"RECAPTURING THE AFRICAN MIND AND MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE AUTHOR BRUCE BRIDGES"
By Fahim A. Knight
Brother Bruce Bridges in thought, had giving birth to this project titled, "Recapturing the African Mind" published 2006, long before it actually became a published work; thus as an idea, it had its inception some twelve years ago. Bridges through a tedious process and long hours of revisions and transcriptions, is now prepared to give birth to a work that will rank beside the works, authored by some of the most well respected African centered thinkers and intellectuals in America.
This book thoroughly investigates the effects Christianity had on the social and psychological development of African people. It is a must read for all the serious minded African-centered scholars and lay persons. Brother Bridges has picked up the torch left by our African Elders John G. Jackson and John Henrik Clarke two of our greatest African intellectual warriors. This article will give the reader a behind the scenes look at the author and my journey with him.
Moreover, I accompanied Bridges on numerous trips to North Carolina State University perhaps in the early 1990's at the invitation of Dr. Thomas Hammonds who was a professor of French language and Culture in the North Carolina State University Foreign Languages and Communications Department. Dr. Hammonds was attempting to establish and develop a Black Studies program and curriculum, in which students could receive major and minor degrees in this discipline.
Dr. Hammonds organized an evening study group forum on the campus in order to initiate student interest, in at least taking Black Studies courses and with a long ranged objective of getting the university to formalize, sanction and grant Black Studies degrees, as well as funnel the necessary resources to hire qualified Black professors and build a credible Black Studies Department, at this predominately white university campus.
This effort at North Carolina State University was also taking place at the height of the Afrocentric Movement in America, where Black scholars such as Marimba Ani, Leonard Jeffries, Ivan Van Sertima, Maulana Karenga, Frances Cress Welsing, John Henrik Clarke, Anthony T. Browder, Na'im Akbar, Aashre Kwesi, Molefi Asante, IshakaMusa Barashango, Amos Wilson, Yosef A.A. Ben-Johannan, etc., were redefining the African world view and challenging white academia to reconsider the facts of history, which in many instances had covertly and overtly omitted the African contribution to humanity; thus, at the detriment of human progress in order to continue to perpetuate a white supremacy ideology.
Bridges and I, would travel to North Carolina State University Campus, which is located in Raleigh, North Carolina three times a week and he would lecture to fifty (50) too one hundred (100) students on various topics of African History. Some of the initial study groups evolved from intense discussions relative to the Negritude Movement and how French culture in the 1930's had impacted and influenced African and Caribbean cultures, i.e., literature, politics, art, music, folkways, mores, etc.
The Negritude Movement was coexisting simultaneously during the latter years with the Harlem Renaissance Movement, which was in gulfing Black America; it was a cultural explosion perhaps unmatched in the history of Black America. However, I was always of the opinion, that Dr. Hammonds was much more fond and passionate about the Negritude Movement than Bridges.Although, I learned a lot from Bridges about the likes of Leon Damas (French Guyana), Aime Cesaire (Martinique) and Leopold Senghor (Senegal), it was not his discussion of choice, but he had a love for teaching and inspiring young African-American students and he had the intellectual ability to adapt and use his excellent skills as an orator to make any subject come to life, including the Negritude Movement.
The relationship between Dr. Hammonds and Bridges in my opinion, was based on expediency because Dr. Hammonds could not have built a credible and viable Black Studies program without the likes of a Bridges who although was not a "trained Historian", but possessed a love and passion for historical research and more importantly was eager to teach and share this wealth of knowledge, he had acquired over many years of study.
Bridges wanted to get back into the classroom and Dr. Hammonds offered him this opportunity.Bridges began his teaching profession at North Carolina Central University, his alma mater, from which he graduated in 1973 and went on to the University of Cincinnati earning a Masters of Arts degree in geography. In 1976 at the age of twenty-six Bridges was teaching geography full-time at North Carolina Central University. He later would make his mark as a professor at Saint Augustine College in Raleigh, North Carolina teaching both geography and African History. Thus, the academic classroom was not unfamiliar territory for Bridges and he would seized the moment at North Carolina State University to shape these young fashionable minds, as well as stretch the concept of academic freedom.
