Friday, July 31, 2009
We leave for the Nile Valley in two days. I am reminded of the long genealogy of scholars and travelers who have made their way there in search of self, memory, instruction and inspiration. I think of how Edward Wilmot Blyden quoted the Liberian poet Hillary Teague, who urged Africa to "retake your fame" after having been inspired by the sight of the Great Pyramid. Of how Paul Robeson sang from the operatic "Isis and Osiris" in the great chamber of that same structure; how Louis Armstrong blew his trumpet in the shadow of the sphinx with his wife Louise looking on. I am reminded of how Howard University's Alain Locke and William Leo Hansberry both stood in the sands where Africans constructed the first free standing stone structures in the world, invented what became known as numbers and letters, and were the first to chart the stars with the system that we still use today, largely unchanged. We are connecting again to more than history: we are about to undertake the investigation of what it means to do intellectual work in this, an age sorely mischaracterized by so many. We are about to undertake the consideration of what Ayi Kwei Armah has called "The Eloquence of the Scribes." What an honor and what an exciting moment. A legacy renewed, indeed.