Come to the Maryland Pan-Afrikan Community Town Hall Meeting!
Join us as we discuss the issues that impact us in the State of Maryland, as we explore the connection between our local struggle and those of People of Afrikan Descent across the United States and around the world, as we build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda of important issues and ideas, and as we make plans to join with the Global Community of People of Afrikan Descent to take our message out of Uncle Sam’s courts to the World Stage.
We will meet at the historic Arch Social Club, located on 2426 Pennsylvania Avenue in the Penn-North Community in Baltimore, Maryland. Penn-North has a storied place in history as a cultural nerve center in the 1950’s and 1960’s, anchored by the committed members of the Arch Social Club, and the neighborhood also gained a degree of national notoriety two years ago, as the focus of the rebellion that followed the brutal death of Freddie Gray on April 19, 2015. The committed members of Arch Social Club continue to hold social and community events at the Club to this day to help strengthen the Afrikan-American community in Baltimore, affectionately known as “Harriet Tubman City” to Pan-Afrikan activists.
The Community Town Hall Event will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2017 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
What is the Purpose of the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall?
We will work together to build a local Pan-Afrikan grassroots organization that will:
- Build a Local Pan-Afrikan Agenda: Issues that are of importance to Black People here in Baltimore and across the State of Maryland. These could include concerns about economic development, police brutality, mass incarceration, environmental sacrifice zones, the lack of a true sense of community and Black love, and the need to build an education system that not only better educates our children in math, science and reading but also on our Afrikan roots and the real history of our struggle in the United States. Any or all of the above concerns could be part of the Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and no doubt there are many more that should be considered. But it’s important that the community determine what these issues will be, and not just someone in a position of electoral power or self-appointed leadership.
- Nominate and elect a local organizing leadership team: Afrikan tradition requires that a Community Council of Elders be established. If we already have one, then let us meet them and acknowledge them, and let them take the position of Elder Leadership for which they are so desperately needed by our community. If we do not have one, let us nominate people from our community who have the experience, the wisdom and the demonstrated body of work to show that they are prepared to guide us through the struggle that lies ahead. We also must nominate and elect Representatives, energetic, knowledgeable and committed members of our community who can and will take the decisions that our community makes on this day and at future Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Meetings and represent them at national and international gatherings, from the African Union (AU) to the United Nations (UN) to various Pan-Afrikan Conferences (PACs).
- Discuss how we will grow this effort and move forward: How we will ensure that more members of our community are informed about the effort we’re launching this day. How we will take our Pan-Afrikan Agenda to the people who can best help us carry it out. Some of the items of our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will be initiatives that we can build on ourselves, by finally bringing our various organizations, activists and service providers together in a Cooperative Coalition. Some are issues that can be dealt with by combining our efforts with those of communities in other states, or even other countries, that are building their organizations the same way that we are. Some items will be expressed as demands that must be made to local City officials, to State political leaders, to national bodies, or to international groups such as the African Union or the United Nations. But none of the issues in our Pan-Afrikan Agenda will bear any fruit unless we are ready to formulate a plan to see that they are done.
We invite the members of the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to finally join together in the spirit of Black Unity which we have been calling for over these many decades.
Background on the Pan-Afrikan Town Hall Process
There are many activists and organizations that have ideas and plans to propose to help people of Afrikan descent unify, organize and mobilize ourselves. We would like to talk a bit about the organization we belong to, the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus, or SRDC. Put simply, our mission is to establish the voice of the grassroots
Pan-Afrikan Diaspora on the world stage, primarily through the African Union but also through other global organizations and avenues, such as the United Nations or independent Pan-Afrikan Congresses, that would be helpful in the development and uplift of Afrikan people. We want to do this in a well-informed, diplomatic and helpful way, and we realize that this effort will only succeed if we all participate together. No one organization can do this alone.
