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Students commemorate 'African Holocaust'

March 15, 1995, p. 9
The Daily Pennsylvanian
BY CHRIS MARCISZ

Members of the University's African-American community gathered last night to begin a week-long remembrance of those who perished in what has been named the "African Holocaust," or Maafa, the Kiswahili word for disaster.

John Henrik Clarke, an emeritus professor of African-American history at Hunter College, began the the commemoration with a lecture on the atrocities and injustices inflicted upon Africans for centuries.

"This was not a war against the African body, but against the African mind," Clarke said to an engaged audience at Meyerson Hall. "And it has not let up to this day."

Clarke defined the difference between the African Holocaust and the Jewish Holocaust early in his speech, calling the former "an internal dispute among Europeans."

I am not saying it was not tragic, or that it was not wrong," he said. "There is no comparison between six million and 100 million deaths."

He said the African Holocaust was imposed on them by foreigners, calling it a "protracted act of aggression."

"Europeans declared war on everybody's culture, everybody's way of life," Clarke said. "If you weren't like him you were an infidel, a savage."

He also discussed the role of Africa in many major religions, specifically pointing out that Christianity was developed in North Africa and before it spread north.

The form of Christianity re-introduced centuries later to African culture by European missionaries was "a crippled child" of the original faith, Clarke said.

He also described a utopian culture in Africa before the arrival of outsiders.

"We didn't need any insane asylums because we didn't have any insanity," he said. "We are the world's richest people, the world's most imaginative people...Everybody seemed to know that but us."

Clarke also was quick to criticize the role of Europeans in this "holocaust."

"The European has a warped mentality everything of substance he wants to control," he said.

Clarke described European imperialism as "a diabolic scheme I call the evil genius of the European mind."

"To understand our holocaust you have to understand the making of the European mind," he said, encouraging the study of European culture.

"No one has ever had mercy on us and we don't owe anyone anything but a whipping," he added. "Let us stop letting people off the hook."

Clarke has written 50 short stories as well as numerous articles and conference papers. He has also edited about 20 books.

"He has contributed to reconstruct our history," Jim Gray, a chairperson of the African-American Association of Administrators, Faculty and Staff, said as he introduced Clarke.

Gray also described him as a "Pan-African scholar warrior."

The event was co-sponsored by several student groups, including the Black Student League and Connaissance.

Other events scheduled to take place this week for "Maafa: The African Holocaust Memorial" include a a workshop to be held tonight in W.E.B. DuBois College House. Tomorrow there will be a twilight vigil held on College Green.

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