We Are Allowing Our Oppressors To Keep Us Apart
So many identities. So many nations. So many names. So many perspectives.
We are Afrikans (with a “k” or a “c”). African-Americans. Blacks. Negroes. “Coloreds”. Moors. Nubians. Nuwaubians. Kosmosans. Egyptians. Kemites. Ma’atians. Afro-Asiatics. Rastafari.
We are Muslims. Christians. Hebrews. Yoruba. Santeria. Wolof. Dogon. Vodou. Mdw Ntr.
We are Republicans. Democrats. Greens. Independents. Socialists. Communists. Anarchists, even.
We are NAACP. Urban League. Alpha. Kappa. Sigma. “Q-Dog”. Delta. Zeta. AKA. Sig-Rho. Iota.
We are OAAU. SCLC. SNCC. NOI. BPP. N-BPP. WADU, PADU and GADU. A-APRP. Kawaida. GAC. PAOC.
We are liberals. Conservatives. Pan-Afrikanists. Black nationalists. Cultural nationalists. Revolutionaries.
We are also confused. The whole lot of us.
It often seems that we spend more time talking “at” each other than we do talking “with” each other. All the while insisting that Afrikan Unity (or some form of it) is important to us.
The source of that unity must be the realization that, despite the small differences that have been manufactured (from the initial migrations that Dr. Chancellor Williams described so well in The Destruction of Black Civilization to the present time) to keep us apart, we share things that are much more important that should be bringing us together:
We are all separated from our ancestral home.
Even those of us still living in Afrika are separated from the most productive farmland, the minerals under the ground that are the source of the continent’s great wealth, and the life-giving waters of the Nile, the Congo, the Niger and other great rivers and lakes.
We are not recognized as a people on the World Stage.
Those of us on the Continent are often “ruled” by the heirs of neocolonialism who marginalize the masses for the benefit of their Western paymasters, and those of us in the Diaspora have no seat in the United Nations at all.
We are turned against each other.
Xosa vs. Zulu in South Afrika. Hutu vs. Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi and Congo. “Arab” vs. “Afrikan” (a truly contrived conflict if ever there was one) in Sudan. Christian vs. Muslim vs. Hebrew vs. “Pagan” everywhere (where the hell did we, who are treated as ”foreigners”/”pagans” around the world, get that concept?), especially since the current practiced forms of the major religions are not indigenous to Afrika even though their seeds were all grown there. In the US, it’s Crip vs. Blood, Panther vs. Kawaida/United Slaves, North Side vs. South Side, even East Baltimore vs. West Baltimore (the major US city closest to me). Internationally, it’s Afrikan vs. Afro-Caribbean vs. Afro-American in some kind of mad internecine free-for-all as we race to the bottom of the human food chain.
And all the while, the oppressors laugh as they plunder our land in Afrika and our bodies and minds elsewhere in the Diaspora.
In the Baltimore (“Harriet Tubman City”) area, there are many activists and organizations who do work that is praiseworthy. I applaud Bro. Carlos Muhammad for his effort several years ago to bring the community together through the Luv4Self Network. I applaud Bro. Manifest for his ongoing work with Richmond, Virginia’s Happily Natural Day. I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to Baba Dalani Aamon for founding the Harambee Radio Network (broadcasting around the world over the Internet at www.harambeeradio.com), which gave me more than an hour every Sunday afternoon for six years to share information when I couldn’t afford to print the Newsletter. Baba Keidi Obi Awadu has done a similar great deed with the establishment of Harambee’s “sista” Internet station, LIB (Living In Black) Radio. Major shout-outs go to Bro. Anpu (Ruffmic) and Bro. Heru (Freedomwriter) of Precise Science for bringing the Pan-Afrikan cultural and moral vibe to music. People like Bro. Imhotep Fatiu (Pan-Afrikan Liberation Movement and Urban Youth Initiative Project), Bro. Jabari and Bro. Sundiata (Reality Speaks/Solvivaz Nation), Sista Ertha Harris (Millions More Movement-Baltimore) and Baba Ade Oba Tokunbo (OAAU-BPC) are others right here in Maryland with whom I am personally familiar who do great work in an attempt to organize us around critical issues of the day. And there are others. Still, not enough of these organizations and leaders talk to each other. Some do, but some remain separated from each other because of differences in spirituality, political focus, issues of self-identity, personal conflicts, or simply because of the perception that the barriers that separate us are insurmountable. This must be true, for if they did not believe so, these barriers would have been overcome and destroyed long ago, and for all time.
