Who is a Scholar Who is a Scholar
Who is a scholar? In our society today we confuse someone in Universities as being a scholar. An academic is an academic who may... Who is a Scholar

Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.– Frantz Fanon

Who is an African scholar? In our society today we confuse someone in Universities as being a scholar. An academic is an academic who may or not be a scholar. And the word  scholar only means someone with a certain degree of expertise on a particular topic. So when you say scholar you have to  say scholar of what. Even the polymaths of the old days were not scholars of everything.  So the term “scholar” is pretty abused and it would be easier to say someone is an expert of …

Miles skipped Music school

Miles skipped Music school

There is this erroneous idea that scholars have to come from institutions of academia. But just like jazz musicians do not have to come from Juilliard, there is no need for an expert on a particular subject to come from one of these structured institutions. All that happens is when people are supported by large institutions like Oxford and Harvard those places extend their reputation to all those under its wing. That does not mean those people are good or better than others outside of Oxford and Harvard. Also these universities promote their graduates in a way to create the illusion that they are the ones creating new thinkers and contributors to scholarship. But just like being a graduate of Juilliard does not mean you are a good musician so to is the case with scholars, or good scholars only being the product of famous institutions of higher learning.

Good at scholarship is determined by one thing, and one thing alone, the quality of the fruit one produces.


Afrocentric self-image

Afrocentric romance which goes no further

But as much as a scholar can come from any part of society, there are some core criteria that are necessary to even begin to be a scholar on a particular subject. Scholarship works on a meritorious system, where nothing matters than the rigor in the treatment of the subject. Either the work stands up to critical thinking and peer review; or it does not. Social media likes and sales do not make someone a good scholar, if the work is questionable.

Many of the people inside the “Black” community who are considered scholars are more akin to race-centric politicians. And while debatable it could be argued that a scholar has a degree of disconnection from the topic they study because there is a need for impartiality and full disclosure. How can someone be a scholar on a subject when the cover-up half of the facts to impose their politics? Could that be true scholarship? Bending truth, and misrepresenting data to create a political outcome? Becoming a revisionist to boast the pride of your racial group–like what Nazism did ?

Scholarship should not be theraphy, it must serve the broader mission of enhancing information on a subject. Even if it only offers a new paradigm it must still be impartial to some degree to the subject.  And in the opinion of the author real scholarship should enlighten humanity, not be a tool for hatred. And this is where balance is critical.


Now in African academics many people are called master teacher, but a master teacher does not make you a scholar. These are informal terms–casual terms, which we apply to icons of African history. So if we know nothing and some “master-teacher” comes and tells us “In 1591 Morocco destroyed the Songhai empire.” We go WOW WOW. But there is nothing WOW about that info. It was always there hidden in a book you refused to read.
Every person who ever wrote about Songhai (scholar, high school teacher, and researcher) knows this. Just saying this does not make you a scholar of Songhai unless you can go much deeper than that on the history and politics of the region.


A researcher is not necessarily a scholar. What some of these pretentious scholars do is copy and paste content (they barely understand) into big books to impress those who are not exposed to true scholarship and research. Maybe they can be called researchers, but they barely understand the subject. Hence they end up called a Mosque a Temple. And probably think Songhai is related to someplace in China. They lack a true 360 degrees of understanding of the topic to offer any significant insight or treatment of the subject material.
Diop was a real African scholar

A Real African Scholar

Diop was a scholar, a true scholar who researched and produce final opinions based upon his research–unique and groundbreaking opinions at that. Ali Marzui was a real scholar, people like Karenga, Mbiti, Water Rodney are also in this class. And please note holding strong opinions or writing good poetry does not make you a scholar. And lastly being a scholar does not mean you are right. Christopher Ehert is clearly a scholar of language– he is often not right. Jared Diamond is a scholar and he made a mess when he classified some Africans as blacks while he called separated the Khoisan as something non-Black. He is not a scholar on African identity and clueless to the 10th degree on that subject. Yet he is one of the most profound scholars of our era.


Some  icon worship, and this is dangerous and against the spirit of scholarship and against the true work of those they icon worship. It would be safe to say Diop’s work was not terminal; it was not the final statement on Ancient Egypt. It was a contribution– and like all contribution it is there to inspire further work. But Diop and other scholars are not the Lord’s Gospel. We have a duty to be critical of their work to continue the spirit of their work. It is a betrayal of any form of scholarship when people roll of these icons names without any reflection on truth, new research or further reading. And this is when these “icons” become divine beings, where any challenge to their work becomes blasphemous.


Why is this important? Because we live in a world overrun by information. We live in a world where the ignorant are our new scholars and experts. Not knowing is no longer a barrier to speaking one’s opinions. People are coming out of the woodworks with all kinds of content to say anything their politics want. The end consumer of this information needs to be aware and not determine merit based upon titles, race, or politics but in the rigor of the work presented.
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Alik Shahadah

'Alik Shahadah is a master of the Documentary format and progressive African scholar. Shahadah uses film for social revolution. A multi-award winning recipient including the rare UNESCO award for his critically acclaimed film on slavery 500 Years Later.. He is best known for authoring works, which deal with African history, social justice, environmental issues, education and world peace. He states his primary motivation for making these films was being frustrated with "Tarzan's voice" as the central narrator in African stories. He noted that while scholarship challenges these issues, the common knowledge of the majority is generally unaltered, writing alone is not enough, the ultimate tool for re-education on a mass level is film

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