“My heart yearns for the glory of an Africa that is gone. But I shall labour for the birth of a new Africa, free and great among the nations of the world.”
– Anton Lembede
“Many African nationalists do believe that Western imperialism was an exercise in divide and rule. The argument sometimes sounds like the following, ‘We were all Africans until colonialism split us into Ugandans, Kenyans. Ghanaians, and Ivorians.’ The logical jump is the assertion that Africans must ‘therefore’ have previously been just ‘Africans’. It is not a simple case of the very word African being itself non-African in origin, however true that may be. Rather it is a case of the inhabitants of the continent having known other, often narrower, group identities than ‘Ugandans’, and ‘Ivorians’ before colonial rule.” – Ali Mazrui, The Africans: A Triple Heritage
Did the experience of colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade unite us as Afrikans only to divide us as Blacks? Can we not be simultaneously proud to be Black and retain our loyal identity as Afrikans, or is it a case of not being able to functionally coexists with both?
Today I am hearing more and more of my comrades advocating for a return to African Nationalism. They are evoking the likes of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, Marcus Garvey and various other Afrikanist leaders from the bygone era. They state that the term Black no longer suffices as a definition of who we are, as people of this rich continent we should simply be known as Afrikans qha. I find it alarming and quite regressive, because I assumed we were all on the same page regarding the histories related to our being defined from without as well as from within.What alarms me even more is that these are comrades with whom we have spent almost a decade promoting Black Consciousness according to how we have read and understood it from the great activist Bantu Steve Biko. But today it appears as though we have not really understood Biko at all, or at least not the same way. This is not surprising, as Black Consciousness is neither a dogmatic doctrine nor a set of rules set in stone.
We can and have developed it and adapted it to many other progressive ideas of the 20th and 21st century, such as Black Existentialism, Afrikology, Intertextuality/Intersectionality, Black Feminism as well as Afro-Pessimism as developed by the likes of Frank B. Wilderson.
These and more are all part of the Black Radical tradition and form part of the a people’s movements towards liberation. But beyond scholarship, there have been global musical ideas and innovative artistic expressions based on the foundation of functional Black Consciousness.So what makes it different from Pan Afrikanism or even Afrikan Nationalism as advocated by our honourable predecessors from Garvey to Nkrumah to Nyerere,Cabral, Sankara, Toure’ and others?
Let’s begin by hypothetically accepting this geographically based definition,by agreeing that an Afrikan person no matter where she may be born or resides is still an Afrikan first, This means that all people of colour from the continent known as Africa, to the Brazilians, the Carribeans ( also known as West Indians), the Dominicans, some from South America as well as other parts of the Diaspora are to be identified as Afrikans first.
This definition is in spite of whether they personally identify as Afrikans of with the country of the birth, by virtue of being brown skinned or tan or as dark as ebony, they are African first.
But then there is a conundrum here, there are various peoples from all over the globe who appear dark skinned and yet they have not been in Afrika for several centuries. We can begin with the obvious Australian Aboriginals, New Zealanders, some peoples from the various Asian Islands, various so called Indians from that sub-continent as well as peoples from Mesopotamia and the Middle East who do not identify as Arabs, and some of those who do due to their religion. Are we saying that our Afrikan NAtionalism should exclude all these people even though they have suffered and continue to suffer the tribulations of anti-Black and racially based capitalist brutality?
Are we saying that only Afrikans in the continent are worth fighting and sacrificing for? Where does Afrikanness begin and end. I also need to know whether the knowledge based and technocratic economies of today …or rather can Afrikan Nationalism benefit the younger generation and assist them to become the best that they can be today? Is it a question of identity or is it really about loyalty and patriotism? If that is the case, does patriotism and loyalty to a continent progressively lead to social wellbeing or is it a question of being part of the nationalist ego?