There Was No First Human

The video below makes an important point about human evolution, but Joe Hanson, the host and writer, simply can’t escape the trap of Eurocentrism and White Supremacy in how he illustrates his narrative. Notice the appearance of the “human” ancestors depicted in the slides. At 1:01 minutes into the video we encounter “Mesolithic Man,” an ancestor who lived approximately 20,000 years ago. He is depicted as “white” with long hair, and clearly is intended to serve as the prototypical modern human. Moving further along the timeline, at 1:05 minutes we encounter “Paleolithic Man,” a human ancestor that lived approximately 200,000 years ago. Note that he is yet another “white” male with light straight hair, and light eyes. Is it possible our earliest human ancestors possessed such phenotypic (outward physical) characteristics?

Any scientist who has not succumbed to the flat-earth theory that modern humans evolved separately in different regions around the world (so-called polygenesis), recognizes that modern humans originated on the African continent and from there populated the globe. The vast majority of geneticists and physical anthropologists thus believe in the monogenesis of modern humans according to evidence from DNA studies and the fossil record in Africa. Scientists also agree our modern human ancestors were dark-skinned by virtue of the environment in which they evolved. Apparently Hanson didn’t get the memo, nor did his art director.

But wait … Hanson is hardly done. When we arrive at 1:13 minutes into the presentation we encounter a 1.5 million year old ancestor, Homo Erectus, who Hanson describes as “not the human,” and who is depicted as a dark-skinned individual.

Do you get it? The human ancestral line is depicted as “white,” while the prehuman line is depicted as “black.” Traditionally, the graphic images used to illustrate the human evolutionary line slavishly follow this same pattern. Observe this familiar example:

popular-evolution-chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African ancestors in the human ancestral line invariably are depicted as pre- or sub-human. The implication being that human beings didn’t become “human” until they left the African continent. In other words, humans aren’t truly “human” unless they are “white” European and male.

Hanson didn’t have to fall into this trap. Richard Neave, one of Britain’s leading forensic scientists, created the clay sculpture shown below using fossilized fragments of skull and jawbone found in a cave in Romania in 2002. The remains are believed to be 35,000 years old based on carbon-dating. This individual lived in Europe at a time when there were only two known species to inhabit the region: Modern humans and Neanderthals. But his ancestors eventually prevailed in Europe, as the Neanderthal population declined and gradually disappeared from the human landscape.

First_european

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the 1970s I began doing a series of lectures titled: “Human Evolution from an African Origin and Perspective.” In my presentation I pointed out that the notion of humanity’s origins in Africa is not a recent one (Darwin suggested as much in 1859), but that the problem we have is a failure to view our common heritage from an African perspective. Why do we need an African perspective? Because people like Hanson fail to recognize and consider the central role of Africa in human development.

 

Drezus – Warpath

Warpath is the first single by Native American rapper Drezus. It is off “Indian Summer” a new album scheduled for release in September, 2014.

Drezus, also known as Jeremiah Manitopyes, a Plains Cree- Saulteaux veteran hip hop artist, said the war paint symbolizes colonizing European power structures that can no longer silence his people.

“They did a pretty good job of it,” said Drezus. “Those institutions are trying to silence me, but they can’t and I’m speaking through it.”

 

For other selections featuring Native American rappers, check out this article over at mic.com

The Genius of Januwa Moja

Activist artist and designer of wearable art, Januwa Moja (shown below with her models), returned to Havana, Cuba this summer for another successful fashion show. The event was held at Casa de Africa in Havana Vieja (Old Havana), on July 31, a date that is celebrated internationally as “The Day of the African Woman.”

Januwa Moja

For a brief review of the show and a slide presentation of some of Moja’s brilliant designs, check out this story in OnCuba Magazine.

Moja talks about her travels to Cuba in this video from 2012:

Moja shares a variety of combs collected from West Africa and discusses their symbolic significance.

