Monday, April 9, 2012

"Black History" by Gil Scott Heron

A favorite spoken-word piece from Gil Scott Heron. If you prefer to hear it rather than read it, it's also on Google Video.

I was wondering about our yesterdays,
and starting digging through the rubble.
And to say the least, somebody went
to a hell of a lot of trouble

to make sure that when we looked things up
we wouldn't fair too well
and we would come up with totally unreliable
portraits of ourselves.

But I compiled what few facts I could,
I mean, such as they are
to see if we could shed a little bit of light
and this is what I got so far:

First, white folks discovered Africa
and they claimed it fair and square.
Cecil Rhodes couldn't have been robbing nobody
'cause, hell, he said there wasn't nobody there!

White folks brought all the civilization.
They say there wasn't none around.
'Cause how could these folks be civilized
when they didn't see nobody writing nothing down?

And just to prove all their suspicions,
well, it didn't take too long.
They found out there were whole groups of people
in plain sight
running around without much clothes on. That's right!

There were women and men, young folks and old folks—
well, righteous folks just covered their eyes.
And no time was spent considering the environment.
They just said, "Hell, no, this ain't civilized."

And another way they knew the folks was backwards,
or at least this is how we were taught,
is that unlike the "very civilized people of Europe"
these Black groups actually fought!

And yes, there were some "crude implements"
and yes, there was "primitive art"
and yes, they were masters of hunting and fishing
and courtesy came from the heart.

And yes there was love and medicine, religion,
and inter-tribal communication by drum.
But no paper and pencils or other utensils
and hell, these folks never even heard of a gun.

So this is why the colonies came
to stabilize the land.
The Dark Continent had copper and gold
and the discoverers had themselves a plan.

They would "discover" all the places with promise.
You didn't need no titles or deeds.
You could just appoint people to make everything legal,
to sanction the trickery and greed.

And back in the jungle if the natives got restless,
well, you called that "guerilla attack!"
And you never describe that some folks might have got wise
and decided they were going to fight back.

But still we are victims of word games;
semantics is always a bitch.
Places once called "under-developed" and "backwards"
they now call them "mineral rich."

And still it seems like the game goes on
with unity always just out of reach
Because Libya and Egypt used to be in Africa,
but they've been moved to the Middle East.

There are examples galore I assure you,
but if interpreting was left up to me,
I'd be sure every time folks knew this version wasn't mine
which is why it is called "His story."

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