The African origins of dagga culture
Black History Month February 1 to March 1 continues with numerous programs that talk about the role of African Americans in American culture. We hear stories about slavery, emancipation, black churches, jazz music, black suffragettes, Jim Crow, civil rights, Black Harlem, rap music, Black Lives Matter… But let's not forget that global hemp laws were passed for primarily racist reasons, not just against Mexicans who otherwise popularized the word marijuana but also against African Americans but in two distinct ways.
While Latinos were targeted to keep people away from white society, African Americans were targeted because whites were often drawn to their music and culture. It was a crop derived from African cannabis culture, which is said to date back to the beginning of time. The ancient Egyptians used cannabis during secret and sacred rituals, just like the Ethiopians.
But cannabis use is actually quite prevalent in Africa.
- Pygmies of the equatorial forest believe to have "smoked hemp since the dawn of time". Some pygmy tribes had domesticated only the hemp plant. It appears that cannabis has been common and widespread throughout Africa since time immemorial. Most tribal stories have never been written. But “smoking dirt,” meaning building a mound of clay and sucking the smoke directly through a hole in the mound, is an ancient custom on the mainland. ...
Two bowls of ceramic pipes dating from around 1320 AD, discovered near Lake Tana in Ethiopia, contained cannabis residues. One of the first European books on Africa to mention cannabis was written in 1609 by the Dominican priest João dos Santos. ...
We say that the Hottentots are the descendants of Bushmen mothers and Egyptian soldiers who deserted their posts in Ethiopia in 650 BC. In 1705, the Hottentots and the Bushmen neighbors were smoking, having been introduced to this art by the white man. Influenced by “the fumes of the dagga,… the devotee began to recite or sing, with great speed and vehemence, the praises of himself or his leader during the intervals of coughing or smoking. The Bashilange tribe went from savagery to civilization with the introduction of cannabis by Chief Kalamba-Moukenge.
While Muhammad banned the use of alcohol by Muslims, no such restriction was set on the use of hashish (qenab), the resin collected cannabis plants. The use of hashish has therefore spread and is still protected in Morocco. However, the arrival of European colonialists and the cleavages between the different Muslim sects led to the beginnings of cannabis prohibition on the continent. In 1910, Dutch lords in South Africa and Muslim rulers in Egypt took steps to suppress native cannabis crops. The collapse of the secular Turkish, hookah-smoking Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I further reduced the popularity of hashish and the rise of more repressive "fundamentalist" Muslim practices.
Meanwhile, in the United States, racism was reaching new heights and focusing on cannabis.
In the eastern states, the "problem" has been attributed to a combination of Latin Americans and black jazz musicians. Marijuana and jazz traveled from New Orleans to Chicago, then to Harlem, where marijuana became an indispensable part of the music scene, even entering the black tube language of the time (Louis Armstrong's Muggles, That Funny Reefer Man by Cab Calloway, Viper's Drag by Fats Waller).
Once again, racism was among the charges against marijuana, as newspapers reported in 1934 in their editorials: "Marijuana makes black people look white people in the eye, to walk in the shadows of black people. white men and staring twice at a white woman. "
Marcus Garvey and the Rastafarians
Around the same time, in the segregated United States, Marcus Garvey joined the “Backto Africa” movement and turned to Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. He believed that because of separatism, equality was not possible in America and that blacks had to return to their ancestral homeland to live in glory and exaltation. In the end they didn't go very far, they went to Jamaica.
There, African-American travelers joined forces with former slaves and descendants of indentured Hindu servants to create a new way of life and a new religion, Rastafaria. The Rastas used cannabis not only as a cultural practice to help them work and party together, but also as a sacrament, as is the case today with canthenism and other practices.
Although there are Rastafarians here in the United States, the Black Church has not only failed in its call to celebrate their African heritage, but most major organizations have actively supported the escalation of the war on drug in the 1990s.
Rediscover the pride of African roots
The decision to ban marijuana was fueled by racist hysteria, and the modern war on drugs was designed to target people of color. Thus, many have argued that the decades of racially disparate enforcement that followed were not entirely coincidental.
Even if it were to be claimed that America's marijuana laws were intended to serve as an instrument of racial oppression, they have fulfilled this function with astounding precision. And when people of color receive unequal treatment under the law, it's a matter of civil rights.
In order to demand fair justice, one must recognize and honor African traditions of cannabis use. That's why when Reggae music and Rap started celebrating the use of cannabis, so many oppressed people found solace in them (plus they love the sound and experience of music, of course. ).
By examining the dagga as part of black history, we have the opportunity to rebuild these generational bonds, restore pride in African American culture, and bring us closer to social and racial equality. We may never make it to these sacred shores, but denying the past is a sure way to repeat it.