Friday, July 3, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter World Wide: A Case for Revived Pan-Africanism

Pan-Africanism is often discussed in terms of the past. It evokes images of Marcus Garvey's Back-to-Africa movement, W.E.B Du Bois choosing to spend his last days in Ghana or even the little known fact that Tupac Shakur's mother worked for Patrice Lumumba in the newly independent D.R Congo. Yet, as old as the notion of Pan-Africanism is, its relevance to black lives today is unmistakable.

Today, Black people, whether in; Africa, North America, The Caribbean or Latin America are still systematically subjected to state sponsored brutality, hate crimes and various other indignities. The Charleston Massacre, the burning of Black churches across the American south along with the recent deportation of Haitians in The Dominican Republic all serve to remind us that the black struggle for equality, security and the right to self-actualization are in fact universal and ongoing.

We need Pan-Africanism now more than ever.

Thanks to social media, the world is now interconnected in ways that were previously unimaginable. Access to information about the the plight of Black communities around the world is unparalleled by any other time in history.With this increased availability of information, we have the power to define the boundaries of blackness and to determine how real or how artificial we want the physical boundaries separating our communities to be. This increased connectivity also allows us to lend our talents, platforms and most importantly, our voices  across boarders and oceans to our brothers and sisters around the world who are struggling to topple various institutions of oppression and marginalization. 

Bree Newsome said it best when she explained her reasons for taking down the Confederate Battle Flag in North Carolina. 

She says:

"I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free."

 The fact that the bravery of a group of students in South Africa and the deportation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic  can inspire a Woman from the American South  to confront the physical representation of the legacy of slavery in the United States is testament to the fact that not only is Pan-Africanism alive and well, it is still profoundly powerful. So, as we rise up against oppressive institutions in our local communities, we should aim for global impact-recognizing and embracing the fact that our struggles run parallel to one another and that none of us are free unless all of us are free. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

How to get involved in the "Bring Back Our Girls" Campaign

Two weeks ago, a terrorist group known as Boko Haram kidnapped almost 300 school girls in North Eastern Nigeria as part of their effort destabilize Nigeria and make it ungovernable. In addition to the kidnapping they have also been responsible for mass shootings of University students and bombings all across the northern region of Nigeria. It is speculated that this part of their effort to ensure that Goodluck Jonathan is not reelected in the upcoming 2015 elections.

I admit, when I first heard of these kidnappings, I failed to comprehend how much of a tragedy it actually is. Yet, as the news poured in and I saw pictures of the marches and protests staged by women in Nigeria under the banner "Bring Back Our Girls" I began to understand the devastation that this has had on so many families. I also keep thinking about all those girls and the unspeakable horrors they must be going through.

In all this, I was amazed by the lack of media coverage of this issue and the Nigerian government's inability to protect its citizens. Its children.

Though I don't really know how much it will do in terms of bringing these girls home, I still believe awareness is important so I have posted videos and articles below to provide you with more information about this tragedy and how you can get involved.

There are protests and marches in various parts of the country and you can find some information about one of them on the poster below. Please share with your friends in the NYC area. You can also sign this petition. You can also post these posters on facebook and other social media platforms to raise awareness about this very important issue.

Here are some links with important information about Boko Haram and the recent kidnappings:

Stay informed. #BlackGirlsMatter. Lets beat our war drums for them.

Monday, April 7, 2014

News Brief: Nigeria becomes Africa's largest economy, overtakes South Africa

‪#‎Nigeria‬ surpases ‪#‎SouthAfrica‬ to become Africa's biggest economy after  it overhauled its gross domestic product data for the first time in more than two decades (Guardian) 
But most Nigerians are not impressed:

"I'm not really impressed. I don't feel it in my pocket... It's not the masses who are rich," said Richard Babs-Jonah, 47, a small farmer, expressing the common view that Nigeria's economy is rigged in favour of a handful of well-connected oligarchs.

"Those controlling the economy, those with government contracts, get all the money." 

Despite its consistent growth in recent years and now a bigger GDP, Nigeria still trails South Africa in basic infrastructure - power and roads - necessary to lift its people out of poverty. However, Nigeria's new position is expected to enliven competition for investor capital at a time when South Africa faces challenges such as striking workers and high current account and budget deficits.

