Between June 26th and July 1st 2017, an important event for the future of the Global African family took place at the University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana. It was a gathering of over 400 Africans, pan-Africanists, academics, activists, political leaders, students, and youth from over twenty countries for the 2nd Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Intellectual and Cultural Festival.
The energy behind the conference was Jamaican-born scholar Horace Campbell, in his role as the Kwame Nkrumah Chair of the institute of African studies. The Caribbean presence at the conference was assured by at least eight UWI academics, led by Professor Hilary Beckles whose opening address set the tone of the conference, and included Barbadian pan-African scholar Rodney Worrell and myself, who, in addition to delivering papers, assisted in shaping the final communique. The spirit and connection to Nkrumah was reinforced by Nkrumah’s daughter, Samia, who re-affirmed Nkrumah’s continental project of: one economy, one currency, one army, one foreign policy, and one government.
The most important feature of the conference was its sense of mission, the call for common positions between on the critical questions confronting African peoples, and the sense of urgency at the magnitude of the contemporary challenges. These conference was buoyed by the enthusiastic participation of large delegations of African youth, which added a spirit of optimism to the deliberations.
It is in such a context that Hilary Beckles’ opening statement played a critical role in shaping both the discussions of the conference as well as the future pan-African agenda. Beckles’ intervention was framed within a recounting of the largely unsupportive stance adopted by the major African states at the UN Durban World Conference Against Racism, towards the question for Caribbean slavery and genocide. The powerful symbol left by Beckles was that of a mother (Africa) abandoning her scattered children (the Caribbean).
Against this background, the conference examined questions such as the modern expressions of imperialism and neo-colonialism frustrating the development of global Africa and the need to re-examine the independence and pan-African projects. Important questions were discussed, including the persistence of colonially-determined education systems and curricula; militarisation and violence in certain regions of Africa and the persistence of formal colonial dependencies in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
The conference also addressed the question of the renewed imperialist aggression against Cuba, Venezuela, the middle-East and North Africa, the re-emergence of nakedly racist foreign policies in the USA; leading to increasing police Brutality internally, as well as exclusionist immigration policies, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Africans, in the “new middle passage” of the Mediterranean.
Useful solutions and approaches to these questions were offered. The most significant, were calls for dialogue between Africa the Caribbean and the global reparations movement in determining a common way forward, to heal any breaches between the homeland and the global family on a collective stance.
By Dr. Tennyson S.D. Joseph