Interview by Busola Grillo
Jamati: How are you doing?
Heru: Am good, thanks.
Jamati: What is your real name and what part of Africa is your original homeland?
Heru: My real name is the name that was held by my ancestors back when we were free and ruled the world. Therefore, my real name is my indigenous African name. Heru is an ancient African/Egyptian/Kemetan name which I reclaimed for the benefit of African integrity. African people should have African names. I am yet to meet the French man or the European man named Kwame, Ife’, or Ade’ because of their love for the African culture. So at the very least, for the sake of equality, I cannot accept any name outside of my authentic African identity.
Jamati: Some people have Christian names, I have a Christian name but I have always been called by my African name. However, if I was known by my Christian name, would that put me outside of my “authentic African Identity?
Heru: The point I am trying to make is that Africans have been fooled into thinking that God is outside of ourselves. The best example is someone like you; you have an African name that you go by. But then there are other people who unfortunately, have so-called “Christian” names like Michael, Isaac, etc. Michael is an English man’s name, but by calling it our “Christian” name, we have dangerously associated Europeans, on an exclusive level, with God. Why can’t our African names be our godly or religious names? An honest answer and analysis will reveal that we have been willing accomplices to the crime of disassociating God from Africa and Africans. It is through the brutality and immorality of colonization and slavery that these names were forced on us Africans and we are yet to recover from this tragedy and mental subterfuge.I consider all of Africa as my original homeland and Ghana as my village.
Jamati: So, what exactly does HERU mean and how did you “reclaim” it?
Heru: HERU means the one who redeems the way of the ancestors through struggle. In Africa, our indigenous names have meanings that reflect our spirits or benchmarks for who an individual should be. Therefore an African name can be a description of a personality or a command for one to become a certain personalityAfrica for the sake of historical clarity and continuity.
Jamati: This is very informative Heru, I am really getting some historical education today.
Heru: I try my best, thanks. In the quest to investigate who I am, the name HERU repeatedly surfaced in my studies. Many Africans wonder how a West African like myself could end up with a name from ancient Egypt. The fact is there is an unbroken lineage from ancient Egypt, formerly known as Kemet, to West Africa. This has been proven by indigenous African scholarly giants such as Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop of Senegal and Dr. Theophile Obenga of The Congo. On the most rudimentary level, when we conduct a linguistic analysis from many West African languages, such as Wolof, Twi, Ga, Fon, etc., we will find identical words and meanings from ancient Egypt. Diop and Obenga sealed the coffin at the historic UNESCO conference of the United Nations in 1974 proving that the Ancient Egyptians were Black Africans. Ancient Egypt was our greatest documented high science-culture and techno-complex in human history. It was black and I claim it as a child of Africa.
Jamati: You are a great speaker, poet and writer today, and am sure fans out there will like to know how you got here and who or what was your motivation. Can you share a little bit on that?
Heru: If I am a great poet, it is only because I have attached myself to a long line of African patriots who dedicated their lives to the upliftment of Africans worldwide. Therefore, my poetry is always based on the central theme of African upliftment and resurrection. I was told from an early age that I had a gift for words and language. I decided to nurture this gift and make words and creativity a daily part of my life. This was through music, writing, reading or meditating. I made a decision at a key moment in my life to use this gift exclusively for my people, with no apology. My main inspirations are people like Queen Nzingah of Angola, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Sekou Toure, the Kings of the 25th Dynasty of Egypt: Piankhy, Taharka, and Shabaka, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Nat Turner, Queen Mother Yaa Asantewa, the writer Ayi Kwei Armah, and many others. The unifying thread of all these immortal people is their undying love for Africa and Africans as witnessed through their leadership, intensity and clarity of purpose.
Jamati: When people come to your shows, what should they expect?
Heru: If you hate the idea of African liberation, dignity and independence, expect to be uncomfortable and angry. If you love the idea of African resurrection, expect vindication and the sense that you are not alone in your thoughts and journey. Also, expect an intense experience as I regularly perform for two and a half hours straight without intermission.
Jamati: So basically, no bathroom breaks?
Heru: Well, you can’t cheat nature but the shows are pretty intense, but its all worth it at the end.
Jamati: Do you consider yourself a “militant speaker” or rather a “revolutionary” one or do you see yourself as both.
Heru: I consider myself a Pan-Africanist. By that I mean I am an unapologetic African who has come to terms with reality and the requirements of history. The only reality and requirement is the complete unity of all Africans at home and abroad towards one aim. My positions are logical conclusions based on multidisciplinary study and sober reflection. I don’t refer to myself fully as a militant or revolutionary, but rather as someone who is interested in repositioning the status of Black people world-wide.
Jamati: How has growing up in America shaped your “African Man” mentality?
Heru: Growing up in America has made me want to run to Africa, spiritually, culturally, and physically. Our major problem in Africa is economics. That is the biggest irony in human history because Africa is the richest continent on earth. I have a poem called Babylon that states, “Africa is rich, but Africans are poor. Africa is rich in plutonium, chromium, silver, gold and iron ore. Africa is rich, but Africans are poor.” The problem is Africans do not control Africa. The same countries that continue to rob and rape Africa, with the help of African managers (heads of state), are the countries that are referred to as first world and developed with stable economies and politics. A good book on this is “Neocolonialism” by Kwame Nkrumah. I am very aware of this fact and have taken a vow to personally break the cycle and bring my wealth and presence to the African continent.Also, growing up in America has exposed me to a cross section of people from the African Diaspora, as America, particularly in big cities, is a country of immigrants. In this way, I have strong bonds with the African Diaspora, from the U.S.,Canada, the Caribbean,Europe,Brazil and Africa. So, in a way, growing up in America has strengthened my Pan-Africanism.
