Echoes from the Past…?

On the morning after President Obama’s first “State of the Union” speech, my mind was still fixated on the elegant ease and powerful presence exhibited by a tall, lanky black man commandeering the attention of, not only our nation but, the entire international community.

“Just imagine,” my mind wandered, “this old world might have been very different, if echoes from the voices and warnings of past cultures- primitive AND civilized- could have been put on media blast, across the world, in the manner President Barack Obama continues to experience, today.” While even the imagined possibility of such a forum is, of course, quite ridiculous, its mere wistful speculation gives rise to some interesting possibilities. “On the flip-side, God’s infinite wisdom and ultimate plan, is simply not imaginable to us earthly mortals. Period…” my brain teased. “But, if only CNN could have been there…”

My thoughts drifted… floating all the way back to our ancient beginnings, namely within the framework of ancient African cultures, I began to sense the various environmental challenges, down through the ages, as if I’d been allowed to step out of some murky dream, like taking a coffee break on the geopolitical march of time.

Right away, I could “see” the Stone Age peoples of Gwishno, just off the Kafue River in Zambia, going about their daily duties, beefing up food supplies for their wandering communes. As if still in a dream, I reached out and “touched” the fishing nets and barbed harpoons of the Ishango people, not far from where the beautiful Nile River fed Lake Victoria her bountiful catches of fish.  On another break, deep within the rainforests of West Africa and grasslands of Cameroon, I could “smell” the different varieties of wild yams and bananas rising out of freshly made calabashes, while palm trees swayed in pollution-free air. The “taste” of coconut palm oil and nut kernel accompaniments sweetened the experience. But, the unique sounds I could “hear,” from the spoken word and song of ancient Khoisan, Bantu and blended Creole languages is still music to my ears, today.

Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder, beyond Africa’s nasty experiences with slavery, coupled with the “peculiar” experiences of Colonial and Latin American bondage, in the western hemisphere, what might have been the ultimate destiny of a beautiful and blended, culturally- and spiritually-rich people, with the intestinal fortitude of the African, as well as her African-American cousin.

Then, I began to think about the many other “missing pages”’ of our nation’s history books. Wow! Complete chapters- Absent! …“Lost” or whatever- about flourishing African empires, like Mali and Songhay; thriving intellectual centers, like Timbuktu; the old Kingdom of Benin (now, modern-day Nigeria), Dahomey and Yorubaland dynasties; powerful Nubian kingdoms, like Merowe and the Kingdom of Kush; and, Berber-speaking black Libyans who perfected the military war chariot. Yes, even the horrific “Middle Passage” years to this side of the world… and, later, down in Northeast Brazil, in the black Republic of Palmares, where the gritty, runaway-slave warriors of “Black Troy” fought off Portuguese and other armed-to-the-teeth soldiers- for darn near 70 years!

Next, the shores of North America formed an image in my mind- Florida, Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and on up to New England-  as well as my birthplace, in the shale-rock hills of Kentucky. I thought about the Colonial years, institutionalized slavery, slave rebellions, segregation, public lynching and other “acceptable” atrocities- the ugly side of this nation’s past. Of course, there’s a positive side, too- many, many battles won- before, during and after the Civil Rights Movement, but “ugly” still lingers in the air we breathe, like foul dewdrops after an acid rain.

Then, I thought, perhaps, an imagined media blast from echoes of the past might not be so ridiculous, if CNN could pull it off. After all, our history books could not, did not or simply would not. Shucks, this nation’s first so-called African-American president just might be God’s way of giving us (them?), maybe even the world, a second chance to finally get it right. Maybe now is the opportunity to listen to the collective wisdom of the past from a hearty, talented group of people, with proven intellect and survival skills- and, an obviously different style of leadership and listening skills. “Obviously,” the thought lingered, “Perhaps, just perhaps, God is up to something…” Just a thought.  Hmmm…

Tell us what you think- not what “main street” is thinking. Let us know what the thinking is like on the “back streets” for a change. Does the election of a black president represent a qualitative shift within the geopolitical or socioeconomic landscape of this nation? The world?

What do you think? Not what you thought, back then, but what you’re thinking now?


“Backstreet Djeli”  w.d.s.

(Previously posted @

About William "Duke" Smither (a.k.a., "Backstreet D'jeli")

William "Duke" Smither, author of “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior, in the Shadows of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” is a Frankfort Kentucky native; Richmond Virginia resident. Retired Public Utility Sr. Investigator and nuclear site worker, Married w/ 3 children and 6 grandchildren; U.S. Navy Viet Nam Era & Cuban Missile Crisis Veteran; Member of "Cuban Blockade Survivors" & The American Legion; B.S. Degree (Business Mgmt) w/ independent studies in Ancient African History and African-American History. Post-graduate studies in Criminal Justice Administration. Former Sports & Feature writer for the weekly Richmond Afro-American Newspaper, during Freshman year of college. Retirement activities include: Freelance writer, playwright, actor and director of faith-based community theater productions; founder of "Backstreet's Blog" ("Talking Drum Dialogues") at and former contributing writer for "BlackPast.Org," the international, on-line reference center for African American History. His debut novel, “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior…,” is the first installment of a possible historical-fiction trilogy. A second installment ["Passage(s) to Saint-Domingue...."] is pending completion.