He began a lecture series at North Carolina State University titled, "Recapturing the African Mind", Bridges and I, would spend many hours in his old model vehicle talking about the plight of Black people and listening to the Temptations, The Last Poets, Modulations, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Sam Cooke, the sounds of Philly International, the sounds of Motown, etc. Bridges music interest led him across status and class lines and he was drawn and attracted to street personalities such as Daryl "Slack" Smith" (and believe me this cat could sing), Clyde Lockhart, William Harper and between imitating the Temptations and expressing the humor of PigMeat Markham and Moms Mabel was all encompassing of Bridges personality.
Bridges enjoyed nostalgia and he very seldom ventured outside music beyond the date of 1976. But next to music and comedy, what intrigued him the most was the acquisition of knowledge and information, which he took very serious. Bridges would often say to me "that we (meaning black people) where out of our minds" and he would often point to chattel slavery and the negative affect this 310 year systematic process had on the mental development of continental and disaporian Africans, which continues to plague us as a race of people even in 2007.
The title, "Recapturing the African Mind" evolved out this social dilemma and historical antagonistic contradiction. He never missed an opportunity to condemn King Leopold of Belgium and the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 for dividing and partitioning Africa. In his mind this was an unforgivable sin."Recapturing the African Mind" goes after the myths, lies, deceptions, false symbolism and it challenges the disease of white supremacy and like the book titled, The Mis-education of the Negro, written by Carter Godwin Woodson in 1933, it explains and diagnosis our psychological, political, economic and social condition.
Bridges would often state to me, "we must answer the who, what, where, when and how question", because of all our studies history is best qualified to reward all research and those who fail to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat those lessons. Bridges has edited, revised, and rewritten portions of this book over, and over again; moreover, he has finally decided to bring it to fruition and I can only say that he has been in labor with this book for over ten years. I was there, when he first started to have these labor pains as it related to writing "Recapturing the African Mind". But I am fully aware that nothing comes into existence without the permission of the Creator.
The time is ripe and perhaps for the first time the community would get a chance to experience Bridges gift for writing because many of us have been well acquainted with his ability to orate and finally he has put some of his thoughts on paper; thus, giving the scholars and layman alike, the opportunity to assess, evaluate and render critical analysis of his intellectual ideas.
Bridges would often tell me how grateful he was as young man to have had been introduced early on, to the Durham based Civil Rights Movement and its leader Howard Fuller who led many protest marches, boycotts, picket lines, sit-ins, etc., and he was inspired by Fuller's strength, tenacity, intellect and his willingness to fight for justice for the Black citizens of Durham. Bridges told me how Fuller and the Civil Rights organizers would always give him a spot on the program to read some Black inspired poetry when he was in his early teens.Bridges deeply admired Howard Fuller's ability to organize and often told me about Fuller's effort to establish Malcolm X College and the revolutionary programming that was being aired on WAFR radio station.
This all took place in Hayti, the Mecca of Black Durham. Bridges and I, would talk for hours and hours at a time, about when he was first invited to the Nation of Islam Temple number 34 in the early 1970's and he heard a young minister named Kenneth X (Murray) from Baltimore, Maryland who was sent to Durham by minister Malcolm X to establish the work of Elijah Muhammad in North Carolina. Murray who later changed his name to Kenneth Muhammad taught a fiery brand of Islam, which Bridges found attractive and inspiring as a young college student.
Bridge said he never joined the Nation of Islam, but he would recruit carloads of students from North Carolina Central University and bring them to Temple number 34 to hear Minister Kenneth X deliver the life giving teachings. Bridges in 1973 had recruited so many people to Muhammad's Temple #34 that his efforts won him a free trip to the Nation of Islam Savior's Day Convention in Chicago to hear its late leader Elijah Muhammad. Many old Nation of Islam followers have told me that indeed Bridges was a fisher of men.
