Pan-Africanism is a world-wide intellectual movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all people of African descent. It encompasses several aspects:
(1) Pan-Africanism is a thought process based on the belief that all African peoples and countries are intertwined;
(2) Pan-Africanism believes unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress;
(3)Pan-Africanism aims to unify and uplift people of African descent.
Perhaps the most vital aspect of Pan-Africanism is the notion that all peoples of African descent have a common destiny. The realization of the Pan-African aim would lead to “power consolidation in Africa”, which “would compel a reallocation of global resources, as well as unleashing a fiercer psychological energy and political assertion…that would unsettle social and political (power) structures…in the Americas.” (Agyeman)
Pan-Africanism is a thought, a movement. Several academics have written how to achieve Pan-Africanism, and I want to analyze a couple of those viewpoints. One of my favorite books I refer to often gives an extensive idea to Pan-Africanism. The Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams proposes a “Master Plan” that he breaks down into four parts.
The first aim is to organize and create a united Black voice of America. Williams states that no organization of unity has ever existed among the Black community. Sure, small unity groups have existed, but we have never created something that can compare to the unity that the Jewish culture shares. Repeatedly throughout his book, Williams asks why we have not made strides to unite. Of course, the answers are subjective and could fill a volume of books.
In his second aim, Williams differentiates between being a separatist and cooperative movement. He argues we must organize as a cooperative movement since we have worked too hard and built this country to leave. “For the black masses are not going to give up their 400 years of investments in blood and labor to build up its present great wealth – [we] are not about to separate, migrate anywhere, leaving all those centuries of toil as a free gift to the whites.” (Williams 342) It is key that he makes this statement because it must be understood that the Black race will never stop demanding equality and advancement in the United States. This conviction seems difficult because in order to achieve this aim, the black masses cannot be influenced by this “separate but equal” notion. One of the biggest steps we have to make is supporting each other through black business endeavors and projects.
Developing a thought process in which the black masses understand we must create opportunities for ourselves outlined in Williams’ next objective. “If we say that, as a race, we are too poor to engage in productive activities that would create thousands of jobs for our young people, if we continue traditional pleas of poverty, our total spending of nearly 200 billion dollars each year rises up to call us liars!” (Williams 343)
Finally, Williams makes a plea for the Black community to not just unite, but unite in order to achieve significant achievements.
Another informative book I recently purchased, The Pro-Black Compendium by Onitaset Kumat offers an article titled The Seven Qualifications of a Pan-African Nationalist (Kumat 184). I must say I agreed with most of these qualifications, but there are a few I disagreed with.
- A Conviction that Africans should be the sole leaders of African people in Africa and the Diaspora
- A Conviction that Africans should have social settings free of Eurasians and Eurasian ideas
- A Conviction that Africans should be able and willing to produce everything they are able and willing to consume
- A Conviction that African leaders and liberators need to be developed through time and struggle
- A Conviction that Africans should be about race first and race only
- A Conviction that African sexuality is strictly between an African man and African woman
- A Conviction that Africans should solely adhere to African spiritual systems
Now to be clear, Kumat labels this list with the adjective of ‘Nationalist’. A nationalist is “a person who strongly identifies with their own nation and vigorously supports its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations”. It’s the second part of this definition that gives me pause. I don’t believe that my identification with my blackness must be at the exclusion of other nations. While I don’t believe other nations can define my race – I am who I am because of other nations; this could be negative and positive definitions. For example, a large majority of American Blacks contain Native American DNA.
When our ancestors, Africans, were kidnapped and brought to the “New World” many of them escaped and Native American tribes in the area took them in. This also occurred in the Caribbean and South America in large numbers called Maroons. I would never want to exclude that part of my history, and this helps to define me.
Another aspect I disagree with is one’s sexual orientation. In his book, Kumat states that sexuality is strictly between an ‘African Man and African Woman’. He further explains that this relates to ‘a resolve against imbalance’. While I can understand this thought process and given the historical nature in which Africans view homosexuality, I definitely ‘get it’. However, again, the definition of my race should not be predicated on the exclusion of others. And should it deter me from uniting with others. To me, this is the opposite of Pan-Africanism. We should be united with all that are the Black race including our mixes and individualism. We can then take that and unite against oppression, suppression and inequality.
Any discussion regarding Pan-Africanism should be welcomed. It doesn’t really matter if I personally agree with nationalism or a Race Organization plan. The point is to unite through our Blackness. That is what we have in common. We all know what it means to wear our Black skin no matter where we live in the world.
Agyeman, Opoku. Pan-Africanism and Its Detractors: A Response to Harvard’s Race-Effacing Universalists. Edwin Mellen Pr, 1997.
Kumat, Onitaset. The Pro-Black Compendium. Coppell, Onitaset Kumat, 2017.
Williams, Chancellor. The Destruction of Black Civilization. Revised ed., Chicago, Third World Press, 1987.