The Blaque Awareness Network (BAN)
Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania 19608
Founder and CEO
Dr. Ellesia Ann Blaque
Professor of Ethnic Literature, History, and Culture
About our Founder
I'd like to welcome each of you to the Blaque Awareness Network (The Network), a Pan-Africanist concept influenced by the work of David Walker, Marcus Garvey, Cheikh Anta Diop, Malcolm X, John Henrik Clark, Molefi Kete Asante, and thousands of books. Devised in 1992 with the encouragement of the late friend Jon Anthony Dennis (1962-2001), the original concept for BAN was to enlighten African Americans about the importance of their knowledge of, and relationship with Africa and other Africans throughout the Diaspora.
My educational history is much like Henrik Clark's, in that I began my studies of Africa, its literature, and history at a very young age, but did not, until later in life, obtain Western "credentials,"in which I had little stock. My desire for revolution is much like that of Malcolm's as he was, and is, the strongest leader African America has ever known. My quest to bring the Diaspora together is much like Walker's and Garvey's in that I recognize that the continent of Africa is the Motherland to all of its children, despite the geographical places where slavery,colonization, and the Eurocentric maintenance of such strategic methods of ignorance has brought Africans as a people. My need to trace and report the long history of Africa and its people around the globe is much like that of Asante and Diop because like
them I share not only a necessitated interest in the rhetoric of revolution and enlightenment, but also the urgency to be enlightened and share such knowledge.
These African men have not only heavily influenced my life's goals and work. They have created those goals, as, without them, I didn't know how to verbalize or envision those long sought objectives, didn't know where to find the information of a people long since lost, hidden, stolen, and misplaced, and did not understand the necessity to find my niche in a Eurocentric game through higher education. Yet, they are only the beginning of my journey.
My inspiration comes almost solely from African women, specifically, Maria Stewart, Ida B. Wells, Kathleen N. Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis, and Clara V. Carter. Beginning with the latter, Clara Carter, was, and is my GrandMother, the operative word being "mother." She taught me everything I know about strength, determination, spirituality, patience, attitude, and positivity. Stewart is the first Black Nationalist woman on record, while Wells believed in revolution by any means necessary, including violence against the oppressor. Cleaver influenced me to become credentialed, while Sanchez's work encouraged me to express myself through writing; and Davis is Davis, one of the most powerful African women to grace the earth with her writing, teaching, and power.
All of these men and women support specific paradigms to which I fully subscribe, but not blindly as Christians, Jews, and Muslims subscribe to their religious leaders and the writings they produce(d), but rather through educated critique, verification, and validation. In other words, It is through objective research and observation that these twelve people have encouraged my study not only in the literature and history of African people around the globe,but
also sociology, (to understand why things are as they are), semiotics (the power and signs of the written and spoken word), psychoanalysis(to cure our group melancholia), and America's constitutional laws, which are designed to keep us exactly as we are, enslaved rats-on-a-wheel participating in our own destruction.
Although my educational process is never-ending,my Ph.D. was conferred in March of 2009, marking the unofficial launch of The Network. In this moment I feel more prepared and motivated than ever to do as Henrik Clark espouses as "my best work" as an educator and a disseminator of the information that I feel is most valuable to change the states of mind of Africans in America, as our efforts to reunite with our Brothers and Sisters at home on the Continent are consistently thwarted from group and individual progression not only because of embedded institutional racism, but because of our psychological and cultural inability to take control of our cultural destinies.
In other words, I now know that our distance from positive uplift is less because of racism than from our own thinking and cultural awareness of our African-ness. It's not that racism in America is not running rampant; however, here are myriad ways to avoid the system or racism. Knowledge of self supersedes race, class, and gender. Our connection to our Afrocentric selves is pivotal in our success as individual people and certainly as a group of Africans living, loving, working, and dying outside of Africa. Our most powerful weapons against mental enslavement and socio-political colonization are ourselves, but those weapons are being used against us by us because too many members of our community have lost their way and our distance from Africa grows wider daily.
