Two Days, One People, One Destiny
This summer saw the commemoration of two major landmarks in the African World. The first event was the 54th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (now called Africa Union). Designated African Liberation Day, this day is marked May 25 every year. The second was 180th anniversary of Emancipation Day. Emancipation Day is celebrated every August 1. While the former event 54 years ago signalled the end of European colonialism in Africa, the later marked the end of slavery in Canada.
But regrettably, the historic events which should remind all people of African descent of our common heritage and the need for unity passed hardly noticed.
Ideally, Emancipation Day should occupy a place of pride in the annals of Black -White relations in Canada. It should symbolize all that is noble in the human being – forgiveness and fortitude, remorse and restitution.
For the African Canadians side of the equation, it is fortitude to withstand the legacies of slavery. In reality, however, Emancipation Days and even Black History Months are hardly noticed by Continental Africans.
Apart from Ghana, Senegal and a few other African countries which officially commemorate Black History Month, Continental Africans both at home and here in the Diaspora have ignored these events.
The same is true of Africa Liberation Day. Africa Liberation Days are non-events for the majority people of African descent,
Mainstream Canadians can be forgiven if they ignored these significant days. However, for peoples of African descent it is unpardonable to treat these landmark events with indifference.
Why should these historic events be accorded a pride of place among all people of African descent, those on the continent and in the Diaspora?
First, all Africans – continental, African Canadians, African Americans, African Jamaicans, African Brazilians, African Haitians, etc, are bound by a common destiny—a destiny determined by our common heritage and shaped by nearly common historical experiences.
Nearly 60 years ago, the visionary Pan-Africanist, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had declared on his country’s independence day on March 6, 1957 that, “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with total liberation of the African continent.”
Today, it can be said in the same vein that the emancipation of Africa from colonialism is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of the African Diaspora. The reverse is also true; the emancipation of people of African descent from slavery is meaningless, unless it is organically linked with the complete liberation of the continent.
The pioneers of the African liberation movement and their counterparts in the Pan-Africanist movement in North America and Europe took this message seriously. In the “golden” years of the Pan-Africanist movement, Africans on the continent and their cousins in the Diaspora worked together to liberate the continent.
Many of the pioneer Pan-Africanists from the Diaspora did not only work hand-in-hand with the leaders of the independence movement from the continent while they were in sojourn in the West, many of them followed their brethren to Africa to help build their newly liberated countries.
The Trinidadian George Padmore was Ghana’s Minister of African Affairs. The African-American W.E.B. Du Bois was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s adviser and was working the Encyclopaedia African project until his death in 1963.
If it was possible then for Continental Africans and Africans in the Diaspora to work together it is possible today also. Nkrumah admonishes us that the close links forged between Africans and peoples of African descent for nearly a century of common struggle must inspire and strengthen us. For, he continues, although the outward forms of our struggle may change, it remains in essence the same, a fight to death against oppression, racism and exploitation.
Long before Nkrumah made this observation, Du Bois had written in Souls of Black Folks that while there are differences in the specificity of their experiences of people of African descent on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Continental Africans and Africans in the Disapora “share certain aspects of history.” Du Bois enumerates the shared African experience as follows: “(1) their affirmation of their African heritage; (2) their participation in the Diasporic aspects of pan-African political struggles; (3) their continuing concern with the status of Africa and their efforts to improve it, and (4) their relationship to the hyphenated Africans in the Diaspora.”
Admittedly, forging a pan-African agenda among peoples of African descent will not be easy. The lack of any meaning cultural communication and cultural links between continental Africans and their cousins in the Diaspora has made communication and understanding quite difficult.
The greed and misrule of a handful of African dictators is compounded by the Tarzan image of Africa portrayed by the mainstream Western media. The portrayal of Africa as a backward continent of suffocating sunshine, prowling, man-eating crocodiles and lions and plagued by ending civil strife has led to two devastating consequences: Self-hatred and mutual suspicion among peoples of African descent.
Many are embarrassed, to say the least, to be identified with Africa. Some go to all lengths to deny their African heritage. They claim they do not know what their heritage is or how proud they can be of their African heritage.
But such argument is a red herring. The real reason lies in the fact that much of Africa is in economic throes and socio-political turmoil. Were Africa to be flourishing economically, not many of us would disown the continent. We would all probably be competing to be called African.
That is why it is pertinent that Africans in Africa and those in the industrialized West must begin, as a matter of urgency, to build bridges of economic unity. We must begin to forge economic and commercial links through joint ventures.
Dr. Nkrumah once observed, emphasizing the need for African unity, that: “if in the past the Sahara Desert divided us, today it must unite us.” Thus today if the European slave trade and the Atlantic Ocean divided us, today they must bring us together. We must organize joint micro-businesses across the Global African landscape. Africa is home to over 1.2 billion people. The economic and commercial potentials of the world’s second largest continent are enormous.
No man or woman of African descent will be free or will be able to walk chest up anywhere in the world unless Africa is politically and economically free.
A prosperous and booming Africa is a boon to all people of African descent.
By Charles Quist-Adade, PhD :
KWAME NKRUMAH CONFERENCE
WHERE: Melville Centre for Dialogue, KPU Richmond, 8771 Lansdowne Road
WHEN: August 20- 22
INFO: Ticket and conference information can be found at kpu.ca/knic.
TRIBUTE TO MANDELA
WHERE: Melville Centre for Dialogue, KPU Richmond, 8771 Lansdowne Road
WHEN: Thursday August 21, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
CONTACT: To reserve tickets, contact Dr. Wendy Royal (email@example.com) or Dr. Charles Quist-Adade (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Media Specialist, KPU