There seems to be some confusion about Pan Africanism and how it relates to Black American identity. The purpose of grounding the Black identity in an understanding of ourselves as African people is not just for us to have an over-romanticized vision or perspective of ourselves.
The purpose is for us to center ourselves in who we are. Understanding our position in the world, on the global stage helps us to understand our condition better and strategize better to improve it. “Dr. John Henrik Clarke reminded us that Black tells you what you look like, but it doesn’t tell you who you are.”
This is why every serious Pan Africanist understands that locally, nationally, and globally speaking – African peoples gain better insight, perspectives, and strategies when confronting oppression through a collaborative effort. That is why Malcolm X told us, “You can’t understand what is going on in Mississippi if you don’t understand what is going on in the Congo. And you can’t really be interested in what’s going on in Mississippi if you’re not also interested in what’s going on in the Congo. They’re both the same. The same interests are at stake. The same sides are drawn up, the same schemes are at work in the Congo that are at work in Mississippi..”
The most recent example of this is the coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic. The western medical industry has historically implemented forced medical testing on people of African descent. Recently, French doctors openly suggested that vaccines and medications be tested on African populations first.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., The Trump Administration is starting medical testing in Detroit, a city with a majority Black population. This is not a coincidence. It’s another example of how no matter where we live, Black bodies are considered as testing grounds for medical experimentation – often forced, painful, or deadly.
Globally, African people and people of African descent experience this harm as a collective. Thus, it is within our best interest to counter them collectively.
These collaborative efforts don’t mean that everything will be easy, and there will be no issues. And I think that’s where most of the confusion comes in. Some people believe that by advocating for Pan Africanism, we’re saying that instantly everything is going to be all sunshine and roses. That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying that globally, African people share common bonds, struggles, and cultural linkages. We also share common threats that are connected to global systems of oppression so much so that it is highly beneficial to combine our efforts and work with each other in some capacity.
This is a much better strategy than isolationism or xenophobia. In essence, all of these things have been tried before, and none of it has helped the masses of any African nation or community of African descendants throughout the Diaspora.
Anti-Black xenophobia or isolationism has only made things worse.
Additionally, a grounding in Black identity with an understanding of ourselves as African people helps us to better tap into cultural awareness that centers our worldview. It helps to uplift African self-determination and provides the wisdom that guides effective strategies and tools that come from within our communities and cultural understandings. And still a recognition of African identity as Black Americans or wherever you are as an African descendant on the planet – is not an attempt to erase our cultural differences. Yes, Pan Africanism emphasizes similarities, but it also celebrates our differences because we’re able to build from various viewpoints and perspectives to strategize to make our collective conditions better.
That’s not erasure, that’s just called being smart. That is why when we look at the forefathers and foremothers of Pan Africanism, we see Trinidadians, Haitians, Jamaicans, African Americans, continental Africans, Puerto Ricans, the list goes on – eagerly learning from each other, inspiring each other, building liberation movements, and engaging in mutual aid. They worked in support of Pan African freedom, respect, and unity across the world.
Pan African unity is why Martin Luther King Jr. went to Ghana, met with Kwame Nkrumah, attended the Ghanian Independence ceremonies, and returned to the United States with a refreshed perspective on civil rights and Black freedom that was directly inspired by African movements for independence.
Pan African unity is why Malcolm X met with African leaders, pushed for African Americans to reconnect with our African heritage, advocated for Pan Africanism, and actively organized to connect African Americans with African communities. (Please read his 1964 speech at the University of Ghana for additional context.)
Pan African unity is why the mother of the reparations movement – Audley “Queen Mother” Moore was a member of the UNIA (founded by Marcus Garvey and Amy Ashwood Garvey). She went on to found the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women, the Committee for Reparations for Descendants of U.S. Slaves, and the Republic of New Afrika.
And it’s saddening that there are currently some people claiming to advocate for reparations, using the work of Queen Mother Moore, while also seeking to disconnect us from our African heritage. This anti-African sentiment is a direct contradiction to Queen Mother Moore’s life’s work.
She advocated for reparations AND Pan Africanism. She viewed herself, a Black American woman, as an African in America.
Our ancestors, that have been doing the work to keep us alive and create a better future, knew who they were – Africans in America.
There are so many examples to pull from, but I’ll keep it short for now.
There is also a false narrative floating around that Pan Africanism is an old ideology that came, went, and withered away – when nothing could be further from the truth.
Pan Africanism is alive and well. It is my firm belief that as long as Black people are alive on this planet, Pan Africanism will endure because it has to.
The only people that believe this false narrative of the death of Pan Africanism are people that are not themselves involved in Pan Africanist movements. I’m reminded by an Ashanti proverb that states, “By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.”
They don’t know what they are talking about because they are not involved in the process. In 2015, Africans and African descendants from across the continent and Diaspora gathered for the 8th Pan African Congress in Ghana. I was there along with my colleagues from the North American delegation. The Pan African Congress is part of the Global Pan African Movement that consists of activists, scholars, artists, and organizations locally and internationally across many different fields working in coalition with each other to improve the lives of African and African descendants across the world.
So, this false narrative of the death of Pan Africanism derives from not only ignorance, but also laziness, and anti-Blackness from a myopic worldview that would only put our communities further behind.
We can have and should encourage various perspectives on how to best uplift our communities.
But what we can’t do is allow ourselves to become so downtrodden and short-sighted that we succumb to anti-Black ideologies that continuously promote divisions instead of unity.
In the same speech I referenced earlier by Malcolm X, he emphasized our need for Pan African Unity. He stated,“When you see that the African nations at the international level comprise the largest representative body and the largest force of any continent, why, you and I would be out of our minds not to identify with that power bloc. We would be out of our minds, we would actually be traitors to ourselves, to be reluctant or fearful to identify with people with whom we have so much in common.”
Malcolm’s statements remind me of a Nigerian proverb, “In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges, and the foolish build dams.”
And right now, there are far too many of us advocating foolishness.
At this point in our journey, none of us can afford isolationism and unnecessary divisiveness. For Black Americans, we need to remember that we are still Africans connected to the global Pan African world. It is perfectly fine for us to advocate for ourselves, but we should never lose sight of working in coalition with the Pan African world. We should always remember the importance of Pan African unity.
Because Pan Africanism is how we have survived and will continue to survive.
