How The Pan-African Movement Lost Its Way
The Pan-African movement remains the best hope for the African Diaspora and Continent.
This noble Movement has been around for as long as we have fought white supremacy. But with the rise of globalism, social media and identity politics, the Pan-African Movement has lost its way.
Members of the movement have taken their eyes off the prize. And its time we found our way again.
The Birth of the Pan-African Movement
“Pan Africanism can be said to have its origins in the struggles of the African people against enslavement and colonisation” – Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem
To understand where we came from and how we lost our way since, we must go back to the beginning.
Our war began on August 21, 1415. The North African Port of Ceuta fell to Portuguese attackers and opened the period of great suffering we find ourselves in today.
After the fall of Ceuta, the entire African coastline was left vulnerable to European invasion.
At first, these invaders came as traders. Then they brought their missionaries so that the “heathen” Black masses could be “saved”. And finally, they brought their warriors.
When the white wars came, African groups and nations formed alliances to fight back. Those that remained isolated were colonized by white invaders and used as mercenaries against their own people.
This divide and conquer strategy was so effective that by 1884 most of the African continent was under European control.
With their conquest complete, white nations met in Berlin to draw new borders around their territories. This turning point in history came to be known as the ‘Partition of Africa‘.
The political rug was pulled from underneath African feet almost overnight.
When Henry Sylvester Williams – one of the founders of Pan-Africanism – realized the grave threat that the Partition of Africa posed, he called together the best minds in the African Diaspora to fight back.
This meeting became the first Pan-African Conference in history, and would mark the birth of the Pan-African Movement.
Later, these conferences evolved into well organized sessions known as the Pan-African Congresses.
The Pan-African Congress
The organizers of the Pan-African Congress understood that if Africans were to have a fighting chance, we needed to
1) Work as a united front – regardless of nationality
2) Agree on a united global strategy, and
3) Fight for sovereignty
To date, there have been 8 official, well organized Congresses.
1st Pan-African Congress: Held on February 1919 in France
2nd Pan-African Congress: Held on August 28, 1921 in England, France, and Belgium
3rd Pan-African Congress: Held on the first week of November 1923 in England
4th Pan-African Congress: Held on August 21, 1927 in the United States
5th Pan-African Congress: Held on October 15, 1945 in England
6th Pan-African Congress: Held on June 19, 1974 in Tanzania
7th Pan-African Congress: Held on April 3, 1994 in Uganda
8th Pan-African Congress: Held on March 4, 2015 in Ghana
These Congresses gave us the opportunity to develop strategies that would help us achieve our ultimate goal: sovereignty. Our goal has always been towards a unified Pan-African state.
And it is that goal that every Pan-African must be absolutely clear about.
It is only by way of a unified State with borders protected by force of arms and rule of law that we will have the power to rebuild Black civilization.
How to achieve that state was the focus of the Pan-African Congressess of the past, and every true Pan-African activist since.
How The Pan-African Movement Lost Its Way
If the Pan-African Congress charted a path for us, then we lost our way when we failed to put in place the strategies that those meetings set forth.
Instead, we have collapsed into three distinct groups:
The Social Media Activist
The social media activists of today are happy to be Pan-African in name only. These armchair activists reduce the Pan-African Movement to hashtags and memes. They post quotes and book covers on social media, debate endlessly, and take daily selfies wrapped in African garb.
But ask those same members if they have read James, Rodney, or Padmore and they draw blank stares.
The problem with social media activists is that they prefer to look the part instead of act the part. Instead of reading, studying, and putting the lessons of Pan-Africanism into action, they are content with “doing it for the ‘gram”.
The integrationist dismisses the idea of a Pan-African state and African identity. Instead, these integrationists identify with their white supremacist host nations while still claiming to work on behalf of their people.
Integrationists believe that electing more Black politicians in white nations is a sign of progress.
They work to climb white corporate ladders and social constructs, seeing every rung they reach as a victory.
More Black folks in fortune 500 companies! More Black movies in theaters! More Black representation in Ivy league colleges!
But those Black faces in fortune 500 companies remain the employees of white owners. The Black movie industry is owned by Israel. And those Black graduates from Ivy league colleges become employees in white owned companies as well.
No matter how many short term victories the Integrationist wins, the rules of the game that he plays are still written by white supremacy.
The Integrationist may believe that he is a Pan-African, but in reality he is a servant of the system of white supremacy.
The Intersectional Activist
The Intersectional Activist allows his sexual, religious, or political identity to put him at odds with the ideals of Pan-Africanism.
Feminism, homosexuality, and dogma all destroy unity by back-seating the collective Black struggle.
This is not to say that each of these groups dont have reasonable concerns that warrant our attention. But when addressing those issues become an end rather than means, we undermine the Pan-African Movement.
How True Pan-Africans Can Bring The Movement Back To Life
Once we properly diagnose how the Pan-African movement lost its way, it is up to the true Pan-African to correct course by devoting herself sankofa.
She must return to the lessons of the past, and learn from our warrior-scholars.
And she must remember the guidelines set by the Pan-African Congress, and build on that foundation.
Armed with that knowledge, she can then go to work with the understanding that victory is only achieved by way of a Pan-African state.
In short, she must re-gain knowledge of who she is, how she came to be, the world around her, and her place in that world.
We spit in the face of Nkrumah, Blyden, Amy J. Garvey, Padmore, Garnett, and Ida Gibbs Hunt when we refuse to take the time to read the words they wrote. They all agreed almost unanimously that the path forward was toward nation building.
As we move into the age of artificial intelligence, global superpowers, and intersectionality, the Pan-African must move into a more disciplined intellectual framework to deal with these changes effectively.
That can only happen when we are armed with and protected by the intellectual legacy of our Ancestors.
But just as faith without works is dead, we must not allow ourselves to be filled with knowledge but empty of action. We must actively struggle to finish what our Ancestors started.
This is a fight – a struggle – that we ourselves must undertake. No nation will grant us our birthright. It must be earned, fought for, and demanded.
In the words of American freedom fighter Frederick Douglass:
Without a struggle, there can be no progress.
A man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others… For a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others, or put himself to any inconvenience to gain it for others.
Your task as a member of the Pan-African movement is not to re-create the wheel. Our ancestors have left the blueprint for us in the books they have written.
Make a commitment right now to read every one of the 12 Black Consciousness Books Every Pan-African Must Read.
These are the building blocks of Pan-African thought. Armed with that knowledge, you and I can build on the foundation that our ancestors laid for us.