This is a post about my ongoing journey to learn about Pan Africanism through journals, articles, literature, and videos for an African American Literature class that I am taking. I am by no means an expert in the study but I hope you all enjoy my findings and journey as much as I am. If at anytime I present false or off information please let me know, I am definitely open to correction. Some one else may be struggling in the same areas.
Reach one teach one!
What does it really mean to be a black person in the diasporic context?
This question came up for me over and over as I researched for this project. How could something that plays such a big part of my life have such an elusive answer?
To be honest, although I picked this the topic of Pan Africanism, I often felt apprehensive to dig and learn more about it. I started to feel an anger that refused to fade away. Opening my eyes to racism across the diaspora in turn opened my heart to more pain without any sufficient outlet.
Well, I guess this is my outlet. The act of letting anybody curious enough to read this understand how I got to where I am now.
Since the first Pan African Congress assembled in 1919, a hum of intensity has surrounded black identity. Black people felt more inclined to voice their introspection. Questions emerged like:
Will the world ever view us the way that we view ourselves?
Should we wait for the day or create our own pockets of society and determine the perceptions of ourselves solely? These questions stood out to me as I read about the complexities of Pan Africanism.
You see, there’s been quiet flame consistently burning in my chest. I often fear it will grow hotter, crack louder, and spread past my ability to contain with smiles and pleasantries. It has always been there but it was dimmer before because I had always felt alone with it. It is something that we as African Americans usually do not talk about. But as I read more and more from these unapologetic African Diasporic literary heavyweights, I realized that this anger is very much apart of our identity.
Martin Luther King once said that “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” I agree with the notion that in order to truly extract prolonged change across the African diaspora, we would have to band together and demand it.
While trudging through videos and articles recounting countless massacres, wars, and legal battles fought across the world for the justice for people of African descent, one thing came absurdly clear; pain and anger is woven into the way we see the world. One of the best parts I imagine about the Pan African congress was that there was an open space for people to talk about the tribulations that were faced on a daily basis. It was a place that held the opportunity to put some powerful minds together to combat those injustices.
Yet and still the thought of Nationalizing the African Diaspora is terrifying to me. I fear that even if every step taken toward justice was done peacefully, it would be met with anger and violence.
This fear, I realize, is also something that has bleed to me through generational traumas and I suspect it has ripples through the diaspora as well.
I believe that being a black person in the diasporic context means that you have to learn a way to live with those feelings without letting them consume you. It means being constantly reminded that to many your skin is a disposition and either rolling with it in order to fit into society or working against it to create a society worth living in.
So is Pan Africanism the answer?
In a journal article from Cambridge University Press named Challenging a Pan-African Identity: The Autobiographical Writings of Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, and Caryl Phillips Gregory D. Smithers challenges the idea of Pan African Identity by visiting a few of the notions that govern it. What interested me the most in this article was the exploration of African and African American travel writers.
Gregory mentions how black diasporic people have a tendency to either romanticize or resent Africa. Important minds like W.E.B. Du Bois and Maya Angelou both moved to Ghana in search of the true answer of black identity. Du Bois waited until the last two years of his life and Angelou once there found it impossible to assimilate. In a way these contrasts say to me that the grass was not completely greener on the other side.
Realistically speaking, I have to admit that there is absolutely zero perfect things in the world so an entire continent absolutely cannot be, but what does that say about my question of diasporic identities?
This article sent me into so many different directions, looking for the answers to my identity questions. Sadly, I still do not have answers to most of them.
At this moment I feel anxious about wrapping up this post because I have so many more questions and so little answers. I guess this is because I am only at the beginning of my awakening. I realize that I am still finding myself, so how could I possibly gather all of the answers about my black identity in one semester? I am glad I tried because my eyes are now open to so many different strengths and issues across the diaspora. Although these revelations have added a few pounds on my shoulders, they have also gifted me with a community that shares my worry, doubts, anxieties, and sadly neuroticism about the changes that need to happen and how to go about them.