Past and present Milwaukee delegation to the Washington, D.C. ASCAC conference at Howard University. From left to right: Bill Taylor, Daphne Taylor, Josephine Hill, Anthony Browder of the ASA Restoration Project, Joyce Turner, and Taki S. Raton. (Photo by Brian Williams)
by Taki S. Raton
It was an experience to be remembered, passed down to our children, duplicated in the future and cherished onto our African Eternity.
Upwards of 500 people from around the country and indeed from around the world attended ASCAC’s 28th Annual Ancient Kemetic (Egyptian) Studies Conference beginning Thursday, March 17 through Sunday, March 20th at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“This was one of the best national ASCAC conferences that I have attended in the 15 years of my membership in the organization,” says Gladys Nesbett, a retired registered nurse from Pennsylvania.
“One always goes away with more knowledge and consciousness than you came in with,” she adds.
Among the attendees representing Milwaukee were Wisconsin African American Women’s Center (WAAWC) co-founder Josephine Hill, UW-Milwaukee Ph.D. candidate Monique Liston, and this writer who was invited to present in the March 19 Education Workshop on the Blyden Delany Academy inspired Washington Bouchet Saturday School (WBSS) Model.
Former Milwaukeeans Bill and Daphne Taylor and Joyce Turner were also in attendance. The Taylor’s now reside in Mobile, Alabama and Turner is a resident of Atlanta.
Under the campus deanship of Dr. Warren Braden, four students at Milwaukee’s Springfield College – Sean Gray, Bridget Davis, Angela Bailey, and Charles Smith – have adopted the WBSS as their initiative in the course “Group Project in Community Development and Change 1.” The focus of this undertaking is to identify a problem in the community and design an action plan to address it. The Howard presentation detailed this effort.
ASCAC is the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. It is structured into five regions – Eastern, Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern, Western and Southern.
Each region sponsors a host of city-based study groups whose focus is the reclamation, reinterpretation (from an African frame-of-reference), reconstruction and resurrection of African world historiography from humankind origin through the present with a concentrated research emphasis on the Classical African civilizations of ancient Kemet (Egypt).
A primary thrust of ASCAC is the rescue and restoration of the true African presence on the world stage of time and achievement and to challenge and correct the distortions of Africa, Africans, and African ascendants that have historically been present in Eurocentric historical and literary instructional and societal framed arenas.
The purpose of ASCAC, in part according to the conference program, is “to provide a body of knowledge that continuously contributes to the rescue and restoration of African history and culture and to promote the study of African civilization for the development of an African Worldview.”
A stated objective is “the development of a long range international research strategy based upon a multidisciplinary approach to the study of African civilizations to include archeological and linguistic projects.”
ASCAC regional and national conferences houses, attracts, stimulates, advances, and honors the top and best Black minds in the country and the Highest Order upline of Black thought nationally and globally reflecting this collective charge to rescue, reconstruct, and restore the correct chronological world order of the African experience to include Western and broader diasporic historic accounts.
“This conference has truly been an enriching, rewarding and scholastically enhanced experience,” says Dr. Kerny A. Foster, a Philadelphia educator.
He adds that this event has not only been informative, “but has helped me to re-image my theological and sociological framework. In addition, this gathering has broadened my view of Pan-African development from a purely African perspective,” he positions.
Ph.D. candidate Liston notes that this year’s conference “was a homecoming celebration. To meet with so many knowledgeable and committed defenders of the African way, to share information and to receive guidance from the elders is of the utmost importance for me as a member of the next generation of ASCAC in Milwaukee, in our Midwestern region, and nationally.”
This year’s conference theme was “Sebayet (Wisdom Instruction): Translating, Recovering and Restoring Ancestral Memories in the Struggle for the African Mind.” ASCAC President Nzinga Ratibisha Heru reminds us that this theme mirrors the oldest teachings in Egypt and in the world – “The Instruction of Ptahhotep” – recorded as the first text ever written dating back 4000 years ago.
The content of this instruction, notes Heru, “deals with the propagation and transmission of moral ideals and values, knowledge, and practical advice that essentially communicates ‘African deep thought’ teachings by good speech, good character, and the accumulated lessons gained from life experiences.”
