• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

This year, the first book I finished reading is Bell Hooks’ Teaching to transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Bell Hooks is Jean Watkin's pen name. She's an acclaimed author and one of the finest and first black feminist writers. Unfortunately, she died on December 15, 2021. Thanks Hooks for given your voice to our course. Hooks wrote more than 30 book, among which are "Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism" (1981), "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre" (1984), “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love” (2004), “When Angels Speak of Love” (2007), etc. “Teaching to Transgress” was published in 1994.

Born on September 25, 1952, in a black neighborhood, Hooks went first to a segregated school. However, as one of the students meant to experiment on a recently desegregated school system, she was later transferred to a new school in a white neighborhood.

In this remarkable book, Hooks presents her views on teaching pedagogy and her experience as a student, a black woman, a professor, a feminist, and a human rights activist.

Initially, "Teaching to transgress" appears as a narrative of Hooks' experience, struggle, and navigation through an education system that has no place for students' thoughts, feelings, and lives. So, through a captivating narrative, she presents how, in both schools, the teachers made her work either to prove that she's equal to her white counterparts or better than them. And through her experience, she gives the reader an insight into an education system that limits students' imagination and creativity.

Her struggle to locate her voice lasted until she discovered “Pedagogy of Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paulo Paulo Freire world-acclaimed book that has long become a classic, Hooks found a key to her self-transformation, and also a theory of education that liberates and triggers a change. This remained her combat until her death.

For those who have yet to read the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, suffice it to say that Paulo Freire shows how education could become a subversive force in this work. Paulo believes that once those denied the possibility of reading or writing, or even the ability to find in themselves their voice, or capacity to think for themselves, become aware of their selfhood, they will begin to look critically at the social situation they find themselves. Through Pedagogy of the oppressed, Paulo empowers such people to take initiatives to transform the society that had once denied them the opportunity to participate in their destiny (30).

Hereafter, Hooks tells the reader that her relationship with reading and teaching changed. So, she decided then to be a voice in the desert, but this time, not asking that the society prepares the way for the privileged, but she took it upon herself to arm the oppressed and marginalized to tell their stories. And through her writings and engaged pedagogical method of teaching, we read, she challenges both her students and readers to look beyond the traditional way of teaching and learning.

The book isn't just a narrative of Hooks' struggle for a liberating education system but a manual for those interested in teaching differently, engaging in critical racial thinking theories and subverting the society that limits teachers and students to the status quo. The title— "Teaching to transgress" could be understood both literarily and figuratively. It's literal knowing that through "Teaching to transgress," Hooks wants teachers to go against the old-accepted banking concept of education or the traditional method of teaching where the teacher is all-knowing, and the students are bound to listen. It could also be figuratively, and this is the one privileged by Hooks herself when we understand that Hooks is asking that we go beyond—transgress—our self-erected borders. The book demands a reinvention of our teaching methods and our relationship with the marginalized—women, minority groups, people with different sexual orientations, etc.

Finally, to better understand Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, one needs to read "Teaching to Transgress" by Bell Hooks. It's one of the works that, while underlining the limits of the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, take time to appreciate its originality and the necessity to implement its theories.

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

First published in https://www.blackcatholicmessenger.com/kwanzaa-is-a-gift/?fbclid=IwAR3_9oNBxLTczM3fXmaE8tUWSz12p4QXW

I have never heard about the Kwanzaa celebration before coming to Canada.

The reason is apparent: the West usually doesn’t have much interest in metanarratives. Hence, it treats Kwanzaa as a sub-cultural celebration not worth promoting.

Also, unfortunately, some members of the African diaspora—especially those who grew up in Africa like me—aren't always keen to embark on cultural events proposed by our brethren here in the Northern hemisphere. The problem isn't simply that they refuse to embark on such events, but they often try to subvert them or judge them as non-authentic.

Sometimes, they even go as far as joining some detractors to fight against our brethren's beautiful Black cultural heritage. As such, on the second day of Kwanzaa celebrations in 2021, we woke to a polemic concerning it.

For those who don't know about Kwanzaa, the founder’s definition is as follows:

“...an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. It is based on African first harvest celebrations and organized around five fundamental kinds of activities: ingathering of the people; special reverence for the creator and creation; commemoration of the past; recommitment to the highest cultural values; and celebration of the Good."

