Dr. Josef Ben Levi on language and epistemology

Yesterday during the ASCAC Midwest Region Medew Netcher class, Dr. Josef Ben Levi offered an interesting discussion of this statement Dr nbw, which can be transliterated as “Dr nbw” or written phonetically as “Djer nebew”. Dr is a complex term which refers limits as well as to the expansive bounds of the universe–quite simply, the all. nbw is a plural of the word nb, which the Egyptologists typically translate as “lord”. This begs the question of whether such an idea is indigenous to ancient Kemet, and whether such an idea is resonate with the use of nb in the written texts. Baba Bonotchi Montgomery, in his insightful book “All the Transformations of Ra” refers to nb as “possessor”.

In his class yesterday, Dr. Ben Levi stated that this term (Dr nbw) could be translated as “‘lord’ of all”, but more accurately it refers to “The force that conveys everything seen and unseen in the universe and beyond”. Again a very interesting idea that is quite resonate with Baba Bonotchi’s points from his talk “There are no gods in Kemet”, in addition to Prof. Rkhty Amen’s discourse on the nature of netcher (nTr). What I most appreciated about this, though little time was spent on it, is that it seeks to push us beyond the false notion of equivalency when dealing with cultural notions, and the need to deal with language as a medium for understanding them.


“Every people should be the originators of their own designs, the projector of their own schemes, and creators of the events that lead to their destiny—the consummation of their desires.”
-Martin Robeson Delany


What does it mean to struggle for “equality”, “inclusion”, or “justice” in a society with a history of colonialism, enslavement, and sexism? How does such a struggle not simply seek to reform, amend, or slightly adjust the adjust the social order rather than subvert it? Does not the discourse of reform necessarily reenforce the perceived legitimacy of the existing order? And does this sense of legitimacy constrain the capacity of social actors to envision and construct a truly emancipatory society? I begin with these histories, because they are not a past truly removed from the present, as they are relived and re-inscribed daily.

Denmark Vessey wasn’t interested in reform. Neither was Harriet Tubman. Neither was Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey. The reformist position necessarily precludes the tactics or philosophy of radicalism. Can a people who have experienced the dispossession and dehumanization that Africans in this country have endured afford to be reformist? What is the cost of seeking to adjust a society that daily feasts on the Black body? What viable future emerges from this vacuous path?