It used to be the default viewpoint of African-Americans. Asleep for decades, it restarted in the hip-hop community as a tremor in the late 1980’s and by the early 1990’s. A systematic quake of Afrocentricism ran like a current through the hearts and minds of Black folk in the United States.

Why was it so powerful? Because it was on the radio, in the streets, in the church pulpit and on TV. Back then word of mouth was still king. The World Wide Web was in its infancy, and households had yet to grab hold to personal computers.

Championed on college campuses, an organic movement began to sprout. Loud colors akin to the patterns of African fashions started to pop up everywhere. People began to wearing the triune of black consciousness: red, black and green. Black men started to grow their afros again. Black women started to twist their hair like they did in the Motherland. Historically ashamed about their appearance, Black people started to relish their chocolate skin tones, celebrating them with a prideful appreciation.

Even so-called gangsta hip-hop groups, freed from Westernized ideology and motivated to tell idealistic stories about unity rather than gun shed joined the party.

Merchandising popped up (remember the T-shirts, “It’s a black thang, you wouldn’t understand?”), medallions were sold. A whole cottage industry was built around buying Black products, African-themed furniture and cosmetics (shea butter, anyone?)

It wasn’t the first time the prideful vibe of Africanism hit the United States. It happened in the 1920s with Marcus Garvey’s teachings. It happened in the 1960s with the civil rights movement, albeit it was more bourgeois-flavored. But the tide came back in in the early 1990s. Terms such as “nubian princess” and “Black queen” were defacto on HBCU campuses nationwide. TV shows like “The Cosby Show,” “In Living Color,” “Living Single” and “A Different World” captured that world’s fashions and mannerisms.

But could it arise again?

The early 1990s in the United States, with a bullish economy that seemed unstoppable at the time, will forever be remembered as the golden age of Black Americana. For the first time, The American Dream had soul. Looking back at it all now, was it just a fad, a flash in the pan? The chants, the million marchers, the hopes — was it a mirage?

Or could Afrocentricity return?

In 2010, we are all witnesses to a watershed event in U.S. history. This is a time — the only time, when the most visible and powerful man in the world is a Black man. Could “Brand Obama,” as former White House socialite-in-residence Desiree Rogers once remarked, rock a Kente cloth?

Could the cycle of Afrocentricity — that elusive breeze of consciousness that brushes past us every now and then come back now?

And could the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama bring it back? Would they? Or even, should they?

Imagine Obama, instead of getting a tight fade from his favorite Chicago barber, letting his hair grow full into tight curls. Visualize him with one of his father’s indigenous shirts from one of the Kenyan marketplaces frequented by his father.

Picture Michelle emerging from the White House’s Rose Garden with corn rolls atop her head, her black hair glistening in the sun.

Instead of a fist-bump, the two would hold hands and with the other, raise it in the sky making a fist. Of course, this consciousness would be more than just an adornment of clothes, but would be accompanied by an earnest effort to promote knowledge about the African continent. On the White House staff would be the Secretary of the Department of African Consciousness. They would work to foster a sense of unity with the people of the United States and the Motherland.

Could it happen? I don’t know. But we’ve tried the American Dream. Why not try an African one?

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  • hehe

    love, knowledge, respect, and concern of and for ones self, people, history, and culture, should never be a fleeting fad, it should have been, should still be, and hopefully one day will be, a constant in the lives of all people of African decent.

    • It would be nice. Being African is seen as an insult now. Some naturals say that people said, “Oh, you look African…” like it was an insult. I understand that people don’t see themselves as African-American because white people don’t call themselves European-American. They claim America solely and act like everyone else is different. If I was a black American, I’d just call myself an American. Why bring your ancestry into it?

  • i am black american, my culture and viewpoint is one separate from that of the continent of africa. i’m proud to be a black woman, but at the same time there’s so much that goes into “afrocentricity” that i sometimes feel i am unequipped to understand. tbh, when i think of it, it reminds me of clinging to a culture that was ripped from me long before i was born. i don’t know my rightful last name, i don’t know what country (or countries) of origin in africa my family come from, and there’s just so much pain that comes along with it.

    black americans have our own culture too, although people would like to forget that or make us feel ashamed of it, like it’s not “real.” why should i embrace bits and pieces of something when i have my own culture to try and make sense of?