The African Union Initiative for the Diaspora
We were inspired to this mission by the African Union Initiative, which issued an invitation of sorts to the Diaspora in 2003 to become involved in the effort to build the African Union. The AU proposal currently involves members of the grassroots Afrikan Diaspora establishing a small delegation (say, 20) of elected representatives who would join a much larger number of Afrikans from the Continent as voting members in its Economic, Social and Cultural Council, or ECOSOCC, which is a group of community activists, businesses, and regular citizens who would advise the Heads of State on how to best serve the people of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora. This is the civil society advisory group within the African Union. While ECOSOCC does not craft legislation or take an official hand in establishing the AU’s organizational priorities, it does provide important input into the affairs of state from the perspective of what is often referred to as “civil society”, that is, private citizens, non-governmental organizations, businesses and community groups. This would be the first organization within the AU where the Diaspora would seek to establish a voting presence in the form of representatives. The prospects here are that, if all goes well with the Diaspora’s contribution to ECOSOCC, the Diaspora could be granted an opportunity to seek membership in the Pan-African Parliament, which does assist in the crafting of legislation and participates in the decision-making processes of the AU on a more official level.
Just What Is The “Diaspora”?
One early step in advancing the Initiative was settling on a definition of the Diaspora, which was proposed by the African Union in 2006 and accepted at a Pan Afrikan Roundtable that was held in April 2006 in Los Angeles, California in the United States. The key aspects of the definition are that one be of African descent, that one lives outside the Continent, regardless of their country of citizenship, and that they be “willing to contribute to the development of the Continent and the building of the African Union.” At this time, the AU also began promoting the concept of the Diaspora as the Sixth Region of Afrika, to go along with the current five regions (North, South, East, West and Central Afrika). It is from this designation of the Sixth Region that SRDC derives its name.
Perhaps the first thing that needs to be clarified is the fact that the Afrikan Diaspora does not just mean Afrikan-Americans, as some of us unfortunately seem to believe. There are just over 40 million of us in the United States, but there are over 300 million Black people total between the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and the last thing we need is for these different communities engaging in a free-for-all to claim for themselves the presumed right to speak for all 300 million-plus people around the world of Afrikan descent.
Why are We Doing This?
Two questions which are often asked at this point are: Why did the AU invite the Diaspora? and Why should the Diaspora accept the invitation? The African Union has several incentives to include the Diaspora as voting members. One is the reversal of a trend of Africans leaving the Continent, gaining education in the West and never returning home. This was called the “Brain Drain” or the “Exodus”. Involving the Diaspora increases the likelihood of the return of many of Afrika’s brightest minds and the resources that they carry with them. Another incentive is the enlist-
ment of members of the Diaspora, especially the descendants of Africans who were enslaved centuries ago, in the development and establishment of the United States of Africa, or Union of Afrikan States, from provision of material and technical assistance to influencing their countries of citizenship to support and endorse a Union Government for the Afrikan Continent. Our incentives for accepting the invitation include the developing and strengthening of our cultural and ancestral ties with our Mother Continent and the opportunity to take our grievances with America and the West to the international arena, through the African Union. This is, in fact, akin to what Ancestor Malcolm X told us to do back in 1964, to stop “taking our case from the wolf to the fox” by seeking redress from Uncle Sam’s crimes against us in Uncle Sam’s own courts.
One more point needs to be made here. While our effort was inspired by the African Union and our primary goal is to establish a presence in the AU, we realize that the AU is a very bureaucratic institution that many Pan-Afrikan activists do not entirely trust. The African Union was modeled after the European Union, and it does often depend on assistance from the outside international community to maintain its operations. Sometimes, the snail’s pace of progress in pursuing our goals has been as a result of a lack of communication with the AU, and this has frustrated many of us. Others in the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora look at the AU, rightly or wrongly, as a neoliberal puppet of the West. Finally, there remains the possibility that the AU could decide that this “experiment” in Diaspora representation was not worth pursuing after all, and withdraw the invitation. This does not mean we would pack up our work and go home. In that case, the exact same plan of local, national and global Afrikan Diaspora organization will still work, only in this case the final goal would be the establishment of an international delegation of elected Diaspora representatives who would meet in the United Nations, the World Social Forum, the next Climate Change Conference, or an independent Pan-Afrikan Conference of our own design and planning. Either way, we would be taking our argument and our collective voice outside the courts of the United States or the country in which we happen to reside, and we would go to the International Arena, where, if we do this right, we will achieve a level of organization and strength that international groups would have no choice but to listen to what we say.
The SRDC Plan to Organize and Mobilize the Diaspora
So, how does SRDC propose that 300 million African Descendants and Continental Africans living in the Diaspora will be able to effectively elect 20 Representatives to speak for us on the World Stage? How would we determine an elected delegation that could take the people’s concerns to the African Union’s ECOSOCC, or the United Nations, or to Pan-Afrikan Conferences?
