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Frost Illustrated.
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Regarding the fate of the AAAH Museum: An open letter to my community

Published as part of the February 13, 2013 edition.

By Ketu Oladuwa
Special to Frost Illustrated

“…what Plato seems to have done is to have laid a rigorously constructed foundation for the repudiation of the symbolic sense—the denial of the cosmic, intuitive knowledge.”
—Marimba Ani, Yurugu

My mama told me “that God don’t love ugly” and she kept repeating that mantra until it took root in my body. As a child and even now, when I step outside the boundaries into the realm of ugly, “I know”—I can “feel” that I’ve removed myself from the Ancestors’ favor; and ever since I came to my senses, I’ve worked to avoid creating that place in my own life, and in the lives of others.

I purposely ran afoul of that admonition last Monday, Feb. 11, however, when I attended the membership meeting of the African/African-American Historical Society, at the Allen County Public Library. The meeting room was packed with people of Afrikan descent; people with a common historical heritage, which despite their collective history evidenced no “felt” practice of camaraderie or comity.

There were two factions: They came to do battle over perceived personal sleights to AAAHM co-founder Hana Stith. This faction was there to support her grievance against the perceived mistreatment and disrespect she’d received at the hand of Board of Directors President Pompia Durrill.

Those backing the board held that it was the responsibility of the board to safeguard the institution, its property and resources. And although members of the board could have leveled a countercharge of complaints against Ms. Stith, they chose not to do so.

The meeting became submerged in arcane legal matters: charge and counter-charge ruled the day. After all the votes were counted, and some of the emotions present were expressed, the outcome left both sides claiming victory.

But be not mistaken, there were no winners here!

Days later the lawyers are involved and court seems the logical outcome of this misalignment of community interests. The institution erected in the name and for the sake of us all, and the generations past, is losing—is all but lost unless we pull the parties back from the precipice.

In April of 1964, Malcolm told us how to deal with our internal affairs:
“Whether we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences. If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man.”

We are not done arguing with our historical adversary.

This is not a two-party dispute, the third entity is the institution, the museum. If it is to go forward with the undivided support of this community, then it must do so under a unified banner. The factions must cease and desist; there is nothing to be won and everything to be lost if the principals proceed on this course.

There is a solution. Both Ms. Stith and Mr. Durrill belong to the same faith home. They must allow their egos and personalities to come back into alignment with the interests of the community, which are aligned with both the seen and unseen worlds. Our children must see their elders and their community representatives building institutions, not tearing them down. We are capable of stepping back from “ugly!” We just need some impartial intervention and mediation.

Pastor Kenneth Christmon has offered to mediate the divide between these two community servants. It is incumbent on those of us who support the factions to speak truth and make sense where now the arcane inanities of law and anger hold sway. If there is no will or desire for mediation, then both parties must resign immediately for the good of the institution and the community .

Our collective identity is at the stake. A needed institution of learning hangs in the balance, and we all are called to witness and act in this hour. We are a people of faith, but faith without action is dead. During the last 60 years, we have fallen under the spell of the demon law. Brothers and sisters, there is no order in the law that you do not control. Our Ancestors call upon us to act on the principles our mothers taught us. “God don’t love ugly.”

As Ayi Kweh Armah instructs in 2000 seasons, the disease of death is unconnected sight, unconnected hearing, and unconnected thinking. Our Way is the antidote.
“Our way goes against all unconnectedness. It is a call to create the way again, and where even the foundations have been assaulted and destroyed, where restoration has been made impossible, simply to create the way.”

Ketu Oladuwa is a writer, poet and community activist working largely with young people in our community. The founder of the Three Rivers Institute of Afrikan Arts & Culture and former managing editor of Frost Illustrated, he graciously shared this appeal to reason to bring us back from the precipice of another costly factional war in the community.

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