Earlier in the month of December, sixty years after Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and others organized a similar gathering of independence-focused African leaders at the All African People’s Conference, Pan-Africanists from across the globe converged on Accra, Ghana’s capital city, to reignite the call for Black African political unification under what has been described as Pan-African Federalism.
Pan-African Federalism serves as a means through which Black African people in the grassroots can pressure heads of state and other elected officials to move beyond divisive Eurocentric geographical borders and consolidate political power among one another. Doing so would enable African states, on the African continent and around the world, to move as a unit to collectively and independently rectify the modern-day exploitation of the Black African masses by multinational corporations, Eurocentric and other political bodies, and so-called Black African leaders.
The Organization of African Unity, formed five years after the 1958 All African People’s Conference, never quite brought forth the Pan-African Federalist structure, as intended by a contingent of founding members. It instead transformed into the African Union (AU), a collective of continental African states that works in the interest of the aforementioned entities rather than that of Black African people across the globe seeking ultimate liberation.
In failing to form a Pan-African federation, the AU has succumbed to the power of pseudo political organization set forth by European nations that prevents Black African people from thinking beyond their nationality. For Black Africans living in the District, more than 5,000 miles from Accra, this has resulted in the continuation of a human rights struggle where those fighting behind enemy lines (local and federal government) are further disorganized and without the Pan-African diplomatic support that non-Black ethnic groups in North America enjoy when collectively addressing grievances.
Black African Self-Determination in D.C.
On the second day of Kwanzaa, more than a week after commemorative activities wrapped up in Ghana, Black African people in the District who visited We Act Radio on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast listened as A. Peter Bailey, political organizer, journalist, and elder member of the Pan-African Federalist Movement, recounted his experiences in Ghana and weighed in on Pan-African Federalism’s significance in creating long-lasting institutions that will meet the needs of Black African people.
This discussion, moderated by Baba Senghor Baye, a senior organizing figure within the Pan-African Federalist Movement, and Sam P.K. Collins, head of the D.C.-based contingent, proved particularly important, as the Kwanzaa principle of Kujichagulia (self-determination) stayed on the minds of those gathered in the space. Much of the conversation during those three hours focused on how Pan-Africans in D.C., because they haven’t defined themselves as a unit, are without a political agenda that dictates focus areas for 2019 and beyond.
Elder Bailey, a founding member of the Organization of African-American Unity and one-time comrade of Malcolm X, stressed the importance of a political infrastructure that would embolden Black African people to create long-lasting Pan-African institutions to protect those interests. While he acknowledged the cultural and spiritual renaissance unfolding across the Pan-African world, he said that political savvy has just as much importance for people who have been the world’s footstool for a long time.
The good news (because there’s good news) for Black Africans living in D.C. is that, because the District is the center of power and has been an incubator of Black African innovation within the last few decades, plenty of Pan-African organizations, initiatives and institutions exist. Many of those entities carry out similar tasks. The issue lies in the lack of organization and coordination through which resources can be exchanged, activities within D.C.’s Pan-African community can be organized, and (most importantly), an agenda for 2019 and beyond can be set that aligns Black Africans in D.C. with their Black African comrades across the globe enduring similar struggles.
Answering the Call
For Black Africans in D.C., joining the Pan-African Federalist Movement doesn’t add to the burden of the daily work carried out in the interest of Black liberation. Instead, it augments it and creates a platform for communication between Black Africans of various generations, professional backgrounds, and other key differences. By organizing under the Pan-African federalist umbrella and setting an agenda, Black Africans can set the stage for a movement that’s not only political, but cultural and spiritual in the sense that, as self-determined beings, we’re collectively working to move beyond paradigms that limit our ability to “be.”
If you haven’t done so already, consider answering the call for Pan-African Federalism. If not now, then maybe during a series of town hall meetings in the works for 2019. At this point, it’s about organization — not just mobilization. Sixty years later, we’re well beyond that.