Bridges said what he enjoyed the most about attending the Nation of Islam meetings was the teaching aspect and their usage of the chalkboard. I gave this background information because it is necessary to understand the institutions, personalities, environment and events that helped shape the man and his ideals.
I first met Bridges in 1982, twenty-three years ago, I had just come to Durham, North Carolina from Newark, New Jersey as a freshman at North Carolina Central University and someone gave me a flier that stated Bridges was conducting what he called the Cultural Awareness Seminar at Saint Joseph African Methodist Episcopal Church. I attended the meeting that evening out of sheer curiosity, but I left inspired by Bridges message; his central theme has always been some aspect of Black history whether it is of antiquity or contemporary.
Bridges also had a knack for uncovering word origins, and getting to the root of a word or concept and was a serious student of etymology. He didn't mind referring to a dictionary in order to ascertain a definition, as well as break down a word. In addition, he loved the science of epistemology and He would often quote from Albert Churchward book titled, "Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man" and Gerald Massey's book titled, "A Book of the Beginnings", where Churchward and Massey gives the evolution of words and the nature of phrases and there interconnection to human development.
Bridges in his lectures always imparted non-traditional information and he kept his philosophical ideas outside the box and he challenged us all, to look deeper into a subject because "branch knowledge" was shallow and it was "root knowledge" that was worth investigating. I attended many of his talks over a twelve-year period and at the conclusion of each lecture, one always left feeling better informed and educated about some aspect of African history.
Bridges also use to host a weekly talk show on WDUR radio titled, "The Cultural Awareness Seminar" your radio classroom, a call-in format and every Saturday morning Bridges would introduce facts, events about some aspect of Black History. He would always cite dates, facts and events relative to the Black experience from the "Black Seeds" calendar and would often teach from the calendar. Bridges always opened his radio program with his national anthem "Redemption Song" by Bob Nesta Marley, who he would quote throughout the program, "none can free our minds but ourselves".
Bridges was very intrigued by the Rastafarian movement and culture; thus, I never knew his motivations behind this other than he appreciated the Rasta's non-conformist, resistance, anti-establishment life style and I knew he was aware of the revolutionary actions the Maroons of Jamaica had taken historically, these warrior men and women never accepted slavery and fought and rebelled against the British slave makers.
This spirit was also embodied in the lyrics of Marley's Reggae music and Bridges could appreciate all aspect of protest. But I was intelligent enough to reason that Bridges loved and respected Marcus Mosiah Garvey and his back the Africa Movement, which the Rastafarian held in high esteem and this perhaps was the cement that held this complex ideological relationship together.
If there were three (3) or perhaps four (4) books that stood out separate and apart in my many discussions with Bridges it would be, Marcus Garvey's book titled, "Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy" edited by Tony Martin, "As A Man Thinketh", James Allen, "100 Amazing Facts About the Negro", by Joel Augusta Rogers and "What They Never Told You in History Class". These monumental works to a lesser degree or perhaps even to a greater extent serves as the fundamental basis that under girds Bridges impetus and ideological formulations as a teacher and social activist.
Bridges "Cultural Awareness Seminar" Topics ranged from the origin of the Black Panther Movement to Ancient Kamit (Egypt) and he would rescue Kamit (Egypt) from the half-truths, lies, historical deceptions and would often use Dr. George G. M. James book titled, Stolen Legacy, and John G. Jackson's book titled, Introduction to African Civilization, to reinstall African People (Black People) as the major contributors to the development of medicine, architecture, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, physics, art, Music, etc.
He demystified Rome and Greece and taught that Kamit (Egypt and Cush) had enlightened the entire world and this included Europe. Bridges and I, use to travel throughout America vending books from his KNOW BOOK STORE, which he founded in 1983. The KNOW BOOK STORE was a haven for grassroots and Black intellectuals meetings and discussions. The KNOW BOOK STORE had played host to many guests such as the late Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Jamil Abdullah EL-Amin (H.Rapp Brown), Sun-Ra, Ben Ammi, Abdul Alim Muhammad, Susan Taylor, Steve Cokley, Ishakamusa Barshango, C. Eric Lincoln, Andrew Young, J. Anthony Brown, Michael Eric Dyson, Llaila O. Africa, etc.
