- Faith & Family
Randall Robinson, 70, has had a long and distinguished career including serving as the founder (1977) and first president of the TransAfrica Forum, being a leading political activist known for his opposition to South African apartheid and his advocacy on behalf of Haitian immigrants and unapologetically calling for wide-scale race-based reparations. He has authored books including “The Debt” and “The Reckoning.” But it’s his latest book, “Makeda” (Akashic Books, 2011) that illustrates the depth of Robinson’s mind, heart and soul.
Michael Eric Dyson says, “In Robinson’s majestic prose and sweeping historical vision, the tongues of Virginia Wolff, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison blend to remind us that we can renew our souls in the eyes of the ancestors who return to us in whatever way our lives demand.”
Robinson share his own views about this provocative work of fiction.
“I set the story in Richmond (VA) during the days of segregation — America’s own form of apartheid — and talk about the value of memory and the essentials of self-love,” he said.
The main character is Makeda March, a proud, blind-from-birth, matriarch, who shares her vivid and colorful “dreams” with her young grandson Gray. As the story unfolds, Gray learns that those dreams may actually be real memories of lives once lived in a time where Blacks not only ruled the world but were the masters of their own destinies as well.
“Makeda’s family has been battered by the American experience — that opaque 2 1/2 centuries of slavery,” Robinson added. “We are the only people without control of our own story. I agree with the old adage that says ‘the way out is the way back through.’ The story itself is fiction, but the history is well-documented. We [Blacks] have been scarred deliberately by the blocking of our history. Looking back on my childhood in Richmond, we were only a stone’s throw away from the home of Carter G. Woodson [the first to propose an annual observance of Black history] but we were not allowed to use his book in school nor were we allowed to read the works of any Black author.”
Black history began before slavery
Robinson says one wrong that must be corrected is the starting place for Blacks when reviewing their story.
“Every Black history month we start at slavery in America as if we had no rich history in Haiti or in Africa to share,” he said. “Africans believe that the ancestors never abandon their own. So much was lost in slavery. We lost our names, our history and our total selves. Many years ago I decided to live my life from inside-out instead of the reverse. There’s no point in blaming those who were the oppressors — it won’t make them help us any sooner. We must help ourselves.”
As one character in the novel says, “the problems with Blacks is we have no insides.”
Perhaps Robinson believes that by filling in the blanks of our history that we can begin the healing process and finally be “freed” with the truth — thus filling our insides with pride — a pride and love of self that many generations ago was commonplace for all of our African ancestors.
By D. Kevin McNeir