This video is a replay of the Danger of ADOS webinar, hosted by The Pan African Congress, North American Delegation. It features Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, writer, publisher, and communications specialist. In this webinar, J.A.M. Aiwuyor gives an in-depth overview of how the ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) movement is harmful to the Black community by promoting divisive anti-Black rhetoric, white supremacy, online violence against the Black community, and voter suppression.
Every day some where in America, Black communities are terrorized by police violence. Some well-known examples are: Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Abery, Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray, Botham Jean, and Natasha McKenna. But the list goes on.
In the video above, I discuss why it’s time for us to stop being surprised by police violence and focus on steadfast, long term strategies that will lead towards defunding police and redirecting resources back to our communities. This includes exploring and reading abolitionist writings for a historical understanding of how the carceral state is inherently anti-Black and must be dismantled.
In this powerful interview, Minister Ari Merretazon (N’COBRA’s Northeast Region Representative and Philadelphia chapter member) explains to author Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, the nuances of reparations activism, strategies, and laws. Minister Merretazon also emphasizes the importance of understanding African identity and culture as the basis for peoplehood and explains why reparationists use the term Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States (DAEUS).
More about Minister Ari Merretazon:
Ari Merretazon is a Reparationist.
He is a 1989 graduate of the Graduate School of Community Economic Development, Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire, and a certified Legal Technician from Antioch School of Law, now known as the University of Washington D.C Law School.
Minister Merretazon is a member of the N’COBRA Philadelphia Chapter and the Northeast Region Representative of N’COBRA. He is one of the leading thought leaders about reparations for Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States (DAEUS).
In the late 80’s he was an active member of the National Black Independent Political Party and served as a co-chair for National Security.
He is a Decorated, Honorably Discharged, Vietnam War Veteran, Headquarters Recon, 3rd Brigade, 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions, U.S. Army.
He is one of The “Bloods of Vietnam.” He was the Technical Consultant for “Dead Presidents” – The Motion Picture. Larenz Tate, the lead actor, played his character. He is also an Oral Historian. His war history is Chapter 7 of “Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War By Black Veterans,” by Wallace Terry, published by Random House, Ballantine Books, New York.
The New York Times recently published great a article about new research by 23andMe, that traces genetic data stemming from the transatlantic slave trade. The research is described as “one of the most comprehensive investigations of the transatlantic slave trade ever done.”
I’m glad this research is being shared and made available to the general public.
It’s about European men committing mass rape for centuries. It’s about them raping enslaved African women on slave ships and multiple continents. Yet the words “rape” or “raped” appear sparingly.
This excerpt is particularly damning, “European men contributed three times more to the modern-day gene pool of people of African descent than European women did. In the British Caribbean, they contributed 25 times more.”
However, we need to be clear about what we’re discussing.
This research is saying that European men raped a lot. They raped enslaved African women (some men too) every day and the evidence of their rape is widespread. So why avoid the term rape? Why lessen its usage?
This is the kind of stuff that gets my ancestral rage rising. Avoiding the term “rape” implies something dangerous. It opens the doorway for harmful narratives that imply “consent” or “enjoyment.” It must be clearly stated that this was centuries of mass rape and mass murder. I stress using the term “rape” for a number of key reasons. One of them is the Jezebel stereotype continuously used to hypersexualize and dehumanize Black women in order to justify the rape and sexual violence we’ve endured.
In grad school, a white classmate tried to argue with me about the rape of Black women. When the life of Sally Hemmings was raised, she brushed it off and claimed that it was only a “rumor”. When other classmates verified that Sally Hemmings had given birth to the children of Thomas Jefferson, she then exclaimed, “Well, we don’t know the nature of their relationship.”
I told her, “The nature of their relationship was that Sally Hemmings was a young enslaved Black girl and he was a slave owner. If our professor (a Black man) owned you and wanted to have sex with you, would you call that consent or rape?”
She was silent. She refused to call it rape. She refused to acknowledge that Thomas Jefferson was a rapist. Sadly, she is not alone. American school systems have done a fine job of deifying “founding fathers” and vilifying their victims. This leads to gross miseducation among the general public that prevents full acknowledgment and understanding about how our society functions and how systemic oppression is historically rooted in American history.
Another important reason to emphasize the term “rape” in these articles about DNA and the transatlantic slave trade is that it helps us better conceptualize: Transgenerational Trauma, Trans-Generational Epigenetic Injury, and the Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome that continue to affect our lives.
I deeply appreciate the scope of the work by 23andMe researchers and will continue to share it. And I’m glad that the New York Times covered it. However, in order to fully grasp what happened to enslaved Africans and how it affects their descendants, we need language that repeatedly clarifies what they endured in no uncertain terms.
This is about mass rape. Let us never forget.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor
A few months ago, I was leaving a store when I noticed a truck plastered with Confederate flag bumper stickers. One of the stickers stated, “DEPORT ILLEGALS.” I was immediately struck by the irony of the statement. Considering the fact that Confederates were traitors, they should be what we refer to as illegal.
