Our Juba Zula
A part of our journey to liberation involves our becoming more assimilated into the mainstream of American society. As more of our people become better educated and more of us begin to blend into mainstream society, our ethnic cultural identity becomes more compromised, to them and to us. As we move into positions and occupations long denied us in large numbers, we need to expand our feel and appreciation for what we were in the past – we’ll need to expand our concept of blackness to hold tight and celebrate the oldest and the boldest elements of our ethnic identity. As we make gains in society, we don’t have to discard everything that was our prior selves.
It’s been said that the first Africans on the first slave ships destined for the Americas sensed the coming of great and lasting catastrophe; they had nothing that would protect them from the coming centuries of bondage and tyranny, so they sent out a exalting wail beseeching God’s mercy. God looked down on them and saw that they had nothing; they were naked and in chains. God in His singular wisdom took the very sound of their lament and turn it into their shields and their weapons and today we call that sound music. It is those majestic wails, those cries of despair, that music, in its ever changing forms that nourished our souls and sustained us through the centuries. So, as we move onward toward victory and liberation, we don’t want to lose our shields and our weapons; we don’t want to lose our music, we don’t want to lose our identity. I call all this our Juba Zulu.
But already our cultural warehouse has been invaded; they’ve taken our dance, our rap, our gestures, and our music as their own. They want to annex our identity; they want to suck our culture dry and leave us a hollow people. We are today what the history of a slaves beginning in America has come to – at no time did they share this side of this history with us; fact is, they were on the other side of this history. Now they want to co-op the creative esthetic of our history without themselves having to live through it – on our side of the tracks. We have a unique journey yet to be reached so we need our music – it’s the most valuable thing our ancestors passed down to us – it is the source of our perseverance, our strength and power, our vision, our path, our resistance, our assist, our ultimate liberation, our identity as the descendants of slaves and all that we created from that horrific beginning. We better maintain our Juba Zul; we can’t let no one take our music- Juba Zulu
When a white child is born, the attendants in the delivery room hold it up by its feet and slap it on its behind to awaken it to the world and all the wonderful possibilities the world has to offer it. The world is a white child’s treasured oyster, and they want that white child to realize this fact almost from its first breath outside of its mother’s womb. When a black child is born, the delivery room attendants hold it up by its hands and slap it upside its motherfucking head as the first of many warnings that its world is controlled, and it had better not step out of line of its dark and torturous path. It better be willing to give up its Juba Zulu.
Now this is little more than a metaphor for the separated paths white lives and black lives are locked into from the time of birth. The rigid set trajectory that limits and guides black lives is racially fixed and gets to be more and more sophisticated with time. We all travel its route. Still, they are some of us who escape the gravitational pull of racism to become doctors and lawyers, teachers and preachers, movies stars and entrepreneurs, entertainers and athletes, politicians and activist, playwrights and poets, architects and engineers, college professors and scholars – this doesn’t mean that the debilitating effects of bigotry doesn’t exist or that it selectively favors some of us over others. That some of us escape outside of the gravitational pull of racism is a testament to the wondrous bred of humans we are – because of our Juba Zulu – because of what our ancestors handed down to us – that first wail beseeching God’s mercy, our music. It is amazing to exist at all after what they put us through – even they marvel at our endurance and perseverance and to think that one of our creed got to be the spirit that was once Muhammad Ali – And He was Pretty Too.
The reasons even in this modern day they still resist letting us be totally free, and by free I mean from the rigged system, that pins us down in ghetto communities, confines our children to underfunded schools, deprives us of jobs that pay a living wage, denies us the vote and strips us of police service that serve and protect. This is the kind of freedom they withhold from us, that other kind of freedom comes from within our own individual heads and hearts – that freedom is encased in our communal wail, our music, our Juba Zula; we control that freedom, it is what compels us to secure those other freedoms and it comes from what we know and we know that the system is rigged and they control the rigging – Why?
How do they keep us in line all these many years? It started with that slap upside our heads in the delivery room, and it escalates to growing up in substandard housing and an inferior education and a second-rate job, constant police harassment and intimidation and the constant act of pulling the rug out from under us, but it has also been by brutal means – The Lashing of Patsey of Bayou Boeuf Plantation.
They marvel at more than out longevity; they marvel at our imaginative resourcefulness that we set the style for the world. They marvel that we refuse to engage in organized war against their brutality, but we still won’t go away. They marvel that it is our music that is referred too when any voice in the world say American music – Coltrane Talks to God – One Woman; for Nina Simone, Thelonious Sphere Monk.
We know that our family structure needs tightening and we know that this will come when we have unlearned the habits forced on our families during slavery times. We’ve struggled to maintain families and since Roots we’ve added family reunions to help keep our families’ ties going and to strengthen our record of families’ history connections into the future – Last Word, Nourishment, Einstein and Me, Talking to You.
Each of our generations is blessed with its own prophets, sages, and guides; people from whom we draw strength and the will to carry on. They point out to us the deficient ones in terms forceful enough that they can do nothing but accept their inadequacy in this regards, and we would all watch the house of cards that their superiority is built on come crumbling down – The Boy Next Door, The Witness. Ras the Exhorter.