Here It Is —  “The Importance of Collecting Black”

The art of collecting things is a universal fascination enjoyed by hundreds of millions of collectors throughout the world. No matter what the objects of interests may be, the collectors are usually obsessed souls.

From the ultra rich to those with lesser incomes, the art of collecting is something that drives said collectors to obtain “that” next vital piece to his or her collection without fail. Collecting can do that to you, no matter what your ethnicity is, especially if you’re serious about your hobby.

Count me as a very serious collector because I’m a self-professed “our-storian,” and I love collecting anything that relates to the Motherland and the African experience throughout the world. It’s in my blood because Black Our-Story matters, and I’m forever passionate about and dedicated to collecting Afro-oriented things big time.

Doing this for more than six decades has allowed me to amass a personal collection of things ranging into the literal thousands, and I can probably, humbly, say that I’m more than a little knowledgeable about the Black memorabilia collecting phenomena. You name it in the Black memorabilia collecting realms, the field today has blossomed into a desired preoccupation for beginners, medium level and advanced collectors.

From rare books to select sculpture to vintage magazines to magnificent art work, for example, every conceivable ethnic collector is in on the hunt for Black memorabilia wherever it exists throughout the world, including the United States of America, Europe and beyond. It’s simply amazing to know that any and everything relating to Black culture is hot and valuable. “Black truly is desirable and beautiful.”

Being an established collector myself, I started early because I was always connected to this craft, which was nurtured in me by my late parents. They were lovers of things culturally connected to the Motherland.

Born in South Carolina during the early 20th century, my parents, in specifics, always told me as a boy that collecting anything about Africa and the Afro-American experiences was an art form that would enhance me personally, academically and spiritually. They informed me that by doing this, I could, and would see, firsthand how Black people were described and pictured, even if it was in things negatively done that were authored by non-Blacks.

It’s a lesson that would stick obsessively with me throughout my life.

My parents also told me that the real hunt was to try to retrieve, collect and preserve things written by our folk, both in the Motherland and elsewhere, before they disappeared from sight.

It was a daunting request of me, but since there were always Afro-related books and other Black themed items in my home, I saw no disconnect in my parent’s instructions because I was homeschooled to love, learned about and collect Black Our-story. I guess you could rightfully say that it was in my genetic DNA to collect things Africana.

To say that I grew up in a household where ethnic education in all formats was emphasized and learning about the knowledge of one’s self was a necessity, would be putting it mildly. I always felt that being proud of who I was, was a common right of passage, and it has also served as a compelling duty for me to maintain throughout my life.

The collecting, maintaining and teaching about the necessity of preserving “our-storical” ethnic items that aren’t in museums or private collections is something that we Africans and Afro-descendant folk need to take seriously. Our ebony stories, reflective in all types of period artifacts, both splendid and tragic, must be maintained and shown in order for us to visually tell the authentic facts about us and uproot the distorted lies that sadly still exists about Black folks at all levels.

As museums all over America and Europe rush to increase their coffers showcasing the varied and, oftentimes, painful items, etc., that reflect what Africans in the Diaspora have had to endure while living in and dealing with the effects of The Middle Passage, the individual collectors are still very prominent and valued. Collecting is a treasure hunt must.

Please listen carefully, if you didn’t already know what I’m going to say. The collecting of things relating to the Black experience in any format is big business in the collectible world. I mean big bucks.

I want to politely inform you that there remains a wealth of other collectible “goodies” that are still out there in your homes and communities for the serious and committed collector. Treasured items like period Black high school and college year books, epoch musical and entertainment items, old novels by ebony writers, autographed pieces and sacred themed documents are top notch things that Afro-centered and other interested collectors yearn for.

Also, consider collecting record albums, especially of jazz greats, which are in high demand, along with spoken word gems. I collect anything, and I do mean anything on or about Malcolm X, just as a fellow collector friend of mine cherishes his Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., collection. Like I said before, Black memorabilia is varied, and there’s more than enough categories to choose from.

I’ll list some categories that you may want to investigate in starting, adding on or enhancing your personal collection. They are reflective of some of the areas that are in my collections:

  • Post Cards
  • The Caribbean Islands
  • Slavery and slave ships
  • Blacks in Europe
  • Africa (this is a must)
  • Sportscards (Negro Leagues)
  • Vintage newspapers
  • Art (In any form)
  • Rare Black paperbacks
  • Coins and money, and
  • “Our-storical” family documents

I believe, profits aside, for the conscious and aware “our-storians” among African centered collectors, the real value in individual collecting pursuits is the unique joy in obtaining something relating to the Black experience to call his or her own. It’s a unique Afro-educational trek through the world of collecting that’s irreplaceable in intent for the intense lovers of things African. It’s about us. Check out the thoughts of Gil Scott Heron – His Story.

No matter what it is, the joy of collecting things Black related is a personal voyage into something that brings you joy and excitement. That’s the main educational ingredient in building and acquiring a personal stash of things that captivates you. Enjoy the discoveries that come your way.

Add to that, if you’re acquiring something that may have meaning to you and others, then it’s a win-win situation in my book. When you realize that, then you’ll know “The Importance of Collecting Black.”


Follow Hakim Abdul-Ali:

For more than 25 years, Hakim Abdul-Ali has been a columnist and freelance writer for "The Charleston Chronicle" in Charleston SC. He writes columns which deal with spiritual, motivational themes and varied cultural events & activities that pertain to the African-American and African diaspora communities at large.

One Response

  1. Jeffrey Nickelson
    | Reply

    GREAT article. What it talks about is vital. Timely message.

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