That much is clear from the chronic miscommunication between groups, the lack of cooperative organizing with many of our important causes and campaigns, the lack of support I see for many important organizing efforts, and the occasional sniping I’m forced to endure between people who should be fighting for, and not with, each other.
I don’t wish to get into a debate over which spiritual, political or philosophical perspective of all the ones I mentioned above (and countless others I didn’t) is the best, or the correct one. What we need to do is bring those perspectives together, so we may all learn from each other and ultimately see, through each other’s examples, the most effective path(s) that we need to follow.
The ultimate purpose of this particular commentary is to offer one solution, which is to continue the call I’ve been putting out for the last several years: to bring Afrikan people together, city by city, state by state, country by country (but starting, for me, in my home state, Maryland), in a series of Pan-Afrikan Town Halls.
I’m currently the Maryland State Facilitator of an Afrikan-Diasporan organization called the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC), which was formally developed in 2006 to organize Afrikan people on a city, state, country, regional and ultimately Diaspora-wide basis to seek representation at the table in the Civil Society committee (Economic, Social and Cultural Council, or ECOSOCC) in the African Union (AU).
Before people start jumping up and getting hysterical about the shortcomings of the AU, let me state that I see a much larger mission here. SRDC’s purpose is to seek entry into the AU for the Diaspora as a voice of influence to move Afrika in a more positive direction for her people and the Afrikan Diaspora. But at the same time, what we will achieve is the restoring of positive, constructive communication and cooperation between Afrikan people throughout the Diaspora and on the Afrikan Continent.
How do we do that if we can’t even get along within the same city or country or discussion group, I hear you ask? Well, that’s the first and, apparently, the most difficult step. It’s certainly the most important step, as all other steps build on this.
Every member of the Pan-Afrikan community who is reading these words must become involved in some way in bringing us all together, not to put a stop to our debates, but to make our debates a bit less important than our cooperative plans to achieve our global unity and liberation.
To Bro. Carlos: I hope to put something together with you, based on your networking from the Luv4Self Network, and combine those efforts with those of other Maryland-area groups, from individual organizations to the coalition that puts together the successful Kwanzaa event in Baltimore every winter, so we can continue to chart the course which you and others have helped put us on and strengthen the organization in Maryland, where I live and serve as the Facilitator. I and the other SRDC Facilitators would also like to be able to formally present the SRDC plan for the states in the US where we are not already established, establish a Community Council of Elders , and at least propose to the people in those states that we nominate and elect the next slate of Representatives and Observers who would pursue a Pan-Afrikan Agenda, through SRDC, with other similar groups that already exist across the United States (California, Washington State, Ohio, New York, South Carolina, Oregon, Maryland and Tennessee) and throughout the Diaspora (Nicaragua, Martinique-Guadeloupe, Canada, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Germany, and others). This call has been made, by myself and other SRDC members in the areas listed above, to not only continue the efforts at strengthening Pan-Afrikan unity in their states, but to plant the seed in neighboring states and areas of the Diaspora as well.
To be able to achieve true unity across communities of Afrikan descent in the US and the Diaspora, we must organize in at least a “critical mass” of local communities across the US and throughout the Afrikan Diaspora. Because SRDC was founded in the United States, our initial aim is to do this in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, to show Afrikan people throughout the Diaspora that those of us in the United States are indeed capable of coming together as one, despite the way we often behave which has led others to compare us to “crabs in a barrel”.
There have been some who have expressed misgivings, or at least uncertainty, about what it would mean to participate in SRDC’s effort. Some of these misgivings are from misconceptions that are understandable, and some are expressions of personal exhaustion from having fought as long as some of us have, but others are simply due to some irrational fear of the loss of personal influence or from inertia and old habits, while still others are because of personal beefs and petty bickering that have no place in efforts to forge Pan-Afrikan unity.