Jamati: Do you ever plan to return to Africa to settle there? If yes or no, why?
Heru: Absolutely. I will be performing in Ghana for PANAFEST and Emancipation day in late July and early August, 2005. I plan to stay for some time, visiting Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. I also have plans to go to Ethiopia,Eritrea and Egypt. As a pan-Africanist, I have to settle in Africa, because for me, that’s where the action is. Although I travel a lot as an artist,Africa must be my base. Africa needs serious people on the inside and I have pledged my life to this principle since I was 18 years old. Developments in my life and artistic career have made perfect timing for me to settle in Africa by the end of this year.
Jamati: When people see you or hear you speak, am sure they probably assume that you are just another “afro-centric” African American when in fact you are “a true son of the soil”. How does this make you feel?
Heru: That’s an interesting question for many reasons. Firstly, I am a true son of the soil, not because I was born in Africa, but rather because I allowed Africa to be born and reborn in me. I meet many continental Africans who could care less about Africa, who know and are more interested in European history rather than African history, and who openly admit that their God is a white man. So, I wouldn’t really consider those people true sons of the soil just because they came out of their mother’s womb on the continent. I consider anyone who has realigned their identity with Africa and Blackness as true sons and daughters of the soil. These beautiful and sane Black people can be found in Brazil, England, Senegal, Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Paris or anywhere else.For instance, Marcus Garvey, who was from Jamaica and became a great leader in Harlem, New York influenced black people world-wide to reclaim their Blackness and African birthright. In fact, the flag of Ghana is a direct product of Marcus Garvey’s philosophies of the 1920’s. Kwame Nkrumah, the first modern president of Ghana was indelibly inspired by Garvey. He took the colors that Garvey had articulated and made the flag of Ghana. Garvey stated that the red was for the blood that has been spilled by Africans, the gold is for our wealth and the sunshine, the green is for the fertility of our land and the black star of the Ghanaian flag is a tribute to Garvey’s Black Star Line Steamship Company. Therefore, sons of the soil are not those who are simply born in Africa, but rather those who are loyal to Blackness and Africa. Remember, we still have white supremacists in Southern Africa who were born on African soil, however, they are not of the soil.
Jamati: You are a well educated man, a practicing attorney for a while actually, right?
Heru: Yes, that’s right. I graduated from law school in 1998, passed the Florida bar in 1998.
Jamati: So how do you go from being a lawyer to becoming a poet? What led to this huge career move?
Heru: I stopped practicing law in 2001.There is a quote from a book called, “The Torture Garden” that I would like to share with you. After I read this quote, I immediately stopped practicing law and became a full time poet. I think the quote speaks for itself:“You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral & social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas & desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that tolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That’s the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.” –The Torture Garden, Octave Mirbeau.The vocations of being a lawyer and a poet are similar in that both are dependent on the power of words, language, semantics and psycho-linguistics. However, I found that being a poet gave me a greater opportunity to use words to express the truth. So the choice was easy for me.
Jamati: I have to say that this has been nothing but very informative and enlightening. Thank you so much for sharing, but you know I can’t let you go without intruding into your privacy…just a little bit. So I have to ask, are you married, single, committed…which?
Heru: That’s funny, actually I am not married.
Jamati: Do you restrict yourself to only African women or are you rather open minded?
Heru: Because I love myself immensely, and I mean that, I only deal with African women; my historical counterpart. African women are the only people who can give me everything I need. So, I don’t see this as a restriction, but rather that I have liberated myself, “not restricted myself” to be with African women. Give thanks.
Jamati: Lastly, what do you have as a word of advice for that young African that is growing up today in a world outside of the continent?
Heru: I would say remember that it is in your direct benefit to come from a powerful people. Therefore, you should focus on using your talents for the benefit and empowerment of your people. Also, imagine your most heroic self and become that person. And lastly, you must study 3 books from cover to cover:
The Destruction of Black Civilization by Dr. Chancellor Williams
Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization by Anthony Browder
Two Thousand Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah.
Jamati: Heru, I have to say that you are the man and the man is you. Thank you again for sharing. You have been and still continue to be a great asset to the Pan African community and Africa needs you. The world needs you and to this I say keep on doing what you do. Thanks for indulging me, your fans and the rest of my crew at Jamati. It’s been great talking with you, I feel like I just stepped out of a history class, thank you.
Heru: You are welcome, thanks to God for giving me the words and the grace to speak the truth. Thank you for having me.
I couldn’t have told the story any better than the man himself. HERU has shared with me, a lot of information that is needed today, especially among our growing Africans. Click here to visit www.heruspeaks.com to learn more about HERU and his work. Who knows, his next stop might be at a place near to you. For bookings, CDs, etc., please visit http://www.heruspeaks.com/PROD.htm