Any ideology that says otherwise is to our detriment.
There’s an old African American proverb that says, “When America has a cold, Black America gets the flu.” So, what do we get during a global pandemic? The U.S. government had ample time to prepare and take preventative measures for the coronavirus. But instead, the Trump Administration chose to ignore the seriousness of COVID-19, allowing the virus to spread across America, sending the country into a tailspin.
Couple the Trump Administration’s indifference and incompetence with an inadequate or nearly non-existent social safety net and we’ve got a disaster on our hands. Most of Black America will feel the negative effects of the coronavirus. We often endure racism, healthcare discrimination, and disparities in treatment.
The biased belief that Black people are either faking illnesses or not experiencing the same level of pain as whites is unfortunately still common. There is also the issue of Black patients rejected for lack of insurance and in some cases, even insurance isn’t enough. With the predicted surge of coronavirus cases, in a healthcare system already not adequately equipped for a pandemic, lack of COVID-19 testing availability and long wait periods for patients are more of a certainty than a probability.
Healthcare leaders and officials must make sure that Black Americans seeking treatment for COVID-19 have their concerns taken seriously and that all the appropriate measures are taken to protect their health and wellbeing. Coronavirus tests and treatment must be completely free and remain free. It’s scary to see that California Rep. Katie Porter had to corner CDC Director Robert Redfield into committing to making testing free for all Americans. The U.S. government should have made free testing for coronavirus a default instead of having to be pressured into it.
Additionally, some Black immigrants and other immigrants of color may be too fearful of authorities to seek testing and treatment. Trump’s public charge rule has created an atmosphere of fear, making immigrants afraid to use healthcare assistance like Medicaid. Undocumented immigrants may avoid seeking treatment in order to steer clear of attention concerning their citizenship status. There are also other social and societal barriers connected to “cultural competence” among healthcare workers that prevent immigrants from accessing healthcare.
In terms of economics, the coronavirus could be a major issue of financial instability for Black America. Decreased hours with short-term employment, low-wage, or hourly jobs would result in a substantially reduced income, causing a financial crisis likely to hit Black Americans the most.With 60% of Americans lacking $500 in savings the abrupt shutdown of major events, buildings, and various places of employment will strike a major blow to Black American livelihoods. Due to structural barriers and historical discrimination, for much of Black America, it’s already a struggle to pay for bills, housing, healthcare, and student loans.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, promising options for additional paid leave, is a good start. However, it still leaves behind potentially 80% of America’s workers. If the goal is to save most Americans from financial ruin, this won’t be accomplished. The most effective legislation would include a paid sick leave plan for all workers. If the federal government does not take steps to ensure a universal economic safety net for the nation, the economic impact may be crushing for Black Americans. This Act is helpful but we need more.
As both federal and local governments scramble to address needs. Black communities can take our own protective measures during this crisis.
For example, churches, mosques, and other religious temples can limit the attendance of large crowds and focus on providing resources and assistance. Local communities can push for school districts to continue providing meals for school-aged children during school closings. We can put pressure on our governors and state lawmakers to pass emergency legislation covering food assistance for low-income families and paid sick leave for hourly employees. Local politicians, activists, non-profit advocates, and religious leaders can work with utility companies to prevent utility shutoffs during this pandemic. We can also advocate for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures by the housing industry. Most of all, we must put pressure on all local municipalities, the federal government, and corporations to put people-over-profits.
This assessment is not meant to be bleak but to serve as a warning. Yes, Black America has survived the worst in our society. Yes, we will survive the coronavirus too. But we must emphasize the need to protect Black lives during this pandemic. This is not the time to be complacent or undermine the severity of COVID-19 and its health and financial effects on Black Americans. Steps must be taken towards a people-centered economic bailout for all of America along with universal health care to ensure that Black America does not bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.
In follow up discussions I’ve realized that we need to revisit how problematic it is to refer to ourselves as “descendants of slavery.” To be clear, no we do not and can not descend from “slavery.” This line of thinking is problematic, dehumanizing, and anti-Black for a number of reasons.
“But JAM, we need the term ‘ADOS’ for our justice claim!” say people missing the point.
And my reply is, you’re in luck! Yes, we have a specific claim, and we also have specific terms that predate “ADOS.” The term to address this need is “Descendants of Africans enslaved in the United States” (DAEUS). This term has been used by African American activists, scholars, and reparations advocates for years. DAEUS is extremely useful because it brings both a historical and cultural context to African American lives, while also addressing the condition of slavery and its impact on our collective being.
No matter how anyone tries to frame it, slavery and enslavement are not lineages. For African Americans, many of our ancestors were indeed enslaved. However, slavery is a condition. It’s not a bloodline. The idea of embracing enslavement as bloodline or lineage-based actually reinforces the racist lies told by proponents of eugenics that tried to use racial hierarchies, religion, and pseudoscience to justify the enslavement of our ancestors.
Additionally, ADOS terminology buys into the Hamitic myth, the racist religious ideology used by European enslavers, colonizers, scientists, and religious institutions to justify the enslavement of African people. The Hamitic myth stated that Black people were cursed by God for being descendants of Ham (the son of Noah). Proponents of the Hamitic mythic thereby sought to permanently align Black identity with slavery through religion.
ADOS is essentially uplifting the racist ideology of eugenics and the Hamitic myth by getting African Americans to adopt internalized anti-Blackness, through having us call ourselves “descendants of slavery” in the name of a “justice claim.” Thus, it’s not surprising that ADOS leadership seeks to distance themselves from African identity or question whether or not African Americans have a culture.
But for argument’s sake, let’s discuss another condition.
Let’s say, for example, you had a grandmother that, at one time in her life, went to prison. Would you then proclaim yourself to be a “descendant of prison?” Absolutely not, because you understand that prison is a place of confinement and imprisonment is the condition of being confined. Rightfully so, you’d tell people that your grandmother was imprisoned, but you would never say “prison is my lineage.“
You would never wear t-shirts calling yourself a “descendant of prison.” Perhaps the closest thing you could call yourself to that is “descendant of prison laborers,” and even that term would never be sufficient because it still doesn’t tell you anything about your history, culture, bloodline, or heritage.
Thus, you still wouldn’t proclaim the “prison” or “imprisonment” itself as your lineage. It would sound ridiculous. It would be confusing. And most of all, that statement would be incredibly dehumanizing.
