Ogbu Kalu writes:

I wish to make a few comments on Dialogue no 657 that raises the matter of our dysfunctional ebony kinship. Surely, it is important to analyze a problem. African frustration with their ebony kins has many strands especially as the hostility surfaces in the most awkward circimstances as when Alan Keyes attacked Obama on racial grounds. I suggest that we seek solutions. Dialogue nos 657 and 661mentioned some examples of African culpability. It would appear that the whites are playing divide and rule, using us to attack us. It runs deeper; we should explore the ways that we, Africans, distrust African Americans and create suspicion. But my main contribution is to argue that the fact that the ebony kins now categorise themselves as African Americans, (herteafter AA)provides us the pathway to build a healthier relationship. All healthy relationships and conflict transformation must start from the grassroots; that is, in our work places, social transanctions, and lifestyles in disapora ( whether we feel that we are exiles waiting to return home, or as those who have crossed Jordan and burnt our bridges). I suggest five areas that we could deploy to strengthen our ebony kinship and cultivate the African dimension in the African American identity: (i) intellectual-- we should intentionally create intellectual fora to discuss the cords that bind. This would involve doing serious research into African American history and conditions. The new home in America has definitely reshaped them, created specific conditions and identity problems. They have to contend with declining visibility and the loss of gains made during the Civil Rights era. Meanwhile Latino/as are taking over in many areas. I wonder whether the critical mass of African scholarship on African American themes has declined.AAs,on their part, have to engage in much more than safari scholarship about African conditions. We must always ask the question whether there are any areas in which both parties could benefit from the experiences of the other. In open dialogue, stereotypes and fear might evaporate. African scholars tend to complain that AAs have absorbed the white anthropological images of Africa/Africans. It could not be otherwise given the melting pot ideology and education patterns. Even the children of Africans have demonstrated this. On a recent trip home, I watched an African child who became visibly shaken as soon as we landed in what should have been his motherland. He asked the mother, in typical American directness and assertion of personal rights, whether she was certain that they were safe and that she had not endangered his life by her decision to come to "this place".A summer conference event should take place around this theme. (ii)cultural and ideological-- the quest for roots among AAs has a long history of creativity in Africa and opposition from integrationists. A study of the career of Wilmot Blyden would unearth his frustrations against the integrationists. He resorted to labelling them suggestively according to the fairness of their skins. We must not forget that Ethiopianism as an evocative ideology started among the AAs and catalyzed and mobilized African nationalism. It inspired many AAs to assist the training of our people, many of whom became leaders. At the outbreak of the First World War, it was rumored in eastern, central and southern Africa that AAs were coming to rescue their ebony kins. Admittedly, a combination of a lack of historical consciousness and an enervating spirit may have robbed contemporary AAs of the sense of black manifest destiny that McNeal Turner, Delaney, Crummell and others espoused. White settlers were frightened about these "Ethiopians" and their influence on indigenous agency. The stirring lecture by Blyden in Lagos in 1891 entiltled,The Return of the Exiles exemplifies the environment that I am alluding to. We should work with AA cultural groups to re-energize this connection. (iii) social--a Dialogue contribution mentions intermarriage. Unfortunately, this may be the worst dimension. In many universities in Nigeria, most of the AA wives deserted their matrimonial homes. Exploitation has characterized this dimension: visa wives, troop comforters who are deserted as soon as one graduates,and other varieties that expose certain moral flaws in us, may have created a bad image for Africans. The moral tone of our lifestyles deserves open, critical discussions among us because when one finger touches oil, it has an effect on all fingers and the international image of the continent.Ethnic and national associations appear ineffective in the type of social control model that worked at home. (iv) economic--the criticism on Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson should be nuanced because both openly advocated weaving Africa into the economic empowerment project for blacks.Jackson certainly tried to entice Clinton to looke beyond Asia in his economic miracle for America. As the style of doing business in Africa determined the structure, many indigenous leaders used the opportunity to create avenues for self-enrichment.One military ruler in a southeastern state was noted for his first qusetion to prospective investors, where me own? Some American corporate leaders have continued to show interest in assisting African nations.The billboard about the glasses supplied by Walgreens apparently left the impression that the Governor of the state was providing free glasses. Every effort should be made to connect with AA business men instead of always dealing with whites. Can you imagine the impact on our ebony kinship if the recent Nigerian contract with disreputable Halliburton was given to an AA group? (v) religious--this is the most prospective area of contact because before the first white missionary society was formed, AAs were already evangelizing Africa from 1791. You could read Lamin Sanneh,Abolitionists Abroad (Harvard Univ Press,1999) and Kalu,African Christianity: an African Story (University of Pretoria,2005). When mosquitoes decimated white missionaries they scoured colleges and West Indies for black evangelists.When I told a group of Presbyterians that the Presbyterian Church in Nigeria and the Baptist Church in Cameroon came from Jamaica, they were unhappy with their secretary for inviting me. Those interested in this area could see, Horace Russell,The Missionary Outreach of the West Indian Church (Peter Lang,2000), Nemata Blyden,West Indians in Africa,1808-1880: The African Diaspora In Reverse (University of Rochester Press,2000).Recently AA religious history has re-appropriated the spirituality of slave religion and the roots of black liturgy. Many churches want to work with African churches.The gospel singer, Ron Konnelly has been out-doored in Ghana. I heard him sing Yoruba songs so wonderfully at Jesus House in Chicago. It warmed my heart towards conflict transformation. There are rich opportunities for healthy contacts and revitalization of ebony kinship. I suggest that we think about these and exercise some agency to recover the years that white locusts have eaten.