Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan

Celebrating Life Now

By Tarikh Tehuti Bandele
After watching Gil Noble’s excellent piece highlighting the master teacher that is Dr. Yosef ben Yochannan, i started to think about some things. Too often, we celebrate the life and struggle of people when they have made their transition. Also sparking these thoughts were my listening to WBAI/Pacifica Radio over the last few days. As many of you know, this past February 21st was the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Minister Malcolm X. And many of WBAI’s broadcasters were ‘celebrating’ this day, February 21, by remembering Malcolm, dicussing his philosophy, and playing many of his speeches, interviews, and debates.

Let me add here that i don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with doing this. At the same time, however, i feel that, as a community, we must honor, celebrate and acknowledge those who have struggled for Afrikan liberation while they are here. History teaches us that, for the most part, Minister Malcolm was a pariah among many of his own people. Not more than two weeks before he was assassinated, Gil Noble says that his wife noticed Malcolm walking down the street in Harlem. Noble’s wife said Malcolm was completely alone. Now that is interesting. Indeed, a new, more appreciative generation has dicovered him and held him up as a sincere freedom fighter. But, the question that begs to be answered is “where were his people then, when he was alive?”

Dr Yosef ben Jochannan in action

Dr Yosef ben Jochannan in action

Dr. Ben (as we have come to acknowledge him) is one of my master teachers, one at whose feet i have sat at for the last twenty-one years. Much of what i know was either taught to me by him or was learned after being inspired by him. He is the egyptologist’s egyptologist. He has uncompromisingly dedicated his life to the correct and accurate retelling of the history of Afrika in general, and Kemet in specific. While he has many detractors and skeptics, no one can deny this dedication. No one can deny his love of Afrika, his love of Her people, and his adoration of the truth.

I will admit, Dr. Ben could ruffle some feathers with his scathing denunciation of “western religions” and their tendency to co-opt Afrikan spiritual systems, without giving due credit to the source. I once remember a discussion I had with a progressive sister. And when i cited one of Dr. Ben’s books in the discussion, her facial expression immediately changed. Inquiring why that had happened and what issue(s) (if any) did she have with Dr. Ben, the only thing she could raise was the print style of his books. Playing the role of psychologist, i finally got the sister to admit that her problem with him was the truths he revealed about Islam and it’s connection to Afrikan spiritual systems.

Zealouts need not apply. With Dr. Ben, you will either appreciate his lessons or assail him and them. So, if you are one of those that believe that your religion can do no wrong, steer clear. If, on the other hand, you are willing to approach this beautiful master teacher with an open mind, by all means, drop to one knee and soak in all that he has to offer you.

I love you, Dr. Ben. You have been instrumental in shaping and forming the love for and determination i have for Afrikan liberation. You have taught me (like you have taught hundreds of thousands more)so much by your selfless example. I adore your wit, your candidness, your humor, and your refusal to accept lies and hypocrisy as truth. And like Garvey, do not worry Great Tiger: you have left many, many cubs in the bush. And those cubs have left cubs. And those cubs are leaving cubs.

Alafia Ndugu!

Now Get Up.

Tarikh Tehuti Bandele.



“God Never Dies, Therefore I Cannot Die!”


One Response

  1. Thanks, Tehuti! I always liked Doc Ben’s off-the-cuff style, which really stews academicians. I like the layout in his books. I like the working class ethic he brings to scholarship. Take it or leave it, for me he is a giant, a trailblazer and more than just a doctor of letters or any other label folks want to paste on him. May he live and teach forever.

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