Looking at Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

When Tolson stated that “the Futurafrique, the accent on youth and speed and beauty, escalades the Mount Sinai of Tubman University, the vistas of which bloom with coeds from seven times seven lands,” I began to look at Afrofuturism in a different light. Previously I thought of Afrofuturism with consideration of Black Panther as an example, while Tolson’s statement describes Afrofuturism without attaching unnecessary constraints on the definition. Continue reading “Looking at Libretto for the Republic of Liberia”

Week 1 – Hegel reading response

Okay, this reading made me angry. The way Hegel discussed people of color was truly disgusting, and racist and wrong. It is dangerous language and although I haven’t heard such blatant racism expressed by anyone in my own life, I know that a lot of the same things he says are words used by people today.  But the thing is, this isn’t just calling names. The idea that black culture is a “lower culture” is not only offensive, it must also be very destructive to the livelihood of black individuals in western culture. It makes me think: what kind of effects does this kind of mindset, one encouraged by daily microaggressions and wrong assumptions based on race, have on the black population? It reminded me of a book I’m currently  reading, So You Want To Talk About Race. This book describes that these words and assumptions have a MAJOR effect on the way African Americans are treated. Because of the assumption that “black culture” is less sophisticated than “white culture,” African Americans can often be written off as less intelligent and according to author Ijeoma Oluo, the darker the skin of the African American, the more likely people are to assume this. This immediately puts black Americans at a disadvantage for getting jobs which leads to a poorer demographic of African Americans which leads to African Americans living in poorer communities and school districts, which puts them at a disadvantage for getting higher education, which only reinforces the stereotype. This cycle is based on small, seemingly insignificant, things people say or assume about African Americans, and it has more of an effect on their lives and communities than I think any white person (myself included, of course) could ever understand.

Line 72 Analysis

Line 72 really intrigued me so I decided to look into it a bit more.”Wanawake kwanzaa ovyo! Kazi menu wazungu!” which generally translates to “The women keep having children! It’s the work of you white men!” This quote heavily comments on the brutally one-sided nature of the slave trade and rape of black women by white men. The quote really made me think more largely about the history and modern reality within the hyper-sexualization of black women. Black/African women have been branded as sexually deviant beings in terms of their relationships and interactions with Euro-hegemonic forces throughout history. The way that dominant groups in our history and society today have misrepresented women of color has led to a either a silencing of the topic of sexuality when it comes to black women or a conversation that places these groups as innately savage sexual beings. This places black women in a double bind that erases the histories of institutionalized rape that is referred to in the poem, as well as creates a dominant ideology of a racist/sexist stereotype that follows black women and the discussions of black sexuality, desire and gender relations.

In response to the Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

“The Good Gray Bard in Timbuktu chanted:

‘Europe is an empty python in hiding grass!'”

This quote could be viewed as a warning. The fact that the crier of this quote is described by Tolson as “good” most likely means he is doing something helpful, or kind, for the community in Timbuktu as he describes Europe. Most importantly, the way the bard describes Europe as “an empty python” is a strong metaphor of Europe as a colonizing force as well as a threatening slave trader. Pythons are vicious and venomous and powerful, just as Europe was, colonizing Africa and forcing out native cultures, and then kidnapping millions of Africans to be enslaved. The adjective empty also goes to show that Europe is not satisfied, and is always hungry for more lands and people to conquer and make use of for themselves. The “hiding grass” paints a picture of the Europeans just waiting to pounce on other parts of Africa and make them their own.

That was one bit I analyzed, and I analyzed a few other parts of the Libretto as well, but in all honesty I found a lot of the reading pretty hard to read and understand. A lot of what I got from the passage was that one of Tolston’s main intents was documenting for current and future Africans and people of African descent, the histories and backgrounds of African culture as well as what the African people went through during the peak of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.


Velikovsky and Ancient Civilizations: What Can We Really Know?

When reading the introduction to Apocalypse by Amos Nur, I came across the term “Veliskovskyian” for the first time. The quote in whole reads “Rose [an archaeologist] demanded that, before one can hypothesize that an earthquake destroyed a society, one must prove not only that it happened, but exactly how it happened. Without proof, he claims, such a hypothesis is no more than a Veliskovskyian-style science fiction presented in the guise of science” (Nur, 3). Essentially, Nur is paraphrasing the view of opponents to his theory that civilizations were more frequently destroyed by earthquakes and other geological events than previously thought. From context, we can extrapolate that Veliskovskyian means outlandish, but where does this term come from?

