AFRICANGLOBE – Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, David and Saul, Achilles and Agamemnon. What do these three pairs of leaders all have in common? An important lesson for the future that we can all learn by looking at the past. Will we heed the message and understand?
The ancient Greeks were a proud, rebellious people. Each segment of them, that is, each city-state, jealously guarded its independence and the leaders hated to submit under one rulership. Somehow, though, it is said, they gathered their forces in a mighty host to wage the Trojan War. However, they nearly lost all when their two greatest leaders, Agamemnon, apponted leader of the entire body and Achilles, their most formidable warrior, had a falling out. It is said to have been over the division of the spoils of war, but, in truth, it was rivalry, pure and simple.
The ancient Israelites, were a proud, rebellious people. Each segment of them, that is, each tribe, jealously guarded its independence and the leaders hated to submit under one rulership. Somehow, though, it is said, they gathered their forces into a single nation. That nation nearly came apart when the king, Saul and their most accomplished warrior, David, had a falling out. One day the people, after singing the king’s praises, sang even greater praises for the exploits of David, and so David had to flee, for his life, from the wrath of his superior.
The Africans in America are a proud, rebellious people. Each segment of them, that is, each Church, each neighborhood, each generation, each division of them, of any kind, prides itself in its distinct differences. It is hard for us to band together, and stay together, for any length of time. The Nation of Islam in the 1960s was, perhaps the most potent organization we have ever formed. But one day a sharp dispute arose between the leader, Elijah Muhammad and the group’s most charismatic leader, Malcolm X. It is said to have concerned “obeying the rules,” but one has to wonder if, at its root, rivalry did not play a part.
Does not the same lesson run through all three tales. Tales? Are not these stories true? Yes, there was a Troy, but did it fall in the way, the glorious way, Homer recounted. Yes, there was a David, but were all those fabulous stories about him really true? And yes, there was an Elijah and a Malcolm, but already we see the mists of time and myth-making enveloping them. What is the moral of these stories (fables?). Let’s see… The quarrelsome Greeks were eventually all conquered by the outlander, Alexander from the highlands of Macedon. The contentious Israelites were captured, and scattered, first by Babylon and then by Rome. And what will happen to us? The stories are there. Will we heed them and understand?
By: Dr. Arthur Lewin
Dr. Lewin was born in Harlem, New York. His parents hail from Jamaica and Cuba. His research has included topics in Jamaican political history, charismatic leadership in African America, Africa and the Caribbean and the class structure in Black America. He is the author of the popular book Africa is Not a Country its a Continent!