Pharaoh's Garden

In one of my lives I was a gardener. I was tasked with maintaining the environment surrounding the Department of Africana Studies at Cornell University. One evening I was sitting around when Pharaoh walked by. He was concerned about the flowers. "Why don't you write a book?" I asked him. "I'm taking care of the garden," he said. I asked Alexis DeVeaux and she told me that it was the "…garden of the black intellectual." I had tinkered with the idea of pursuing a PhD in Africana Studies but my inquests into the matter yielded little more than the slandering of Skip Gate's name on national TV because, to hear the Afrocentrists speak, he had "…disrespected Minister Farrakhan in Ethiopia." Skip Gates, in fact, is said to believe that a "…cabal of horned Jewish men" control world affairs and so he must praise them in the New York Times when Thomas Friedman is gathering fuel for his optimistic view of the Middle East. "The Africans," one Alhaji said, "used clay toilets while the white man was crawling in hills and caves." Now I knew this was not true. We all used clay toilets at the same time. What Mazrui may have been getting at was the fact that Islam is a relatively new religion and since people can now take the plane to Mecca, the Hajj has lost its effect. Indeed, few people would think of taking that trek to Saudi Arabia today, since it is rather the path of least resistance to hop on a plane, stroll around the Holy Mosque for three days, then return home claiming to be a good Muslim. Dr. Dove, the quintessential African Queen, was quick to point out to her students that "dignity is in our actions." This is to say, she hadn't needed to utter her point for all of us to realize that she was, as she said in the history books, the embodiment of African Grace. What, then, was Cornel West to do with his "Socratic" theories of humanism? He had been "dishonored" he claimed by the establishment because his rap style was corny. Said he, "who are they to judge the rhymes I spit?" I didn't think Cornel West's rhymes were lame. I just thought that he needed some coaching so that his beats did not sound as though they were made for an academic who just learned how to rap, and not for a hip-hop artiste who happened to be a well-regarded philosopher. Criticism began at home, then accomplished nothing. Harvard was still an elitist cauldron, soaked to its soul with the history of New England and the implications of having an African Studies Department that I would rather not attend. In the final analysis, it was said best by the cleric who suggested that "…either knowledge is not power, or the Faculty has no knowledge." Thankfully, that evening I stumbled upon Pharaoh, I came to understand that, at the very least, the Faculty can tend gardens. If they would only bring to meaning the Socratic philosophy of cleanliness being next to godliness, they could spend more time creating one real African village that lived off the resources of its soil - iron ore and all. Then they could tend gardens forever.


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