There are two incidents that come to mind and if one was not prepared to adequately defend their political arguments, then the Cultural Awareness Seminar regulars could be unforgiving. There was a brother by the name of Rudolph Windsor who authored a very good book titled, "Dry Bones in the Valley", but he took an intellectual whipping like never before and there was George Subira who authored a book which dealt with Black economics and he too had underestimated how prepared the KNOW BOOK STORE regulars were and he received the same fate of brother Windsor.
I can recall Bridges and I, traveling to New York in 1988 to City College and attending the Melanin Conference and vending books. These type conferences were often well attended by non-traditional Black intellectuals, nationalist, Pan-Africanist, academicians, and some petite bourgeoisie. Bridges could have been one of the presenters and could have run circles around most of the Afrocentic lecturers that were present. He knew that, and of course, I knew that.
However, our purpose was to sell books and Bridges was also unmatched as an entrepreneur and I also can recall me standing on a table selling and promoting the books. Many people could not accept the fact that we were from Durham, North Carolina (in essence two country boys) because they had reserved hustling and bold salesmanship to New Yorkers. One gentleman said jokingly, "book man go home".
Bridges and I, during this same year traveled to Coppin State College in Baltimore, Maryland to sell books at the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations and once again we were among the cream of crop, as far as non-traditional Black intellectuals. Bridges did not allow his ego to get in the way of business but once again he could have delivered the keynote address and it would have been well received.
In conclusion, Bridges established another radio program on WDUR –AM Radio, which we titled, "Talk Harambee" translate to mean talk unity in Ki-Swahili. This program was aired from 12:00am to 6:00am and we could have live guest and/or format the program as we saw fit. Bridges and a brother by the name of Imam Mathew Hamidullah (who now works for the United States Department of Justice) co-hosted the first three hours of the program. Hamidullah was an interesting brother; he once held the national spokesmen position for the American Muslim Mission and Imam Warithudeen Mohammed and served as Bridges co-host.
Bridges was an African History expert and Hamidullah was more of a public policy and current event individual; thus, looking back at Hamidullah's training and holding a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, it was not surprising giving his academic orientation that he would be issue oriented. But as co-host, they complimented each other very well.
Bridges and Hamidullah radio highlight was when they put Santa Claus on trial and the listening audience took great interest in this particular series of shows, both supporters and pundits alike responded with their opinion and views. They charged Santa Clause with grand larceny, breaking and entering, perjury, embezzlement, etc. Mr. Claus was found guilty of various felonies, but I cannot recall what penalty was imposed.
Bridges later added Alice Ailey-Jones and sister Alice would be considered more of a trained historian and possessed a real professional approach to interpreting past, present and future events. She added balanced to the "Talk Harambee" discussions and Bridges relied on her for that balance. Bridges would always open up this midnight show with "Wake Up Everybody" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.
He permitted me to host the latter three hours of the show and I added a brother by the name of Adrian Bishop who was originally from Asbury Park, New Jersey and we were both young radicals and our approach to formatting the program reflected our youthful spirit and our rebellious disposition. But Bridges never attempted to censor and/or water down our message and I believe he saw himself in our nonconforming and raw approach to the issues. We later would add a brother named Rod Barbee and he gave us our theme song "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy.
The callers would call us at three o'clock in the morning, which just to state they were checking in. And of course we never disappointed our support base. Bridges has made two pilgrimages to West and East Africa and he continues to lecture at some of America's most prestigious colleges and universities. There is much more I can say, but this backdrop will provide the reader with a prelude to understanding the motivations behind Recapturing the African Mind.
I Fahim A. Knight, Chief Researcher of KEEPING it REAL THINK TANK in Durham, NC; we are dedicated to the upliftment of Black people and all people of goodwill. We espouse the principles of FREEDOM, JUSTICE and EQULAITY. Our motto is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
By: Fahim A. Knight