She adds in a telephone interview that this 28th annual conference “was simply magnificent and we are still getting great feedback both from our regular conference attendees and from those who came for the first time. All are looking forward to supporting their upcoming scheduled regional’s and will join us again this time next year as we continue to build a better world for our communities.”
“I found the ASCAC conference enlightening and most of all rejuvenating,” positions retiree Kathryn Atterberry from New Rochelle, New York. “These conferences on this qualitative level are critical for sharing information, networking with dynamic brothers and sisters from around the country, and disseminating African wisdom and instructional methodology, a most important ingredient for our children and for our future,” she contends.
The four-day confab scheduled a total of 36 presentations spanning the four ASCAC target areas of Research, Education, Creative Productions, and Spirituality.
“This weekend, I saw the dawning of a new day,” said Dr. W. Joye Hardiman, Faculty Emeriti of Tacoma, Washington’s Evergreen State College.
“I saw linguistics, scholars, organizers and educators – three generations deep. It was powerful and power-filled. The falsehoods of traditional supremist thought cannot prevail in this face of African truth,” she adds.
Along with Dr. Valethia Watkins, Chair, African American Studies, Olive Harvey College in Chicago and ASCAC’s international member representative Yaa Ashantewaa Archer-Ngidi from Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa, Dr. Hardiman presented in the Saturday scheduled Plenary VI panel.
Her paper was titled “From Ancient Kemet to ASCAC – Sistas Holding Up Their Part of the Sky: A Longevity Study”.
The three generations of which Dr. Hardiman spoke are one of the underscored features of this gathering. The first generation would be those “seasoned” ASCAC members numbering in the hundreds who have over the past 27 years held membership and held office in our area study groups. This would occasion partaking of research thereby lending to individual cultural and historical enhancement and in return contributing on many levels towards the moving forward growth of ASCAC.
And additionally noting those of us during this same period who have had the opportunity to present in regional and national conferences cultivating scholarship and furthering the inspiration for institutional and community organizational building. The stream of ASCAC ideals and African Centered thought and practice would thereby be advanced.
The second generation stands specifically in the names of Greg Kimathi Carr, Mario Beatty and Valethia Watkins.
They were known as “The New Jack Scholars” during the early 1990’s as they sought tutelage, mentorship and study under Dr. Richard Mariba Kelsey, then head of the ASCAC Columbus, Ohio study group Center for African Study and Worship.
Carr, Beatty, and Watkins were students at Ohio State University where Kelsey was a professor. The three protégés were further introduced to Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers and the Kemetic Institute for advanced studies at Chicago’s Center for Inner City Studies. Through continued research engagements, guidance and grooming, the trio received their Ph.D.’s from Temple University.
This second generation, all of whom delivered fantastic respective presentations at the Howard meeting, are now Dr. Greg Kimathi Carr – ASCAC 2nd VP and Chair of the African American Studies Department, Howard University; Dr. Mario Beatty – Chair, African American Studies, Chicago State University, and Dr. Valethia Watkins – as above noted – Chair, African American Studies Department, Olive Harvey College.
Drs. Beatty and Watkins married and celebrated their 12th year anniversary at this 28th Annual ASCAC conference at Howard.
The third generation was represented at the Friday evening 7 p.m. Plenary IV where six undergrad students spoke to their summer 2010 study tour to Egypt. Titled “Reflections on the Howard/Chicago State University Egypt Study Abroad Experience,” four students on the panel were from Chicago State University (CSU) and two were from Howard (HU).
The students are Qiana Earley (CSU), Deanna Reed (CSU), Reginald Rice (CSU), Rosa Garcia (CSU), Samatha Obuobi (HU), and James Robinson (HU).
“The trip changed my life,” said Earley. She reveals that prior to the tour, the group learned how to read hieroglyphs.
“I was able to see the temples that were built thousands of years ago and see firsthand the writings on the wall. Being able to take pictures at some of the sites gave me the chance to go back and translate text for myself in order to know the truth of what our ancestors had to say about their life on earth.”
Since this experience, Earley has become a teacher of African American history for the third through eighth grade at St. Sabina Academy in Chicago. She adds that she is “proud to have the privilege of having Dr. Beatty as an ASCAC second generation mentor. It is a gift and a blessing for which I thank daily the Most High.”
“I came away feeling joyous and inspired by the presentations that I heard,” says WAAWC’s Hill. “If the young people that presented at the conference continue to do the work in which they are presently engaged, our future is in good hands. Hopefully, we will go back to our communities, continue to reach out to other young people who will emerge as future leaders, not only nationally, but globally as well,” she adds.
