This is a continuation from Part 1: In the previous post, I explained how African (Black) history is mostly a history of distortion and is mostly missing. We talk of the fallen antelope and not the lion that killed her and continues to feed on her. We fake-cry over a burning building and ignore those who set fire to it. We talk of Africa without knowing her. And to not know Africa is to not know the world. You do not study the world if such a massive part of it is missing from your knowledge base. You do not study the world.
Education in African History and African History in Education
How do we resolve the missing-ness? I fear that a month in the UK and another in the USA will not render us seen. Especially when the celebrations are so devoid of context, completeness, content, nuance, rigour or truth. There is a particular historical tragedy across every single education system in the world. Every single one. This tragedy is the absence of African history from every single education system. The incompleteness of all history. Many people come to African history through personal impetus. Most never at all. So we are still the missing. So our dreams of a new future for African and African descended people must start by unlearning, by unravelling and travelling. We must achieve our possible futures by revisiting the past, by unearthing the missing. Our nightmares of impossibility are shrouded by this false thing of Africa we have created, intellectualised and internalised.
But how do we find ourselves? Everything written about Africa is a product of the thing written before it. And that thing flows from the thing written before that. And we were always written by outsiders. The hunter writing of the conquered lion. So almost everything written about Africa is derived from a very negative place. It is derived from a foundation of the non-recognition of personhood. Despite us knowing that the Hegelian non-recognition was based on faulty scientific racism, there has been no radical change in how Africa is viewed even within Africa, only modifications and cosmetic tempering of tone. We are always been written into darkness.
Why Pan-Africanism matters to African History/Future
Pan-Africanism is the belief that African peoples, both on the African continent and in the Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny. I believe very strongly that Pan-Africanism provides a vision for a strong and together future for Africa. At its height, Pan-Africanism was a global movement by which anti-racist struggles in the West were linked with anti-colonial, anti-racist struggles in Africa. Pan-Africanism was born out of the dreams of people like Edward Blyden, Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, George Padmore, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Léopold Sedar Senghor, Aimé Césaire and so many, many more.
Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) argued that the logical conclusion of Black Power was Pan-Africanism. Malcolm X proclaimed that ‘Africa will not go forward any faster than we [the diaspora] will and we will not go forward any faster than Africa will. We have one destiny.’ It was soon after Malcolm’s visit to Nigeria, where he was given the name Omowale, that he was assassinated. Walter Rodney, the Guyanese history professor who lectured for 4 years in Tanzania and smuggled himself out of Guyana in 1980 to travel to Zimbabwe to celebrate their independence. Martin Luther King attended independence celebrations in both Nigeria and Ghana. Without the aid of civil rights movement, it is likely that apartheid would still be with us. When Thomas Sankara, the Burkinabe revolutionary and president was in New York to give a speech at the United Nations, he first addressed a Black audience in Harlem declaring, “our White House is in Black Harlem.” It is shocking how all these people I mentioned were assassinated. And it is sad how all these solidarities have been replaced by pointless ‘Diaspora wars’ whose very foundations arise from an absence of history from the ‘history’ that we celebrate one month of the year.
Yes, some of the ideals the Pan-African Conferences and All-African People’s Conferences and these solidarities, have been lost in the disagreements between Garveyians and DuBoisians, in the post-independence disintegration of post-colonial African States, in the growing distance between Africa and her Diasporas – the diaspora wars. But we are still here, and the words of the early Pan-African leaders are still here for us to read and ruminate on. What is lost can always be retrieved. Sankofa – a Twi phrase meaning ‘Go back and get it.’ We must now build an all inclusive Pan-Africanism for ourselves, for now and the future. We must leave the bits of Pan-Africanism that don’t work for us all and build new open spaces that welcome us all.
Remember that, Pan-Africanism recognises that the histories of Black people are connected. Connected not the same. Connected. Pan-Africanism is a quest for unity of the African continent and its diasporas. And so it must have political effect. There is always the dream of return, but at its core Pan-Africanism is also the realisation that it is a fight for the full freedom of African people/descendants as African people, wherever they are, wherever they live, in Africa or outside it. Free.
We must never forget what binds us together. I often hear this argument that what connects Black people from around the world is Black pain. The fact that we face the same injustices and prejudices. That we are connected because our oppressions are connected. No. No. No. We were and still are oppressed because of the things that connect us, skin, hair, history, culture, blood, spirit. We are not connected because we are oppressed. We are oppressed because we are connected. But we keep asking the wrong questions, fighting one another over discarded bones, as we are still being written into darkness. Disappearing between the lines of our history books. Not existing in our curricula. Being erased even from Black History Month.
And we are still the missing, we are still the unseen. Black History Month as record, is a record of stolen history, of stolen time, of stolen land… stolen people. We are still the missing.
But we can find ourselves. Find each other. Together.
‘Together’ is the rhythm of all African music,
‘Together’ is the hidden meaning in every African’s name,
Africa and her diaspora,
The other and her other,
Together at last,
‘Together’ is the cadence of every African language.
‘Together’ is the completeness of every African soul.