Finally, on this 7th and final day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate Imani. Imani means ‘faith’, and it can be applied to many aspects of our lives. We have expressed deep faith in our religions, our creeds, love for our communities, and our sacrifices and struggles to regain our freedom. The Kwanzaa principles envisions concrete expressions of Imani in “the righteousness and victory of our struggles.” Imani is perhaps the strongest feature of the global Black Experience during the past 5000 years.
The late Dr. Ben-Jochannan in 1998, during a visit to Toronto which I organized, reminded me of the longstanding recognition of affirmation of faith through social justice that goes back millenia in Africa. He pointed to the poetry and songs of an indigenous African, Pharoah Amen-em-ope (1405-1370 B.C.E) who demanded social justice as acts of faith: “beware of robbing the poor, and of oppressing the afflicted” wrote this long forgotten Black king. When I met the head of Haitian Vodou in 2016, the late Max Beauvoir, he also reminded me of the role of faith in Black Caribbean struggle. He showed me the uniforms of Jean Jacques Dessalines in a museum and described the determination and resolve of religion in this leader’s determination to end African enslavement. Indeed, he emphasized that the faith o
f Voudou gained its strength through the historical struggles, sacrifices and emancipation victories of the Haitian revolution. The message is clear: our faith and our struggle to end anti-Black racism and the persistent inequities must go hand in hand. We have so many examples of extraordinary faith to draw upon.
Just to name a few:
The head of a Theban Legion in the Roman Empire, now Saint Maurice, would provide the world with an incredible act of Christian faith in the 3rd century of the Christian Era (C.E.). Maurice, a Black man from Upper Egypt (Thebes) refused to obey the orders of the Emperor Maximian Herculeus to slaughter European Christians in the Rhone Valley, Switzerland. His entire legion of 600 chose to die rather than follow this order. They lived their faith to the very end. The Ethiopian/Abyssinian Bilal, a Black Muezzin (High priest, or Caller of the Faithful) also demonstrated this power of faith that had sustained him through his own enslavement in Mecca. He would endure persecution for his chosen faith but never relent in his commitment
to Islam around 600 C.E. Black expressions of faith are innumerable across diverse religions and creeds.
This history should serve to bolster our faith in 2021 since 2020 has tested the faith of many of us. It has been hard on those who aren’t able to congregate and worship nor switch easily to technology; as many of these activities have moved online. Nonetheless, we must keep faith that 2021 will treat us better than 2020 did. We must also have confidence in medicine, science, and our frontline workers. They have done all they can to keep us safe. This includes the guidelines they’ve released, that are only meant to slow or stop the spread of COVID 19. This does not mean that they’re free of anti-Black racism; it only means that current public scrutiny can lend us some confidence that Black health and well being are being given its due.
Modern science has also produced a COVID 19 vaccine in record time thanks to billions of dollars and global collaboration. Such vaccines are being rolled out to our frontline workers and vulnerable populations as we speak. However, there are global inequities in vaccine access that should be a 2021 priority for Africa and the African Diaspora; as African and Caribbean countries do not have equitable access to protect the health of their Black populations.
Thus, it is that we African Canadians must take advantage of every opportunity to be vaccinated. It is important that we continue to follow guidelines until it is our turn to take the vaccine. At the end of the day, we must remain faithful and true to ourselves. We’ve gotten this far, and we have a lot further to go. Let no one doubt that we have the ability to overcome all challenges that come our way…once we never yield our faith. IMANI!