By Njoki Wainaina
On May 22 and 23, 2013, a group of over 100 Pan-Africanist women, men, female and male youth met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They were drawn from Africa, North America, Latin America, Europe and the Islands. They represented past Presidents, women leaders, the media, artists, academia, civil society and activists. The agenda was to reflect on the fifty-plus years of Pan-Africanism and to project into the future, defined as Agenda 2063. It was an opportunity to consider the past, present and the Pan-Africanist legacy we will leave our children and their children. At that meeting, we heard from some of the past Presidents, the elders of the Pan-African movement, the scholars, the media, artists and the women. Pan-Africanism as a movement dates back over two hundred years, but in this meeting we were particularly focusing on the last fifty years. As the discussions continued, it was clear that something went wrong and the vision of the Founding Fathers and Mothers got lost or distorted along the way. At the end of the two-day reflection and projection, the meeting came up with a resolution and way forward. One of the articles of the resolution was to make the Pan-African movement a people’s movement, with which every African in the Continent and everywhere in the world can feel part of, live and contribute to and feel proud of. We agreed that what we need to do for Agenda 2063 is to change the mind-set, revitalize the ideals and re-build the foundations of the Pan-African movement.
People Centered Movement
As I sat and reflected on the subject under discussion, it occurred to me that movements become people centered when the majority of people can find something they value or are passionate about. In the twenty-first Century, the passion for liberation and freedom that earlier propelled the movement may have changed, but the ideals of human dignity, unity, economic freedom, peace and respect should still be strong enough to keep the passion burning. These ideals and foundations are imbedded in the African value system and therefore could be rekindled and inculcated in a revitalized movement.
As I sat to write the article, a thought crossed my mind, how about asking my family and friends to quickly think and share with me their thoughts on the subject. I therefore quickly went to my address book and sent a question to a group of 34 friends, colleagues and family. Of these, 20 responded of which 8 were male and 12 female whose ages range from 30-70 years. The common denominator was that they have all travelled widely around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed their responses for in them I experienced the shared values that make us unique. This paper is a combination of views from all of us.
Pan-Africanism has a strong spiritual dimension, which is imbedded in the cultural beliefs, feelings, values and practices which order the lives of Africans and gives them identity distinct from other people. Spirituality is the essence of the human values, which influence a person to live in a mode that is fulfilling and meaningful. The one term that features frequently is “ubuntu”, which is also found in other languages including “umundu” in mine. It is an expression of human dignity, trust, value, helpfulness, respect, sharing, community, selflessness, caring and connection. Spirituality is being human and recognizing that there is divine power, which empowers them and also disempowers enemies. Africans are fundamentally and deeply spiritual and this has contributed greatly to their resilience.
The African Continent has seen untold horror and disaster visited on it by others and even its own people, including the tragic slave trade, which resulted in its people being scattered to the corners of the world. This painful experience resulted in African people influencing the world in many ways. Africa is the only continent that has enough historical unity to put Pan in front of it. There is no sense of pan-european etc. Africa has produced heroes and heroines in very powerful countries including England (Mary Seacole), North America (Martin Luther King). Africa’s resources built the modern world – the cotton plantations of North America etc. The African people are the only indigenous people who did not lose their continent to foreigners. The Red Indians of North Americas, the Aborigines of Australia, the Incas of South America all lost their continents and to an extent their identities to their colonisers. It is this resilience that has seen the people of Africa survive and recover from poverty, dictatorships, conflicts and even genocides, to once again embrace each other in solidarity. The Founding Fathers and Mothers (thank God for them) persisted in creating and maintaining the movement against all odds and in our time when the world has truly become a global village, the opportunities for revitalising the movement leave us with no excuse to let it die.
Family and Community
The value of family and community is embedded in the cultures and traditions of African peoples. Most westerners do not understand how you can have more than 50 cousins, know them all and see many of them at least once a year! We are drawn to help each other. We celebrate each other with smiles, greetings, warmth, friendliness, joy, easy laughter, helpfulness and other human gestures that cost nothing but build spiritual and social bridges. We have a camaraderie that draws us to each other as we celebrate all aspects of life in song, dance, festivity, eating and drinking. In addition, hospitality is extended to all including strangers and sometimes Africans give out of their poverty. The diversity and richness of our cuisine gives us great pride and is a key social, economic and cultural factor. The markets of Africa are replicated in cities around the world that stock cocoyam, plantain, sweet potato, banana, cassava, maize and other key ingredients that sustain the African cuisine.
The People of Colour
In America we are known as the people of colour, but we should also use the term to describe our shared value and love of colour. We stand out wherever we are because of our colourfulness. We use colour in art, jewelry, accessories, festivals, flags, dress, murals, architecture and all facets of life. We reflect it in our songs, dance, music, games and wherever we are we spread the splendor of our bright, cheerful and flamboyant colours and spirit.
We have important lessons to teach the world, on top of which is the value of diversity. We have a lot to learn from each other and a lot to share. The Founding Fathers and Mothers dreamed of a world in which we would live in freedom, unity, prosperity and liberty. Their dream is yet to come true, so we owe them and the future generations, hence Agenda 2063.
- Release date:June 20, 2013
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