Throughout my lengthy career I have experienced the vital difference that comes from our people validating and sharing our cultural experiences, traditions, and histories. I've also learned how far we must go to convince some of our own folks who believe that our history and traditions are not trustworthy unless they are taught, shown, spoken of, or practiced by people outside of the culture. Not trying to reinforce stereotypes, but I recall being taught the dance FANGA by a Lucille Ball look-alike for an African drumming ensemble where I was one of only five Black members out of twenty. The Ghanaian drummer, who was insistent that he didn't want any more Black folks in his group, assured me that this red-head would give me the proper tutorial. During our private class she bragged about the African male drummers and dancers she'd slept with, and how her closeness with them gave her the authority to teach their culture. Her dance style was as awkward as forced presumption of cultural custodianship. The tremendous embarrassment I felt while publicly performing her clunky Fanga was outweighed by my shame while watching Iyalode, renown lead dancer of Babatunde Olatunji's drumming ensemble, dance it with consummate grace, ease, authority, and African Soul. I quit the group. Yes, there are sisters-from-another-mister who beautifully interpret and perform African-centered culture. And on the other side, I can fully recall the Brothas in my life who had no rhythm. At all. However, I don't believe that Blacks would be welcomed into Oktoberfests sporting Lederhosen and Dirndls doing The Schuhplattler (a dance which DOES differ from the South African Gumboot Dance, and from African American Stepping). I performed solo at a North Jersey festival which put all Black and Brown artists in the least desirable performance spots on the schedule. The highlighted time was given to an all White group performing African drumming and dance. I asked the organizer why she did that. She said she didn't see what the big deal was. "Would you have hired a Black group presenting German or Italian culture?" I asked. Her eyes eyes dropped. "No... I see what you mean." Just then, a man from the group walked by wearing an African dashiki and kofi, an ashiko atop his shoulders, strutting with a sloppy grin on his face. I looked at the organizer, who seemed ashamed. Point underscored and taken. I remember a person, whose ancestors were Klan members and slave owners, told me he was about to start an African Culture Preservation Society. He felt that some organization should be an African cultural custodian." "Don't you know that we already have our own cultural custodians and scholars? Do you realize how arrogant it sounds to decide that you are going to interpret and protect our culture? Do you think that we are incapable of telling our own stories? Why don't you find some other way to work off your guilt about you slave-holding ancestors?" He was furious with me. Months later, he called me to apologize. "You were right," he sadly said. All I did was flaunt more of my White Privilege and insensitivity. I'm sorry." Again, on the other side, I remember a Brotha who couldn't understand why I insisted on living my life from an African-centered filter. To call him self-loathing would be kind. His success barometer was based on how UN-Black he could be so that he'd be welcomed and rewarded by his white-collared fellow employees. He did fondly reminisce about the one and only black History class he took in Junior College, taught by a White professor. "Wow, that guy REALLY knew his stuff!" "How would you know that?" I asked. The only reason the Brotha took the class was because a Black person wasn't teaching. He went on to tell me how much he resented his own beautiful dark skin, his sensuous full lips, and his gloriously kinky hair. To him, they were sources of ridicule in the NJ suburb he was raised in. He was truly a fine Brotha who could not see his own magnificence. My personal commitment to teaching Black and Brown youth is to reaffirm and reinforce the power and glory of their own culture. Their minds have not yet been tainted by what the larger society, or even by the misguided shame, of the adults in their lives. Cultural reinforcement is liberating. Other cultures are allowed to proudly proclaim themselves and their traditions to the world. Why shouldn't we? A decade ago, I was presenting at a Vermont weekend retreat. The only Black presenter (not uncommon, as many of you have experienced, I'm sure). The retreat was on land that the facilitator's family had owned since the 1600's. He took me on a tour of the vast valley, which included the ancient family cemetery. As he shared the history of his lineage, his personal pride became even more evident. But the extreme self-assurance he'd always exhibited in his walk became clear to me. He knew himself. He was encouraged to BE himself because of it. For those of us who have been desperate and dedicated to reclaim the cultural traditions and personal histories that were taken from us, we know how it feels to walk taller once we learn who we are. People who present our culture and have not LIVED that loss are much like Langston Hughes' statement: "Everybody wanna sing my blues, nobody wanna LIVE my blues." I engage in daily research on Kemetic/Khametic/Khemetic ("Ancient Egyptian") culture. There has been a long standing debate on the Blackness of Kemet ( kem means black in Kemetic language). My amazement and delight at how many mistakes in interpretation have been made since the tombs and other sacred sites have been raided by outsiders. Much of the misunderstood info that has been conveyed truly needs a Black-life filter to understand the culture, wisdom, and sciences our ancestors left behind. I remain devoted to African-centered study, teaching, and to what we in Kemetic circles call "Living the Culture." May we all affirm and tell the truth of our own history and cultural experiences. May we heal ourselves and future generations by maintaining an unbroken legacy of knowing ourselves.