Interesting fact: As cheesy as its movies are, Nollywood, Nigeria's film industry makes up 1.4% of the country's GDP

Monday, March 24, 2014

Understanding the Tension between African Immigrants and African Americans:

Martin Luther King Jr. and Kwame Nkruma 

I watched 12-Years-A-Slave with a Kenyan friend of mine the other day and was genuinely impressed with the cinematography and overall performance of the cast. Brad Pitt was a bit random but I guess he wanted to be part of a "Socially Conscious" movie for once.

My impressions aside, I want to briefly discuss the African diaspora experience and how it relates to this movie. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o, the two leading actors in this film are of what I call the new diaspora; Africans who immigrated to the United States willingly. Thier immigrant status have lead some to question the legitimacy of their roles in this movie; the central Question being "Can an African immigrant understand the African American experience?"

In 2008 this was a major question many African Americans were asking of Barack Obama.

My answer to this question is yes, but not completely.

It is very true that African immigrants, including myself, cannot really fully understand the African-American experience. In Africa, the history of the transatlantic slave trade is not taught beyond the assertion that Africans were responsible for selling their brothers and sisters. This is attributable to the fact that, for the most part, African education systems are based on the colonial system which, of course, had no interest in teaching black solidarity or the truth, for that matter.

This is of course no different than how African Americans learn next to nothing about African history.

So, I spent a great deal of time explaining to my Kenyan friend how the institution of slavery operated and how it has metamorphosed into Jim-crow laws and the prison industrial complex over the years. I only know these things after spending 14 years in the United States and being an African and African American studies major as an undergraduate. Like many Africans, I came to this country completely ignorant of the African-American experience.

 In fact, I didn't even know there were black people in the United States!

This "lack of awerness" resulted in prejudice against African Americans. Prejudice that was only solidified by the fact that the people who picked on me the most in elementary and middle school for being an "African-booty-scratcher" were African Americans.

Looking back, it was silly but when you are a poor, illiterate, African, refugee, adolescent trying desperately to be normal, anyone pointing out how "different" you were instantly became your mortal enemy. Naturally.

But my prejudice against African Americans was not solely attributable to my ignorance of their history or to the fact that they called me an African-booty-scratcher in school.

When we (African immigrants) arrive in this country, we are socialized through various mediums to believe that in order for us to assimilate to American society, we must do our best  not be "like them."  Them, the "others",  being African Americans. The media does a great job of portraying African Americans as lazy, uneducated and only concerned with instant gratification. Images of inner city gun violence, so called welfare queens, gangsters etc are presented as exclusively and characteristically African American issues resulting from generations of poor individual choices.

Nowhere do we hear any serious discussion about how African American communities came to be plagued by these issues. Nowhere are  there any mention of the very real presence of institutional racism: the kind of racism that makes it possible for African Americans to have higher incidents of death from any disease imaginable than the rest of the American population. The kind of racism that makes it possible for African Americans to make up 13% of the population but 40% of the people in Prison. But these facts are not a part of the national rhetoric that characterizes the united States as a land of endless opportunity for immigrants that are willing to work hard.

Like all immigrants, Africans pride themselves in their ability to work hard and thus are reluctant to accept the notion that no matter how hard they work, they may never fully attain the American dream because of the color of their skin. Racism is something that is incomprehensible to many Africans (excluding South Africans) because we don't come from societies  that discriminate against people because of the color of their skin.

Additionally, institutions that have historically upheld racism are dodging their social responsibility to African Americans by replacing them with Africans. The perfect place to see this in action is on University campuses. Many Universities are actively recruiting African students and professors to meet their diversity quotas instead of African-Americans.

So, I believe there are four main factors contributing to the tensions between Africans and African Americans in the United States; 1) Mutual ignorance of each others histories, 2) African immigrants strong held belief in the American dream 3) Socialization by the media 4) Preferential treatment in certain institutions

However, no matter how much we try to disassociate from each other, our genetic predisposition to producing melanin in large quantities leaves us vulnerable to the same attitudes, judicial failures and institutional prejudices the characterizes the black experience in America.

Africans and African Americans are of course different. We are separated by hundreds of years of  history and an gigantic ocean. We can not and should not pretend that we are the same.Yet, in the American context our race unites us in how tragically it shapes our lives. We must recognize and embrace that fact and use it as a force to build solidarity. We may have our differences but we really do need each other.

African Imports