Because prison is not an ethnicity, it’s not a culture, and it’s not a bloodline.
Neither is slavery.
“But JAM, why are you being so difficult? It’s not that serious!” says another person missing the point.
My response is: Our collective fight for human rights starts internally. It starts with who we are.
Attempts to reduce African American lineage and heritage to enslavement (justice claim or not) is an attack on African American humanity. The root word of “reparations” is “repair.” If we were to use ADOS terminology, not only would we NOT REPAIR, we would cause further self-destruction and harm. Because a people can not be repaired or healed without a full acknowledgment of their history, humanity, experiences, and existence.
Since the past often influences the future, an erasure of our identity as African people before enslavement would only lead to more slavery, be it mental, spiritual, or physical. This is because we would then have no true framework or starting point for an identity that would continually demand freedom and liberation.
As Dr. Carter G. Woodson stated, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” Dr. Woodson recognized how dangerous erasure was to our mentality concerning Black identity. This is precisely why he founded Negro History Week, which later evolved into Black History Month, and this is why he wrote “The Miseducation of the Negro.”
Erasure is not repairing. Erasure is death.
Using slavery as a lineage is also a blatant insult to our ancestors and their lives. My ancestors were more than the confines of “slavery” and the descriptor of “slave.” They were human beings. They were mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. They were scientists, farmers, artisans, preachers, etc.
They were Africans, both enslaved and free, with their own religions, customs, languages, and beliefs.
It is for this reason that we must never disconnect ourselves from our ancestors’ origins. With most of our ancestors originating from various cultures in Africa, we have to look at them in the context of where they came from to understand who they were. Because who they were and the lineage they’ve passed down to us is who WE are.
We are not the descendants of a downtrodden condition – land-less, culture-less, language-less. We are the descendants of enslaved and free Africans in the Americas – survivors, cultivators, innovators, visionaries, and revolutionaries – with a rich cultural heritage. Our cultural heritage is grounded in the merger of multiple African cultures – to create a blended Pan African identity that we now refer to as Black American or African American.
Thus, reducing our ancestors’ total identity to enslavement is a horrific erasure of who we are, where we came from, and the potential of our future generations.
We should never lose sight of this fact, or we will lose sight of ourselves. We have been born the descendants of a Pan-African collective in America that battled in the belly of the beast and survived to tell the story.
Slavery is one condition, among many that our ancestors born on the continent of Africa and in the Americas fought and defeated. They are our lineage, freedom is our birthright, and the struggle continues.
For additional context, listen to my recent interview on Class, Culture, and Consciousness with JenMarie Pollard.
Beware of the ADOS Movement: A Threat to Social Justice and Black Collective Activism By Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, 2nd Episcopal District The year 2020 is pivotal for the Black community. 845 more words
There are many misunderstandings constantly spread about African Americans and our relationship with Africans and or the African continent. Additionally, there are many misconceptions about Pan Africanism and its relevance in our lives.
In an effort to bring clarity to these conversations, I’ve started the #PanAfricanFacts series. This is the first post of the series.
Some would have you to believe that African Americans and Africans don’t have familial bonds or cultural ties. However, this belief couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth is, the Pan African world remains connected and maintains relationships that uplifts the global Black collective.
One such example of this is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s trip to Ghana. In 1957, Dr. King and Coretta Scott King went to Ghana to celebrate its independence from Britain. Dr. King met with then Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, who would later go on to be Ghana’s first president (Elnaiem, 2018).
Dr. King was so inspired by Ghana breaking from its colonial master that he shed tears during the independence ceremony.
In his speech titled, “The Birth of a New Nation”, Dr. King described his emotions in detail:
The old Union Jack flag came down and the new flag of Ghana went up. This was a new nation now, a new nation being born. And when Prime Minister Nkrumah stood up before his people out in the polo ground and said, “We are no longer a British colony, we are a free, sovereign people,” all over that vast throng of people we could see tears. And I stood there thinking about so many things. Before I knew it, I started weeping. I was crying for joy. And I knew about all of the struggles, and all of the pain, and all of the agony that these people had gone through for this moment.
After Nkrumah had made that final speech, it was about twelve-thirty now. And we walked away. And we could hear little children six years old and old people eighty and ninety years old walking the streets of Accra crying: “Freedom! Freedom!” They couldn’t say it in the sense that we’d say it, many of them don’t speak English too well, but they had their accents and it could ring out “free-doom!” They were crying it in a sense that they had never heard it before. And I could hear that old Negro spiritual once more crying out: “Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, I’m free at last.” They were experiencing that in their very souls. And everywhere we turned, we could hear it ringing out from the housetops. We could hear it from every corner, every nook and crook of the community. “Freedom! Freedom!” This was the birth of a new nation.
He then returned to the U.S.A, using Ghana’s independence as a source of inspiration, recognizing that if Ghana was free, African Americans would one day be free. He saw that African American and African freedom was intertwined as he pushed the Nixon Administration towards change.
Later in his speech, Dr. King linked the struggles of colonialism to the struggles of Jim Crow and segregation.
The road to freedom is difficult, but finally, Ghana tells us that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice. That’s what it tells us, now. You can interpret Ghana any kind of way you want to, but Ghana tells me that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice. That night when I saw that old flag coming down and the new flag coming up, I saw something else. That wasn’t just an ephemeral, evanescent event appearing on the stage of history. But it was an event with eternal meaning, for it symbolizes something. That thing symbolized to me that an old order is passing away and a new order is coming into being. An old order of colonialism, of segregation, of discrimination is passing away now. And a new order of justice and freedom and good will is being born. That’s what it said. Somehow the forces of justice stand on the side of the universe, so that you can’t ultimately trample over God’s children and profit by it.
In 2019, thousands of African Americans travelled to Ghana for the Year of the Return. Some seek to dismiss the occasion as simply a tourism ploy. However, they are wrong. The Year of the Return signifies the continuing cultural ties and recognition of our shared fight for freedom in the Pan African world.
The Year of the Return pays homage to our ancestors and uplifts our humanity by recognizing that our heritage did not start with enslavement. Our heritage and cultural lineage began on the continent of Africa. Our collective freedom and struggles for liberation will forever be linked to our motherland – and despite everything the world throws at us those bonds will never be broken.