    • 2010 Graduate

      You have taken words directly from my mind, heart, and mouth. Afrocentrism has always been stressed, however African American history isn’t. African American history isn’t looked at as a culture. For the past few years, I’ve been researching an unlost history; not realizing that my African American heritage is just as beautiful.

      I do believe that African history before slavery should be learned an accepted. Low self-esteem is the catalyst for all the problems occuring in black America. This low self-esteem is due to the lack of teaching on African history, and distorted African American history.

    • binky

      @ Anonygirl

      You took the words right out of my mouth!!! Exactly, I’ am a black American first, my culture, heritage and upbringing is different from those in Africa so I can’t identify with something I barely know and understand and leave my own black culture in American behind. I’am not knocking my African heritage and the linage it took to create me and my family but we as black americans have been so far removed from Africa that their isn’t a real pull. And how can there be a true African movement until we know where we come from exactly? Africa is just not one type of people and culture but some much more… so to try and pin “Afrocentricity” into one box isn’t going to work. Because just like the whole black american experience isn’t the same, the African experience isn’t the same there. And it is more than a look but the way you carry yourself and how you feel.

  • Black American

    I agree with Anonygirl. I’m a Black American and can’t completely identify with many cultures in Africa (because HELLO!! Africa’s a continent that has many different people with many different cultures).

    I’ve always felt that the afrocentric movement was over doing it. I love being Black and know that I’m part of the African Diaspora, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that it’s a bit much to try and overidentify with something that doesn’t truly reflect my everyday.

    • Joy

      Please tell them it’s a continent! I get tired of hearing people say “I’m going to Africa!” You better tour that whole continent on your one week stay, lol.

  • Joe Clyde

    What happened was that it became cool to be Euro-Centric.

    The new status symbol is knowing the latest “white” rock bands, saying you don’t listen to R&B (as if whites don’t listen to R&B), saying you date outside of your race…..etc.

    Black or Blackness is a synonym for ignorance, and shame now.

    • toronto

      “what happened was it became cool to be euro-centric”


      thanks for the article, clutch.

      how about afro-centricity never left?

      the way afro-centricity is accounted above relies mainly upon the visibility of ‘afro-centricity’ as a certain black aesthetic. through history, we know it is more than that, though it has been deduced. in strictly an aesthetic sense, one can speak about ‘afroc-centricity’ as ‘in’ or ‘not’. however, i think a more useful approach we can take up in the discussion thread are the ways that afro-centricity – though it may not always be referred to as that – has restructured itself ? So, maybe it’s not so much about whether Obama can wear Kente or not. Rather, what kind of conditions still harken a necessity for afro-centricity – as an alternative way of envisioning ‘self’, ‘history’ ‘worth’ and ‘change’? What is it about the politicization of blackness, african-ness – then and now – that has us thinking about unity, dissent, community or change in such limited – material terms that cannot see afro-centricity as a dis/continuity existing alongside other ways of being ‘black’? I think, even the biggest critics of afro-centricity are still able to appreciate what ‘afro-centricity’ attempts to ask: how can we live with our pasts that allow us to live in the present ? and that we still struggle with – obama or not – no?

      my two cents.

    • I don’t listen to ‘R&B’ like that, I listen to alternative, rock, and experimental. When on earth did Black become associated with just ‘R&B’ and ‘Rap’? You need a history lesson.

    • Joe Clyde


      Well AMBER. The fools that say that statement obviously think so. That was my exact point.

      They believe that somehow it is cool to tell everyone that they only listen too “alternative, rock, and experimental.” These people somehow feel that it makes them sound “cool”. It doesn’t.

      That is why I said that. It is as if they don’t think that Whites listen to R&B music. It is ridiculous.

      So THEY feel anything Black (R&B too them) is considered less than or following the pact.

    • Avette

      Oh come on JOE CLYDE lol my name is Amber, too and I did understand your point—the emphasis on the girl’s name was unnecessary and is part of the reason the black American comm can’t get along now…someone always has to throw shade on someone else for “acting white”. My parents named me Amber because that’s the color I was outta the womb…Amber, it’s a shade of brown :p lol name rant over.

    • Joe Clyde


      One of my coolest BFF from High School was named Amber. So I am definitely not throwing any shade on the name.

      Just the attitude. lol

  • Miss Luna

    She said, “Afrocentricity was of the past”
    So she got into R&B, Hip-House, Bass and Jazz

    Great comment, Joe clyde.