In this video interview recorded for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2013, Moja discusses her experiences growing up in Civil Rights-era Baltimore, and the insights that both led her to become a designer and influenced her art.

 

Be sure to click on the following link to view another video featuring Januwa Moja on the wearable art of regalia also from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

 

Tunde Jegede

Tunde Jegede 2

During a trip to London in late June, my wife Gwen (pictured above) and I attended a showcase presentation of a new multimedia work by musician, composer, director, producer Tunde Jegede (pictured above on the right).

“Emidy: He Who Dared to Dream” was performed for two nights (June 28 & 29) at Sunbury House. Written and directed by Jegede, the piece featured dancer Ishimwa Muhimanyi performing the lead role, film by Sunara Begum, and other imagery by visual artists Taiwo Emmanuel Jegede and Galina Chester. The sublime and sensational musical accompaniment to the work was provided by Raphael Guel on guitar and percussion, and Tunde Jegede on kora and cello.

The story is based on the life of Joseph Antonio Emidy (1775 – 23 April 1835), who was captured and taken as a child from West Africa to Brazil and later to Portugal by slave traders. In Portugal, Emidy became a virtuoso violinist with the Lisbon Opera. During the Napoleonic wars he was press-ganged into service on a British ship where he served for four years as the ship’s fiddler. Afterwards, Emidy, a free man, settled in Falmouth, Cornwall in the UK, where he became a renowned violinist, composer, and conductor of the Truro Symphonic Orchestra. None of his compositions have survived, but his remarkable life and career have been revived, re-imagined, and commemorated in Jegede’s marvelous and inventive multimedia composition. This visually and aurally mesmerizing work was received with acclaim by the audience in attendance on the premiere night of its showcase. It truly deserves the support needed to mount a major production and tour.

Emidy

 

Jegede is a remarkably gifted musician whose virtuosity spans both African and Western classical music traditions. Below I’ve included three music videos that feature Jegede in collaboration with other renowned artists.

Filmed on location in Tafza, Morocco in 2012 this is a performance of Aicha by Tunde Jegede on Kora and Abderrazak Hadir on Sintir. It is a unique collaboration of West African and Gnawa music from these two internationally acclaimed musicians.

 

 

A live performance of the African Classical Music Ensemble recorded by the banks of the River Niger. It is an excerpt taken from the film, ‘Mali’ by the American film-maker, Ron Wyman and features the legendary Malian vocalist, Kasse Mady Diabate and music by the composer and Kora player, Tunde Jegede. ‘There was a Time’ is now available from Cdbaby or i-Tunes worldwide. For more information please visit: http://www.africanclassicalmusic.com

 

 

A live performance by Tunde Jegede and the Nomadic Mystics filmed in the studio by the American film-maker, Ron Wyman. It features the legendary Malian vocalist, Kasse Mady Diabate, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Paul Reid and the Gambian Kora virtuoso, Wali Cham. It is the first recording of a new sound, ‘Acoustic Afro-Reggae’ a musical meeting point between Africa and its Diaspora. This music is available from Cdbaby or i-Tunes worldwide. For more information on Tunde Jegede & the Nomadic Mystics please visit: http://www.nomadicmystics.com

 

 

 

VOICES OF CRISIS: The Crisis Continues | The New School

 

How have activists from the civil rights era passed the torch to those fighting for justice and equality today? Join Harry Belafonte, actor and longtime activist; Phillip Agnew, director of the Dream Defenders; and Raquel Cepeda, journalist and filmmaker, in conversation with Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library.

All events are co-curated by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library; and The New School. Dominque Howse, Event Design and Programming; Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf and Ladi’Sasha Jones, Schomburg Center, Event Co-Curators.

Made possible with support from: The New School Archives & Special Collections; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library; The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music; The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design; The New School University Student Senate; The University Social Justice Committee.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Langston Hughes Auditorium Schomburg Center, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, NY