By Bro. Cliff
Editor, KUUMBAReport Online
I’ve been reading a lot of emails and other communication that, thankfully, have started to move away from personal arguments to what I believe is a principled discussion of the ideas we all have for organizing Afrikan people in the Afrikan Diaspora as well as in the Mother Continent. While I agree with many of us that immediate concerns such as jobs and wealth are important, they will be nothing but band-aids for a sucking chest wound unless we put together a real organizing model from top to bottom that will work to bring the Pan-Afrikan World to total freedom. I’d like to share with you one piece of that total model, as well as a few thoughts on how it could work as part of a much larger and more comprehensive plan, based on what I believe is (or at least should be) a familiar conceptual model for organizing the Afrikan Diaspora and Afrikans in the Continent.
I want to start by telling you about an organization known as the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC, http://srdcinternational.org). It is primarily based in the United States, but in realizing that the Afrikan-American population comprises only about 40 million of a total of 300-million-plus Afrikan Descendants around the world living outside the Mother Continent, this organization is dedicated to the organization and uplift of the entire Afrikan Diaspora, and to the need for the Afrikan Diaspora itself to control its own method of organization and uplift.
SRDC: One Major Plan for Organizing the Afrikan Diaspora
Since the African Union added Article 3[q] to its Constitutive Act in 2003, which invited the Afrikan Diaspora to participate “in the development of the African Continent and the building of the African Union”, the effort on the part of the Afrikan Diaspora to respond to that invitation has been pursued. In April 2006, a Pan-Afrikan Roundtable was held in Los Angeles, California, at which the AU’s definition of the Afrikan Diaspora as “people of African descent and heritage, living outside the Continent, regardless of their country of citizenship, who are willing to assist in the development of the African Continent and the building of the African Union” was accepted (though it was acknowledged at that time to be in need of review in the future) and the effort to organize the Afrikan Diaspora began in earnest.
The first objective of the Afrikan Diaspora, according to the African Union’s “roadmap” for our incorporation in the AU, is the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), a council of Representatives from civil society organizations, activists, the general public, the “people on the ground” as one might say. The AU’s requirement is that the Afrikan Diaspora develop “modalities for election of Representatives” to ECOSOCC (as stated in the Statutes of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, available on the AU’s website). In other words, Representatives to ECOSOCC cannot be anointed, appointed or self-proclaimed. They must have been elected by their people, and the Afrikan Diaspora must develop a means to accomplish this and submit that method to the AU for their review and approval. Because the Afrikan Diaspora currently has only been designated to receive 20 seats out of the 150 total in ECOSOCC, that means that we have to make those 20 seats count by finding serious, quality Representatives while adhering to the standard that they must be elected positions. But how do we do that?
SRDC, in partnership with a number of other Pan-Afrikan organizations in the US, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Canada and Europe, has developed a plan in which we begin by organizing our communities at the local level. In the US, that means state-by-state, while in other parts of the Afrikan Diaspora, this may mean organizing province-by-province (as in Canada), island-by-island (say, in the Caribbean) or country-by-country.
Each local organization determines a local Facilitator, a Community Council of Elders and two (2) Elected Representatives, that is, they are elected through a process in which the community in that local area is invited to a public forum where they learn about the effort, nominate and elect people from their own community to take the needs as well as the ideas of that community to the national, and even to the international level. The Council of Elders is needed to provide their guidance and wisdom, and to make sure that those who are nominated to be Representatives are indeed qualified, serious activists, thinkers and workers and not opportunists or manipulators as happens too often when our collective guard is down.
Once a reasonable number of local organizations are formed in a large country (like the US) or a sub-region, a National or Sub-Regional Summit is held to allow local organizations to share information, develop a more consistent organizing strategy and determine who the best Representatives from that sub-region, from among the local Representatives who were elected by their own communities, will be. Those national and sub-regional Representatives would then meet in a Full Diaspora Summit which would lead to a group of Representatives who take the Pan-Afrikan Agenda (the needs, issues and constructive ideas of all the communities in the Afrikan Diaspora) to the African Union in this case, but this model could also be used to develop Representative Councils outside the AU if need be.
SRDC is currently in the process of building this model and putting it into practice in the US, while affiliated organizations are doing similar work in Canada, Central America, South America and Europe. AU member nations are also pursuing a process whereby similar Representative assemblies are being developed in the Continent. SRDC’s method for organizing the Afrikan Diaspora has been submitted to the AU since 2007, and the AU’s official assessment of the proposed method is expected later this year. In the meantime, though, SRDC realizes that it cannot wait on the bureaucratic process to unfold before implementing this method. If necessary, adjustments to that method will be made, but in the meantime, the work to organize the Diaspora must move forward. In late July SRDC concluded its seventh National Summit, which included contingents from several US states, and affiliates from Canada, from the Caribbean and from other Pan-Afrikan organizations. SRDC’s work continues apace, and they invite you to come and work this model with them. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you want to connect with an SRDC organization where you are, or if you want to create one if there isn’t one where you live.