This MLK Day, let us remember that Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the civil rights of African Americans, while being galvanized by the liberation of African nations. Remember that in his work, he recognized the connectedness of the Pan African world and it helped him to continue visualizing and working towards freedom for his people.
*Author’s note: Thank you to everyone that read and shared this report. Within the first month of publication, the report was read and downloaded by over 37,000 people. The main countries readers are from include: U.S.A., UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Germany, Barbados, the Netherlands, Australia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, France, Mexico, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Spain, Denmark, Rwanda, Cameroon, Belgium, Italy, China, Russia – and more. Clearly, ADOS and the issue of misinformation and disinformation are conversations that are long overdue for the global Black community. I will continue to write and speak on this subject while sharing more information, resources, and tools that can be used to support the global Black movement for reparations, social justice, and human rights. – J.A.M. Aiwuyor, Feb. 4, 2020.
The term “American Descendants of Slavery” (ADOS) was created in 2016 to describe and distinctly separate Black Americans/African Americans from Black immigrant communities (Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latinos, etc). The movement claims to advocate for reparations on behalf of Black Americans.
However, this movement’s leadership is linked to right-wing media and white supremacists that have a history of attempting to cause divisions in the Black community. ADOS leaders say they’ll use the moniker “ADOS” as part of their legal justice claim for reparations. But instead, it is likely to be used to create policies that would further marginalize and oppress Black communities. The ADOS movement is particularly seeking to impact the 2020 presidential election, the 2020 census, and beyond.
ADOS appears to be a highly sophisticated propaganda campaign using the combination of African American history (in order to build trust) along with disinformation and misinformation tactics. Yet, with the support of economist Dr. William “Sandy” Darity and Dr. Cornel West, the ADOS movement has been able to garner legitimacy in various circles – allowing it to grow through support from unsuspecting Black Americans that support reparations.
An Overview of ADOS
On the cusp of Black Lives Matter and in the middle of the International Decade for People of African Descent, a fringe movement called “American Descendants of Slavery” (ADOS) has emerged to systematically fracture Black communities and directly attack Black unity and or Pan Africanism among the U.S. Black population.
The movement relies heavily on right-wing, anti-Black, anti-immigrant talking points, and a series of policy positions reliant on a person’s ability to produce documentation or what I am calling “slave papers” in order to verify Black native identity. If implemented, the end result of these policies could be a weakened, further marginalized Black population.
Their main slogans are #ADOS, Tangibles, #Tangibles2020, and “cut the check.”
The ADOS movement is often aligned with another group of similar beliefs called Foundational Black Americans (#FBA) founded by filmmaker and Youtube personality, Tariq Nasheed.
Despite its claimed reparations focus, the ADOS movement appears to operate like the Trojan horse – to infiltrate the Black community, hijack Black American identity, and contaminate legitimate causes like the fight for reparations and civil rights.
A critical look at the group’s leadership, proposed policies, and actions provides more insight concerning the ADOS movement’s true intentions.
ADOS’s harmful and anti-Black practices and policies:
ADOS leaders have a history of working with right-wing media like NewsMax and the fake-progressive organization, Progressives for Immigration Reform that is supported by white supremacist, John Tanton.
ADOS leaders want to split Black representation on the 2020 Census and make “ADOS” its own category – which would negatively impact the representation of Black communities, potentially decreasing access to funding and other resources available to Black communities overall.
ADOS co-founders claim to be outspoken advocates for cash payout reparations but refuse to support the H.R.40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act – a bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. ADOS leadership initially supported the bill but is now pushing for the bill to include their newly presented moniker “ADOS” instead of “African American.” This is a frivolous excuse to move the goal post and center the reparations movement on the ADOS leadership instead of the communities they claim to represent.
ADOS leaders have a proposed policy that would require Black Americans to provide slavery documentation before having access to affirmative action and reparations. Many Black Americans will not be able to provide this documentation. Consequently, their “slavery papers” policy would open the doorway to government scrutiny of family records, increased surveillance, and exclusionary practices.
ADOS leaders bash and refuse to work with established Black reparations organizations like the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations (N’COBRA), which has advocated for reparations on behalf of Black Americans for decades.
ADOS leaders and members frequently attack Black historians, scholars, activists, and leaders through a form of online and in-person harassment called “swarming.”
ADOS leaders seek to limit Black immigrants from obtaining U.S. visas, similar to the policies advocated by white supremacists that are attempting to stop the “browning of America” by decreasing Black and Brown immigrant entry to the U.S.
ADOS leaders do not believe that Black Americans can or should have any connection with Africa. They tell their followers to trace their lineage to America only and to stop acknowledging Africa as the home of our ancestors.
ADOS leaders have stated that Pan Africanism is dead and that African Americans are more closely connected genetically to white Americans than other people of African descent.
ADOS leadership and members use radicalization tactics like “othering” by demonizing and blaming Black immigrant communities for a lack of resources and jobs. They twist facts to fit their narrative and limit successful dialogue with others by telling members to “stay on code.”
The ADOS movement is suspected to be supported by a strategic propaganda campaign propped up by a large number of anonymous online accounts likely paid trolls – pretending to be Black Americans that agree with their movement in order to increase the appearance of their popularity and gain more followers.
ADOS leaders use the work of deceased Black leaders like Queen Mother Audley Moore and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their campaigns in order to build trust in the Black community. They use the works of these Black American ancestors out of context and exclude all references to African roots, African identity, Pan Africanism, or anything related to global Black movements or unity.
ADOS leaders seek to take credit for all current reparations discussions, including the #1619 Project created by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and the recent House hearing on H.R. 40 during which Ta-Nehisi Coates and Danny Glover testified.
ADOS Leadership, White Supremacists, and the Black Vote
The ADOS movement was founded in 2016 by Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore. The pair have a thriving Youtube and Twitter following. Moore is a lawyer and Carnell served as a congressional aide before gaining popularity on Boyce Watkins’ YourBlackWorld.net. Antonio Moore authored several articles on NewsMax, a right-wing leaning news site.
A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, titled “Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate,” states:
A quarter of a century ago, John Tanton, a white nationalist who would go on to almost single-handedly construct the contemporary, hard-line anti-immigration movement, wrote about his secret desire to bring the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental organization, into the nativist fold. He spelled out his motive clearly: Using an organization perceived by the public as part of the liberal left would insulate nativists from charges of racism — charges that, given the explicitly pro-“European-American” advocacy of Tanton and many of his allies over the years, would likely otherwise stick.
