone is not sufficient either! There are requirements for the courageous. For example, they must develop the wisdom to determine when to act and when to withdraw from battle. . . . That is judgment.”
Dr. King replied, “I would add, Orunmila, that we have among us militants who are self-assertive but not humble and humble among us who are not self-assertive enough, but as the scriptures say in Mathew 10:16, ‘Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’ I take this to mean that we who struggle for the liberation of our people must be tough-minded and tender-hearted. These are the qualities we need to be successful. This is necessary so that our soft-minded are not frozen with fear and our tough-minded are not without compassion.”
Baba Jedi added, “The way we must win this war is to direct that courage and wisdom into research, creative production, spiritual development, and education. We need Black scholars who are freed, what I call ‘intellectual maroons,’ to produce knowledge about ourselves and correct misinterpretations. We need art that enriches, enlightens, and inspires our people. We need to celebrate our own understandings of God and control our own education through African-centered curriculum. The intellectual is central because the intellectual can lead the development of the curriculum, which we must use to restore within Black people the African worldview. We Africanize their curriculum, and when that happens, the problem of African liberation will become quite clear.”
King Shaka commanded the room once again as he spoke, replying, “Yes. You know, Dr. Carruthers, I can appreciate what you are saying. But I must keep in mind the very worst of potential scenarios because I know the enemy. Remember to keep in the background preparation for combat. You have to understand my perspective. I came to leadership in a time of drought and competition for land and scare resources. I know what men are capable of when times become desperate.
“I do believe in total warfare when necessary. An enemy must be destroyed so that it may never recover. Combat must be integrated into the culture of the people. You must brace yourself for a long and protracted war. That is what you have been experiencing for hundreds of years without knowing it.
“So embrace the permeance of warfare in your psychology if you intend to be victorious in America, Dr. McDougal. Either that or lay down your sword now and acquiesce. Now that I have made that point clear, I do appreciate the changing circumstances of African people globally and that military combat is hardly the most important strategy. But I want you to also remember that iconic phrase: ‘The battlefront is everywhere,’ not most-where. Be prepared for physical combat, too.”
The fact that I was getting so much information made me want to make the most of it. I felt the need to be completely open and lay on the table something that I had been dealing with as of late. I posed my thinking to them, “I must confess, through so many disappointments and struggles to create and build for our people, I am met with numerous stumbling blocks, much opposition, betrayal, and great disappointment. Shamefully, I must admit that my hope has been diminished at times.”
The first to respond was Orunmila. He said, “Do not be discouraged because of the false trust you have given or the misjudgments you have made. Remember, it is by missing the way that we come to know the way. You are dismayed because you have experienced the hardships of struggle. You must understand that life needs bitterness so that its sweetness is appreciated. You need adversity to appreciate prosperity.
“Remember this: Otewori was a man who went to the forest where he wanted to hang himself because of the adversity he had faced. He was told, ‘Do not hang yourself yet. They are bringing you the symbolic leaves of rulership now.’ You must listen to Reverend King. Do not lose faith. Understand that rewards follow adversity for the righteous of good character. Learn to suffer without surrender, and you will be victorious, and the battles you fought will have added to your honor.”
Dr. King contributed, “My religion insists that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear, so we must courageously battle for truth. This is what allowed our enslaved ancestors to maintain faith. They read the scripture and reminded themselves that no midnight long remains, that morning always comes. We must teach our people to meet hardship with an inner poise so that they can absorb pain and maintain hope. This is why we are speaking to you.”
“Indeed,” Orunmila agreed. “All else aside, professor, the one who arrives at victory in war is often the one who has the strength to endure.”
It was then that Kaqece returned, lowering himself from the sky on his golden rope. He said to me, “This was an important conversation between you and your ancestors. For you, as someone who aspires to fight for your people, you know the problem is that you must listen to the right voices in your life.
“Recall the conversation you had with your friend Oron about a boxing match several months ago. You were watching an exciting young fighter battling an inferior opponent with a lot of punching power. The younger fighter was the more skilled fighter. His corner wanted him to keep his distance, use his jab, use his footwork, and avoid the clinch. He was clearly winning the fight, you remember? The inferior opponent was chasing him hoping to get close and use his looping powerful punch, his only chance to win.
“The crowd began to boo the young fighter. The young fighter became distracted because he didn’t like being booed. The young fighter heard his opponent’s corner, who shouted, ‘He doesn’t want to fight! He’s running! He’s not a fighter!’ The young fighter stopped listening to his corner. He stopped using his footwork and got into a close-quarter slugging match with his opponent and got knocked out.
“You see, Dr. McDougal, he lost because he stopped listening to his corner. Have you ever heard of the Heritage of Ears? It is what the Hova people of Madagascar call the wisdom of the ancestors. Your duty is to listen to the Heritage of Ears. That is why you are here, so that you can identify your corner, the people who love you and your ancestors. This is your corner. Do not get distracted by listening to the crowd who will sneer at you and harass you. Do not listen to your enemy or your enemy’s corner. Listen to your corner’s wisdom, and you will be the winner.”
I woke up sweating! What an intense dream. I was most impressed with the fact that they all had such similar and different perspectives but were not hostile to one another. Perhaps, they thought that such conflict was petty given how great our responsibilities as a people are. I felt so filled with intellectually and spiritually nutritious meaning that I almost couldn’t wait to dream again. I looked to the sky.
Ase’ see you again in my dreams, Obaba.
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