I’m glad that I’m a young African woman now rather than in the 60s. Yet watching this clip of Angela Davis and discussing it on my FB page this week made me miss those rebellious and more importantly, revolutionary, times.
By the way, the reason for this preference is of dual nature. I am African and I am female, two tricks that life played on me. Disagree if you must, but to me it’s stretching the truth to claim that Africans, or women, have equality in 2011. Many doors have opened so do kindly take the comment about ‘tricks’ with a grain of salt. If at deathbed, I was given the choice to come back to a bittersweet existence like this or to an oft-blinding privilege that comes with being white and/or male I would not hesitate for a moment to request the former.
Nevertheless, there are aspects of the era of the civil right’s movement that could do with a revival.
One of those is the cultural and political exchange that took place between African diasporans and those at home. Let’s recall that pan-Africanism started in the diaspora, in the Caribbean to be precise. It traveled to the west and eventually rocked the cradle of its conscious thought, Africa. In Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana, in Miriam Makeba’s South Africa, in Jomo Kenyatta’s Kenya and Sankara’s Burkina Faso. Nkrumah was influenced by Africans in the diaspora such as George Padmore, Makeba’s message was strengthened by diasporic alliances such as with Stokely Carmichael (whom she also married). Fela’s legacy is tied to Sandra Izsadore who introduced him to James Brown and so on.
These transnational exchanges were not a byproduct of change; they were the reason behind it.
Connecting Africa with the diaspora during the civil right’s era brought forth important events like Fesman 66 in Senegal and Festac 77 in Nigeria. An offspring of these black culture festivals took place last year and was a bit of a fiasco, perhaps telling of the lack of a collaborative platform like pan-Africanism in contemporary times.
In 2011, Africa’s prospects are the most upbeat since the efforts of pan-African leaders were hastily subdued by the powers that be. High economic growth is attracting foreign investment throughout the continent and despite the ongoing challenge of tackling disparity across the continent, there is reason to predict an African renaissance.
Like any renaissance, the African one is doing wonders in exposing the cultural world of Africa; the music, fashion, spirituality, art, literature and avant-garde architecture. We should indulge in such cultural offering without forgetting that the renaissance must ultimately carry the spirit of empowerment and justice.
Returning to the writings on Afropolitan subculture last week, I think that Afropolitanism and similar platforms will mark a revitalization of political and cultural exchange between those of us back home and those in the diaspora. History implies that it would be an error not to do so.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, rather we have to learn from our predecessors to make it roll faster. With women increasingly also driving the motor this time around, I am convinced that it will.
What are your thoughts? Is the diaspora as connected to Africa as it needs to be?