Let me address some of the misconceptions first. Your organization will not “lose itself” by aligning with SRDC. It is a coalition of a variety of organizations that have come together to achieve a common goal: the establishment of a Diasporan voice in the African Union and the forging of global Pan-Afrikan unity. People don’t have to individually become “members” of SRDC, and the different groups don’t have to take some loyalty oath to it (there have been some who apparently think that they must subordinate their own organizations to comply with SRDC’s goals), but we do need the input of the Pan-Afrikan community to examine and discuss the SRDC plan and to choose Representatives, Observers and a Council of Elders (either through Afrikan Consensus or democratic elections) if we are to say that any state truly has Representatives that can speak for Afrikan people of that state, and by extension, if we are to say that Afrikans in the US and Afrikans in the Diaspora truly have representative leadership.
To those Veterans who are simply exhausted, I can understand. Many of you have been involved in this much longer than I have—I am but a pup in this dogfight—and sometimes even my own energy level sinks dangerously low. Activists and organizers who have struggled with no help or support year upon year, or Political Prisoners who have languished in confinement for decades before finally being freed (or not freed) have earned either some time off or outright retirement from the struggle. They have been doing already, and for quite some time. They have seen marriages and relationships destroyed because of the pressure of this struggle, they have lost friends and comrades to this struggle, they have seen their health decline because of this struggle, and they have received little thanks. We do need their guidance and, at times, their admonishments when we go astray. But the heavy lifting is up to those of us who follow. We cannot drop the load now.
As far as the inertia, old habits, personal beefs and petty bickering are concerned, it’s time to stop it. Barack Obama or no Barack Obama, we remain in a struggle for survival across the globe, and time is running out for us. We cannot afford to allow this state of disunity to continue any longer. Those who oppose this effort to bring us together in some form of Pan-Afrikan unity have apparently aligned themselves with those who have opposed other similar efforts throughout our history, and they owe our scattered and suffering masses an explanation and a heartfelt apology for their obstructionist behavior.
Healthy debate is fine, but I’ve seen too much back-biting between activist organizations and within a number of discussion groups that were created to pursue Pan-Afrikanism and Black Unity. And this goes beyond just an effort to root out provocateurs and opportunists in our midst or to distance ourselves from illegal or dishonorable behavior by misguided members; now we’re seeing heated arguments about what name we will use to refer to ourselves and rifts that have developed between committed organizers because someone’s ego has been bruised. Don’t you know better by now? Isn’t it time to start putting our differences aside, honoring those unique aspects about each of our belief systems that make us strong, and coming together so we can break our psychological chains? Or is the unspoken purpose of the back-biters to achieve the destruction of all organizations and forums that committed Pan-Afrikan organizers have created to help us, to paraphrase Ancestor Robert Nesta Marley, “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery”?
Think I’m being too hard on us? Wanna cuss me out? Or do you agree with my analysis and want to get involved in a positive way? Are you already doing this great and important work and want to link up with others who are tired of watching us rip ourselves apart? Do feel free to give a brotha a shout. Drop a comment to this piece on our Web Site. Let us know who is out there who is ready to start making a positive difference and bring our people together at last. The development of a broad coalition of true Liberation Thinkers, a true Pan-Afrikan United Front, is needed, and I hope we can find a way to bring something like this about at last. Mama Pam Africa of MOVE, Bro. Carlos, Baba Dalani, Baba Keidi, Sista Marpessa who struggles for Political Prisoners, and others have been trying to bring us together for years, and I and others in SRDC have seen how difficult it can be to get us to stop screaming at each other and start talking, listening and planning with each other. I hear so much from us when it’s time to “vent spleen” and not enough when it’s time to sit down with each other, learn to understand (or “overstand”) each other and truly plan for our own Unity and Liberation.
Peace and Power,
Editor, KUUMBAReport Newsletter
Maryland Representative, Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC)