With the recent bombing of Libya by the USA and several of its allies, an act which may eventually tarnish President Obama’s image irretrievably, the issue of what 21st century Pan Africanism really is comes up. Especially poignant is the additional question: And what difference does it make anyway–can it change the paradigm of disrespect being Black always brings with it?
The short answer is yes, it can. Twenty-first century Pan Africanism is actually achievable, not just theoretical or esoteric.
Early in the 19th century, Pan Africanism, particularly as emigrationism, began as a clarion call from dispersed Africans and African descendants to re-establish African identities for the offspring of former involuntary migrants from the African continent. Names like David Walker, Henry Highland Garnett, Samuel Cornish and David Russwurm, as lecturers, journalists authors and activists, crowded the field of those spreading a distinctive gospel of African remembrance, African heritage and abolition.
After the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, which balkanized Africa, the Pan Africanism that was created in response originally focused on anti-slave trade and anti-displacement resolutions and pronouncements, but it quickly evolved into a consistent call to end all European colonization and exploitation of the continent.
From its inception through the era of African independence, Pan Africanism has essentially been recognized as a political ideology associated with intellectual, public mass, and later self-autonomy appeals for change. That initial status as a political ideology became a static, stone-engraved identifier for the concept, and the vast majority of even modern authors have continued to view Pan Africanism only within the range and scope of that narrow political perspective.
However, based on a summary interpretation of Blyden, Williams, Turner, Garvey, DuBois, Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Toure, Nyerere, and Cabal on the operational concept, in its various permutations, 21st century Pan Africanism now involves the following principles that will be utilized for consistent movement forward:
1. Africa must be self-sufficient, autonomous, and free of neo-colonial and capitalist exploitation.
2. Africa must be united, politically, economically and spiritually–a United States of Africa, or a Union of African States.
3. The African way of life must be redeemed, restored and used to help Africa reclaim its rightful place in world history, world politics and world development. The global reparations movement is a distinctive part of modern Pan Africanism, as is radical curricula development through Pan African education.
4. African land and resources plus the authority to utilize them both must be reunited with African people, not just with designated African leadership.
5. Repatriation to the African continent and/or dual citizenship opportunities must be consistently and seriously explored and resolved.
6. Since international and interregional communication between Pan Africanists is crucial, there must be a consistent and reliable network of African-centered and Pan African nationalist organizations established and maintained. The use of any African-centered conference, meeting or gathering to establish and build such lists is legitimate.
7. Pan Africanism–in large and small scale–will be achieved by a combination of government action, NGO (non-governmental organization), forward thinking, and consistent, principled pressure and activism from community-based organizations and individuals. The task is too enormous and the stakes are too high not to recognize that relying on only one sector will be disastrous.
8. Government leaders will have to choose “short-term interest suicide” (i.e., voting against their short-term interests for immediate gain in favor of Africa’s long-term interests, redemption and security); several times during the journey towards the achievement of Pan Africanism, discernible, situational self-sacrifice will be required of all NGOs and community activists to get this job done. An addiction to business-as-usual tactics will not bring Pan Africanism to fruition.
9. One’s Pan African commitment must be measured by one’s Pan African work. At the end of every day, a Pan Africanist must ask and answer, “Did I help or hinder the P.A. movement today?”
10. It must be accepted and acknowledged that Pan Africanism is a viable, winnable movement with a common set of objectives and a common vision.
For the 21st century, whether one is Pan African in orientation and activity (or merely engaging in lip-service and specious grandstanding) will be measured by one’s adherence to the 10 principles listed above. One’s Pan Africanism should only be measured by one’s consistent work as a Pan Africanist–It is what one does that determines Pan Africanist commitment, not merely what one says.
So, engaging in conversations with those who quickly espouse their Pan African credentials, ticking off the names and writings of Williams, Garvey, Du Bois, Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Nyerere, Danquah, Azikiwe, Bethune and others, and adding Fanon, Cabral, Toure, etc., for good measure, should no longer fill the bill.
Question these espousers. Hold them accountable for what they claim to be. What have they done for Pan Africanism lately? What Pan African projects are they working on, or have recently helped to complete? How is whatever they are doing contributing to the achievement of a viable Pan Africanism in their own neighborhood, region, school, club, or the world? If they stutter, if they begin to duck and dodge rather than provide an answer, then you are dealing with, at best, a Pan African wanna-be, and at worst a pretend Pan Africanist, a play-actor or masquerader. Pan Africanism is serious business that cannot be left to those looking for style points, or those who only want to sound hip or cool in today’s political engagements.
If you claim to be a Pan Africanist and you are working for government, then you should be promoting, assisting and advocating some aspect of the African Union’s multidimensional approach to Pan Africanism. If you are working with or are otherwise involved with an NGO, you should focus some important energy on making sure the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and SADC (Southern African Development Community) regional integrations, among other necessary African interconnected links, actually work (currently there are major problems left unattended, e.g., refusal to exchange each other’s currencies for equivalencies, continuing to demand visas or their equivalents for country-to-country travel etc.).
If you are an artist, musician or craftsman, you should include in your daily work some stringent efforts to promote, advocate and/or organize Pan African cultural integration events and combined country exhibits, concerts and the like. Pan African cultural arts is an extremely valuable part of the equation and should not be lightly regarded. Pan Africanism is not all politics and economics.
If you are students, demand that your instructors include Pan African courses in your curriculum and ensure there are Pan African books and research materials in your school’s library. Initiate Pan African Clubs whenever and wherever you can. Hold African multicultural parties, panel discussions etc. Confront and challenge any attempts to denigrate Africa and its people. In other words, there is no limit to the Pan African activities and creative projects in which one can get involved.
It will be the accumulation of all of these small tasks that will eventually lead to the huge accomplishment of real Pan Africanism in the current and future world. Enuf said. Now let’s get to work.
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 step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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