The truth today is most African students who graduate with hard fought skills and abilities, end up using those skills to advance themselves individually instead of using those skills to advance the masses of African people. This is the reason intellectualism and education is somewhat discredited within our communities. People cannot see the benefits, especially since our educated youth grow up expressing contempt for the masses of our people. Scores of Africans born in Africa, Europe, or the Western world, use their degrees to get jobs with multi-national capitalist companies. They earn high salaries, buy homes, cars, and live the petti-bourgeois lifestyle, ignoring the dire plight of the masses of their people. Many of them will adopt the values of capitalism, repeating the discredited philosophies of this system that the reasons our people suffer as they do is because we don't work hard enough. They will ignore the systemic obstacles that intentionally discriminate against African people. They will also ignore clear proof that our ability to get college education isn't a reflection of our individual abilities as much as it is the result of the struggle of the masses of our people.
The reality is 60 years ago, virtually no Africans were able to go to college anywhere on Earth! The fact that we are graduating people at unprecedented levels today isn't happening because we are smarter and better qualified to gain entrance to the university today than we were 60 years ago. The difference is we were previously prevented from having those opportunities and the fact we have them today is only because of the mass struggle we have gained to have that opportunity. Hard science and technical skills have been effectively removed from university access in Africa. The only way to gain those skills in Africa today is for students to travel to Europe and America. The fact they can do this is only because of the mass struggle to fight back against the colonizing countries of Europe and the imperial presence of the U.S. in the 50s and 60s. By pushing back against the system of oppression that subjugated the African continent and the constant theft of African resources that the colonial system systematically put in place, the fight against colonialism demanded that Africans be provided the opportunity to create self-determination for Africa, thus the opening up of Europe and American educational institutions to our youth. In the U.S., everyone knows Africans who attempted to go to college faced violent responses from racist Europeans. James Meredith was shot for integrating the University of Mississippi in 1962 and George Wallace - the then governor of Alabama - stood in front of the Admissions office door at the University of Alabama in 1963 while declaring that no African will be admitted to that university unless it was done over his dead body. African students who attempted to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 were met with intense threats and terrorism by the local community. The key element in all of these examples is it never mattered how smart or talented you were, institutional discrimination prevented thousands upon thousands of Africans from having the opportunity to gain a college education. The fact these Africans can do this now is only because of that mass struggle we engaged in to force the system to bend to our demands for justice. So, because it was this struggle and not anyone's individual talents that opened the door to these opportunities, these educations must belong to the masses of the people, not the individuals. Therefore, these individuals have an obligation to use their education to advance the masses of the people, not just themselves.
Now, there is no question that the majority of Africans achieving college degrees today are not honoring the legacy of the struggle that gave them their degrees in the first place. No one can argue that point. Still, there are far too many well meaning activists and community members who are missing the boat by criticizing education and/or being anti-intellectual because of the betrayal of these Africans who sell out our people's struggle for their personal advancement. The message to those well meaning miss the boat folks, is that they must have faith in our ancestors. I am convinced that those Africans who faced tanks, tear gas, bullets, prison, and all forms of oppression knew exactly what they were doing when they demanded we have access to education. Those brave people were not engaging in that fight so that they could gain personal advancement. They knew they were not ever going to even set foot on a college campus and most of them never did. They were janitors, maids, bus drivers, food servers, etc. They faced raw terror because they knew we needed the science, art, technical, and liberal arts skills from college to advance our people. They faced that terror, not you. So, they didn't need you to tell them about the betrayals of today. For every traitor to the struggle today, they sell out themselves, not our glorious struggle. The premise of those brave persons was correct. We need education to advance our struggle. The first phase of that fight is to create the opportunity, which they did. The next phase is for us to win the ideological struggle that must be waged against bourgeois ideas. This is the struggle Franz Fanon talked about when he said "each generation will inherit a mission. That generation will either fulfill that mission or betray it." We have to convince our youth that when they graduate from college with the degree that was afforded to them not just by their parents, but by the masses of our people, they must use that degree in the tradition of our best intellectuals. Those intellectuals who used their degrees to advance our people. We must tell them about W.E.B. and Shirley Graham DuBois. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Assata Shakur, and Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael). We must tell them that the Black Panther Party was founded on the Merritt College campus. We must tell them that the right the vote and the Black Power movement was led by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee which was founded on a college campus in 1960. We must tell them that the first president in Africa and the father of Pan-Africanism - Kwame Nkrumah - was a college student in Philadelphia. That he pledged a fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, and that he used his education to lead the African independence struggle in Africa and to advance the worldwide Pan-African struggle for justice and liberation for African people everywhere. These are proper examples of how we should be using our educational skills and we need to work to create a cultural climate among our people where it is considered unacceptable to talk of using education any differently than described above. We must make sure they understand that this, and only this, is what our ancestors died for.
There's no question that we have plenty of intellectuals who contribute mightily to our struggle who never went to college. Malcolm X, Sekou Ture, and Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, are all outstanding examples. Still, in this ever advancing technological and information based world we live in, we need people who know how to negotiate through these systems. Of course there will always be people who know how to do that who didn't go to college, but most of the people who will know will get their knowledge from college. So, it makes sense that we go to work reversing this anti-intellectualism environment that exists. It makes sense that we go to work convincing our people that the process of committing class suicide and refusing to enter the petti-bourgeois class in order to our your skills to advance the African revolution should be the foremost objective of all African college students, everywhere. If we don't do that, those college students will continue to be recruited by the capitalist system to work in its interests, and against the interests of the African masses. We have to have faith in our people and humanity. We cannot adopt the elitist position that because people aren't doing what they should be doing now that they do not possess the capacity to change (as if we always had the correct consciousness and course of action in our lives).
The proper message is that education is good. Intellectualism is good. And, that education belongs to the masses of people, not the individual. The education was fought for and must be used to advance our collective struggle. The discussion mustn't just be repudiating our bourgeois minded college students, but in figuring out how to steer them towards the models provided to us by Nkrumah, Kwame Ture, Ella Baker, and Huey P. Newton. How do we get them to see the relevance of Cuba today, where they have announced they have effectively eliminated mother to child HIV transmissions while also informing us they are wiping out colon cancer. One of Cuba's first and leading doctors was Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Today, his daughter Aleida Guevara - a leading Pediatrician in Cuba - is a powerful voice in support of healthcare being a resource for the people of the world and not a commodity to be bought and sold. The Guevara's provide us yet another historical and present day example of the proper use of education. Let's start building conditions for this model of class suicide to flourish all over the world.