African Cultural Calendar

Time in Our Image

Tubman 26, 504 otd

History as defined by John Henrik Clarke is a “clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography”. A calendar is defined as a chart or series of pages showing the days, weeks or months of a particular year. Those days, weeks or months in a calendar could also show a people’s history of humanizing the world and shaping it in their image. The African Cultural Calendar (Africalendar) combines both the definition of history and the purpose of a calendar to tell our people where they have been and what they have been, where they are and what they are. A year in the African Cultural Calendar demonstrates what John Henrik Clarke said was most important about history: “it tells a people where they must go and what they still must be”. From the Nile valley to the quilombos throughout the diaspora, African people have shaped the world in their image and the African Cultural Calendar is a record and a celebration of those achievements. It is time shaped in our image and it puts the history and cultural of Africans at the centre of our daily lives. The purpose of the African Cultural Calendar is to allow us, every day, week, month and year to celebrate our greatness simply by turning the pages of the calendar. It takes our greatness from the pages of time and makes it a part of our daily lives.

That purpose means that the African Cultural Calendar is not the calendar of the enslavers and colonizers with African cultural names. The impact of non-Africans on the African Cultural Calendar is minimal. Our people’s history and culture do not march to the drums of the oppressors. For example, the Africalendar reflects the African traditions of first fruit festivals and renewal found among our people throughout our history. This resulted in the year (afriyear) in the African Cultural Calendar ending on December 25. Unique to the African Cultural Calendar, the week following the end of the afriyear is a renewal period when the old year transitions into a new afriyear. There are two circles of time in the African Cultural Calendar. Time is measured as either “before the diaspora” (btd) or “of the diaspora” (otd). The diaspora has been a powerful force in our recent history; so powerful that it has divided time in two. Both circles of time are represented in the names of the months (afrimonths) in the Africalendar. The “before the diaspora” period includes the great empires of Ghana, Mali and from there it goes back in time, all the way to the Nile valley civilizations of Nubia and Kemet (Egypt). This circle of time was a period when we were masters of our destiny. Some people would say that we were kings and queens, but the reality was that we were all full human beings. The first six afrimonths in the Africalendar are references to the societies we built before the diaspora. These societies along with the empire of Songhai are at the foundation of every African, no matter where they are found in the diaspora. Songhai, the last of the great empires, started in the “before the diaspora” period but fell after the diaspora began, due to an invasion from the north. The afrimonth Songhai transitions the afriyear from the celebration of our achievements before the diaspora to our struggles for renewal in the “of the diaspora” period.

The diaspora divided time in two and the first year of the diaspora (1 otd) is called “the year of the push and pull”. This is a reference to what happened at the “doors of no return”. The doors of no return are the places where our ancestors told us that they were fighting on arrival. At the doors of no return the ancestors were surrounded, yet they fought. Some of their brothers were pushing, while the enemies were pulling and as a result that battle was lost. That is truly when the diaspora began; when our brothers stood with the enemies instead of with their family. The African Cultural Calendar records that time as Kemet 1st, 1 otd. There have been 504 afriyears since the “year of the push and pull”. A year in the African Cultural Calendar starts on Kemet 1 and ends of Garvey 30th (December 25). Kemet 1st is equivalent to January 2nd, in the colonizers calendar. There are eleven months of 30 days and one month, Nubia, with 28 days or 29 days in a leap year. After Garvey 30th, the afriyear begins a period of renewal where the old year is transformed into a new year. This period in the African Cultural Calendar symbolizes the many ways in which the people around the world have renewed themselves through struggle and triumph. This is a time of celebration. Before the year of the push and pull, it was a time of harvesting and first fruit festivals. In the Africalendar, the seven day renewal period is name for the first fruit festival Kwanzaa. As the old year transition through the period of renewal, the names of the days of the week are dropped. They are not called Monday, Tuesday … but become Umoja, Kujichagulia, …, named for the principles of Kwanzaa. In the African Cultural Calendar, the dates during the period of renewal are given by the Kwanzaa principle and the year; that builds on the foundation that the elders have lay. The first day of the renewal period is Umoja (December 26). This date in the renewal period could be written as the Umoja 504 otd (principle plus afriyear) or 1st of Kwanzaa, 504 otd.

The first seven afrimonths in the Africalendar form the foundation of all Africans but the afrimonths, which are from the “of the diaspora” period represent different parts of the diaspora. There are seven months in the Africalendar from the before the diaspora time: Kemet, Nubia, Meroe, Axum, Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. These months are a part of the common foundation of the people no matter where in the world they are found. The other five months: Nzinga, Quilombo, Tubman, Yaa and Garvey are from the “of the diaspora” time circle. These afrimonths are from the period after the “year of the push and pull” and they remind us of the ways we fought to renewal ourselves. Four of these months are named after individuals and Quilombo represents the communities we built. Quilombos, which were referred to as Maroon societies in some part of the world, are examples of how we can build communities based on our history and cultures. A year in the African Cultural Calendar is a journey through our long history. Africalendar keeps our history in living memory and reminds us that there is truth in Garvey’s words: we were once great, and we will be great again.