Knowledge of one’s own cultural heritage and that of other peoples’ cultural heritage is one of the keys to understanding ourselves and others (UNESCO 2002). The Africans who were enslaved, free persons or indentured servants in the American colonies helped to develop, defend, and establish the Americas and are the ancestors of the majority of present day Africans living in the Americans. It is important to learn about the history and heritage of African Americans that extends back into antiquity because throughout slavery and afterwards, people of European descent, particularly those in the United States, advanced what Herskovits called the “Myths of the Negro Past. (Drake 1990:1–14).”
These myths were advanced particularly and primarily about African Americans as rationales to justify slavery, and later discrimination and segregation. African children are naturally precocious and gifted. They begin life with a “natural head start.” However, their natural genius is too frequently underdeveloped and misdirected by (1) the fact that the racist and imperialist status quo politically mandates their intellectual under-achievement and social mal-adaptiveness; (2) belief in the myth that intelligence is fixed at birth and that Africans are innately less intelligent that Europeans; (3) a lack of knowledge of heir positively unique developmental psychology; (4) a lack of confidence in their ability to equal or surpass the intellectual performance of any other ethnic group; and (5) the general lack of infant and early childhood educational experiences which stimulate, sustain, and actualize their abundant human potential. In the relationship between intelligence and experience, the later helps to shape and direct the former.
The very essence of intelligence involves the use of pre-existing abilities and capabilities, past experiences, contemporary circumstances, and anticipated events in order to achieve intended goals or to resolve a problem. Intelligence is grounded in experience. Environmental interaction is the engine which drives human development on all levels, including the development of human intelligence. J McViker Hunt, author of Intelligence and Experience, corroborates this assertion when he concludes that “development doesn’t come just from exposure to the environment. It comes from the childs attempt to cope with his environment from his experiences in acting on the things and people around him and getting a response from them.” The unparalleled inherent or natural readiness of African children must be matched with a sufficiently stimulating socially and materially interactive environment if their enormous intellectual and human potentials are to be realized. Positive attitudes towards them and their future, high expectations regarding their ability to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves, knowledge of their unique developmental psychology, the freedom and ability to provide them with the necessary social, cultural, material and spiritual resources. Thus, there is much needed work still to do and many obstacles to overcome in the barrios of Cali Colombia where descendants of Africa are in a daily struggle for physical, emotional, intellectual, and cultural survival.