The weeklong holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. It celebrates seven fundamental and core values of Black people: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Although it is a celebration created in the late 20th century, it can be traced to time immemorial of Black people, as it celebrates the core value of our ancestors: the Ubuntu. Therefore, Kwanzaa is not only a cultural celebration but also a spiritual one.

The polemic against it this year involved Dinesh D’Souza’s resharing of a Twitter post from 2019, in which US Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted Kwanzaa greetings.

A famous UK-based Nigerian biomedical scientist and Catholic anti-abortion activist, Dr. Obianuju Ekeocha, replied to her less than enthusiastically:

The problem with such reactions is that they give our detractors a strong axe. It's evident that in this metaverse era, the joy of being retweeted or drawing people to our profiles is often stronger than sound reasoning. But when people who claim to be the moral guardians engage in such self-destructive projects, we have to question their motives.

Besides, even if those who take part in the celebration of Kwanzaa claimed that the feast came packaged from the motherland, where Obianuju has her roots, she would still be wrong to assume that being African gives one a complete knowledge of all African festivities. And implying that the entire African population shares one culture or feast is a colonial mentality.

For example, there are different local cultures and festivities among the Igbo, her tribe. And even when many communities share a celebration, like in the case of the New Yam Festival, they still celebrate it on different days or even months of the year. So how can Obianuju claim that Kwanzaa can't be African simply because she ignores it?

And what about the idea that the Igbo people celebrate Christmas around this time? Historically speaking, Christmas became a Christian celebration in Rome only in the fourth century. And we know that it wasn't originally a Christian festivity. So, following Obianuju's reasoning, St. Paul could laugh at us for celebrating Christmas because his community didn't participate in it.

Both in the UK and the US, celebrating Christmas was once a crime. As recently as 1828, the Christmas celebration attracted punishment in some American cities. In fact, New York City instituted its first police force in response to a Christmas riot.

On May 11, 1659, for religious motives, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony made celebrating Christmas a criminal offence. It was stated that “whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labour, feasting or any other way was subject to a 5-shilling fine”.

It was 200 years before Massachusetts added Christmas, George Washington's birthday, and the Fourth of July to its public holidays.

And what about Obianuju's homeland? The first Christmas celebrated in Nigeria (in today’s Lagos State) took place in 1842. Before this, there was no evidence that anyone previously celebrated Christmas in Nigeria. Is this then the “time” that Obianuju is talking about? Does that mean that the Igbo nation had no feast before the arrival of the missionaries?

Moreover—along her reasoning—why would anyone fight, like we all do today, to continue celebrating Christmas, which history has confirmed was such a troublesome feast among the English colonies in North America?

Finally, how could those who are supposed to be proud that the diaspora promotes our ancestral heritages discredit Kwanzaa with its strong cultural and spiritual values? One would expect that Africans will rejoice to see that through Kwanzaa, Ubuntu has become an international celebration.

It's time that the Church encourages this Black initiative that celebrates the same values Christmas proposes. The diaspora and those in the Motherland should join their hands to promote Kwanzaa. It should be valued as an African gift to the entire world.

And, as we all can see, humanity needs to reinvent itself through the core values that Ubuntu philosophy propagates.

  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Behold, we bring good tidings

Of two new births to the World

A gift of a son to a visible World

And another to the one invisible

The Royal city of Nazareth has a son

A king born in a manger to all nations

Fragile like an egg, he comes to you

Vulnerable, yet strong in meekness and love

The prototype of his many other brethren

Lo and behold another child is born

A giant from the home of Jerusalema

Tata Desmond Mpilo Tutu we called him

Bred in the African and Anglican pot

He rose, an iroko, he attracted birds of all kinds

Not of great stature, he dominated his world

Thundering from the altars of different religions

Proclaiming the Gospel of universal fraternity

Breaking barriers holding peace in hostage

Humbly born, poor he grew up to greatness

He goes home to join another Anglican giant

Both born within a year under different stars

John Shelby Spong the other was called

Two great Anglican oblations to the world

Who refused to be caged in a single religious family

— Alisonomi2021®️

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