Now, the greenwashers are back. In the last few years, right-wing groups have paid to run expensive advertisements in liberal publications that explicitly call on environmentalists and other “progressives” to join their anti-immigration cause. They’ve created an organization called Progressives for Immigration Reform that purports to represent liberals who believe immigration must be radically curtailed in order to preserve the American environment. They’ve constructed websites accusing immigrants of being responsible for urban sprawl, traffic congestion, overconsumption and a host of other environmental evils. Time and again, they have suggested that immigration is the most important issue for conservationists. (SPLC, 2010).
The ADOS movement appears to borrow from the strategy of Tanton’s covert white supremacist based initiatives. Through an identity-based framework, ADOS is trying to increase friction between African American and Black immigrant communities – thereby increasing support for anti-immigration initiatives that will largely affect Black immigrants. With fewer Black immigrants in America, their movement could stall a Black and Brown majority population in the U.S. for an additional few years – this is a major goal of white supremacists. And this goal is tied to how African Americans see themselves in terms of identity, which is why ADOS leaders try to get their followers to disconnect from Pan Africanism and African heritage.
Some ADOS members are even suggesting that we do away with the terms “Black American” or “African American” and use “ADOS” exclusively. This is just as dangerous as voter suppression and disinformation campaigns because language and ideology have a longer-lasting effect. If ADOS leaders can make Black Americans rethink their identity as people of African descent and ingrain ADOS’s American nativist sentiments in the national narrative, their ideology will still dictate African American sentiment towards Black immigrants and policies directed towards the Black community – beyond 2020.
A recent PFIR newsletter stated:
The ranks of the disfranchised are large and growing each year. In the last three years, the American Descendants of Slaves or ADOS movement, a movement that understands the impact unbridled immigration has had on our country’s most vulnerable workers, has grown to a size where it has real political clout. Given that if less than 90% of black voters who vote do not vote for a Democratic presidential candidate, the Republican candidate will win. Add to this the growth of black conservative groups such as Urban Game Changers that have coalesced around the topic of immigration, and it is conceivable the White House will be out of reach of any political party that does not prioritize restricting immigration. (PFIR, 2019).
PFIR believes that ADOS could help fulfill its mission and makes its intentions of fracturing the Black vote with their anti-immigrant campaign very clear. Thus, they celebrate ADOS’s contribution to their goals.
ADOS Hijacks Legacies and Identities
Queen Mother Audley Moore – Hijacked Legacy
ADOS co-founders are misusing the legacy of Queen Mother Audley Moore, a vigilant Pan Africanist, that founded the Committee for Reparations for Descendants of U.S. Slaves (Farmer, 2019). ADOS co-founders hijacked her legacy and twisted her intentions to fit their narrative. Their advocacy is the complete opposite of Queen Mother Moore and everything that she represented. This is exactly the same tactic used and implemented by white supremacist John Tanton to infiltrate liberal movements.
Queen Mother Moore’s work on reparations existed within the context of an international reparations movement.
Yet, when using the story about her activism, ADOS supporters like Dr. Sandy Darity neglect to share with his followers the fact that Queen Mother Moore referred to herself as African.
Here is an example of Dr. Darity using Queen Mother Moore’s legacy to ignore the ADOS movement’s xenophobic and anti-Black core.
Yet, ADOS co-founders continually strive to distance themselves and their followers from Africa.
At the ADOS conference that was held in October 2019, “The audience was told that they should trace their origins to American slavery, not Africa. They were told that their ancestors had built the country with slave labor and that the country owed them a debt. They were told that they should demand reparations, and withhold their votes in 2020 unless the Democratic nominee outlined a specific economic plan for ADOS.” (Stockman, 2019)
ADOS leaders also build off of the work of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) but have been hostile towards the organization, even though N’COBRA members have a long-standing track record of advocating for reparations.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Hijacked Legacy
ADOS leaders claim to base their movement on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well. They have circulated media using his image and videos of his speeches along with their website and logo. Thus, they are attempting to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a posthumous symbol/spokesperson of the ADOS movement. The videos circulated highly resemble tools of propaganda.
It should be noted that although Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that we are the “descendants of slaves,” he did not use this statement to limit our identity to slavery or to distance Black Americans from global Black movements. In fact, he and Coretta Scott King visited Ghana, attended Ghana’s independence ceremony, and met with Ghana’s first president, the then Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah (Elnaiem, 2018).
Later, he said to Richard Nixon, “I want you to come visit us down in Alabama where we are seeking the same kind of freedom the Gold Coast is celebrating.” (Stanford)
“Ghana tells us that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice… An old order of colonialism, of segregation, discrimination is passing away now. And a new order of justice, freedom and good will is being born,” he said. (Elnaiem, 2018)
MLK was very much aware of Black American cultural ties to Africa, other people of African descent and the global Black push for freedom. However, ADOS leadership often cherry-picks history, miseducating their followers.
They are essentially hijacking his legacy like they’ve done with other ancestors while attempting to hijack/recreate the Black American identity as a whole.
This is why they insist on calling ADOS a lineage. And this is why it is important for us to instead reference them as a group or movement – to make it known that they do not represent and can not dictate the identity of 42 million Black Americans without our consent.
And we do not consent.
The ADOS Black American Purity Test Will Further Persecute Black Communities
The irony of the ADOS movement is that it relies on a surface level analysis of Black identities in America. “Lineage matters” is another one of their slogans but they have yet to master the distinction of lineage even among the population they claim to support.
Slavery itself is not a lineage. Slavery is a condition that was attached to our lineage by oppressors and colonizers, that created the racial hierarchies upon which America has, since its inception, used to exploit and oppress people of African descent through laws, policies, and systems.
View their “slavery papers” criteria for reparations and affirmative action based on the work of Dr. Sandy Darity below:
1. An individual would have to provide reasonable documentation of at least one ancestor enslaved in the United States and
2. They would need to demonstrate they have identified as black, African American, Colored, or Negro on established legal documents for at least 10 years prior to the onset of the program
Note: In addition, we would add that at least one grandparent fulfills both prongs of the criteria if a person is biracial. (ADOS101.com)
The Black identity in America (even among those of us that descended from enslaved Africans) is far more complicated than they are suggesting. They neglect to provide examples of “reasonable documentation,” which, no matter the attempt, would result in a wave of issues not likely to be easily addressed.