The general idea can be briefly summarized in the cliché, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, for that is exactly what our plan involves. Everything starts with the establishment and development of local organizations that bring people together at the grassroots level. These local organizations then come together in national caucuses (in the United States, for example), or in the case of areas of the world where there are many small countries (like the Caribbean or Central America), Sub-Regional caucuses. These national or Sub-Regional groups then come together for a Global gathering to establish, from the work of the local and Sub-Regional groups,
a Pan-Afrikan Diaspora Delegation that would, pending approval from the AU, represent the combined voice of the Global Pan-Afrikan Diaspora in ECOSOCC for that term. This Delegation would present and support a Combined and Comprehensive Pan-Afrikan Agenda at the following ECOSOCC Meeting, UN Conference or Pan-Afrikan Conference.
This would represent the first truly significant effort at not only repairing the fractured state of the global Afrikan Diaspora, but also initiate the process of bringing the Diaspora “back home” to our long-separated relatives in the Mother Continent.
As we stated, the process begins with the establishment of local grassroots organization. This would be done by forming an Organizing Committee, or a “Chapter” as some would call it, at the local level. In the United States, for example, this would mean at the state level, specifically, 50 states plus Washington, DC. In other parts of the world, perhaps in Central America, South America, Europe and the Caribbean, where our population is more scattered across several relatively small countries, this organization would occur at the country level, while in Canada, organization might occur by province.
Each local organization would begin when a committed volunteer hears of this plan and takes the initiative to begin such an organization where they live (if one does not already exist). That person becomes the Facilitator of that local organization and now must assemble a team of volunteers who will assist in planning, scheduling, promoting and holding a public Community Town Hall Meeting, at which the Afrikan-Descendant public is given information about the SRDC Mission and Plan, and the further steps which must be taken to make that happen.
The community begins to formulate a list of the issues that they feel need to be addressed that impact upon their community or Pan-Afrikan Agenda, and then they commence the process of nominating people who would become the leadership team that would help to take that Agenda to the national and international level. That leadership team includes a Council of Elders, two Representatives and five Observers. The community nominates people for these positions and then, at a later date, a Candidates’ Forum is held where the community votes to formally elect those who will fill these positions for a two-year term.
Once a year, all of the local committees gather together in a National or Sub-Regional Summit. In the United States, National Summits are used, so we will refer to them as such here. At these Summits, the local groups share news, information and ideas, they encourage each other, they discuss issues that impact the community at the local and national level, and they discuss and vote on decisions that must be made between the local organizations, including deciding which of the
local Representatives would be best to include in the Delegation that would go to, for example, the next AU Summit and take a seat in ECOSOCC. Information
sessions about the African Union and the process would be held, as well as training sessions in building organizations, diplomacy and conflict resolution. Plans and projects for the upcoming year of local and national organizing would also be discussed and decided. Similar local and national or Sub-Regional organizing work would be done in other parts of the world where Afrikans live in the Diaspora, usually through the efforts of one or more of our global organizational allies, such as the African Union-African Diaspora Sixth Region (AUADS) in The Netherlands or the Central American Black Organization (CABO/ONECA in Spanish) in Central America.
After the National and Sub-Regional Summits have been held, a Full Diaspora Summit would take place. The AU has already sponsored several of these Summits, even though the local and Sub-Regional process has not been fully implemented yet. These Summits bring together activists in the Afrikan Diaspora who are recognized by the AU as playing an important role in the process of “Building the
African Union”. When the local and Sub-Regional process has been fully implemented, these Representatives who were chosen at their respective
National or Sub-Regional Summits will participate in that Full Diaspora Summit. There, they would gather with other Representatives from throughout the Diaspora and they would also prepare to join the 130 Representatives from the African Countries at the ECOSOCC Meeting of the AU Summit.
As we mentioned earlier, this same process can be used to develop an international Diaspora delegation to take our combined voice to the United Nations, the World Social Forum, environmental summits such as the Climate Change Conventions, or independent Pan-Afrikan Conferences that we might organize ourselves. The point here is really for the Pan-Afrikan Diaspora to take the responsibility, and with it the authority, to organize ourselves on the local, national and international level. At this point our influence and voice on the World Stage will increase dramatically, and our power to control our own destiny will finally be placed within our grasp.