Immanuel Velikovsky (also stylized as Veliskovsky because the conventions of the Cyrillic alphabet do not always translate well into the English one)  was a Russian author who was active during the mid to late 20th century with his most famous work, Worlds in Collision, coming out in 1950. Velikovsky’s specialty was analyzing ancient texts. Eventually, using comparisons of various ancient texts such as the Bible, he came up with a theory about our solar system and the effects of astrological events on human civilization that remains controversial to this day. 

Continue reading “Velikovsky and Ancient Civilizations: What Can We Really Know?”


One moment that stuck out to me and gave me a clearer picture of afro-futurism is the paragraph starting with “In Milan” (lines 65-70), in this section we can see examples of the ways the european and then western culture lied to, took advantage of and enslaved the african people. It leads someone to think about the ways these people would have advanced if they had not been influenced or poisoned by other more developed parts of the world. I believe Continue reading “Moments”

Tolson’s recognition of history and the future

Although it is hard to understand at times, The Libretto for the Republic of Liberia is a condemnation of Western colonialism and imperialism and a celebration of Libera as an African nation. The first stanza which reads, “Liberia?/No micro-footnote in a bunioned book/Homed by a pendant/With a gelded look:/You are/The ladder of survival dawn men saw/In the quicksilver sparrow that slips/The eagle’s claw!” (Tolson) seems to be a recognition of Libera’s greatness in spite of slavery and colonialism. the line “No micro-footnote in a bunioned book,” speaks to Tolson’s belief that Liberia is a country to be remembered, while the lines “The ladder of survival dawn men saw/In the quicksilver sparrow that slips/The eagle’s claw!” seem to speak to Tolson’s celebration of Liberia’s freedom from Western domination. He is speaking about the greatness of an African country that has overcome subordination on the part of the West, which most definitely aligns with the values of Afrofuturism.

I began to become confused with the poem beginning with the section that reads, “The Futurafrique, the chef d’oeuvre of Liberian/Motors slips through the traffic/swirl of axial Parsi-Feirefiz/Square, slithers past the golden/statues of the half-brother as/brothers, with cest prace…” (Tolson). At first, I could not understand any reference in this stanza, but upon further investigation, I found that Tolson wrote this poem to celebrate the centennial of the founding of Liberia. In this context, I read this stanza as a look into modern-day Liberia, as Tolson ties the first section of the poem, which talks about a more archaic Libera, to this new section of the poem, which discusses a thriving, contemporary Libera that has withstood the test of time. He clearly discusses the relationship between history and the future.


Thinking in Confusion: Commentary on Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

“The Futurafrique glitters…the Momolu Bukere Black-Hound winging along the seven-lane Equatorial Highway toward Khopirû”(610). While reading M.B. Tolson’s Libretto for the Republic of Liberia I was intrigued and more than a little confused by Tolson’s allusions and vocabulary. The above quotation in particular confused me, although initially, my interest was sparked simply by my curiosity about the meaning of the word “Khopirû”. I discovered in the poem appendix that Khopirû means “To Be”. I learned further that Khopirû is linked with a concept known as; the “Eternity of Thence”. The “Eternity of Thence” is in my understanding, an existential idea that involves individuals living their lives not concentrated on the future, instead concentrating on the current moment–all of which aids one in living “the good life”. I was a little confused as to what this word, and by extension concept, was doing in this particular poem. What is its relevance? What does it have to do with Liberia and “Futurafrique”? Upon further thought I believe that the word in this circumstance is being used to alluded to what Tolson believes to be the improved future of Liberia. He wants Liberia and possibly all of the above mentioned “Equatorial Highway” to go forth with this idea of just “being” as countries. Perhaps he wants Liberia to learn from this philosophy? I am not sure and would like to dissect further in future conversations, classes and writings.



Response to Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

When I first gauged the reading, it was certainly confusing. The formatting of the text, usage of complex diction, and unending verses, make the content itself difficult. However, that difficulty makes the reading and its message on Afrofuturism more palpable. Continue reading “Response to Libretto for the Republic of Liberia”

Libretto: Liberia within Afrofuturism

In Tolson’s Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, a moment arrived early in the piece that helped me conceptualize Tolson’s writing within the framework of Afrofuturism as the interface of activism and art/aesthetics; this section consisted of lines 9-16. Whereas Hegel defines Africa from a racist perspective, Tolson characterizes Liberia in juxtaposition, which entails direct refutation of depictions of Africa as “side-show” or “bio-accident,” (10). Continue reading “Libretto: Liberia within Afrofuturism”