Following their guidelines, how would lineage be proved in the following cases? :
– African Americans descended from Maroon communities. – African Americans descended from people that changed their names and locations after emancipation or escapes. – African Americans with no trace of documentation beyond our grandparents or great-grandparents. – Descendants of enslaved Africans that escaped or moved to Canada, Nova Scotia, Mexico, and Liberia.
Would they be excluded from ADOS payouts? Would they pass the ADOS Black nativist purity test? Would they be considered worthy of citizenship, affirmative action, and reparations?
Who is going to manage this fact-finding/witch hunt expedition? Who ultimately decides who among us is the pure Black American? Who would wield that power, and under what authority?
Black American/ African American identity, heritage, and lineage are more complex than is traditionally acknowledged.
And due to the complexity of Black existence in America, creating a litmus test reliant on documentation to prove our Blackness or our native Black Americaness would lead to a slew of additional exclusionary practices that would lock out even many Black Americans from the rights ADOS leaders claim to protect. Additionally, it could open up pandora’s box for scrutiny of existing family records or a lack thereof by the federal government.
How ADOS Promotes Anti-Blackness Through Anti-Immigrant Beliefs
The co-founders of ADOS harbor anti-immigrant sentiments, primarily directed towards Afro-Caribbean and African immigrants. They believe that Black immigrants are taking the resources of the Black American population and that the native Black community should be distinctly recognized to differentiate between ourselves and Black immigrants in policy decisions.
This narrative is from an old playbook. As Alan Jenkins, in his essay, Bridging the Black-Immigrant Divide noted, “…that conversation was framed in terms of competition and conflict. That framing was no accident. The mainstream media have fixated on potential points of black/immigrant tension, looking for a conflict storyline. And that storyline has been amply fed by conservative anti-immigrant groups intent on driving a wedge between the two communities.” (Jenkins, 2007)
Currently, ADOS leaders are calling for additional limits to the H1-B Visa program so that less Black immigrants are allowed into the U.S.:
“Findings published in USA Today concluded that top universities graduate ADOS in tech, but those graduates can’t find jobs in Silicon Valley. Only 2% of technology workers at seven Silicon Valley companies are Black, according to the report, and many of those are Black immigrants, not ADOS. And according to a study by Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, American colleges graduate more tech workers than tech companies need, hence the H1-B program reduces opportunities for ADOS searching for careers in technology. The government must strictly limit the number of H1-B Visa workers tech companies that flow in each year.” – (ADOS Black Agenda, 2019) https://ados101.com/black-agenda
As noted above, ADOS leaders and members emphasize the same anti-immigrant narratives created by conservatives, white nationalists, and white supremacists (Hayden, 2019).The narrative of “leeching immigrants” that are “taking jobs and draining resources,” is fear-mongering rhetoric that blames Black and Brown immigrants for disparities in employment, housing, education, and other areas of concern – instead of placing blame for these issues on the racist oppressive systems that dictate our daily lives. Donald Trump and his administration have been actively promoting the same anti-immigrant talking points (Scott, 2019).
Additionally, ADOS leaders and membership believe that Affirmative Action should be a “streamlined” program only for those that can prove their family was enslaved in America. Under their proposed Affirmative Action policy, the Black immigrant population, which also experiences racism and systematic oppression, would be excluded from Affirmative Action programs. ADOS leadership has no plan for how exactly this type of exclusionary illogical practice is supposed to be implemented, beyond their demand for Black people across America to suddenly produce slave papers to validate their Black identity.
Elevating divisiveness in Black communities through legislation that would ultimately affect all people of African descent in America would only cause more harm and certainly would not address America’s racialized systems of oppression. ADOS leadership and members (either knowingly or unknowingly) are advocating for the second-class citizenship of Black immigrants, somehow believing that Black Americans would be shielded from this process. Yet, that is not how America functions. Black is what America sees first.
When Amadou Diallo was shot down by the NYPD, no one asked him if he was the descendant of U.S. slaves first.
A true reparations movement, that focuses on transformative systems and policies would also promote reparative justice among the lives of Black and Brown immigrants. This is why renowned activist and actor, Danny Glover uplifts people of African descent around the world and is serving a spokesperson for both reparations and the International Decade for People of African Descent.
As was noted by Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley, “Given the relationship of slavery and racism to the global economy, this outcome makes perfect sense. Many of these poor immigrant groups are themselves products of centuries of imperialism — slavery’s handmaiden, if you will — or descendants of slaves, as in the case of many Caribbean and Latin American immigrants (Kelley, 2002).”
Additionally, increased hostility towards Black immigrants will only lead to increased hostility towards the overall Black community. Just last year, Peter Sean Brown – a Black American man, even after several attempts to prove his identity, was wrongly detained by ICE and almost deported to Jamaica.
Brown stated after the incident, “I would never have expected in a million years that this would happen, and I can tell you it’s not a good feeling. And with policies like this in order and people implementing them like that, it was only going to continue…There has to be a stop at some point before it becomes all of us.” (Shoichet, 2018)
Noticeably, white immigrants are never met with this hostility or blamed for America’s failed systems. The discussion in general rarely even includes white immigrants. This is because the core issue is not about immigration. Black and Brown immigrants are demonized because by 2045 people of color in America will outnumber the white population. Thus, white supremacists are seeking to limit Black immigrants because their birth rates increase the overall Black population.
They believe that limiting Black immigrants from entering the U.S. will slow down the browning of America (Stein, Dam, 2018). This is likely why racists like right-wing commentator Ann Coulter support the ADOS movement. And this is exactly why John Tanton, a known supporter of eugenics, supports PFIR and its anti-immigration efforts that ADOS appears to mimic. They enjoy and hope to gain from the divisiveness.
View this exchange between Ann Coulter and ADOS co-founder, Antonio Moore and FBA founder, Tariq Nasheed. Coulter says, “I like #ADOS, but I think it should be #DOAS – Descendants of American slaves. Not Haitian slaves, not Moroccan slaves, etc.”
Ann Coulter’s support and PFIR’s support is not by happenstance. It’s very intentional and telling about the trajectory of the ADOS movement.
