Recently, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other Democratic lawmakers took a knee in a moment of silence to recognize this nation’s racial injustice and police brutality. Sadly, both those things today are seemingly Americana as apple pie and baseball. To observe this melancholy event, the Congressional Black Caucus posted an image on Instagram with the following caption,
“In observation of all the Black lives we have lost in America due to police brutality and for those who have also suffered physical and emotional abuse. It is time for a change. Enough is enough. #BlackLivesMatter“
The photo of the Democrats kneeling, wearing scarves made from the Ghanaian Kente fabric ignited quite the firestorm on social media.
You might have even seen the viral video below of an African Woman dressed in traditional garb, accusing Democrats, Pelosi – mostly, of denigrating and culturally appropriating Kente cloth.
Let me be clear as an African American; I reject this woman’s assessment. She is wrong in her characterization of how Democrats wore the scarves during the moment of silence.
First, let’s begin with the fact that the Kente scarves were gifts given to the congressmen and women by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). For decades, CBC members have incorporated the fabric into their garments as they performed their caucus duties. Now, in light of social unrest driven by racial tension, the Kente scarves were a deliberate and purposeful gift of unity and not a publicity stunt as suggested by some.
Second, a significant number of the Africans who were forced into slavery in the United States territories, originated from what was termed the “Slave Coast.” It is now referred to as Ghana, and it is the home of the Ashanti people.
Whether we like it or not, there is direct historic context that exits between America, Western Africa, the prominent Kente cloth and slavery as Ghana was so vital to the North American slave trade.
The African American’s oppression in America began with the first slave ships’ arrivals in 1619. In 2020, African Americans continue the demand that white people acknowledge the sins of their fathers as they pertain to the hideous disrespect of Africa’s great nations, including the West African territory of Ghana, from which Kente cloth originates.
How, then, is it disrespectful that Democrats, many of whom are African American, donned Kente Cloth stoles in solidarity with the African American’s plight? The kneeling ceremony in question was not a singular act performed by Pelosi, so is all the false outrage just an excuse to bash and drag a political opponent?
I am not African; however, when I graduated with my first degree, my honors stole was of Kente cloth. I chose to wear it symbolically with respect for and in honor of my ancestors. The Democrats have taken a symbolic knee wearing Kente Cloth for the same reasons. They, too, are not African. Why the outrage? There was no “appropriation,” but rather, the respectful wearing of an item – as intended, as a tribute.
Third and most importantly, this entire accusation of appropriation falls completely flat when you stop to consider Pelosi’s historic trip to Ghana with the Congressional Black Caucus in 2019. The trip’s purpose was somber yet hopeful as Pelosi was invited to meet with Ghanaian lawmakers in observation of the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in the US. As gifts, Pelosi and the Congressional delegation were all given gorgeous arrays of Kente cloth scarves from the highest members of Ghanaian parliament – obviously to wear.
It is self-defeatist for black people to demand that white people acknowledge the past and engage the future – but then denounced them when they do.
If anything, this is a moment of humanity and teachability, not a time to denounce and further isolate those making an effort, especially someone like Pelosi who’s 2019 visit was celebrated by Ghanaian people as a step toward new relations between our two countries. Most of the trash talkers on Twitter have never even been to Africa at all.
So, as for the African woman going in on Pelosi in that Facebook video, she is authentically African, yes, but she is not the gatekeeper and official purveyor of the Ashante and Kente cloth.
Black people stop eating your allies! Honey, we need all the help we can get!
That said, this meme is pretty dam funny though!
This piece is an opinion piece by one Contributing Writer for Instinct Magazine and may not reflect the opinion of the magazine or other Contributing Writers.