From: “The Future Has An Ancient Heart”

By: Professor Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum Ph.D

(July 2005 – Berkeley University, California)


“The human cost of racism, a lethal ignorance based on not knowing who we are, has been broadcast to the world in the Bush administration’s delayed response to the devastation of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, leading to the deaths and suffering of many vulnerable people, predominantly Black African Americans. This paper is grounded on the African value of self-knowledge: who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.

In 2005 I am assailed by a sense of urgency to tell the story of everyone’s African Black mother because the largely untold history of the United States has been that of enslavement of Africans, extermination of Native Americans, and persecution of people perceived as “dark others.” This mentality still characterizes the leaders of the United States, armed with a monopoly of weapons of mass destruction and ignorant of everyone’s African origin, leaders who seem hell-bent on global domination of the world’s other people, whom they perceive as dark.

A Sicilian-American feminist cultural historian, I have been deeply influenced by African studies – notably the novels of Alice Walker, Cheikh Anta Diop’s rescue of African History from the oblivion and/or distortions of western racism, scholarship of Molefi Asante on Afrocentrism, and Maulana Karenga’s recent research on the African culture of Maat…of justice and order.

genetics research of L. Cavalli-Sforza and world colleagues who confirm in the DNA the African origin of everyone, the findings of archeologists that African migrants after 50,000 BCE brought signs of the African Black mother (pubic V and color ochre red) to every continent. . . as well as Cavalli-Sforza”s theme that African migrants brought their beliefs with them.


What were these beliefs? The legacy African migrants brought to all continents is suggested in Maulana Karenga’s study of Maat wherein she is the moral grounding and human flourishing of a universe in becoming. . . in which she keeps the whole in harmony. Maat is the grounding of human communities in justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order. She is truth, justice, and righteousness in communities that care for the vulnerable: the weak, poor, elderly, the hungry, thirsty, and the naked.

In the ethic of Maat, found in African documents 2500 years before the common epoch, the response to evil is to do good. The heart is the divine presence in humans and the seat of consciousness and moral sensitivity. Maat is the ground of communities where humans are equal, where there is no radical separation between humans and animals, and where wisdom or knowledge is an ethical requirement for everyone. In this African ethos, humans, rooted in their communities are a refuge for the wretched, a raft for the drowning, and a ladder for one who is in the abyss. In the ontological unity of God and humans, Maat is goodness of being in a dynamic and creative universe with an open-ended future.”