One of the things that it is going to take for us to overcome our little trouble, if we can borrow a line from Bob Marley, is for us to become conscious. Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month and a Beacon of the Way referred to it as “radical”. Regardless of what you called it, being conscious of who we are and who you are, being aware of what time it is on our historical clock is one of the things that is required if we are to be a whole people again. What Woodson was talking about is not the kind of radicalism that focuses on the enemies, but the kind of consciousness that causes us focus on ourselves. It starts with answering the questions: who are we, where do we stand?
Elijah Muhammad knew that his followers needed to be woken up, and he had a good idea. Replace the follower’s name with an “X”. It had an immediate impact. It spoke directly to one of the things that defines a person relative to his people. An “X” might not the way to go; it does not tie us to who we are, but he was right. The single best way to immediately become a conscious person is to change your name. Any change in your name, even an “X”, would have an immediate effect and overnight you would be on the road to becoming a conscious person. You will also get the advantage that comes from taking action for yourself. It would be a declaration that would put you on the road to becoming the type of “radical negro” that the father of Black History Month told us we should be. This is the type of “radicalism” that comes from within. It starts with taking responsibility for you. It is the most significant step that you can take but first ask yourself if you have the strength and courage to take it?
Everyone does not have that strength. There are other things that you can do, some of which we will cover in a future article. Taking responsibility for yourself is not only the first step, it is the goal of becoming a conscious person. Choosing an African name, as opposed to Arab, European or some other enemy’s name, would anchor you to the greatness of your people. It would be the battering ram that you would use to break through your self-oppression. That means killing the old name that is not yours and which tells you nothing about yourself other than you were once considered property. Think about how often someone called you by your name and you did not respond? You respond to that sound even when you are not the one being called. Think of the titles attached to that sound, father, uncle, son, the list goes on and they all add up to human being. That is the place we are moving back to. We are going to be full human beings, who not only look after ourselves but also look after each other. What Elijah Muhammad knew and the true value in the sound of your name is that it is one of the pillars, which makes you a full human being. Our oppressors knew it as well, but they tried to use it to hide from you who you are, to separate you from your foundation. They knew that you cannot be whole without knowing who you are; a tree cannot grow if you do not have roots. The reason Kunta Kinte had to become Toby was not because it was easier for the enslavers to call him Toby. When they turned a Kunta into a Toby, they turned a free human being into a slave and the moment Kunta said his name is Toby, he became less of a human being, a thing to be owned. For the rest of his live that name would be the sound of his oppression. Every time the sound is uttered, his inner self is given the message: you are an oppressed person, a thing that could be owned. You can overcome self-oppression; you can free yourself from the name that is not yours. Only then, will you be well on your way to becoming a conscious person.
Overcoming self-oppression is a big step towards consciousness. Once you are conscious of who you are, knowing your history will give you confidence in yourself. Marcus Garvey said, “if you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life”. The next step is more difficult. It requires you to demonstrate that you have overcome your self-oppression and have gained confidence. This involves bending the world to your will and starting the process of shaping the world in your image. Your name is not what your closest buddies call you; it is the lens through which the world sees you. For this, you are going to need a lot of confidence. You should be prepared for you are going to lose friends and you may never have close friends again. A person who is a mental slave is loved by the world but a conscious, self-respected; self-reliance mentally free person is only respected not loved. You are going to find that getting official documents in your new name will open you to additional scrutiny. It will start with the clerk in the driver’s licence or passport office. There will be all kinds of reasons why you cannot be who you are. They will ask is that a Canadian name, in the past they would have asked if that is a Christian name? Same question, same meaning, same objective, they have not changed, they do not need to; they still think that you are the slave. What you will learn along the way is how the world has conspired to keep you in the place that they have chosen for you. You will be surprised to know that you are not free enough to name yourself and the difference between a Kunta and a Toby would become very clear to you. After you get the documents change, and you are able to stand on your own foundation in person and on paper, you will find that Africa has been living in you, even when you were not aware. But your biggest realization is going to be that whether we know it or not, what we are doing today is choosing. Choosing between being a mental slave or a free man.
Along the way you will discover that the world we live in thinks it is all about them. This is one of the tools that the enemy uses to keep us from looking after ourselves; no matter what we do, they make it about them, but we should be real. In fact, one of the things we have to do is to be real with ourselves. Let’s not assume that we have rights that we do not have. The enemies have built their world, which includes an oppressive position for us. Whenever, we think our rights have been violated that is the enemy trying to keep us in that oppressive place that they have built for us. The only rights we have are the rights we can defend, if we need others to defend us or we are depending on the goodness of the enemies then we have no rights. Moving from the oppressive place where the enemies want us means we are standing on our foundation. This is, if we can use a pop culture reference, like “breaking the cup in Get Out”. They will say that you are looking after yourselves not because of you are a full human being and that’s what people do, but because you hate them. Don’t try to reason with them, tell them what your name is and leave it at that. You do not owe the enslavers an explanation for not wanting to be their slave. We owe it to the ancestors, to refuse to be what the enemy wants us to be. Other than killing off your self-oppression, there is one other step that is extremely difficult. That is telling your employer that you are no longer called Marvin Christion for example, but your name is Ngunda Nmeregini. It’s almost guaranteed that he will say to you that he can’t call you that! Then, he will asked you, what can he call you? Resist, this is a challenge. He suspects that you have not truly killed off your self-oppression and at a minimum you have self-doubt. Resist; don’t let convenience for others start you on the path to killing off your conscious self.
Once you have achieved this, things that are a part of your culture will have more meaning to you. It will become a part of your mental culture to support ‘who you are’, with the money you spent. You will become a seeker of knowledge. You will find a sense of peace if not spirituality and you will discover some great books and may even try to learn a mother tongue. But nothing you do after this would have a greater impact on ‘who you are’. You are standing on your own foundation and that is because you choose to do something for yourself. You have taken personal responsibility to overcome mental slavery and to hold the line in your people’s struggle to be whole again. From here on in, when we speak of our greatness you will be able to count yourself among our greatest.