On Jan. 14-16, the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, will be the site at which a group of Pan Africanists will meet at the eighth installment of the Pan African Congress Movement begun in 1900 with the gathering of Africanists at the first Pan African Conference in Trinidad.
W.E.B. Dubois, Ph.D., attended but did not coordinate that first meeting. He did coordinate and provide the leadership for the next five meetings, held respectively in Paris (1919), London (1921), London again (1923), New York (1927), and the seminal gathering in 1945 in Manchester, England. This latter Pan African Congress was the gathering at which firm decisions were made for the first generation of independent African leadership to emerge and take charge. Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Hastings K. Banda (Malawi), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Julius Nyerere (Tanganyika), and other iconic African statesmen were active participants at that meeting. The next Congress (the sixth) was not held until 1976, in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and it was the first one held on African soil. The seventh was then held 20 years later, in 1994 in Kampala, Uganda.
The general purpose of all of these gatherings was to bring together clear-thinking Pan Africanists to explore viable strategies for building self-reliant, independent African territories in the wake of the ending of colonialism. The diasporan communities from the Caribbean, Canada and the U.S.A. were present and participated in all of these gatherings.
With the upsurge of the African Union and its advocacy for uniting all of the current African countries into a Union of African States or United States of Africa, what would be the motivation for another Pan African Congress gathering?
Particularly, what would be the rationale for another such gathering that has already billed itself as a Pan African nationalist entity, that is, it will be a gathering that is not interested in continentalism (the African Union’s position), but rather it will be interested in uniting only the Black African or sub-Saharan African countries as Marcus Garvey had advocated.
Well, the major motivation for this eighth Pan African Congress will be to explore how to develop a strategic plan to implement real Pan African education as the missing piece in the current efforts to raise Africa to higher ground. The political struggles in Africa are continuing. The contentiousness over economic development and the expansion of African control over African resources continues. There have been positive signs and notable accomplishments along the way in the 56 years since Ghana became the first independent African country in sub-Saharan Africa. And clearly, those well-read analysts of the current African situation should know better than to judge where Africa is going by where it is now. But the clear missing-in-action piece of the African puzzle is the steady, consistent efforts at re-focusing African values and vision towards unification.
A Wolof-speaking youth needs to be taught to be an African first, and a Wolof and Senegalese second. He must be taught to see a Zulu in South Africa as his brother or sister and not just other Wolof speakers. Africans worldwide must be taught—and taught well—their significance and high value in the global scheme of things. And they must be taught that their greatest strength will come when they can present a unified front to the world.
It is past time for real Pan African education to occur and the eighth Pan African Congress in Johannesburg, South Africa, should go far in laying out the path forward in that regard. We wish it well. As Africa goes, so will go African Americans in this world.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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