Yosef Alfredo Antonio ben-Jochannan, December 31, 1918 – March 19, 2015
Reluctantly, we at connecting the dots in general shy away from the often commonly held concept of evaluating one person over another. You know that “greater than” phenomenon. “So-and-so is the greatest”, “so-and-so is the best ever”, “so-and-so is greater than”,…. fill in the blank. But, often in the annals of human behavior and its manifestations sometimes, distressingly, disappointing so we are left with just that analysis, that observation, that evaluation. Greatness, actually resigns in all of us and we should be striving for that.
But before a another second, another minutes, another hour, or another day passes, let us collectively knowledge greatness of Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan. Born born December 31, 1918 in Ethiopia, to a Puerto Rican mother and an Ethiopian father. He was educated in Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Ethiopia, United States Virgin Islands, England and Spain. In 1938, he earned a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1939 a Master’s degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Havana, Cuba. He received his Doctoral degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Moorish History from the University of Havana and the University of Barcelona, Spain.
We are not going to recite Dr. Ben’s academic record nor his life as a formal teacher (in the conventional academic setting). No. We’ll leave that for others. Dr. Ben is a giant for his academic knowledge and for his courage to do what is often said but rarely consummated; “to speak truth to power”. If you have ever listened to Dr. Ben, this he did unwaveringly and sometimes intentionally provocatively. The boldness of his words, the force of his delivery, and the potency of his historical knowledge made some stutter and cringe with fear and cowardliness, yet he infused a robustness of life, a desire to learn and fostered a fortification of self into others. Funny what the truth will do.
“At no time would I stand still in theses halls of indoctrination and not rebel with the necessary documentation of the lies that are being taught in these halls” – Dr. Ben at Tuskegee University 1984
“All must be examined through the Africa eye” stated the great Sengelese scientist, thinker and scholar Cheikh Anta Diop. His word are amplified and personified in the life’s work of Dr. Ben. And we are all the better for his work. He author 49 books and there are a few that remain unpublished. Prolific and masterful. His transcendent thesis “The Blackman of the Nile and His Family” documents the significance of the Black family to the human family. This book, along with mitochondrion DNA, prove that indeed in more ways than one that “heaven is between a black woman’s thighs”. Today, we are witnessing books such as “Black Genesis” by Bavaul and Brody literally restate Dr. Ben’s work.
Dr. Ben, along with his companions, of some of New York’s finest, George Simmons, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, James Smalls without the aid of an institution laid down a blueprint and a foundation for which many of us today stand upon seeking to erect, reassemble and reconstruct what has been systematically and intentionally hidden, dismissed or destroyed. Yes, there have been others throughout the Black diaspora that have done the same as this New York gang and we do not excluded them. We honor them all, for the mentor of “Philadelphia’s Own” Charles Pitts is one, so are the men that influenced “The People’s Scientist”. Men who will not be deterred, unnerved or unravel despite formable opposition (some internally) to state, preach and teach the truth about Blackness. These men contributed greatly to our elevated consciousness, our deeper understanding of our significant contribution to the World and our newly restored and unrestricted pride of our mothers and fathers. Their commitment to scholarship and academia established a tone and a pattern that many of us follow today. Their example has set in stone that mediocrity is unacceptable. All presented with a boldness of expression, a strength of the power of knowledge and a uncompromising and unapologetic voice. We, whom have picked up this mantle of continuing to enlighten and expose, in the absence of institutions, honor these man everyday. As the cliché goes “we stand on the shoulders of giants!”
We at Connecting the Dots honor Dr. Ben, his serve, his dedication and his tenacity. We find this 1984 presentation at Tuskegee Institute to one of his boldest and coldest. But it exemplifies who this man was, for those that follow African cosmology, it is who the man is.
Death of a Comrade
Death must not find us thinking that we die
too soon, too soon
our banner draped for you
I would prefer
the banner in the wind
Not bound so tightly
in a scarlet fold
not sodden, sodden
with your people’s tears
but flashing on the pole
we bear aloft
down and beyond this dark, dark lane of rags.
Now, from the mourning vanguard moving on
dear Comrade, I salute you and I say
Death will not find us thinking that we die.
This poem is by the renowned Guyanese poet and and political activist, Martin Wylde Carter (June 7, 1927 – December 13, 1997)