About the #BlackPantherSyllabus

Best known for his research into television content and cultivation theory, George Gerbner (1972) said that “representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation” (p. 44). Historically, the Black experience has been absent, underrepresented, or misrepresented. Intersections within the identity have suffered with additional pressures, promoting a continued sense of invisibility. Within the last few years, visual representation has been on a rise, with our stories of the Black experience being told on a multitude of platforms. Narratives filled with stereotypes and misrepresentations are being overridden by success, wholeness, and imagination. This is particularly present in popular culture. Marvel’s Black Panther film serves as the highest profile example of a fundamental shift in our experience.

The Marvel character, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, is inspiration personified: he is a servant leader, he is a protector, he is an intellectual, and he is a power house. Inspired by the record shattering blockbuster film filled with incredible performances and sociopolitical commentary, the #BlackPantherSyllabus is designed to continue the dialogue around the importance of diverse representation of the Black identity and its intersections in visible forms of media in popular culture and the arts, including television, film, comics, music, science/speculative fiction, fantasy literature, manga, anime, gaming, and more. The hope is that this celebration of Blackness in the form of a syllabus creates an educational tool and a movement that promotes a deeper sense of self-authorship.

Curators: Dr. Brandon W. Jones bjonesproject.com, Shawn J. Moore shawnjmoore.com

Source: #BlackPantherSyllabus | Feminism | Ethnicity, Race & Gender

Which books have been important in your life? And how did you, the son of a peasant, get to write one in the Kenya of the ’60s?

While growing up, we had no books in Gĩkũyũ, my mother tongue. The Bible’s Old Testament became my book of stories. In high school, when I saw a library for the first time, I had the ambition to be able to read all the books in the world. But guess what? I couldn’t even finish reading all the books in that library! Later, in 1959, I went to Makrere University College in Kampala (Uganda) that was part of the University of London. In 1962, at the first conference of African writers coming together on the African continent, called the Makrere Conference of Writers of English Expression, Chinua Achebe looked at my manuscript of Weep Not… and made a few comments. Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart had been published a few years ago. He told his publishers about my book. It was an important moment in my life. George Lammings’s [an important figure in Caribbean literature] work has also been important for me.

Source: ‘My god is more of a god than your god is ungodly – the same applies to languages,’ says writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o | art and culture | Hindustan Times


February 17, 2018

Beauty is in the eye
of the beholder
and I be holding beauty
when I glance upon them
theoretically shaping
the future into an afro
centric sharpness
that shook
the white power structure
into confronting
black consciousness
organized and mandated
to dismiss
that old time religion
that said everything in its place
especially the black race.

A new paradigm of blackness
rooted in a communal soliloquy:
ghetto equals colony
and racism is the bastard child
of fascist economies.
Fanon, Malcolm and James
became antidotes
for antiquated theologies
and anti-social pathologies.

In the belly of the imperialistic beast,
in the macro-and-microcosms
of streets and prisons
a new paradigm, a paradise
of struggle
created by ex-soldiers
high school and college students,
whores, pimps, drug dealers
NASA employees,
doctors and number runners
heady, ready and willing.

From Watts to the Congo
white power has gotta go
burn baby burn
no ashes in the urn
time for the tide to turn
and put an end to the yearn.


Panther power was here
turned the police into pigs
and nigs into blacks
figuratively burning effigies
with tactics and strategies
that earned them freedom’s mind.

Flora and Fauna

May 19, 2016

Flora and Fauna

I wanted to bless my eyes this morning
with flora and fauna
so I came in from the cold
of a dream full of unrelenting rain
and opened my eyes to what is customarily
my second sighting of the day:

My ideological father
shot down in the Audubon ballroom
where the only bird observed in motion
was the misappropriated eagle

until the phoenix rose
from the ash of a murderous minstrel show
and transformed into a panther

which prowled
oakland to wounded knee
philadelphia to palestine
roaring revolution
until every generation
generated an evolution
of the message

thought to be dead forever
by those who are as white as the bones
of the myriad numbers of people
whose deaths they are accountable for.

© 2006 Tichaona M.Chinyelu


March 4, 2016


like life
we were/
in the beginning/
many feet make many sounds

we took the tree
and made it talk/
a jungle of sounds
we produced
everyone for miles around
heard it
gravitated towards it

then strangers came
chanting like gregor
tolling the bell
like igor

creating a cacophony
a frankenstein sound
that we ran from/
the reverberation of our feet
and the clamor of our pursuers
disturbed the serenity of the forest


our feet were forced
to wade in the water
and the god the strangers proclaimed
didn’t trouble the waters

we moaned
a sound as new to us
as the clang of metal when we shifted
as the strangely accented voices
ordering us to stop the dirges

but we couldn’t stop
even after the ship docked
even after survival dictated
that we scale down our humanity.

Out of our misery grew the gospel.


Excerpted from my first book, In the Whirlwind.

