The politics of tangible Pan Africanism
While some of us are still smarting at the immediacy of the semi-justice of a conviction for involuntary manslaughter in the case of Oscar Grant, or the continuing debacle of the war on Black men symbolized by the Culver City police shooting of a mistaken-identity Black man with his hands in the air; at a broader level, progressive things are happening which can eventually re-shape our entire paradigm. Here, I’m talking about tangible examples of real-world Pan Africanism in the 21st century.
Pan Africanism, you say? What is that and why should we care? Will it stop the relentless police harassment? Will it stop the massive Black unemployment or health-care disparities? Will it stop our children from practicing a modern form of urban genocide on each other and eschewing public education and advanced skills training for quick and deadly street money?
Well, probably not.
There are no panaceas to the Black condition. There are only major and minor progressive, collective steps forward, and the not-yet-exhausted supply of folk with the courage and consciousness to implement and complete them.
In a very, very succinct statement, Pan Africanism is the unification of all African people wherever they are on the planet into an effective force to regain and retain African dignity, worth, honor, historical significance, and power within world engagements. Without such unification, Africa will remain individually weak, and African people scattered worldwide will continue to be disregarded and disrespected. A unified, strong Africa will have the clout to back us up wherever Black folk reside.
For the uninitiated, the African Union, officially established in South Africa in 2002, is the latest continent-wide organization in Africa and the current representative of 21st century Pan Africanism. Its primary objective is the unification of the African continent—now 54 individual countries—into a United States of Africa or Union of African States. That would make the 54 countries 54 states in a federation of united Africa.
Clearly, this looks like the impossible dream, and when one observes the current pace and noise-making of the process, it is easy to conclude that it won’t ever happen. But that is a myopic, non-analytical view. Like any major change, it will either be cataclysmic and abrupt, or slow, tortuous, messy and frustratingly incremental. The pathway to 21st century Pan Africanism through African unification is of the latter sort (as is Obama-change, but that’s another article).
One necessary piece of the African Union (AU) puzzle is the inclusion of the African Diaspora as substantial, voting participants. In 2003, the AU did officially invite the Diaspora to join the process, and even provided an operational definition of the Diaspora it was talking about—African descendants living outside of the continent, regardless of their citizenship, who are committed to supporting the African Union. That definition opens a whole can of worms and is an issue unto itself—but again, that’s another article for another time.
Here, the point being made is that there has been real forward movement towards Pan Africanism, some within the last few days, and we should acknowledge it, and try to keep score on other such steps towards the future. One item was within the recent World Cup. Not only did Africa as a whole earn well-deserved plaudits for South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup, as the first African country to be given the chance to handle such a world-class event; more people in the world uttered the name Africa in a positive light within the last four weeks than have probably done so during the last half century, and Africans were proud of themselves. More specifically, six African teams qualified for the World Cup, and when only Ghana’s Black Stars team emerged from the first round to compete in the quarterfinals one-and-done series, the other African teams and fans rallied around Ghana as their standard-bearer. Nelson Mandela made Ghana officially Africa’s team by inviting them to a ceremony at his private home in the host country and anointed them with that title. As far as they went in the soccer tournament, they took the hopes of all 54 countries to do well.
No question, that was Pan Africanism on the world stage. We, in the United States, may still not get it, but soccer is the real game of the planet. Along with the May 25th All Africa holiday for the entire continent, celebrated worldwide for the first time in 2010, these are giant baby steps.
Additionally, UNESCO, United Nations agency, is currently sponsoring the development of a common history curriculum for all African schools at the upper levels, based on UNESCO’s very highly regarded eight-volume “A General History of Africa” series. This group of texts, which began publication in 1999, is the first major modern Afri-centric history of the continent and its people.
Along with that, the East African Community (EAC), a regional coalition of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, just announced a Common Market Protocol for the area. That means they are making a collective attempt at producing a common currency within the three countries, encouraging the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor in the bloc, and legislative removal of visa/passport restrictions between countries. (Yes, presently, most Africans need visas, passports or both to travel from one African country to another).
These are huge steps forward, although not as fast as some countries want. Libya and Senegal, for instance, tried to get the immediate elimination of territorial borders between countries, the election of an interim African president, and other direct actions two years ago at the annual AU Heads of State Summit (the Assembly Summit). Instead, South Africa and its allies prevailed with the regional economic community bloc option—first, demonstrate that the eight regional African groupings worked, then use that foundation to unify the whole continent. Thus the EAC’s effort is great progress within that strategy.
We look forward to much, much more, and to the Diaspora getting itself organized so it can effectively participate. The clock is ticking and Pan S won’t wait.
David Horne, Ph.D., is executive director of the California African American Political Economic Institute (CAAPEI) located at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
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