The seven principles of Kwanzaa are in need of revision, based on Niara Sudarkasa, Ph.D’s documented studies of African culture and its link to black families in America.
Respect, responsibility, restraint, reciprocity, reverence, reason and reconciliation, Sudarkasa’s work notes, are principles that, if taught and practiced, can assist black people with everyday life and survival.
Sudarkasa’s studies on the African Diaspora were the topic of a discussion by Carole Boyce-Davies, a Cornell University professor of African Studies, during the Dec. 28 lecture, “Black Women and the Production of Knowledge.”
The lecture, which took place at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC) near Fort Lauderdale, was the final presentation of the two-part series.
Sudarkasa has won more than 100 national and international awards, 17 academic fellowships and awards, and 13 honorary degrees.
Now retired and living in Fort Lauderdale, Sudarkasa donated a collection comprising personal items, professional papers and cultural objects that appraised at more than $273,800.
The collection, titled The President’s Papers, will be on display at AARLCC through Saturday, Jan. 2.
“We always have to argue ourselves out of invisibility,” Boyce-Davies said during the lecture about blacks and the struggle to survive in society. “We must work twice as hard only to receive twice the blame. Just as easily as we build, someone is waiting to destroy.”
Sudarkasa’s principles, Boyce-Davies added, are necessary to help remove black men from the subordinate positions in which society has placed them.
“We all have a responsibility,” Boyce-Davies said. “These principles have been worked out and need to be applied, and Africana knowledge needs to be discovered.”
Society, Boyce-Davies continued while explaining Sudarkasa’s research, “has made it easy to erase black women’s work, and that’s not something we want to continue. Too often the assumption is that we should assume the work of others while ours is overlooked, buried.”
Sudarkasa, whose birth name is Gloria Marshall, is a Fort Lauderdale native. She earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in anthropology from Columbia University.
But it was Sudarkasa’s life in Africa starting in her early twenties that catapulted her desire for the comparative studies.
“In Africa,” Sudarkasa said during the lecture, “as a child of the Diaspora, I learned to become an African. My experience made me the woman I am today.”
Sudarkasa lived in a small Nigerian village, where she said she learned to become “an independent contributor to my own well-being. The women there taught me more than I could ever get here, and living those lessons daily made me different. I really learned about family.”
Being in Africa, Sudarkasa said, fueled her “abiding commitment to the continent. It’s something that I must pass on,” she said.
Sudarkasa has published essays on subjects including the African-American family, the explanation of single-parent households and the cultural links between Africa and African Americans.
She was the first African American installed as a chief in the historic Ife Kingdom of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. She was also Lincoln University’s first female president.
Her work as an activist on behalf of equal opportunities and equitable outcomes for African Americans and other underrepresented groups in American higher education is well known.
Boyce-Davies, a native of Trinidad who has also lived and studied in Africa, said the experience provided her a “broader perspective, a more concrete knowledge of the world.”
Albert Smith, a retired Florida Memorial University president, described the lecture as “a program filled with a wealth of information” and said that he was “proud to see it presented by two brilliant black women.”
He continued: “As a race of people, we really need to move forward and their information, the principles, hit that on the head. We have a lot of work to do.”
Photo: Dr. Niara Sudarkasa
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The President’s Papers, an exhibition of the Niara Sudarkasa Collection.
WHERE: African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., near Fort Lauderdale.
WHEN: Exhibits through Saturday, Jan. 2.
COST: Free and open to the public.