Dr. John Henrik Clarke "We Be Loving You!"

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Dr. John Henrik Clarke "We Be Loving You!"
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 22:19
By Herb Boyd
Managing Editor, Our World Today


Love was a living and palpable thing last Sunday in the Langston Hughes Auditorium at the Schomburg Center as speakers and hundreds of admirers gathered for the 11th Annual tribute to Dr. John Henrik Clarke, an event sponsored by the Board for the Education of People of African Ancestry (BEPAA).

Keynote speaker Dr. James Conyers set the academic tone and brought a lively sense of gravitas to the tribute’s theme—“Education Is a Nation Building Skill”—citing the numerous contributions of his late mentor, who made his transition in 1998 at 83.

“Dr. Clarke had a tremendous impact on us,” said Conyers, recalling those early years of his life when he first encountered the master teacher. “He refused to allow us to forget the umbilical cord that ties us to the African past.”

Conyers said that Dr. Clarke not only formulated an African-centered paradigm for education that was based on liberation, it was an education that was essential “in the process of nation building, and he wasn’t talking about European education, which is nothing more than indoctrination.”

A parade of speakers invoked the powerful legacy of Dr. Clarke and the personal way he altered their destinies. “If it wasn’t for Dr. Clarke, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” said Howard Dodson, the curator of the Schomburg Center. It was a series of public educational television shows featuring Dr. Clarke “that put me on the right path after I had moved to Puerto Rico for an entire year an absorbed a library of information.”

“Warrior Lawyer” Alton Maddox said that none of those in the audience would be sitting where they were without Dr. Clarke. He said Dr. Clarke and Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan, back from a brief hospital stay and sitting on the stage, were responsible for forming the Schomburg coalition that stabilized the institution. “They asked me to get involved and we sued the New York Public Library,” Maddox explained. “We won because it was decided that we had a right to self-determination.”

There were riveting moments from Solomon Goodrich, chair of the (BEPAA), activist Viola Plummer of the December 12th Coalition, Betty Dopson of CEMOTAP, Camille Yarbrough, Yvonne Hill, Brother Shep, and vocalist Keisha Williams, but Dr. Adelaide Sanford gave the event its emotional surge, reminding all that it was Dr. Clarke “who gave us a vision of who we were and what we can be,” she said.

Often in her speeches, Dr. Sanford regrets not having the language to truly express the fullness of how she feels about her “beloved people.” She explained again the difference between Africans and Europeans in the use of the verb “to be.” “There is a difference between ‘I love you’ and ‘I be loving you,’” she continued, not apologizing for her Ebonics. “And I’m going to say it like it I feel it, and ‘I be loving you.’” If she had been any closer to the audience, the applause would have sent her beautiful white laced shawl a fluttering.

“We have permitted our minds to become colonized,” Dr. Sanford said, once more evoking the words of Dr. Clarke. “We are allowing others to control our images, our minds, our destinies.”

Dr. Sanford said there were three things that must be done to end this colonization, drawing on lessons learned from the Freedom Schools in the South:“We must dispel the myth of white superiority; dispel the myth of Black inferiority, and build a new value system.” She debunked the notion there was an achievement gap between Black and white students.

“There isn’t any achievement gap, there’s an access gap, an opportunity gap,” Dr. Sanford stressed.

At the end of her stirring address, Dr. Sanford reminded listeners once more of Dr. Clarke’s majesty, and when she declared “I be loving you,” it was not only for the esteemed scholar but for the entire audience now standing to honor someone who continues to fight to sustain Dr. Clarke’s formidable legacy.

Publié dans African diaspora

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