In My Opinion
Ashes fly back into the face of him who throws them.
                                                                               Yoruba proverb

On Friday, January 30, 1998, the DKS published a diatribe written by Kwame Nantambu that ultimately revealed more about its author than the intended targets of his venom. It is unfortunate that our situation has deteriorated to the level of personal attack. I realize there are those who believe our "dirty linen" should not be aired in public. My grandmothers, however, taught me that soiled laundry left too long unattended will "smell up the house." They also taught me to recognize a fool, and to never become one.

I have been waiting on "Brother" Nantambu. In a November 19, 1996, memo, he writes, ". . . I am fully prepared to wage and engage in this dynastical, professional war." It is not my intention to respond to, or, to debate with this man. Another Yoruba proverb teaches that "A wise man who knows proverbs, reconciles difficulties." We should all be judged according to our own words and actions. Nantambu's words, and his actions speak for themselves. Given my position as a former student who now teaches in this department, there are certain things that must be said. As one who helped build this program, I am obligated to say them.

Chief Fela Sowande taught us that "Revolution is not a creative process, but an excretory one. In other words, a Revolution means, not that the Society in which it occurs has created something new, but that it has gone to the toilet and got rid of matter. We can with profit regard Revolution and Confrontation as being synonymous terms today." It is clear to me that we are now caught up in the throes of our own revolutionary times. For me, George Garrison's leadership and Kwame Nantambu's lunacy represent the kind of "matter!' Sowande describes.

He also taught us that "Power without Wisdom is but another name for death. . . . Power with- out Wisdom therefore boils down in the final analysis to Power without Love. It is not the pre- sence of Power that is evil, it is the absence of Love that makes Power evil and destructive. That is why Black Power Structure in Africa can be, and has been, much more to the disad- vantage of the Negro in Africa than White Power Structure has been to the Negro in America." The public spectacle now occurring in our department has made me realize that Sowande taught me well.

Dr. Edward Crosby taught us that our own personal contradictions can undermine a lifetime's work. For my part, I will not be silent when the unresolved contradictions of a few threaten to destroy the lifework of the many. Toward this end, Nantambu has already articulated his wil- lingness to destroy this program and those of us who see him for who and what he truly is. I remember a time when we genuinely loved and respected each other here. We have never been what so many at this university would make us out to be. That both Dr. Garrison and now Dr. Nantambu have acted to denigrate the very legacy that made their positions here possible is shameful. It is hypocritical. One speaks of the "beloved community," while the other has disguised himself in the outer garments of "Afrocentricity." It is no wonder that our students are confused.

For twenty years now, first as an adjunct and now as non-tenured faculty, I have always understood my "peon" status within the university community; that both Garrison and Nantambu would disparage and disrespect my already established status as a griot reveals the kind of lack of understanding of African culture Harold Cruse so vividly describes in his seminal work, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. It is Dr. Nantambu who is a "wannabe" full professor in this system. He, too, is looking for a scapegoat because he cannot face his own failure to measure up to the university's criteria for promotion.

For my part, however, this ancient teaching of PTAHHOTEP servers to keep me focused on a true African center:

"If you meet a disputant in the heat or action,
                                one who is more powerful than you, simply fold
                                your arms and bend your back. To confront him
                                will not make him agree with you. Pay no attention 
                                to his evil speech. If you do not confront him while
                                he is raging, people will call him an ignoramus. 
                                Your self-control will be the match for his evil 

Indeed, my teachers, thanks to Dr. Crosby, have taught me well.

Mwatabu S. Okantah, Poet in Residence
Department of Pan-African Studies
Kent State University

This Essay was also published in the Daily Kent Stater in February 1998.