But there is yet one more generation of potential ASCAC scholars on the horizon. Four students from Philadelphia’s Khepera Charter School literally “rocked the house” with their exquisite from-memory verbal renditions at the opening of the Saturday evening’s 7 p.m. Awards Banquet ceremony.
Second grader Nailah Phillip with his narrative “If These Trees Could Talk,” third grader Raymir Johnson’s creative sampling of “The Million Man March,” followed by Janiah Abraham, a 6th grader, who gracefully yet energetically spoke to the theme “What Do I Know” and finally, powerful words on the “Legacy of Willie Lynch” by 7th grader Ahleah Fortson.
Each student shared brilliant oratories and it was clear by their confidence, articulation skill set and commendable social mannerism that they were taught and groomed in an African Centered school. Their presentations demonstrated the supreme and competitive outcome excellence of this paradigm.
Yet another historic feature was the Friday presentations by Anthony T. Browder and Nubia Wardford Polk. Browder, Director, IKG (Information, Knowledge, Growth) and the ASA Restoration Project, and Polk, M.A./Ph.D. Candidate, University of Shendi in Shendi, Sudan are the first African Americans who are undertaking historic excavations in Egypt towards uncovering our cherished buried ancient African ancestry.
Browder’s paper was themed “A Report on the ASA Restoration Project” and Polk’s presentation was entitled “Excavation in Abu Eritelia, Northern Sudan” an endeavor of which she is involved and oversees.
The ASA Restoration Project was established in 2008 to honor the work of Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III and to support the archeological research of Dr. Elena Pischikova and the South Asasif Conservation Project, which she directs.
This effort represents the first time in history that African Americans have financed and participated in an Egyptian archeological dig. The project currently involves the conservation of the tombs of Karabasken and Irtieru and the unearthing, conserving and restoring the tomb of Karakhamun.
The 2010 excavation earned Browder recognition from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities when the burial chamber of Karakhamun at the bottom of a 26ft deep burial shaft was discovered.
Finally, during his fantastic morning Plenary V presentation, “The Mathematics of the Great Pyramid of Kemet and the African American Cultural Inheritance,” Dr. Andreas Woods, a professor at Bowie State University made the observation that we have finally “broken the chain”.
Here with ASCAC in 2011, this is probably the first time in the history of African Americans on these shores, it was noted, “where we can research our history from humankind origins to the present day experience using exclusively recognized African and African American sources.”
We indeed have this scholarship in ASCAC and in our esteemed scholar-ancestors who have paved this road upon which we now travel.
A class valedictorian graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Dr. Woods is additionally not only the first African American male but the first African American in the United States to have received a Ph.D. in Egyptology. He was awarded this degree from Bowie State in 2006.
ASCAC on this 28th annual occasion has literally for African Americans “broken the chain” of mental shackles that has historically and continually tied us to and contained us in European supremacy and the accompanied syndrome of Black inferiority.
The model, the answers and the solutions resound in the scholarship presented at this conference along with the unfolding continued groundwork and wisdom forthcoming from our current day seasoned and refined masters, our second generation scholars, our third generation researchers and teachers and from the promise of our own African Centered schools where our future talent and genius is represented in the brilliant glow of Nailah, Raymir, Janiah, and Ahleah.
We are indeed the vessels through which our ancestors speak and do their best work. And it is through us for them that we move towards what City College of New York Professor Dr. Leonard Jeffries charged in his closing Sunday, March 20 Plenary VII session, actualizing “Our Sacred Mission” – to create for our ancestors, for ourselves, for our children, for our communities and for our Eternity in this country, in this season and in this our now moment our own celebrated “African Renaissance” – the living rescue, rebirth and restoration of our exemplary upline Higher Order Masterful Perfect and Beautiful Black on the world stage of time and achievement.
Taki S. Raton is an adjunct professor at Milwaukee’s Springfield College and a school consultant in the African Centered instructional model. Former founder and principle of Blyden Delany Academy in Milwaukee, he is a writer and lecturer on the national stage detailing African World historiography, urban community concerns with emphasis on education, the social development of Black youth and African American male issues. He can be reached by email for presentation and consultant inquires at: email@example.com.
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