ADOS Visibility Online and Beyond
Election Interference Warnings
ADOS co-founders, Carnell and Moore, host shows on their Youtube channels, teaching their followers about the economic impact of slavery and the estimated amount of reparations owed to Black Americans. The shows are also used to spread anti-immigrant narratives, chastise Black activists that don’t agree with their movement, comment on various Black issues, and discuss their proposed policies.
It is suspected that the ADOS movement is being elevated on digital media platforms by an election interference/ disinformation campaign. The suspicions are based on reports that similar tactics were used during the 2016 elections to stoke racial tensions. Some believe that for the 2020 election, a concerted effort is being made to attack the Black vote through divisiveness and confusion. ADOS leadership and membership’s rhetoric make them vulnerable to be used for interference purposes.
For example, ADOS members are calling for the implementation of their “Black Agenda.” However, with their slogan, “No Black Agenda, No Vote!” critics of the ADOS movement fear that outside forces my amplify this message in hopes to implement voter suppression under the guise of activism.
The National Urban League’s “State of Black America” report warned, “Your timeline is the new battleground for voter suppression. A sweeping Senate investigation found that before, during and after the 2016 presidential election, Russia’s St. Petersburg-based troll factory, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), used social media to distract and divide American voters, demobilize the electorate and depress the vote. Russian propagandists specifically targeted African Americans through a wide-reaching influence campaign. Their tactics included posing as legitimate activist groups, eroding trust in democratic institutions and spreading disinformation.” (pp. 10)
ADOS members continuously state that ADOS is a lineage and not a membership-based organization. However, most Black Americans have never heard of the movement and have not opted into this new moniker. Thus, ADOS does function more like a membership-based organization or group. Furthermore, ADOS group members have several websites and online groups/meetups indicating regional memberships like ADOSla.org, ADOS DMV, ADOSColumbus.org, ADOS.NYC, and ADOS_NC, ADOSA.org, ADOSInstitute.com, and their video arm ADOS.tv/Afroplex.com. The main website for the movement is ADOS101.com.
Seizing the Narrative
ADOS is mostly considered a fringe movement. Yet, because they have gone mostly unrebutted in a substantial way, they have taken advantage of an opportunity to seize the national narrative. They have already started gaining ground in the national media by engaging in protests and hosting events like their recent ADOS conference – featuring key figures like Dr. Sandy Darity, presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, and Dr. Cornel West.
For example, Dr. West attended their conference in October 2019 and celebrated the movement live on CNN. He has also been promoting the ADOS movement during his speaking engagements. Additionally, Dr. West has started preaching Black nativism in alignment with the ADOS movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdvOUUJ_j1A&feature=youtu.be
As was mentioned earlier, Dr. Sandy Darity is also helping ADOS leadership to seize the narrative. As one of the leading economists and scholars championing reparations, Darity’s support of the ADOS movement is pivotal to its growth. He has faced some backlash by critics of ADOS but remains a supporter, believing that the ADOS movement is “the most vital black movement today in conjunction with Black Lives Matter.” However, Black Lives Matter is a movement that is inclusive of the entire Black community, with its leadership understanding the importance of global Black movements.
The strength of Black Lives Matter is its inclusiveness and its embrace of the overall Black collective. Whereas ADOS attempts to parse Blackness and disrupt Black unity in favor of aspired Black nativist privileges. So attempting to align ADOS with the strength and depth of Black Lives Matter is not grounded in reality.
In one tweet Darity acknowledged the xenophobic, anti-Black attacks lodged by ADOS members, telling ADOS followers to apologize for “denigration” and “rejection” of other Black communities.
But this is not enough and ineffective because ADOS leadership, the core of their movement, continually drives the movement’s xenophobia and anti-Blackness.
For example, on December 16, 2019, ADOS co-founder Yvette Carnell live-streamed a two-hour video bashing the Ghanian tourism industry in which she implied that the entire country of Ghana was scamming African Americans. At a time when white supremacists have openly seized control of two-thirds of the U.S. government, everyday infringing on our civil and human rights – Ghana’s tourism industry and its appeal to African Americans was her pressing issue of the day. Because the unifying message of the Year of the Return is more of a threat to the ADOS movement than the white supremacists that support it.
It is clear that Dr. Darity is doing a delicate dance between the reality of the ADOS movement and the potential he perceives it to have. He’s seeking to continue its growth while attempting to minimize the problematic ideals, beliefs, and proposed policies of ADOS leadership and its members.
ADOS Attacks and Online Harassment – “Swarms”
ADOS group members engage in an act called swarming. Its when bots, trolls, and fanatics send a downpour of tweets to one particular account, engulfing a person’s twitter account and notifications in order to overwhelm, harass, and bully them.
First, attacks start with Black immigrants, then attacks are directed towards any Black person, especially Black Americans, that do not fall in line with their movement. They often reference staying “on code” as a way to influence their members to repeat their rhetoric and ignore criticisms of the ADOS movement.
Already in the ADOS world, if you look like an outsider, if your last name is not English, if you have one immigrant parent, if you’re married to an immigrant – you are viewed as a threat. Basically, Black people with the closest proximity to white American identity are celebrated, and those with the closest proximity to an African identity are villainized as outsiders. And if one is unable to go in their closet and pull out their handy dandy “slave papers”, which is not that simple (Taylor-Coleman, 2016), your identity and existence are continually attacked.
Here are some examples below, featuring tweets from ADOS members:
Based on their repeated actions, it’s not hard to see that the ADOS movement encourages Black people to attack other Black people based on their assumed ethnicity or based on their refusal to acquiesce to their demands.
ADOS twitter accounts have attacked journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, activist Bree Newsome Bass, actress Yvette Nicole Brown, rapper Talib Kweli, radio host Mark Thompson, tv-host Joy Reid, political commentator Dr. Jason Johnson, and many others. They even mocked the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings. They attack anyone that does not agree with their beliefs, especially other Black Americans.
ADOS co-founder, Yvette Carnell, even hosted a two-hour video where she posted activist Bree Newsome Bass’ wedding photos in an attempt to chastise her for not aligning with their movement. Bass is known for her courageous act of civil disobedience when she removed the confederate flag in South Carolina during the summer of 2015.
On Thanksgiving Day of 2019, ADOS twitter accounts attacked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee because she handed out turkeys to people in her community. They were demanding that the H.R. 40 Bill be rewritten to include the term “ADOS” specifically, or they won’t support it, and they will continue to harass her online with hateful tweets. An ADOS twitter account has accused Jackson Lee of being a “Sneaky African/Caribbean immigrant masquerading as a Native born Black American.”