I know that removing Confederate statues, flags and monuments won’t end structural racism. I know that removing Confederate flags won’t end police brutality. I know that the broken statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis won’t heal the wounds of oppression.
But I still want to watch them fall.
I want to see them crumble in bits. I want to see them flung into the water. I want the heads knocked off and graffiti to cover their names.
The point that many are missing, is that the existence of these statues and monuments is an act of terrorism itself.
I grew up in Milledgeville, GA, a small town that at one point was the capital of Georgia. I grew up surrounded by Confederate flags, it was normalized. White students would wear their Confederate flag shirts to school with no issue, while Black students were reprimanded for wearing FUBU. In the 6th grade, I attended Georgia Military College Preparatory School, located at the Old Capitol Building where Georgian politicians voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. I attended school on those grounds.
After school, many of us would go to the Mary Vinson Memorial Library to study. The library is named after the wife of Congressman Carl Vinson, a segregationist that signed onto The Southern Manifesto. The manifesto was drafted and signed by southern politicians who were angry with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka ruling that racially segregating schools was unconstitutional. Across the street, from the library was a statue dedicated to Confederate soldiers. According to the Union Recorder, Milledgeville’s local newspaper, the monument was “constructed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s (UDC) Robert E. Lee Chapter and first unveiled in 1912.”
Surrounding the statue was a small plot of cotton that grew in the spring and summer. Yes, they had a plot of cotton growing around a Confederate monument when I was 12 years old.
The UDC chapter still exists. A few years ago the monument was hit by a car and instead of removing the memorial, the chapter was excited for the opportunity to rebuild it.
Inside the Mary Vinson Memorial Library was a glass encasement of Confederate memorabilia. I used to stand underneath the light where the uniform medals shone. Here I was, a little Black girl from Georgia, my surroundings at odds with my existence. For the sake of history, as some would say.
A few years earlier, my grandmother told me the story of how my family escaped from sharecropping when she was a small child. My great-grandparents Flossie and George Wilder fled with their children until they reached Augusta, GA where they lived the rest of their days. It seems like a long time ago, except that Flossie and George were still alive when I was born. In fact, I have fond memories of great-granddaddy teaching me about money and great-grandmama chewing her snuff, despite his disapproval.
George died when I was a little girl but Flossie lived until I was a sophomore in college. My mother remembers my great-grandfather still being paranoid, of white men potentially capturing him, when she was a child.
He lived with a reality that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren had often misunderstood. We weren’t just surrounded by flags and monuments. The world around George and Flossie served as a constant threat and reminder of the terror of slavery and sharecropping. The world around them celebrated terrorists. Years had passed, yet still, the world around me did the same.
I don’t want that for my daughters.
Protestors against police brutality and systemic racism have every right to knock these monuments down if local municipalities and the federal government refuse to do so.
It’s time for America to deport Confederates, send them back to the land of defeat. Remember them as they were, terrorists, enslavers, traitors, and losers. It’s long been time to watch them crumble.
Neo-slavery, neo-colonialism, wage slavery, systemic anti-Black racism, and oppression – I’m looking forward to all of those crumbling too.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor
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.
When asked about her work, she said,” I have done everything I could to promote the cause of African freedom and to keep alive the teaching of Garvey and the work of the UNIA.“
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.
Also, Pan Africanism is why the Global Reparations Movement continues to move forward. The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) has advocated for reparations for people of African descent in America since 1987 with national and international supporters. Then, Caribbean activists and leaders created the CARICOM Reparations Commission, which directly inspired the creation of the National African American Reparations Commission and European Reparations Commission. These initiatives consist of Pan Africanists from around the world that work in coalition with each other.
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.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor
National Coalition of Black for Reparations in America
CARICOM Reparations Commission
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.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey
On January 2, 2020, I published the report Understanding ADOS: The Movement to Hijack Black Identity and Fracture Black Unity in America. Since publication, the report has been read and downloaded by over 40,000 people from across the African Diaspora; an indication that this discussion was long overdue. The report was about the ADOS movement and their attempts to rename the Black American/African American community, “American Descendants of Slavery.”
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.
In the 1858 book, “The Testimony of Modern Science in the Unity of Mankind,” James Lawrence Cabell argued that people of African descent were genetically inferior, thereby excusing and rationalizing slavery.
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 Jen Marie Pollard.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor
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 wordsBeware of the ADOS Movement: A Threat to Social Justice and Black Collective Activism — The Christian Recorder
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 traveled 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.
Elnaiem, M. (2018, August 16). The African Roots of MLK’s Vision. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://daily.jstor.org/the-african-roots-of-mlks-vision/
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. (2018, April 4). Ghana Trip. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/ghana-trip
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. (1957, April 7). The Birth of a New Nation,” Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/birth-new-nation-sermon-delivered-dexter-avenue-baptist-church
Photo credit: 23econfoey [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D