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Why I support the Petition to Stop the All-White “Gods of Egypt” movie…by Richard Gaskin




by Richard Gaskin

 (view petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/danish-actor-to-play-egyptian-god-ra-stop-artistic-team-behind-the-gods-of-egypt-from-holding-an-all-white-cast )

An online petition came across my attention  on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that has been gaining an increasing amount of attention on the internet recently. The petition was organized by Thorne Studios and its main push was to stop a film by Australian filmmaker Alex Proyas from casting his upcoming epic, “The Gods of Egypt”, scheduled for release in June 2015,  from starring an all-white cast. The petition was hosted on change.org and had a target of 10,000 online signatures. Unfortunately, it only acquired 8,649 responses from concerned supports by its appointed deadline.


After giving my ‘e-signature’ supporting the petition, I had posted this petition as a message to a few friends to get them to spread the word. I was somewhat surprised and flabbergasted at some of the responses to the petition, ranging from outright apathy to a ‘holier than thou’ attitude which stated that signing it was  a useless waste of time, wouldn’t stop the making of the movie & that we needed to make our own movies. The apathy is something I’ve come to expect from many segments of the African-descended community which likes to talk a lot but can’t be relied on to engage on any meaningful action. The ones who were ‘above’ supporting Thorne studios with their petition was rather unexpected. I couldn’t understand their attitude given the use of widespread use of petitions to help effect change. For example, when the protests agains Mohamed Morsi, the former president of Egypt were mounting in the streets, the opposition collected over 1 million signatures to increase the pressure against his government and to help spread the message among the people. We also have the example of the petition that was initiated to help put pressure on the current Egyptian government to  free the two Canadians, John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, who, until recently, were being held in an Egyptian prison. So we can see that with enough momentum and some effort petitions can yield very positive results. Perhaps the naysayers, who spoke so arrogantly of the pointlessness of the petition were falling into the trap I see so much of in the community; speak boldly and pontificate but do nothing. I was also taken aback about how callously they could disregard the efforts of Thorne Studios and speak down on these efforts with such an air of superiority. It was also difficult to follow their reasoning that because you were signing the petition that it automatically meant that you weren’t doing anything to create our stores or weren’t supporting African artists. It’s these sorts of self-defeatist and arrogant attitudes that are doing more harm than good in our communities.


I know that some of you who are reading this article and aren’t knowledgeable of African history probably have a pressing question: What does this movie, “The Gods of Egypt” have to do with us? Well, it may surprise some of you that ancient Egypt (known as Kemet by the ancients), which is located in Africa, is an African civilization. I would rather not get into a full-blown historical dissertation but I would recommend books such as: Introduction to African Civilizations by John G. Jackson,  The Destruction of African Civilizations by Chancellor Williams, They Came Before Colombus by Ivan Van Sertima, African Origins of the major Western Religions by Yosef, A.A. ben-Jochannan, The African Orgin of Civilization: Myth or Reality by Cheikh Anta Diop, Black Athena by Martin Bernal , New Dimensions in African History and Black Man of the Nile and His Family by Yosef A.A. ben-jochannan. One can also find a plethora of well-informed videos on Youtube by researchers like Asra Kwesi and Asa Hilliard that can be quite informative on the African legacy of the Egyptian, Nubian (Kerma/Kush) and other civilizations of Africa such as the empires of Mali, Songhai, Ghana and Yoruba. There were also other old civilizations in West, Central and South Africa that simply aren’t shown or depicted in mainstream films and media. The important thing to note is that we have been all but written out of the mainstream media and when we do appear, it is as slaves or servants to some sort of other people’s civilizations.


Ancient Nubia, for example, which exists in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan has numerous pyramids that still exist in Sudan. Many of their temples and artifacts were flooded and covered in Egypt with the building of the Aswan Dam in the 1960’s. The same thing happened in Sudan when the Merowe, dams were built in Sudan that covered many Nubian historical artifacts with water. Plans for the Kajbar Dam (awarded to a Chinese company) and the Dal Dam will do further destruction to the historical artifacts of ancient Nubia. The Nubians were portrayed by racist historians as being an ‘Egyptianized’ people who either copied the culture of the Egyptians or were enslaved by them. The truth is that the Nubian civilization is actually older than that of Kemet and there is a mounting body of evidence that has been gathered since the turn of the century that proves this. The Nubians had their own temples, pyramids and hieroglyphic (and demotic) writing. There was already an established lineage of Nubian kings before the first Egyptian pharaoh. The Egyptians copied the Nubians, not the other way around, including the way that the Nubians wore their hair.  And of course, we can’t forget the Nubian King Pianki (Piye) who invaded Kemet and ruled it from 702 to 716 BC, continuing the 25th dynasty (also known as the Nubian dynasty) started by his father, Kashta who started the conquering of Kemet. It is important to note that the Egyptians themselves declared that their ancestors came from the South which makes sense since the Nile flows from South to North.  In fact, one has simply to look at the paintings and statues of ancient Kemet, even the ones that have been defaced,  to know that they were African.