A Part of The Bigger Picture
This portion of the discussion is based entirely on my personal opinions as a Pan-Afrikan activist, and does not necessarily represent the positions of the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus or the Pan African Descendants Union.
The work of creating a Representative-based method and strategy for organizing the Afrikan Diaspora is only a part of the whole picture we all must paint together. There are clearly other means and avenues we must pursue if Afrikan people are to fully realize the freedom, self-determination, justice and prosperity we all need and deserve. Businesspeople who have an Afrikan-centered worldview are needed to help us pursue economic development, but not Western European development in blackface; rather, it must be culturally and spiritually relevant to Afrikan people, and must be pursued in a way that will not oppress and exploit us or defile the environment of the Continent and planet which we all call home. We also need our Spiritual Community, which must include the Christian, Muslim and Hebrew elements but also ancient Afrikan spiritual traditions such as the Yoruba, the Akan, the Vodou, the Santeria and others, to find a way to come together in a true Spiritual Alliance. We need our Cultural Community to help keep us inspired creatively and to remind us of what and who we are working, building and fighting for. Our revolutionary and direct-action groups in the Diaspora and in the Continent that are all fighting for the people must find a way to work cooperatively if we are to reach our full potential for Pan-Afrikan Unity. We need Legal Warriors who are ready to defend us, our activists and our interests in domestic and international courts. Our scientists, doctors, agriculturalists, engineers, economists and teachers must work together more effectively so that we will have and develop the knowledge base we will need to chart our course of independence from the West as well as the East. We need our Elders, our Women and our Youth, as well as greater strength of will and strength of morality among our Men. We need a strong Pan-Afrikan Media to ensure that our people are properly informed about what is happening in the world around us. And we need a strong moral center to help guide it all from an ethical standpoint; I personally think the Ancient Afrikan moral system of Ma’at would be perfect there.
There are so many different areas in which the work needs to be done, but they must all find a way to work cooperatively toward the total goal of Afrikan Unity, Afrikan Self-Determination, Afrikan Prosperity, Afrikan Morality and Afrikan Justice. While some may see the missions of the different organizations as a series of roads that cross each other (and thus lead to a spirit of rivalry and competition, since everyone wants their “traffic light” to be green always), I prefer to see our various organizations as occupying spots on a large circle, the objective of a free, prosperous and just Afrika in the center of that circle and their missions as lines that extend from the circle to the center. The conceptual image is that of a bicycle wheel. A bicycle wheel is strong only when all the spokes are strong, the wheel is straight and even, and it can roll smoothly, allowing us to ride it to victory. But when spokes are cut, that wheel bends and is unable to roll smoothly. The result is what we have been getting: we crash on the side of the Road to History while everyone else passes us by.
There is currently a “Super-Coalition” that is pursuing such a vision of Pan-Afrikan Cooperation, based on the principle of “Unity Without Uniformity”. It is called the Pan Afrikan Descendants Union (PADU). And there certainly are, or will be, other honest efforts by principled activists to build cooperative coalitions among our organizations. If you want to find out more about PADU, feel free to contact me by email and I can tell you more about PADU and how to contact it officially.
The mindset we have too often insisted upon following until now, that of rivalry and competition, has been the equivalent of taking a set of wire cutters to that Wheel of Pan-Afrikan Unity. This is a large part of why our organizing efforts have failed so many times, and that mindset has frankly got to stop.
Why do we seem to gravitate toward the politics of competition and rivalry instead of the politics of teamwork, mutual respect and Ujima? Why have we apparently insisted upon following such a failed concept for so long? I chalk it up to a Western-influenced mindset that is based too much on a My-Way-Or-The-Highway philosophy that is based largely on individual and organizational ego. We have to move away from ego (Some people say “EGO” stands for “Edging God Out”) and toward coalition-building and the realization that none of us has all the answers. We also tend to hold on to personal beefs and arguments, based on something that someone did or said in the past, that quite frankly are small compared to what our true enemy has done and continues to do to us. We have to learn to atone for those misdeeds we have done to others and to forgive others for those things they have done to us that we didn’t appreciate.
We need to finally decide that truly coming together in a spirit of Pan-Afrikan Unity is something we really want to do. Every time we fail to answer that call is another way in which we disrespect our Ancestors and Elders, we leave our struggling Brothers and Sisters in deprivation and danger, and we betray our children and those unborn. Let’s start, today, to chart that course toward Pan-Afrikan Unity, Prosperity, Freedom, Truth, Justice and Righteousness.