©2006 Tichaona Munhamo Chinyelu

Homeschooling Journey 1

February 5, 2015

My son loves mythology. I have invested quite a few dollars and I don’t know how much energy in meeting his mythological needs. From D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths to D’Aulaires’s Book of Norse Myths, it seemed as if we had gone around the world of myths but one day, during a geography lesson, he realized we had been missing a continent or two and that the world wasn’t actually represented by the two books mentioned above. So we went looking for myths that reflect the fact that the world actually consists of seven continents (or six for this purpose). We also went looking for the types of mythological figures who have power like Zeus yet who also shared my son’s pigmentation. A Google search yielded results that can be seen here.

In the process of researching African myths, specifically, we found the following statement on mythencyclopedia.com to be  true:

The line between legend and history is often blurred.

The path toward a deeper understanding of what that statement means led to a detour into the difference between epic and myth.

Odysseus is an epic that tells us about the mythology of a portion of the ancient Greek world as retold by Homer. It tells us (or maybe just me) that Odysseus was a jerk of the variety that upholds the opinion of the minority over that of the majority. (Didn’t his crew implore him to head home but he overruled them? The opinions of the working class seemed not to hold much sway in ancient Greece.)

Sundiata, an Epic of old Mali, “yes, he was born from a Buffalo Woman, yes, he was crippled during when he was little but he still didn’t have any powers like Poseidon. Poseidon could part the waters like Jesus!”

The Epic of Askia Mohammed: I didn’t even bring this one into our fluid classroom. Something about the following passage made it something I did not want to pass onto my son as “epic”:

As he approaches the prayer skin of his uncle,
He reins his horse.

He unslung his lance, and pierced his uncle with it until the
lance touched the prayer skin.

Until the spear went all the way to the prayer skin.

[Mamar Kassaye decides to atone for the killing of his uncle by making a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1497. On his way, he forces many people to accept Islam.]

In each village where he stopped during the day, for example, this place,

If he arrives in mid-afternoon, he stops there and spends the night.

Early in the morning, they pillage and they go on to the next village, for example, Libore.

The cavalier who goes there traces on the ground for the people the plan for the mosque.

Once the plan for the foundation is traced,
The people build the mosque.

It is at that time,
Mamar Kassaye comes to dismount from his horse.

He makes the people—

They teach them verses from the Koran relating to prayer.
They teach them prayers from the Koran.
Any villages that refuse, he destroys the village, burns it, and
moves on.


Let me just take a moment and repeat that last line:

Any villages that refuse, he destroys the village, burns it, and

moves on.

Any African-centered student of African history knows what that means. For those of you who are not an African-centered student of African history what that means is the imposition of Islam over traditional African cultures and religions. As evidenced from “any villages that refuse, he destroys the village, burns it…”, the imposition was undoubtedly as violent as Christopher Columbus’ voyages and my family doesn’t celebrate Columbus Day.

The same goes for Mansa Musa and his economy-devastating trip to Mecca. This, despite, a caravan which included

60,000 men, 12,000 slaves who each carried four-pounds of gold bars, heralds dressed in silks who bore gold staffs, organized horses and handled bags… 80 camels, which varying reports claim carried between 50 and 300 pounds of gold dust each


(This did yield mini-units on camels, the masons of mali and the Festival in the Desert).

Disclaimer: All text in this post attributed to author’s son is strictly the author’s interpretation of facial expressions, body language, etc., of said son and, as such, constitutes a work of fiction unless otherwise indicated. Disclaimer dictated by the author’s interpretation of said son’s response to post.



Guilt and Shame

January 22, 2013

I now think that those two accomplices–guilt and shame–are probably together the most corrosively painful scourges the human spirit can experience. Precisely because they always and only stem from one’s own failure to keep faith with one’s truest self. With one’s private conscience, one’s most cherished and basic principles, with one’s sense of honor. For me it was an important lesson too painful to ever forget. I may not have known the word integrity, but that is what that was about. That simple incident first taught me that no matter how private or hidden the betrayal, one cannot live without integrity. The pain is too great. My late father had a much used saying that, because it seemed so unforgiving, puzzled me greatly as a young boy. It occurs to me that this is what it was about: integrity. “You can tell the truth every day of your life,” my father would say, “and if, on the day of your death, you tell a lie…that is what will matter.

That very day I began seriously to separate myself from the antisocial behaviors of the street.

Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggle of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

Sometime in the late 1930’s, the government in another of its persistent and futile attempts to suppress African cultural survivals, decided that the colony would more easily be governable if drums and other traditional musical instruments were outlawed. The colonials must have sensed, and correctly, the importance of music in the cultural independence and political resistance of the African masses. I would, of course, encounter this phenomenon again in the American South. But at least the George Wallaces and Ross Barnetts of that world never tried to outlaw our spirituals and freedom songs. Though I’m sure they must  have often wished they could have.

So in Trinidad by legislative fiat an African could be jailed for possession of drums and other musical instruments? Not a gun, not a grenade, or some dynamite, but a drum? I have often tried, and failed, to visualize the campaign to enforce that law. In implementation of this policy, did armed police and soldiers–the governor’s minions–surround African communities and conduct house-to-house searches? And for what, those threats to public order, drums, tambourines, maracas, and marimbas? Did they kick  down the doors to shacks with guns drawn: “Freeze. You’re under arrest. Seize that drum!”