As a native Philadelphian, I have witnessed and experienced the cycle of death that comes part and parcel with the cycle of ignorance. As a people, we have allowed ourselves to be ghettoized in the physical and spiritual realms. As an example, I know a 50 year old Brother, who has not had a real job since 1987 when he went to jail after he beat up his boss for calling him the N-word. Since then, he argues that he lives an undocumented life because he cannot suffer the infamous "white man," who is no more than a phantasm. He, like millions of other Brothers are making the same psycho-social mistake. He believes that he is an N-word, calls himself the N-word, and refers to other Africans using the same term. Additionally, he has an entire philosophy encompassed in that word. Such a thing would be comical, if it was
not so pathetically damaging, not only to him, but to all those young minds with whom he comes in contact. Multiply this one Brother times 5 million, and then multiply that result by those who listen to them, believe in them, and look up to them: and therein lies the nightmare of Africans in America.
We must disconnect ourselves from the stereotypes of the past that permeate our present and set our futures up for failure. As Henrik Clark suggests, notions of our color do not tell us who we are. We must use self-descriptions that connect us to the lands from which we come, we must reverse our perceptions of ourselves using a different calculus of value through which the perceptions of us held by others around the globe will also recognized, as how we are (dis)respect, (mis)treated, (un)welcomed, and (dis)regarded by the different ethnicities are dictated by they ways in which we choose to live, work, love, and die. These are the issues The Network is designed to address. As Africans, we must become fully aware of our long standing history that reaches beyond Europe and its legacy, as the legacies of our ancestors are thousands of years older, come from true civilization and community, and value who we are. As one scholar put in Molefi Asante, Jr.'s film 500 Years Later, "we must move closer to slavery, rather than away from it" in order to understand who we are, where we come from, what our struggles have been, what our victories are and how we won them, and most importantly, to reconcile our past--together. The Network is the organization that can contribute to making that happen in a positive way.
Our workshops are designed as learning seminars based upon the target audience. We have begun building these workshops by offering what we believe are the two most important: the Family Workshops and the Teen Workshops.
These are the most important workshops that The Network offers. The learning modules begin with the history of our people
and explain the reasons why we must be concerned with that history. They include interactive group work geared toward demonstrating to families why we need each other and why fulfilling that need is not only our responsibility, but also beneficial for every member of the family group and the African Diaspora as a whole.
These workshops target African American teenagers and serve as an alternative to State programs. It is the understanding, and therefore, the practice, of The Network that African Americans willingness to turn to the government is, without doubt, a mistake. We must remember that the same institutions to which African families in America turn-foster care, juvenile detention/prisons, boot camps and group homes-are not concerned with the uplift of our people, but rather the long term housing of us as a people. We must support the idea that we can solve our own problems and take control of own communities, which begins by addressing issues within our own families. This is particularly important to black teens, who have, traditionally, been mistreated by State Apparatuses, such as police and parole officers, juvenile judges, penal codes, systems of incarceration, group homes, foster homes, etc. Critical attention must be paid to the true objectives of these State programs prior to Africans in America simply shipping their children off to State institutions for help. The teen workshops offer an alternative to such desperation and are facilitated by Afrocentric leaders, educators, and professionals in the local area who have a stake in what happens to the next generation of African children in America. It is important that we assure our black youth are critical thinkers about all that they contemplate; that they can differentiate between the images in the latest music video, which are commodifications of our experiences,and the importance of knowing the historical truth about who we actually are as a people. To do this we use black history, literature, music lyrics, critical essays, poetry and spoken word, role playing, and autobiographical presentations to share information, gain new knowledge, and make concrete life plans. Teen participants walk away with a practical 10 year life plan that is not only achievable, but worthy of achievement. Most importantly, we do not preach to them, but rather demonstrae to them the tools and how to use them to reach their respective goals. This includes a workshop about higher education, how to gain college entry, preparing for high levels of academic achievement, and of course, the financial planning that is needed to be successful.
Sisters Talk Retreat
Sister Talk is currently under development, with more information about or first meetingcoming soon. . .
The First Annual BlaqueAdemics Annual Conference & Fundraiser (2012)
The Network's participants are awarded free or discounted tickets to BlaqueAdemics™ first Annual Conference, currently planned for 2012. The Conference is the most important singular event, affecting the whole of our organization. We are hosting the event in Philadelphia and at a venue that has yet to be determined. Our first theme is Freedom of Speech, and the Conference plans five events, including the celebration of the first book to roll off the presses of Banned Books and Company. Look for more information on this important event as plans continue to develop.
Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania 19608