On AOL’s The Root, John McWhorter posted a provocative essay on “Speaking Swahili for Kwanzaa.” His thesis is that Swahili is an East African language that would not have been spoken by the enslaved ancestors of most African Americans. He’s correct given that the Atlantic Slave Trade involved the trafficking of enslaved West African people. Mr. McWhorter instead suggests that African Americans learn Twi, a common West African language that is spoken among Ghanaians. Besides honoring our ancestors, McWhorter says that the tonal inflections required of Twi speakers prepares African Americans to tackle Mandarin Chinese which may become this century’s language of commerce. (I believe Fordham University in the Bronx has a Twi language course.)
My heart breaks as I read about the election violence in Cote de Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, and other parts of the homeland. My blood boils when I read about Communist China’s efforts to secure control of the strategic minerals found in West Africa by building hospitals, roads and other badly needed infrastructure. Marcus Garvey was right when he urged Africans in the Americas to forge commercial ties with Africa. Learning Twi may heal our hearts and strengthen those blood ties.
What say you? Should American Americans learn Twi and thereby reclaim our West African heritage? I look forward to your comments. Don’t forget to answer the poll question.