So, suddenly deprived of their traditional instruments of musical expression, Africans resorted to their creativity and whatever materials lay to hand. In this case, the fifty-five-gallon steel drums used to store oil at the refinery.

These they took and cut to varying depths. Say nine inches down for an alto pan, two feet deep for a tenor pan, and twice that for a bass. Then on the top they would heat and pound out a number of raised areas, each of which when struck would produce a precise musical note of a certain pitch. Over the years the brothers experimented with ways to refine the basic instruments and to create others. The result is what is today known the world over as the Trinidad steel band: an ensemble of musical instruments of great range and flexibility, capable of playing not only calypso and other forms of local popular music, but the most complex and demanding of jazz compositions or any form from the European classical tradition you care to name. A sound immediately recognizable in the distinctive, liquid purity of tones and the fluency of its musical lines.

Hey, as you may have noticed, I can’t pretend to be an ethnomusicologist. I’m a revolutionary. But that description should give you a fairly accurate sense of the accomplishment represented by the creation of the steel bands.  And remember, this unique innovation and the musical tradition it evolved into came directly out of the determined and indomitable will of Trinidad’s African’s to resist colonization and to maintain their culture.

Excerpted from Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggle of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

Living in the shadow of Elmina Castle, the first European building south of the Sahara, built in 1482 by the Portuguese and then occupied by the Dutch (and now a UNESCO World Heritage site for its importance in the transatlantic slave trade) was a small community of former Dutch army conscripts who had served in Indonesia. These men, part of three thousand ‘Donko’ slaves-the lowest caste of captives of the Ashanti empire-were sent to Indonesia from 1810 to 1840 under a system of de facto slavery. These men eventually bought their freedom with army service and resettled in Elmina beginning in the 1820s in a close-knit community of relatively elite ‘Old Javanese’ pensioners. They flew the Dutch flag, spoke Malay as a  common language, and put themselves at the disposal of the government, making expeditions into the interior. They dressed in Javanese cloth; the wrapped and togalike draped clothing of Akan men of the Gold Coast was not too dissimilar from Indonesian dress styles. These men’s lives have been little documented, but they are also partly responsible for Vlisco’s influence in West Africa.

The slave trade effectively ended in 1841, persisting for thirty years after its abolition under the 1814-1815 Vienna Congress. Profits from the colonial cloth trade had nonetheless grown so significant that the marker persisted long after the abolition of slavery. By 1876, when Vlisco began formally shipping cloth to the Gold Coast and concertedly pursuing and African market, they were extending the profits from goods that had long been exchanged and stored alongside captives in the holds of the coastal forts. Inside of Elmina Castle, the wrought iron railing to the main building bears a W, presumably for King William I, the Dutch king who sponsored the three factories that were the backbone of the Indonesian cloth trade, eventually inherited by Vlisco. Knowing this history put a new order to my thinking.

In the 1920s and 1930s Vlisco began a process similar to the Indonesian one with West African cloth designs. These cloths often incorporated traces of Indonesian designs, and ‘Java’ designs themselves became an expensive category of cloths sold in Africa.

In the Woodin window there was also a display of neon pink and blue and red ‘Angelina’, the iconic , usually dark green dashiki cloth emblematic of 1960s and 1970s Black and African identities and Black liberation struggles throughout the globe. It long predated the dashiki era and was one of the earliest ‘Java’ prints to be traded; ironically, the design had been inspired by Coptic patterning.

I kept thinking about Ghanaian women’s dressed and the ‘100% Guaranteed Real Dutch Wax’ stamp on the selvage, always-until the late 1960s, when the sepias and other colors were introduced-a crackling line of beautiful blue. Most women choose to display this selvage rather than fold it into their hemlines. Some of the most expensive ‘Super Wax’ cloths even feature the Vlisco logo as centerpieces to their designs. I had once read about an Alabama slave owner, a man named T. H. Porter, who made his chattel wear buttons with his name stamped into them. Buttons-much less custom designs-were such a relative luxury in Porter’s era, and slaves were afforded few or none. The arrogance of this requirement, the sick vanity, always stayed with me.

Ghanaian and other West Africans wear colonial and slave history in bright, intoxicating displays every day. In fact, the very measure of the cloth evokes the measure of a captive person’s life.

Elsewhere on the African continent, mission-educated men took power as Africa emerged from direct European colonial rule. The list is long. Leopold Senghor, the first president of Senegal, now a member of the Academie Francaise, is a former seminarian and a leading Catholic intellectual. The late Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the Ivorian president who constructed the world’s largest Catholic basilica in the country’s interior, was obviously another devout Catholic. Others have similar backgrounds: Julius Nyerere was Catholic, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia was Presbyterian and General Ignatius Acheampong of Ghana had been born into a Catholic family. With the possible exception of the king of Swaziland, the head of one of the few African states that predate colonialism, to my knowledge there is no African leader who openly professes traditional religions.

Human Rights: A Political and Cultural Critique
Makau W. Mutua