Peace and blessings,
I write this open letter amid a global pandemic that has brought economic and social activity to a standstill, and compelled people of African descent to think more deeply about how best to defect from a system that’s on its way to oblivion. In the last month or so, I’ve pondered how the New World Order would unfold, where we would fit within it, and whether we’re ready to advance the causes that our ancestors have espoused over the last couple centuries.
In regards to that last question, I have grown quite cynical over the years about our collective ability as Pan-Africanists to put our internal squabbles to the side and unite around the goal of self-determination through concrete action, not just endless pontification and debating. That’s why I’m of the absolute understanding, now more than ever, that our advancement as a race will involve much less people than what people estimated had been the case at the height of the often-heralded Garvey movement.
As far as the writer of this piece is concerned, the quintessential Pan-African revolution will revolve, and only revolve, around those devoid of ego who’ve expressed and shown a commitment to their healing and that of their family and community. By the end of the day, we must come to terms with the sad reality that, regardless of our location, Africans across the globe still suffer from the trauma of chattel slavery and colonization, to the point that we bask in ivory tower leadership and empty platitudes, even as the masses of our people continue to suffer.
Perhaps that’s why the architects of the Babylon system are able to co-opt and corporatize burgeoning grassroots revolutionary movements. We’ve seen it time and time again over the last five years or so with the elevation of media-hungry Black organizers to mainstream news shows and the such where they openly support centrist, neoliberal policies to the detriment of the oppressed masses who need much stronger solutions to the societal ills they endure. These days, it seems the goal among those who call themselves activists only involves the removal of Donald J. Trump from the White House, and not the establishment of a nobility through which we — and not those we perceive to be our saviors — control our destiny.
It’s been for that reason that I’ve had little interest in working with Black groups and people so eager to forego the race first philosophy that’s at the very foundation of the Pan-African nationalist ethos that I love. Indeed, our community has the potential to meet its own needs, especially with the educational advancement of the millennial generation and the access to information unlike what our parents and grandparents had experienced. However, some of our Pan-African minded people aren’t able to grow beyond the individualism that Pan-Africanism discourages.
Five years after introducing AllEyesOnDC as an African-centered grassroots media program to the global African community, our collective condition as Pan-Africanists has become more apparent to this young man.
As my involvement in organizations increased, so did my willingness to acknowledge that some of us value the trappings of power more than we do the actual manifestation of a common vision. This scenario has played out on numerous occasions, long before and well after I immersed myself in Pan-African liberation, and it in part has caused such entities to crumble, even though the people in those groups — whether or not they incited the divisions — had coordinated programming of great significance.
The unwillingness of our organizations to support one another shows up the proliferation of small groups, many of which unite around a specific cause, but often struggle to do so in alignment with other groups of varying interests who, while they conduct business differently, could equally benefit from a collaborative relationship. Let it be known that our issue as African people doesn’t lie in our ingenuity, as I continue to encounter individuals and groups making strides in their various fields — all in the name of Pan-African self-determination.
However, as Kwame Ture, and other ancestors, have said in the past, our problems at this juncture in the struggle continue to be organizational. As a people, it’s rare that we can move beyond the planning stages of major collaborative projects without people breaking ties and forming small, ineffective cliques.
In no way does this mean that I’m ready to stop working for Pan-African self-determination. However, this realization has pushed me to question how one goes about doing that when such schisms — whether they exist between elders and young people, nationalists of varying visions, or whoever else — continue to impede our ability to progress as a people.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so focused on educating the next generation of freedom fighters through writing workshops and collaborations with African-centered institutions, all while making our monthly AllEyesOnDC programs at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe a platform to discuss the practical application of Pan-Africanism, more so than to attract large crowds with popular speakers.
As I continued to pivot in my thinking, the more inconsistent attendance became at AllEyesOnDC functions. To the chagrin of my business-minded colleagues, I’ve never really prioritized popularity in what I did as a grassroots journalist.
As a matter of fact, I found the small number of supporters quite refreshing, as many of them have become people with whom I often reason about the issues of our time and the solutions needed to solve them. Maybe people aren’t interested in learning how to pool money through a susu, build a community garden, establish meaningful connections with Africans in other regions, or facilitate community control over the police.
Of course, all of the blame doesn’t lay at our feet. In the last 40 years, the powers that be have done a number on our people via the prison industrial complex, redlining, deindustrialization, gentrification, and other means by which they’ve made us totally dependent on this colonizer government. As expensive as it is to live in the District and other places in the United States, many of us argue that we don’t don’t have time to apply the principles of Pan-Africanism in our lives.
However, there are people who are doing so, and have been able to do so consistently. The degree to which they’ve been able to function under a well-organized system parallel to the governments that colonize us remains a point of great controversy, especially since many young people, enamored with the poisonous messages of mainstream media, aren’t able to grasp the tangible benefits of practicing Pan-Africanism in this day and age.
That’s only because they’ve come up in an education system that’s hiding their history, while the people and organizations who can expose them to that information remain mired in meaningless power struggles, and not actively engaging the people who need enlightenment. All hasn’t been lost, but it’s apparent, now more than ever, that members of the Pan-African community do some soul searching about where we hope to be within the next 40 years.
I for one would like to see the rise of a new mindset geared toward self-healing and accountability, solution-oriented discussion, and the unification of Pan-African organizations and groups under an umbrella through which many of Black people’s immediate needs in the greater community can be met. The last point is the most important because the children, disillusioned by the destructive behaviors of the adults in their lives, will not listen to us unless we can market Pan-Africanism as a viable means of survival in the 21st century. Right now, we are not there, but that’s okay as long as we strive toward seriously addressing this shortcoming.
If not, we will find ourselves continuing to romanticize a past that, very soon, few if any of us would’ve been around to experience. That will not suffice for people who, rightfully so, want clothing, food, and shelter along with an assurance that all will be okay during these perilous times. It’s for this reason that, for the sake of our Pan-African nation, and the millions of youth who remain oppressed in it, we must strive to raise above our differences and commit to direct action that produces more results of merit for several generations to come.
Yours in the Struggle,
Sam P.K. Collins (also known as Ras Plo Kwia Glebluwuo)