I’m sure some of you have been aware about various statues of racist devils being taken down recently due to the protests. You have the Edward Colston statue getting “swimming lessons” in Bristol, England and you have Confederate statues taken down across the South. I wondered if Belgium was going to step up to get rid of one of the biggest genocidal maniacs you weren’t taught about in school.
Special thanks to Petrel41 for telling me about this!
I’ve mentioned King Leopold II in a few past articles, but this information bears repeating. For those of you that don’t know, he was the king of Belgium since the late 19th century. Him and other European heads of state participated in the Scramble for Africa starting with the Berlin Conference. His piece of the colonization pie was getting a part of the Kingdom of Kongo in a landmass that would become the Belgian Congo or by it’s modern name of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Even after the annexation, that country is still far larger than Belgium from both a landmass and population standpoint. When Leopold got control of that part of Africa, he turned the entire country into his personal slave plantation since it’s still a resource-rich nation even to this day. The biggest things were oil, rubber, and gold to name a few. Leopold and his brutal regime forced the Congolese to take these insane quotas for the resources and if they didn’t meet said quotas, they would get their hands chopped off. You know those chocolate hands they sell in Belgium? That’s where the inspiration came from. Cannibalistic implications much, Leopold? He did wicked things like shooting the Congolese on site and starved them out away from their communities AKA The Elephant Graveyard Treatment much like what the 2nd Reich did to the Namibians in the 1900s or the Native Americans dealing with the Trail of Tears after being abused by the colonizers. This had a result of killing over 15 million Congolese people during his reign! At that time over a century ago, this was HALF the country’s population. To give you more context, that’s over the same amount of people living in the nation’s capital of Kinshasa (also the 3rd most populated city in Africa, by the way) and Chicago COMBINED! Most people know about Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Joseph Stalin which people should still be taught about for their atrocities, but Leopold always slips through the cracks of history classes. I didn’t even know who he was until after I graduated college which is sad. Even more angering in hindsight to me is that I have Congolese heritage…Leopold could’ve abused and/or killed MY ancestors that I may not have known about! His punishment for what he did was relinquishing control of the Congo. Oh, cry me a river.
Hopefully that brief history lesson should suffice to my readers. Leopold makes Colston look like an alter boy by comparison. I’m so happy that they took the statues down that glorify racist demons like that tyrant. Major props to the Congolese-Belgians who were hardcore protesting about that situation. I also hope this leads to Belgium paying up those reparations for that genocide against that Central African nation. It’s been a long time coming.
Leopold azali zabolo! Nzambe yaka Osunga Kongo! Mosembo na boboto ekolonga!
America, you needed to be cleaned up in so many ways
I was only one man, but I had to make things right on a twofold account
I started with your laundry
There would be a new kind of care for your clothes and I did it in a dry fashion like you’ve never seen before
Millions of businesses would be created because of me
Next came real freedom fighters
The bread I got from my invention
Went towards those who wanted every man, woman, and child
To be free and equal
Its more than what a piece of paper could say
I hope they keep on fighting
How does it feel seeing a man like me being the first of his community to own a patent?
Dry cleaning isn’t the most exciting thing to talk about which we can all agree on. What did get fascinating was who invented that form of laundry maintenance and how the funds were used afterwards. This is Thomas Jennings. He was a freeman who mainly worked as a tailor. He created a method called dry scouring which is the archetype for dry cleaning. He actually used the money to buy the freedom of other slaves in America which I massively respect on so many levels. Imagine how many businesses were and still are created today. Also, Thomas Jennings is the first African-American to receive a patent which is even more important in hindsight because he did this before it became illegal for black people to get patents (we’ll talk about that in other posts) before it was reinstated that anyone can make a patent regardless of ethnic stock.
Think about these things the next time you have to get your fancy suits or dresses to the dry cleaning shop.
A World War and racial segregation
Wasn’t going to stop me from saving lives
Soldiers were dying
I knew how to innovate in times like these
And even my enemies at home had to bank on it
Every type was given to me to save lives
I chilled the sources and stored them for emergencies
Next, came the samples as cargo on the go
To hospitals and beyond
15,000 in the UK alone
Better thank my inventions for saving their lives
Too bad my employer threw racist pseudoscience
As to who got transfusions or not
I would be cut off from this world
But my method of saving lives continues
Isn’t it a shame when people who literally save lives never get credit for their heroism? It’s no wonder why I have superhero fatigue since more people know who Iron Man, Superman, and Captain America are than this doctor. Like most of the people Dear Innovare focuses on, I didn’t know who Dr. Charles R. Drew was until long after I graduated from school (high school AND at the university level). Charles R. Drew invented the blood bank which continues to save lives through the process of blood transfusions. He came up with this concept during WWII and saved a ton of soldiers lives. Not only that, but he created the bloodmobile, so blood can be refrigerated and stored on the go to various hospitals or clinics. Unfortunately, there were racist idiots who denied the blood from black people even if it could save lives and Dr. Drew was disillusioned by this bigotry (he’s an African-American man, by the way). He died in a car crash at the age of 45 which is very tragic and not many people know his name. Don’t worry, Dr. Drew. I’ll make sure more people know who you are.
In ancient times at the continent’s Southern points in the mountain range
We told time, counted the days, and tracked the moon
All it took was a baboon fibula tally by tally
We taught our people from the highest to lowest veldts
At least 44,000 years ago
This wasn’t decoration
This was for education as the Originator blessed us and those up north for our tools
I have to show South Africa some love here especially since this won’t be the only time I’ll mention things from that country when it comes to the content of this album. The Congo wasn’t the only nation to produce a calculator in ancient times. In the Lebombo mountains in what would eventually be South Africa and Eswatini (the country formally known as Swaziland), the natives created their own tally stick also using a baboon bone. That was certainly innovative and this needs to be better known because I literally can’t think of any history class I took in school that mentioned ancient African civilizations with the exception of a whitewashed Egypt or maybe a casual mention of Hannibal of Carthage (now modern-day Tunisia). See, there were important math elements in Africa among many other things. Major props to Dr. Y. for informing me about this lesser-known history!
Tosalaki eloko ya sika
(Eloko ya sika)
Mokuwa oyo ekosunga bato pona koyekola mitango
Tozali basali ya eloko ya sika
(Eloko ya sika)
Over 20,000 years ago, we crafted something still being taught to future generations. We made a calculator and calendar from a baboon’s bone. What a prime way for instructions from a primate. We solved problems and tallied up solutions. Nzambe bless our methods. Counting lunar cycles, adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying notch by notch. We made generations smarter and efficient. We know other civilizations wouldn’t be born in millennia. Our technology shall not be fractured, only modernized in future ages.
I would like to thank Dr. Y. and Deogratias from Lingala Academy for this song. The former has an article about this aforementioned ancient calculator and the latter helped me with the Lingala part of the song.
This was a good kickoff song besides the intro by covering this overlooked invention. I didn’t realize one of the first calculators was made from a baboon bone from what’s now the DRC. Anyone who says Africa had no civilization or inventions need to get educated. This bone was used as tallies and as a tool for multiple kinds of math problems. Okay, I wasn’t the best at math, but the fact that some of my maternal ancestors could’ve invented this does fill me with joy and some self-esteem.
From a musical standpoint, I listened to a ton of traditional Congolese drum music, so I wanted to do something very percussive, but still lively despite the lack of instrumental melodies. Using Lingala again has been great. It’s a very musical language and has a certain beauty to it.
What are your thoughts on the Ishango Bone or this song? Don’t forget that Dear Innovare is $7 on Bandcamp!