How can such a movement and its leaders be trusted to manage and dictate the rules for reparations?
How can Dr. Cornel West or Dr. Sandy Darity justify publicly supporting such a divisive, anti-Black movement and its leaders?
The Pan African Response
In conclusion, I sincerely believe that many members of the ADOS movement are unsuspecting people that genuinely believe they are fighting for reparations – unaware that ADOS leaders and other outside forces may have used their vulnerability and purposely tied the reparations cause to the low-hanging fruit of divisiveness, anti-Blackness, and anti-immigration sentiments. Additionally, many are unaware that the ADOS movement is likely bolstered by a flurry of bots, trolls, and fanatics that seek to control the narrative through a swarm of tweets, websites, and online forums – with much of the interaction stimulated by multiple anonymous accounts.
Unsuspecting social media users are then led to believe that the movement is more popular than it actually is. This allows ADOS leadership to increase buy-in from actual people in hopes to stir their emotions and get them to join their cause. Thus, any action taken to address this movement must focus on education that publicly dispels the false narratives shared through ADOS misinformation and disinformation campaigns.
Educational campaigns surrounding reparations must highlight the global effects of imperialism, the global Black movement for reparations, the need for restorative justice, and the need for reparations aligned with radical systematic changes that continually uplift Black communities economically, medically, educationally, etc.
There have been a few articles published to counter the ADOS narrative. However, the ADOS movement has already been featured in the New York Times, has started meeting with members of congress, and some ADOS-identified members have started running for office. Pan Africanists, Black activists, and scholars have the resources, institutional knowledge, and activism needed to push a more accurate, unifying narrative, but we must organize quickly and be ready to publicly denounce ADOS. Black Americans in the Pan African movement especially need to counter the ADOS movement’s false narratives.
There needs to be a more concentrated effort to uplift informed, unifying voices in the national media and, even more importantly, on social media. Additionally, supporters of the ADOS movement, that give the movement legitimacy, need to be publicly addressed.
For the most part, many Black academics and activists are against the ADOS movement and recognize what is happening. However, the lack of a concentrated effort to drown out ADOS leaders’ voices and uplift trustworthy unifying voices has given ADOS leaders the ability to gain a stronghold online among impressionable and vulnerable Black Americans. We need more voices on social media platforms, in the media, at universities, at community events, and in conferences uplifting the Black collective and speaking out against the ADOS movement.
We need to uplift the work of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), organizations, activists, and scholars that recognize the importance reparations and reparative justice within the scope of an international, Pan-Africanist framework.
We must work to protect the Black community from disinformation campaigns and engage our communities so that they are aware of the consequences of the ADOS movement and others like it that will surely pop up in 2020 and beyond.
Any person interested in joining the initiative to spread awareness concerning disinformation campaigns targeting the Black community and uplifting the Black collective, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Saturday, October 27, 2018, I was set to attend an event at Bowie State University. There, I would mingle with other authors and hopefully sale copies of my children’s books. This event had been scheduled for months, but when the day finally came, I couldn’t overcome my sluggish mood. I had an eerie feeling all morning, plus I was running late. THEN, OUT OF NOWHERE, the sky cracked open.
It was literally raining sideways.
Now, drenched, I finally reached the building and unloaded. It was a slow day with a good gathering of Black authors. But the weirdness never left.
Later, after I stepped around pools of water under the remerging bright sky, I learned that Ntozake Shange had passed away that morning in Bowie, Maryland.
There were no words.
This was the woman that gave us the lines that told our lives.
“i found god in myself and i loved her i loved her fiercely”
“my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul & gender”
“somebody/ anybody sing a black girl’s song bring her out to know herself to know you but sing her rhythms carin/ struggle/ hard times sing her song of life”
“And this is for Colored girls who have considered suicide, but are moving to the ends of their own rainbows.”
These were the words that we knew before we heard them, so when we did, we never forgot them. She wrote our soul. Our blues, our joys, our grief, our hopes, our humanity, our love.
Ntozake Shange – “she who walks with lions”
On Tuesday, August 6, 2019, Toni Morrison passed away.
This time, I was on a train and cried out an old school church shout. Had I been in the pews, they would have fanned me and covered my legs with white cloth. It was one of those yells. The grief was too much. Our country is in the throws of mass shootings and an illegitimate racist president is running us to the ground, and now Toni Morrison dies?
Help lawd! Who told her she could die?
This is the woman that brought us Pecola Breedlove and Milkman.
She brought us:
“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”
“Here, this here, is what a man can do if he puts his mind to it and his back in it. Stop sniveling,’ [the land] said. ‘Stop picking around the edges of the world. Take advantage, and if you can’t take advantage, take disadvantage. We live here. On this planet, in this nation, in this county right here. Nowhere else!”
“All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us–all who knew her–felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her.”
These words mattered. There were incredible for their depth but perhaps mattered even more so, just because they existed. Because before reading their words, many of us didn’t know such a work could exist – that so righteously and unapologetically spoke US. Not spoke to us – SPOKE US!
We hadn’t known it was possible, until someone that loved us handed us a Toni Morrison book or had us read, watch or perform For Colored Girls.
We can do that? We can speak us?
For many, the concept is foreign in a world that tells us everyday that everything about us is wrong.
But there they were. Their presence and words changed our world and shifted the narrative around Black women’s lives. And they were so damn proud about it.
On my way home from work, after another fit of sobbing, the words came to me.
“Our prophets are dying…but they leave gifts.”
I immediately thought of all the sister friends that had called and texted throughout the day. How we all felt the absence of another giant as space and time paused.
Then I thought again of all our words. That we had taken this thing and ran with it. Their words mattered so much because we would never forget to speak us and from now on – we’d be so damned unapologetic about it.
Those are a few of the gifts.
They didn’t give us voice. They showed us our voices and how to use it.
They didn’t give us stories. They told our stories, centered us, and showed us their intrinsic value.
They didn’t give us vision. They showed us how to embrace our visions. How to carve out a space in this world and make it recognize that we exist damn it and we ain’t leaving!
They gave us these gifts…insights, paths, skills, confidence, self-awareness, and self-love. Speaking truth to power, speaking power to the truth within ourselves, and lighting the way forward – so that the new generation would rise.