It used to be the default viewpoint of African-Americans. Asleep for decades, it restarted in the hip-hop community as a tremor in the late 1980’s and by the early 1990’s. A systematic quake of Afrocentricism ran like a current through the hearts and minds of Black folk in the United States.
Why was it so powerful? Because it was on the radio, in the streets, in the church pulpit and on TV. Back then word of mouth was still king. The World Wide Web was in its infancy, and households had yet to grab hold to personal computers.
Championed on college campuses, an organic movement began to sprout. Loud colors akin to the patterns of African fashions started to pop up everywhere. People began to wearing the triune of black consciousness: red, black and green. Black men started to grow their afros again. Black women started to twist their hair like they did in the Motherland. Historically ashamed about their appearance, Black people started to relish their chocolate skin tones, celebrating them with a prideful appreciation.
Even so-called gangsta hip-hop groups, freed from Westernized ideology and motivated to tell idealistic stories about unity rather than gun shed joined the party.
Merchandising popped up (remember the T-shirts, “It’s a black thang, you wouldn’t understand?”), medallions were sold. A whole cottage industry was built around buying Black products, African-themed furniture and cosmetics (shea butter, anyone?)
It wasn’t the first time the prideful vibe of Africanism hit the United States. It happened in the 1920s with Marcus Garvey’s teachings. It happened in the 1960s with the civil rights movement, albeit it was more bourgeois-flavored. But the tide came back in in the early 1990s. Terms such as “nubian princess” and “Black queen” were defacto on HBCU campuses nationwide. TV shows like “The Cosby Show,” “In Living Color,” “Living Single” and “A Different World” captured that world’s fashions and mannerisms.
But could it arise again?
The early 1990s in the United States, with a bullish economy that seemed unstoppable at the time, will forever be remembered as the golden age of Black Americana. For the first time, The American Dream had soul. Looking back at it all now, was it just a fad, a flash in the pan? The chants, the million marchers, the hopes — was it a mirage?
Or could Afrocentricity return?
In 2010, we are all witnesses to a watershed event in U.S. history. This is a time — the only time, when the most visible and powerful man in the world is a Black man. Could “Brand Obama,” as former White House socialite-in-residence Desiree Rogers once remarked, rock a Kente cloth?
Could the cycle of Afrocentricity — that elusive breeze of consciousness that brushes past us every now and then come back now?
And could the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama bring it back? Would they? Or even, should they?
Imagine Obama, instead of getting a tight fade from his favorite Chicago barber, letting his hair grow full into tight curls. Visualize him with one of his father’s indigenous shirts from one of the Kenyan marketplaces frequented by his father.
Picture Michelle emerging from the White House’s Rose Garden with corn rolls atop her head, her black hair glistening in the sun.
Instead of a fist-bump, the two would hold hands and with the other, raise it in the sky making a fist. Of course, this consciousness would be more than just an adornment of clothes, but would be accompanied by an earnest effort to promote knowledge about the African continent. On the White House staff would be the Secretary of the Department of African Consciousness. They would work to foster a sense of unity with the people of the United States and the Motherland.
Could it happen? I don’t know. But we’ve tried the American Dream. Why not try an African one?