Why is this important? The reason why movies like “The Gods of Egypt” must be resisted is simply because it is another example of the historical and cultural legacy of Africans being misappropriated. We really have to sit back and note that the contributions and civilizations of ancient Africans have been entirely removed from the public  and more importantly from the minds of our children. The question must be asked, if we don’t reclaim our ancient history, what kind of legacy are we handing down to our children? While we ignore our history other people are either claiming it as their own or they are destroying it. I don’t know how many of you were aware of the foreign Islamic Jihadists who invaded Mali in West Africa around July, 2102. These jihadist invaders were trying to impose their own version of Islam on the Malian muslims who have been practising it for hundreds of years, they also banned the people from playing traditional music and destroyed many historical muslim mausoleums and shrines from the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali. How many of us knew about it? How many of us protested it? Were we too busy watching sports, hanging out in the club or following the latest gossip columns? As a result our blissful ignorance or inability to do anything, our history was attacked with impunity.  While we sit and brag about coming from African Kings and Queens, the evidence of it is being appropriated by other people or wiped off the earth.


When we allow movies like to “The Gods of Egypt” to be made we are allowing our image to weakened and we are failing our children. Let me try to make it more clear. When a company says that it’s been in business since 1913 for example, it is strengthening its brand, especially of most of its competitors have only been in business since 1965. As long as it is continuing to make good products and is relevant to the times it will always be a strong company, at or near the top in its industry. The number of years it has been a successful company gives it a strong image and therefore a very high pedigree. History is the pedigree of a people. Without a history, an ethnic group of people will be seen as having a low pedigree or no pedigree at all. Without a pedigree, it so much easier to attack our image. This is especially true of African people who have been depicted as having a low level of culture and no civilizations to speak of. It also makes it easier to steal or destroy our history since ‘we never had one anyway.’ Therefore everything we create will be worthless unless it can be attributed to someone outside of our culture. Look for example at the 2013 MTV VMA awards where, to quote The Huffington Post, “Everything Was Black Except For The Winners.” Apparently Janelle Monae won an award for “Best Art Direction” but it happened offscreen. The only one I’ve heard from the mainstream African-descended community making mention of this was Youtube personalityTommy Sottomayor, currently working on his documentary film, “A Fatherless America”. And for those of you that think that money in itself will give us pedigree, think again. We only have to look at the young black man who was arrested by the police for buying a belt at Barneys when the store clerk called them…….after he had bought the belt. There are a many other stories like this, but I think you get the point. When we claim our ancient history, and control our own image (which would imply achieving the kind of economic empowerment that allows us to build our own institutions), incidences like these wiil be a lot less widespread. It’s that lack of pedigree, that lack of control over our own image, that lack of history that makes it easier for others to treat us with disrespect and for us to disrespect each other. We not only have to teach ourselves, especially our youth and children about our history, ancient as well as modern, we also have to acquire the power to tell the world.


I am all about economic empowerment for the African-descended community and there is not doubt that we must write our own stories, create our own brand/pedigree and control our own image. However, we must also support initiatives like the petition against the all-European cast for the movie, “The Gods of Egypt” by Alex Proyas as part of that effort. One effort does not invalidate the other, rather they all work in tandem in much the same way that they work in political arena. We ignore it or think ourselves above it at our peril. If one looks at ascending nations like Turkey, China and India, the one thing that they do have and preserve is a strong sense of history and cultural identity. In fact, Hollywood has had to constantly make changes to movies entering the Chinese market because the Chinese censorship officials did not like them, and one way to get your movie banned from entering the lucrative Chinese film market is to depict the Chinese in a way that they don’t like. Some filmmakers have had to make changes to their movies to satisfy Chinese censors. Those of you who don’t know much about the petition, should visit the site to find out more about this issue, and in the event omeone else  (hopefully) decides to launch another petition decrying “The Gods of Egypt” for it’s non-African casting, let’s make sure that we give them a lot more than the required 10,000 signatures. So instead of the usual posturing and pontification, let’s see more economic empowerment within our communities and support for the building of our own institutions, more positive action and more acknowledgement of our history and culture.  It’s the only way to overcome this “death by a thousand cuts” that we are undergoing right now.



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